I admit it. I came to David Bowie late. Comparatively speaking, that is.
David Bowie is the kind of artist that I “just missed”. He made his big splash in the 70’s when I was too young to notice, and had a huge comeback in the 80’s when I was too ignorant to care. Actually, that last statement is a bit misleading. I lived in a small town that by all rights should have gotten some really great music (being 45 minutes outside the nation’s capital), but was really restricted to community radio. You know the type – the farm report plus all the most inoffensive music you can play on the air.
I spent the bulk of the 80’s listening (against my will, I might add) to a lot of Bryan Adams and Corey Hart. The odd British import slipped through here and there (Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The Cure), but on the whole, I spent my time listening to dance mixes out of Quebec or the occasional episode of the Dr. Demento Show out of Ottawa whenever the RF signal in them thar hills managed to hit a sweet spot.
The bulk of my David Bowie experience during the 80’s is pretty much restricted to a vague memory of the Glass Spider tour approaching (at least, according to the cola advertising at the local supermarket), and repeat showing of the video for The Little Drummer Boy on Much Music. I also seem to recall videos for the songs “Little China Girl” and “Blue Jean”. They didn’t make much of a blip on my radar. His appearance in the movie Labyrinth was more of an impact, though it was a momentary thing. Remember…this was back in the day when some families (including my own!) couldn’t afford a VCR* and a huge movie collection!
David Bowie is more a primal force. Even if you don’t know exactly who he is or why he’s important, you still realize that he’s vitally important to the direction that music has gone since sometime in the early 70’s. He sneaks up on you. You don’t realize he’s influencing music to any extent until you hear his collaborations with Trent Reznor or suddenly wake up to the fact that Nirvana’s “Man Who Sold the World” is a cover. Even William Shatner has gotten into the act – his latest album is “Seeking Major Tom“, which revolves around the the Bowie character and what happened to him.
Personally, I can’t really say exactly when I stopped seeing David Bowie as “that guy that my slightly older friends or cousins seem to like” and he became “that guy that I like to listen to”. I really don’t remember which song “spoke” to me and made me pay attention. Needless to say, I can now see the threads of influence and feel the “zing” when I hear the music.
The clip I’m sharing today is Bowie’s “Golden Years”. The Youtube Video I’m linking to is from his 1975 appearance on “Soul Train”. It’s an absolutely awesome clip. You have this skinny little white dude who looks like a modern geek wearing makeup and a suit lip-synching along to this full-voiced R&B-influenced song that can only be described as “rollicking”. You seriously want to get up and shake your butt in time to the music. You want to have the same rhythm as the dancers on the screen because as funny as that nerdy guy in the makeup is, the music is pretty bad-ass.
And just to show how “ahead of his time” Bowie is? The look he’s sporting (skinny guy in makeup and a suit) is what later became “New Wave”. You’re looking at the guy who gave Duran Duran their look. I hope they thanked him for it later! No, I can’t explain Flock of Seagulls and the haircuts. I don’t think anyone can. I don’t think we can blame that one on the Bowie…
* if you have to ask what a VCR is, I may have to smack you. Educate yourself! 😉