Farewell David Bowie: Death Will Never Kill His Beauty

by Charlie_East_West on January 12, 2016

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Friday: David Bowie released Blackstar and I spent a large part of the weekend listening to it. It is a fantastic album full of texture and depth. The album has a clear theme on it. It feels like a concept album on mortality and death. He knew before we all knew. Bowie was so ahead of the game that he even beat his impending death to fulfil the very last of his art on his own terms.

Throughout the past few days I have bombarded my family with the Bowie back catalogue. My son summed up David Bowie perfectly on Sunday evening when he said “David Bowie sounds like space”. Welcome to the club son. You have become a mini Starman.

Monday: I woke up at 6am with an earworm of a relatively obscure Bowie song wriggling around inside my brain – The Secret Life Of Arabia from Bowie’s masterpiece Heroes album. A weird choice of song to be humming as a wake up call, but fuck knows what the process is inside of any of our heads. I then turned on the television, it seemed like a typical early January news cycle with stories about dreary weather, NHS crisis and the FA Cup. I poured a cup of coffee, made some breakfast and then checked social media. #DavidBowieRIP was trending. I thought this was yet another cynical social media death hoax. I turned on the radio. It wasn’t a hoax. David Bowie was dead.

On his final album Blackstar, we can now see that he was staring death in the face. On the haunting final track, I Can’t Give Everything Away, he states, “I know something is very wrong. The blackout hearts, the flowered news/With skull designs upon my shoes…I can’t give everything away.”

On the track, Girl Loves Me, he repeats the line “where the fuck did Monday go?.” – Monday came and went and he was dead. He knew. Only Bowie could use his art to beat death to the final punch.

What we all witnessed yesterday was a collective outpouring of grief from music lovers. Normally when a famous singer dies, there is an obvious choice of song that explodes back to the top of the charts. But, with Bowie, the choice is less certain. His back catalogue of work is so fucking stupendous that over the course of the day, all of his classic albums had reentered the top 20 of the album charts and a number of his songs were heading back towards the top of the singles charts. By the end of yesterday, Heroes and Life On Mars were residing within the top 5 of the charts.

It is weird. When a famous person who I admire dies, I feel a bit shocked and a little bit sad, but certainly not particularly emotional – simply because I can easily rationalise the fact that I never knew them. I never loved them. But, a strange thing happened to me yesterday. I found myself getting tearful when I heard certain Bowie tracks. I suppose that the death of someone I really admired combined with their own back catalogue of wonderful music is a pretty potent vehicle for emotion.

David Bowie meant a lot of things to a lot of people. We all have our own favourite Bowie album and song. We can all relate to the Bowie songs that were woven into certain critical junctures within the fabric of our own lives. That is a key component to the outpouring of good will to Bowie. His career spans 50 years – enough to take in baby boomers in their 70s right through to those of us who first discovered Bowie in our youth, through to our own children who are now being brainwashed into listening his world class music rather than the throwaway puff of the latest X Factor spewed out from the Simon Cowell conveyor belt. One of the greatest compliments I can give David Bowie is that he would never got past the audition stage on X Factor because he was that different and that good. Sadly, the majority of mainstream music in 2016 is structured around bland conformity. David Bowie heroically made non conformity mainstream. He allowed us all to turn and face the strange.

Beyond the shock and sadness over Bowie’s death, pub style debates are now raging over what was Bowie’s best album and best song. My own preferences change from time to time dependent on my own mood and circumstance, but today, my own top 10 Bowie songs and albums are as follows:-

Songs:
1. Blackout
2. Heroes
3. Life On Mars
4. Teenage Wildlife
5. Young Americans
6. Absolute Beginners
7. Joe The Lion
8. Station To Station
9. Golden Years
10. Oh You Pretty Things

Albums:
1. Heroes
2. Station To Station
3. Hunky Dory
4. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
5. Young Americans
6. The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
7. Blackstar
8. Diamond Dogs
9. Low
10. Heathen

I am sure anyone who reads this will disagree with my selections and ranking. But, that is part of the fun with Bowie – he has given the world a huge choice for genuine and credible disagreement.

His music was beautiful. His image was ever changing. He was constantly evolving and consistently striving to do things differently. Farewell David Bowie. RIP. Death will never kill his beauty.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Eddie Kaye January 12, 2016 at 1:08 pm

Well said Charlie,

I would love to add but you have it nailed. The coverage has said it all (in spite of Big Brother’s heartless treatment of Angie Bowie). The millions of fans all have their own special memories.

RIP David Bowie

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Charlie_East_West January 12, 2016 at 1:41 pm

Thanks Eddie.
As much as I love Blackstar, I found it really unsettling. I now know why.

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George_East January 12, 2016 at 3:17 pm

The Bowie back catalogue is so vast that I hesitate to pick a top 10 tracks and I’m pretty certain that it would vary week to week but here goes:

1. Sound and Vision
2. Starman
3. Heroes
4. Rock N Roll Suicide
5. Life on Mars
6. Kooks
7. The Man Who Sold The World
8. Young Americans
9. Ashes to Ashes
10. Wild Is The Wind

Albums is a bit easier – both because there are obviously fewer to choose from and because some are easily ruled out – everything from Tonight through to Earthling is pretty poor (some very poor), the first eponymous album and the going through the motions of Pin Ups (though I do like his version of See Emily Play):

1. Ziggy
2. Low
3. Hunky Dory
4. Heroes
5. Young Americans
6. Scary Monsters
7. Station To Station
8. Aladdin Sane
9. Black Star.
10. Heathen

I think that Black Star may well rise through the ranks over time, but it is a little too early to tell. I remember feeling the same way about The Next Day when I first heard it but in truth can’t remember the last time I played it.

David Bowie RIP.

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Charlie_East_West January 12, 2016 at 3:30 pm

Had to amend my album list to add in Diamond Dogs. Also, the whole epic Sweet Thing – Candidate – Sweet Thing (reprise) from that album misses out on my song list by a whisker…

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George_East January 12, 2016 at 4:33 pm

I like Diamond Dogs but it always feels like a slightly over blown concept album to me.

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Charlie_East_West January 12, 2016 at 5:38 pm

That is probably why I like it. The slightly overblown appeal reminds me of early era Springsteen. The 30th anniversary edition of Diamond Dogs even has a cover version of Springsteen’s “Growin’ up”.
Bowie’s best cover however, is another Springsteen song “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” – that is a fantastic cover version. Bowie’s vocals are incredible.

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George_East January 12, 2016 at 5:52 pm

I like that cover but for me as my top 10 shows, Wild Is The Wind is his best cover. Bowie doing Nina Simone and pulling it off.

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Ray_North January 12, 2016 at 7:29 pm

I don’t have a huge knowledge of Bowies entire back catalogue of albums. But, here’s my personal top 10 singles:

1. Heroes.
2. The Man Who Ruled The World
3. Space Oddity
4. Memories From a Free Concert
5. Lazarus
6. Ashes to Ashes
7. Where Are We Now?
8. Starman
9. Changes
10. Sound And Vision

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Bobby_West January 13, 2016 at 11:26 am

Tracks:

1. Life on Mars
2. Sound and Vision
3. Changes
4. Young Americans
5. Let’s Dance
6. Heroes
7. Starman
8. Absolute Beginners
9. Quicksand
10. Under Pressure

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