Tuesday 12 January 2016

It would be impossible for me not to comment on the terribly sad death of David Bowie. As for many of my generation he was, and remains, a big part of my life and is by a very long way my favourite musician of all time.  His influence on music, art and culture cannot be under-estimated.  Perhaps it can only really be appreciated by those of us who were there and watched the 1972 performance of “Starman” on Top of the Pops on black and white TV, under the dis-approving parental gaze. The world changed at that moment.


In 1976 I was lucky enough to win tickets to see the world premier of his first film, “The Man Who Fell to Earth”.  Apart from the excitement of attending a star studded (minus Bowie) world premier I will never forget the first shot of him on the big screen in Leicester Square or the impact of the movie.  I still have the ticket and the movie poster, bought for the then not inconsiderable sum of 50p.


I first saw him live on the “white light” Isolar II tour in June 1978.  A friend and I managed to get to the front row centre stage, no more than a couple of metres away from Bowie.  Subsequent concerts in stadia, The Glass Spiders tour in June 1987 at Wembley, and the Sound+Vision tour in August 1990, were great but could never beat being in the front row of the New Bingley Hall County Showground in Stafford.


So what was/is the appeal of Bowie?  For those who know of my interest in space it will not be a surprise that the space and science-fiction nature of “Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars” was the original draw for me.  It soon went far beyond that as his lyrics always seemed to have great meaning about life, love and the universe.  As the cliché goes he always innovated and it seems hard to believe that fans, me included, who loved the sci-fi rock of “Ziggy Stardust” could also like what Bowie called the plastic soul of “Young Americans”, the indefinable “Station to Station”, the techno “Low”, and the dance music of “Let’s Dance”.  There was always that period of adjustment to the new style when a new album came out but with the exception of a few albums they all came good in the end.  Even the low points had their moments of brilliance.


As well as the changes in style he was always at the cutting edge of musical experimentation and technology, and then later video and the internet.  In a 2000 interview with Jeremy Paxman he talked about the power of the internet to disintermediate and break down the barrier between the artist and the consumer.  It is hard to remember the primitive nature of the internet in 2000 but Paxman’s reaction and look of skepticism expresses it well.  Now of course, 16 years later, we take disintermediation and “prosuming” as the norm, and the kind of music and video technology that used to cost a fortune is now available in apps that cost pennies or are even free – meaning anyone can create professional quality music, video and art.


Without a doubt David Bowie was a creative genius, but perhaps more importantly one who was able to channel that creativity into action without worrying about the barriers or what people will think.  We are not all musical, (I know I am not) but we are all more creative than we think, but we allow lots of barriers to get in the way of creating so Bowie’s life should inspire us to always act on the creative drive.  His music, film, art and effect on culture will live on forever.  As he said in “Quicksand”:


“I’m not a prophet or a stone age man

Just a mortal with the potential of a superman.”



There are 2 comments on “RIP David Bowie 1947 – 2016”:

  • Simon Minett on January 12th, 2016 at 10:47 am said:

    Could agree more. Feeling hollow at the moment. But thankful for his body of work, which was a part of my growing up.

  • Miriam Maes on January 12th, 2016 at 10:48 am said:

    Dear Steve,

    Super article! It’s so true! Like you I am touched profoundly by his disappearance,

    Warm regards and wishing you a Happy 2016. Maybe we can catch up over a coffee?


Dr Steven Fawkes

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