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RIP, Starman....

"...then the loud sound did seem to fade....David Bowie, 'Starman', 1972

January 11th, 2016. I have just scraped the ice off my car before setting off to work. The 'Today' Programme is on Radio 4, as has been the case for the last 25 years. I catch the tail end of a breaking news item saying David Bowie has died. I can't believe what I am hearing. 3 days ago, on January 8th, the birthday I shared with him, he was 69. On Saturday, I had bought the album he had released on his birthday, 'Blackstar', the first he had released since 'The Next Day', almost 3 years ago. This had followed the release of a single, 'Where Are We Now?', which had appeared out of nowhere, in true Bowie-style, on his 66th birthday, following a long hiatus.

Over the next hour, as presenters Nick Robinson and Justin Webb, and guests like the Archbishop of Canterbury, add their own personal views and experiences of Bowie's impact on their lives, the sense of loss grows. A major icon and influence on my life has gone.

Now, there have been some fantastic and moving tributes paid to Bowie today, but so many of us have our own memories, and I can only share my own.

I liked 'Space Oddity' when it came out in 1969, but, looking back, it was when 'Starman' appeared in 1972 that Bowie first had a major impact  on me. That track was just so exciting and vibrant to a naive 17 year old, and when DJ Bob Harris said "this guy is going to be massive" I had to agree. I remember buying the single from WH Smith in Bradford, it was on the old orange RCA label, and it certainly got some hammer on the old Dansette! I was enjoying life at that time, and Bowie provided the soundtrack to so much of what happened over the following years.


I loved the 'Ziggy Stardust' album, went back to discover the 'Hunky Dory' album which had come out a year earlier in 1971, liked 'Aladdin Sane', didn't see the point of 'Pin Ups', but came back when 'Diamond Dogs' was released, then from 'Young Americans', through 'Station to Station', and then to two of my favourites, the Brian Eno-produced Berlin albums 'Low' and 'Heroes', he was in my view absolutely brilliant. I wasn't as keen on 'Lodger', but I learnt never to write Bowie off. 'Scary Monsters' and, more significantly, 'Let's Dance', were again superb. 

The thing about Bowie is that most of the time you went along with him. With him drawing from so many influences both musical, and also from art and literature, and being willing to work with so many musicians and artists, he was able to assimilate so many influences that for so much of the time he sounded both unique and innovative as he regularly re-invented himself. And his influence within both music and our society in general over the past 40-odd years has been massive. He appeared in several films, including influential ones such as 'The Man Who Fell to Earth' and 'Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence', and was no slouch as an actor. For him, style and presentation were as important as the music. And with his songs, with their oblique lyrics, often covering natural concerns like fear and isolation, he was able to strike a chord with so many people all over the world. The fact that wrapped around these was some great music, and that he cast his spell for so many years, means that he is one of the all-time greats.

I only saw him live once, this was at New Bingley Hall, near Stafford, which was normally used as an agricultural show ground, way back in 1978. So it was that surrounded by the aromas of the farmyard and bales of hay that I saw one of the greatest artists of all time!

As I said before, he had such an influence that so many of us have our own memories and stories of what he meant to us.

And on this sad day, it is RIP to a true Starman, one of my absolute 'Heroes'....



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