As ugly as a teenage millionaire pretending it’s a whizz kid world
You’ll take me aside, and say
“Well, David, what shall I do? They wait for me in the hallway”
I’ll say “don’t ask me, I don’t know any hallways”
But they move in numbers and they’ve got me in a corner
I feel like a group of one, no no they can’t do this to me
I’m not some piece of teenage wildlife
Bowie saw to fruition the promise of the Beatles’ A Day in The Life, transmuting the banality of popular music into high art. The touch paper for my interest in music coincided with Bowie sweeping away the prevailing musty blue-jeaned long-haired style of the day (Deep Purple and the like) AND along with the opening sequence (a second line with dirge and upbeat swing) featured in the Bond film Live and Let Die (July 1973), my interest in music was set for evermore.
That Arcade Fire and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band lead a commemorative parade for Bowie might seem incongruous — but it’s really not. New Orleans is a city that knows a thing or two about music (all music), theatricality and resisting the relentless homogeneity of life. Bowie contemplated being a jazz musician, encouraged by his elder half-brother Terry, who turned him onto music generally and jazz in particular: the saxophone was Bowie’s first instrument. But Bowie soon came to realize that he could “fake” it as a rock ‘n roller far better than he could as a jazz muso.
Beyond the seismic tremor (a metal fist in a velvet glove) of Ziggy Stardust, the first musically “exotic” of Bowie albums, Aladdin Sane (Ziggy sending postcards from a decadent America), forced the then teen fan into adult musical sophistication via the piano playing of Mike Garson. And so from ’71 to ’80 we went on a thrilling 11 year musical ride, deeply philosophical, literate and melodic, without ever being ham-fisted. Aside from the single Space Oddity (what 22 year old these days could come up with such classy lyricism), Bowie consistently found his voice in the muscularly grim The Man Who Sold the World, the “warm” despair of Hunky Dory, the dystopian nihilism of glam-trash Diamond Dogs, the painful psychosis of Station to Station, the beautifully bleak Low, and the Über modern “Lost in the Cosmos” Scary Monsters. (Young Americans, Heroes, Lodger and even Pinups gave me immense pleasure but weren’t, to me at least, as powerful as the aforementioned).
Back to Bowie and New Orleans. Garson has a lead role in Time, a dramatic burlesque-type song that fits well within New Orleans’ and Berlin’s cabaret traditions, and was actually written by Bowie while in New Orleans. The appeal of the theater of intimate decadence was continued by Bowie in the BBC’s production of Baal.
To my mind, while Louis Armstrong sits at the head of 20th Century music, an English kid from Brixton, is at his side joining James Booker, Gatemouth Brown, Levon Helm, Curtis Mayfield, and Frank Zappa. One might say that Bowie being commemorated in New Orleans is closing of the musical circle — at least to my mind.
And the rumour spread that I was aging fast . . . When God did take my logic for a ride