Monday, 11 January 2016

Best of Bowie

I almost can't believe I'm writing about David Bowie in the past tense. But here we are, and he's somehow gone.

He was one of those, wasn't he, the type of icon who is so deeply ingrained in the culture of my life and yours and pretty much the entire world's that you can't really imagine one without him in it. But as someone wisely pointed out on Twitter this morning: "If you're ever sad, just remember the world is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”

I'm young enough that I can still only count moments like these on one hand: ones when the death of a perfect stranger knocks the breath out of you and leaves you feeling so desperately, desperately sad. Heath Ledger...Amy Winehouse...Robin Williams...there have been a few of them in my lifetime. But I would never have expected it to be Bowie next. No, not the brilliant, ever moving Bowie, the one who brought joy and hope to generation after generation; and especially to those who knew they were different, but knew too that it would be OK, because there was a wonderful weirdo out there like Bowie, taking over the world with his eyeliner proudly pencilled on and his lithe, almost translucently pale body squeezed into one of those skin-tight jumpsuits.  

The early 70s are often cited as Bowie's glory years, and the moment he stepped onto the stage to perform Starman on Top of the Pops in 1972, looking unapologetically camp and unequivocally alien, he changed just about everything. But throughout his entire life, he managed a constant cycle of reinvention and innovation: completely out there and yet at the same time appealing to the widest of commercial audiences. This morning, after I'd heard the news, I took Aladdin Sane out of its now 40 year old cover and gave it a spin - in the same way that my mum had done with the exact same record in her early twenties. 

Yes, he might be gone, but the legacy he left lives on: not just in his records but in those of Lady Gaga and Beyonce and Prince and pretty much every successful pop star out there; every artist who's ever dressed up and done something different and made the ordinary - like some kid from South London with crooked teeth - seem like the most extraordinary thing in the world.  

If this morning and the outpouring of love seen across every social channel and every airwave has reminded us of anything, it's just how much Bowie achieved in his short lifetime. So the only truly fitting tribute today feels like listening to it...and that's what I've been doing. It's impossible to choose of course, and if I made this list tomorrow (which I probably will, in my head) I'd probably choose completely different tracks. But here are some of my favourites. 

RIP Bowie - the biggest hero of them all. 

Absolute Beginners 

Modern Love

Five Years 

Oh! You Pretty Things



Sound and Vision 

Lady Stardust 



Where Are We Now?


Let's Dance