It’s unusual for me to write about the death of a celebrity but I’m going to make an exception. Because today we didn’t just lose one celebrity, we lost several. The Thin White Duke, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust…with Bowie, so they all go. We were mourning the loss of someone who didn’t just write and sing some songs – he changed the way a generation felt about itself. And the generation after that. And the one after that.
We were about 25 years too late for glamrock. Of course, we were aware of Bowie because of “Labyrinth” and because our favourite bands talked about him all the time, but we weren’t there in 1972. It wasn’t until the late 90s that I started to actually listen to his music, and it was the night before a school trip to Berlin (appropriately enough) that I heard “Life On Mars”. And then I couldn’t stop listening to that glorious swooping…when I had to leave for Germany and didn’t have it on a tape to listen to, I felt almost bereft. But then I got into a conversation on the coach about Bowie with two people who I would soon become best friends with. It’s an exaggeration to say his music brought us together but the shared love of him didn’t hurt.
That was 1998. Later that year, the film “Velvet Goldmine” came out, which presented a fictitious version of Bowie, known as Brian Slade/Maxwell Demon. We all went to the cinema in full glamrock attire and fell in love with the whole stardusty scene. The next year, we hosted a glamrock party, which turned out to be That One Party You Shouldn’t Have Thrown. There may still be parents in that Hampshire crescent who have never forgiven us for it, and I don’t blame them. When you’re walking away the next morning saying “The fire was the least of our worries”, you know there’s something wrong. But look how cool Nathan looked:
It so happened that our sixth-form college at the time was embracing of all the freak, creeps and glitterkids but even that was due to Bowie’s legacy. If he had never put his arm around Mick Ronson on Top of the Pops, would teenagers in the late 90s be happy to be openly bisexual at college? He paved the way for us to be whatever we wanted to be and to do it with style. If we could sparkle, he could land tonight.
I’m so far from alone in feeling his loss. His influence was everywhere – from the classic episode of “Flight of the Conchords” to his own appearance in “Extras”. My brother and I had a long-running argument about whether David Bowie did a prologue to “The Snowman” (he did) and “The Young Ones” taught me Bowie lyrics as soon as I could talk. Yet, he still seemed an enigma – something hard to define, and someone hard to fully understand. He truly seemed to be from another planet. Did he really just sing about “making love with his eagle”? (No) Or a “Leopard Messiah”? (No) Did he actually fall to Earth? (Possibly)
We’ll miss you Bowie, all of us. Even Eva seemed to be channelling a glamrock vibe this morning as she adorned herself with glitter and clasped her hands in prayer. And as for Roo, he visited the immortal Bowie phonebox when he was just three months old. Not that you can tell it’s him from this photo, but believe me it is.
Bowie was a man who was never afraid of a few Ch-ch-ch-changes and I’m sure he’s taking this latest one in his elegant stride. But the world will be more monochrome without him. To steal from Bunny’sMum: Goodbye Spaceboy.