With the current Bowie comeback achieving more exposure than I can ever recall for a return to form I must admit I have never fully gotten Bowie.
I know he is an artist of unique qualities and that his reinventions have often kept him ahead of other artists. Many people I know cite him highly but I have always felt out of kilter with the majority of his work – I think this is more my timing than anything else.
For many a year I have heard Bowie fans discuss his best music period. This often points towards the Ziggy Stardust era, just after that period, or the Berlin Trilogy era.
To be totally honest I have never explored those eras or albums. I feel I should and probably will soon. The era that springs to my mind when David Bowie is mentioned is the era when I first heard him. The material was new back then and the year was 1980.
As a 10 year-old I did not reflect on Bowie’s past work – I didn’t know it existed – he was just there, in the charts, making some pretty essential Pop music. A 10-year-old circa 1980 would own like 3 vinyl albums and roughly 15 seven-inch singles – this was pretty standard. Owning music was a selective luxury.
I didn’t own any David Bowie records and never have. As I said. I’ve always been out of time with the artist. The early 80’s will always mean to me the sound of Visage, Soft Cell and music of that ilk. Bowie in 1980 was ahead of the game as usual.
I called round for a friend one afternoon in the six week Summer Holiday during a Junior School break to play football in the park. He had just bought the Bowie single Ashes To Ashes from Woolworths in Shirley, Solihull. The single had yet to chart as it literally had just been released. It had a great sleeve and was on red vinyl. I think in all honesty he bought the record due to it appearance – surely he had not already heard it?
He span the record on his parents Music Centre and the sound of a mournful but sharp electric future poured out of the speakers. I offered him my Tonka toy lorry as a swap – he replied “nah, lets play football”. Damn.
The single preceded Fade To Grey (Visage) by a three months (if my short-term memory was as good as my long-term memory I’d surely earn more money!). Visage were the sound of the 80’s true dawn – and there’s no doubting that Visage were closely watching Bowie.
Bowie’s next single was as sharp and essential as Ashes To Ashes. Fashion was different but had a similar feel albeit shaper still. Both records dented the Top 10 even if the first release was the bigger seller peaking at Number 1 after two weeks of release. Fashion probably didn’t hit the summit due to album sales? Both records are equally essential Bowie. I really should listen to more Bowie…
For no totally logical reason I want to add this to this post too.