Seven days to live my life or Seven ways to die
For those of you that know me personally, it should come as no surprise that I lean a bit on the dark side of the street. I find my common ground in the hallows of art and artists that speak directly to the cracked and broken portions of my soul that life has left exposed to the light of day. It’s the way that the shadows fall through those fractures that I find the most interesting. Therefore, those burnt offerings to a world we may never fully understand thrill and fascinate me in ways that I find are quite often hard to compile the vocabulary to fully explain. I know that I’m not alone in this. I know that without a doubt some of my dearest friends and confidants have also peered into the depths of those black imperfections, somehow seeing the beauty in and around these natural occurrences of mortality. Tonight I carved out a speck of time to reflect on a few of those characters that I never had the chance to meet, yet still served as an inspiration during all of those lost and lonely moments where a young and impressionable soul needed to find some semblance of common ground in an utterly bleak world.
This week we lost a true force of art and inspiration. The news of David Jones’ passing reached out like a siren’s call late Sunday evening. The wireless reverberations across news feeds and social networks echoed words that I hoped to be some cruel misinformed game of modern stupidity. I went to a source I knew that I could trust, his son. Duncan Jones is a filmmaker. He is also the son of the man we have all come to know as the immeasurable David Bowie. Duncan is connected to fans and the world alike through a social network consisting of tiny quips and phrases 147 characters at a time. It’s one hell of a way to tell people that such an important force in your life has pulsed it’s last heartbeat across mortal time and space – but I knew that if Zowie Bowie had mentioned any bit of this terrible news held truth, that it was indeed the real deal. It was real. Bowie was gone.
My mind swirled. My feet felt heavy. I desperately wanted a drink.
Of course it was real. The news came as a shock, considering that Bowie had just released an album on his 69th birthday two days earlier. I had received it, listened to it a couple of times over, and was thoroughly enjoying the offering. The LP reminded me of his mid-nineties offerings – mysterious, layered in sonics that were almost too deeply meditated to fully comprehend. Blackstar had grown on my subconscious in a matter of days. I didn’t stop to think for a moment that it was a masterfully crafted goodbye letter to his fans. So much thought and process went into it. So much that I won’t fully comprehend all of the connections and deeply woven secrets for months, if not years. With the knowledge that he set out to make this a eulogy, I find myself now wanting to look too much into the symbolism. Of course, when the 10 minute long video for Blackstar (the title track) was released a month before the album was set for sale, I saw obvious and direct icons – shadows of Bowie, offerings to the gods of life, death, and all that his legacy had built. He knew exactly what he was doing and how to showcase it. My eyes were blinded by the fact that he was still creating, still pushing boundaries, and still very much alive (despite being terminally ill).
David chose not to share his dire diagnosis with us, the hordes of ‘normies.’ His private life was his private life. It had been for nearly 40 years. David Bowie was a performer. His stage name was in every essence a multi-faced chameleon of this continual performance. His interviews, though touching on personal levels and experiences, remained an extension of this otherworldly being trying desperately to connect to mortals. David Jones was a very gifted man. David Bowie was a God.
I was lucky enough to see him perform live once in my lifetime at the Saenger Theater in Los Angeles. My girlfriend (now wife) at the time, wanted to make Christmas very special. She knew that Bowie was the path to the heart of it all. It was one of the best shows I’ve ever taken in and I hold a handful of artists in high esteem. The Reality Tour was a “best of Bowie” class act night after night after night and even though the meta-god was admittedly suffering from a bout of illness, his polished perfection belted through a Hollywood glitter dream.
This evening I sat outside, under a milky Southern California light-polluted sky, thinking about the starman and how he had (without any personalized connection or direct friendship) affected my life on a very personal level. These songs of divine creation – built and toiled over masterful talent and perfection, rattled something in my bones. They reached a frequency that reverberated life, passion, love, and excitement on a cellular level. It seems that at no time in my life have I ever not known the chorus to “Changes” or “Golden Years.” I’ve held long-winded drunken bar conversations about how “Five Years” is one of the strongest opening tracks to any album ever created since the dawn of the recording industry. As many times as Ziggy, The Thin White Duke, and Starman had shifted form he always seemed to find a way to reach me. Yes, many of these iterations were before my inclusion into Club Bowie… but each and every time I found some track that moved me in a way that other artists could not. Duets with Tina Turner, Freddy Mercury, Jagger, covering the Beach Boys, The Beatles, Morrissey, The Pixies, Johnny Mathis, Iggy Pop (yes China Girl is a cover – as is the connection to Red Money/Night Clubbing, Neighborhood Threat), collaborating with Trent Reznor, Ice Cube… the list goes on and on and on and on. There will never be another Sinatra. There will never be another Elvis. There will never be another Bowie.
I sat watching the stars, watching the lights flicker in the distance, watching for some sign that it was all going to be all right. I thought of all of the times that I leaned on those sing song lyrics and guitar riffs to make me feel better during those wallows in which I felt less than stellar and needed some bit of musical potion to pull through the enveloping darkness. There was never a time that Bowie didn’t save me. There was never a time it didn’t work. What’s to be said for that?
I know that Speed of Life, Sound and Vision, Always Crashing in the Same Car, Be My Wife, Watch that Man, Aladdin Sane, Drive-In Saturday, Black Tie White Noise, Don’t Let Me Down & Down, Little Wonder, Looking for Satellites, Sunday, Slip Away, I Would Be Your Slave, Everyone Says ‘Hi’, Heroes, Something in the Air, If I’m Dreaming My Life, Seven, The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell, The Width of a Circle, Black Country Rock, She Shook Me Cold, The Man Who Sold the World, The Loneliest Guy, Bring Me the Disco King, everything from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, everything from Station to Station, everything from Outside, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Teenage Wildlife, Because You’re Young, Loving the Alien, Tonight, Blue Jean, Dancin’ With the Big Boys, Young Americans, Fame, The Next Day, Love is Lost, Where Are We Now?, Strangers When We Meet, and everything from Blackstar will serve me when I have need. There are songs and albums that are my go-to tracks of sonic realm to cure my ills, cure my pains, calm the shivers and shakes that storm upon my marrow. This son of a bitch gave me hope when there was but a tattered cord to grasp onto.
For those moments, David Bowie – David Jones will forever have my gratitude and fanboy fervor. He spoke. I listened. I heard. I feel fortunate that I landed in the right time and place, so that I might be part of something special. Very, very few people on this small blue dot hanging in the dusty corner of utter blackness get to make an impression with such gravitational pull. It’s different with everyone, but for me it was more than just a Word on a Wing. Safe Travels, Starman.