Monday 11 January 2016

life on mars: remembering starman

“i don’t know where i’m going from here but i promise it won’t be boring" - david bowie at madison square gardens on his 50th birthday

and it's true. he certainly kept us entertained. he took it all too far, but boy could he play guitar. always pushing the boundaries, always challenging people's perceptions of what is "normal", always striving to be the best. david bowie was a true innovator and today the world pays homage to the singer following the news of his death. 

there really aren't many words i can use to sum up my feelings towards the man who sold the world, and changed my life in the process, though some have said it better than i could ever articulate. when my mother first introduced me to bowie's music god knows how many years ago, i fell in love straight away. what strikes me is how timeless his sound and vision (ha) still are, some 44 years after his first top of the pops performance that catapulted him to super-stardom. 

i try to imagine what it must have been like for my mother's generation then, seeing this strange man with his electric orange mullet and white nail polish. they could have recoiled in horror, not used to seeing something so different from the family-friendly folk bands of the time. instead, he struck a chord with them all, and i still smile today hearing stories of children turning up to school wearing make-up in the 1970s, wanting to be just like their new-found hero, knowing full well what their fellow classmates would think, and choosing not to care. that's what i take from his image, his sound, his ever-evolving characters, that changing and growing as a person are all part of life, and to live my best, and truest self.

enough rambling, here are my favourite david bowie songs in no particular order. 


this is a song shimmering with hope, that youthful optimism i hope to never lose, no matter what happens. we can be heroes, just for one day, he says at the start of the song. then, we can be heroes, for ever and ever. and i believe him. we can, and we will. 

life on mars

still so iconic, still so ground-breaking, still so heart-wrenching in this way i've never quite understood. maybe it's this idea of wanting more, that there has to be something else out there, and whether we'll ever find it. she's hooked to the silver screen, sings bowie. though the film is a saddening bore, for she's lived it ten times or more. my expectations always too high, always wanting more, always searching. though is that such a bad thing? it's this fact that keeps me going, always in pursuit of a higher feeling, knowing it's out there, knowing that i'll reach it if i just keep going.

sweet thing/candidate/sweet thing (reprise)

musically, this song takes us on a journey. lyrically, it tells a story, something not many songs do as well as bowie can. it's his reality wrapped up in a fantasy, something we're all guilty of doing. we can't stop trying 'till we break up our minds. always pushing things to the limit, taking them too far. is it worth it? when it's good, it's really good, when it's bad i go to pieces. two extremes, only ever one or the other. the unnerving instability. it's not all bad though. with you by my side, it should be fine. it's true. having that one person to help keep your head above water makes it all worthwhile. 

modern love

there's a scene in one of my favourite films, frances ha, where the main character (frances obv) is running down a busy new york street, and this song is playing. things aren't great for frances, and it's this tussle with adulthood she faces that i feel myself experiencing right now as i get older, and this song perfectly reflects that. things might not always be great, but i try. i try. 

absolute beginners

taken from the film of the same name, this song is full of hope. as long as we're together, the rest can go to hell. somewhat naive, perhaps, but it's a nice thought all the same. what i love is his honesty. we're absolute beginners, with nothing much at stake. clearly he's referring to a relationship, but i feel like this can be applied to any aspect of life. the most terrifying thing is the transition from being a teenager into an adult, and i often feel like an absolute beginner, and that can be terrifying. with nothing much at stake comes the realisation that you have to build something up from nothing. it is at once exciting and terrifying, but as bowie says, if my love is your love, we're certain to succeed. 

ashes to ashes

aesthetically this is one of my favourite david bowie videos. it makes no sense, but i kind of like that. let's face it; it doesn't need to make sense. by this point in his career, bowie was golden, untouchable, and regardless of the accompanying video, he created a song that still sounds timeless thirty years after its release. i'm noticing a theme of reflection in many of bowie's lyrics, and in this song he was "wrapping up the seventies" and reflecting on his career up to that point. i've never done good things, i've never done bad things, i never did anything out of the blue. perhaps he lacked self-confidence; an idea entirely inconceivable given the cool, understated confidence about his work he always seemed to portray. i feel this too, wishing i could be more confident, more spontaneous, more like my hero. still, there's a sense of reassurance, that even musical geniuses like bowie feel insecure from time to time. 

rock 'n' roll suicide 

another song about reflection, about the passing of time. you're too old to lose it, too young to choose it. that loss of youth, of innocence, but also the possibility that there's still time, there's still a chance to make your life exactly the way you want it to be. gimme your hands, cause you're wonderful, goes the last verse of the song. it feels like bowie is reaching out to me, to all of us, those who have felt so low, like they didn't have a friend in the world, and that is why he will always be remembered by so many of us. 

i will end this post with a quote from amy rose spiegel's fader article about david bowie, about how he will continue to inspire everyone:

"taking david bowie’s lead means only to take each of our own. in respecting and allowing for his specific modes of being in the world, without capitulation, david bowie granted outward permission to the rest of us by demonstrating that he had never required it himself in order to be radiant. moving through life, he asked us all: in what ways are you radiant? it is necessary to keep looking for answers among one another, and to do so by presenting our own wholeness as proof that doing so is not only safe, but necessary, dazzling, world-alteringly radical."

honourable mentions:

films worth a watch:

the man who fell to earth

ziggy stardust and the spiders from mars

cracked actor

david bowie and the story of ziggy stardust

(no, i still haven't seen labyrinth, yes, i'm working on it.) 

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