Monday, January 11, 2016

More on Bowie

If I weren't awake when I didn't want to be, I probably wouldn't write this, but it feels like more needs to be said on David Bowie, even though I wasn't exactly a fan. 

There was a big-haired Goth girl I liked in the 1980's, back in Maple Ridge, who loved David Bowie. I tried, in part to please her. I owned the Changes compilation albums, and at various points bought actual albums by him, but I didn't ever quite get it, and as a young man, I was more threatened/ confused by his sexual fluidity than inspired by it, frankly. Part of me could identify with gays for their being excluded from the mainstream, and I had moments of attraction for other guys my age, but I never really wanted to put on make-up or embrace those odd moments of queerishness as part of my identity, especially in my teen years, when Bowie - with Let's Dance and the Serious Moonlight tour - was at his most visible. He seemed someone who was performing to people other than me. Which was fine; it wasn't like he needed my fandom...

Also to please my friend a bit, for awhile there - when there wasn't much to see - I watched what I could of Bowie as an actor, even seeing the fairly obscure Just a Gigolo, at one point, which you used to be able to get at Videomatica on VHS. It didn't leave much of an impression. Of course I loved Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth, and loved Bowie's performance it; I've read Walter Tevis' novel on a couple of occasions and it seems almost to be written with Bowie in mind. But that was about it; The Hunger is a film for people with pointier boots than I've ever owned, Labyrinth seemed like a kids' film, and despite repeated tries, I never really fell in love with Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, though images of Bowie's kiss to Ryuichi Sakamoto in that film are fairly indelible. I let myself stop making a point of seeing his films at some point, but he would still pop up here and there. Casting Bowie as Warhol in Basquiat was brilliant, and he was great in the role; casting him as Tesla in The Prestige was interesting, too, but the performance wasn't, as I recall. About the last time I deliberately tried a film because Bowie was in it was when I stumbled across a spaghetti western he made in the late 1990's, with Harvey Keitel (!?), that came out on DVD some ten years later. It was called Gunslinger's Revenge. It made no mark; I don't remember liking it, but that's exactly all I recall. 

Some of his songs have always stuck, despite my non-fandom. "Life on Mars" and "Ashes to Ashes" are two of my favourites. I presently own Hunky Dory, and there's bits of Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs I really like, and always have. I spent at least some time last year wondering where the Ziggy Stardust vinyl repress got to, in stores, since by the time I had resolved to pick it up - having seen it dozens of times at London Drugs, even - it had been discontinued. I would own both albums - Ziggy, Dogs - on vinyl, now, if they were easier to actually buy; by the looks of things on Amazon, they're both fetching collector's prices even on CD (someone has Diamond Dogs listed at $179.99). I'm assuming they're off the market by design, so people have to buy OTHER Bowie albums, but sorry, those are the two I want, and want in nice new 180 gram vinyl presentations; I'm not going to buy different albums by him because the two I'm interested in aren't out there, and I'm irritated that whoever owns his catalogue is playing these Machiavellian games with it. Bad faith to the fans, no?
I doubt I'll get Blackstar, either, frankly; I listened to a few minutes of it this morning, and had what seems my typical Bowie reaction: "this is interesting, but..." It's music for people who are part of the club, and I'm not, so... I can only observe it from the outside. It's great that he went out on an album that by all reports is a significant one, great that he used his last year creatively, but I'm content to leave David Bowie to those for whom he resonates. As ever, David Bowie does not need me.

All the same, my respects. 


Allan MacInnis said...

For someone who REALLY doesn't get Bowie, go over to Mark Prindle's mothballed record review site, and start with The Man Who Sold the World:

Allan MacInnis said...

So Diamond Dogs IS in print on CD - maybe it just sold out on Amazon in an instant, or something? I bought it and Hunky Dory at HMV Robson yesterday, 2/$20. They had almost sold out of Blackstar.

And pieces have definitely fallen in place about that album title: Bowie and Elvis shared a birthday (a piece provided by David M.) and Elvis recorded this (posted by Josh MagneticRing on Facebook this morning):