“How many people lie instead of talking tall” (David Bowie, ‘Blackstar’)
So, Bowie is dead. And all and sundry have been airing their favourite anecdotal bits and eulogistic pieces all over the (social) media. Which is understandable, given his longevous and massive cultural significance. That so many lament his passing, days after the birthday release of a lyrically portentous album, is understandable; many of us will have grown up and lived our lives to a soundtrack in which he was ever present. Like all prolific artists, he did put out some duds. But when he was good, boy was he ever!
Many of the chattering obituarists have mentioned the impact on them of seeing Bowie performing ‘Starman’ on Top of the Pops in 1972: how daring the sexual ambiguity of the arm draped around Mick Ronson’s shoulders. (I don’t get what was so shocking about it – the often brutal footballers of that era had no issue with such physical camaraderie for as long as I could remember.) Well, it didn’t impact on me – because I never saw it (then). Rather, when the song was playing from the radio atop the fridge in the kitchen of the council flat that was home at the time, I pictured its singer as someone conventional and clean-cut. It wasn’t until I was later introduced to the song’s parent album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, that I registered it was him. That was when I was surprised.
That introduction came via a childhood friend who lived across the other side of the dual carriageway ‘tracks’, on the middle-class estate that could just about claim the distinction of being in the next village. Whilst my fledgling record collection consisted of a few gradually acquired singles, this friend had already graduated to albums. And had his own record player, in his own bedroom. And we would sit in this bedroom for hours, listening intently to Bowie, and T. Rex (he idolised Marc Bolan), and Alice Cooper, and Queen, and others. (It was this friend who introduced me to Led Zeppelin with a loan of his copy of their second album – which I soon returned because I didn’t like it?!? Some tastes would change in time.) And we would listen to them for hours, studying the covers which were things of joyous fascination, absorbing the sleevenotes and lyrics by heart. My friend did a brilliant impersonation of the howling Bowie on the sixth line of Hunky Dory’s ‘Eight Line Poem’ (“Will all the cacti find a home”).
But this early seventies Bowie wasn’t just about Bowie for me. It was as much to do with his guitarist and co-arranger, Mick Ronson, whose contribution to the whole Ziggy enterprise must never be overlooked (and who, in 1993, also succumbed to liver cancer at the early age of 46). And the album I loved the most among those then available (my friend already had them all) was the one with Ronson on prominent fire: Aladdin Sane. Such that, around mid-1973, when I got lucky and was offered a gift of my choice, I chose without hesitation. And I retain this copy of Aladdin Sane, my first ever album and, to this day, my favourite Bowie – and Ronson – opus.
Now, I’m aware that that I’ve skipped the details of how I gained my first treasured LP. Because it’s a personal story, of relevance or interest to few others. Just to add that, since waking Monday last week when the first thing I learn is that Bowie had died, the circumstances that led to me acquiring it have been brought back to me. And it is this element of the personal that had me frowning at the tweeted comments of, e.g., Camilla Long and Julia Hartley-Brewer, and their objections to what they perceive here and there as inappropriate hysteria.
I can’t say I’ve seen much of this myself. Certainly nothing on the scale of the ridiculous mawk-fest that followed the death of an over-regarded princess. Though for sure some do lay it on a bit thick, I can appreciate that many feel Bowie’s demise keenly. No flash in the pan he; many have lived the bulk of their lives as a fan. And when a particular piece of a great artist’s work invokes memories of a significant time in your life, then you feel it, in your own way. Though whether you ought to share it is another matter: ‘fessing up to grief apparently didn’t much bother Camilla# when Michael Jackson moonwalked out of our lives a few years back:
However, it is not this that has prompted me to put my tardy pen to virtual paper on Bowie’s death. Rather, I was motivated by a piece of opportunistic dreck entitled, Why Did David Bowie Die?*
Oh my, another one of those boring, proselytising food fascists! This one, by the name of Robert Redfern of Naturally Healthy News, who claims to have,
‘… helped 100’s of thousands of people in over 24 countries though on-line health web sites, radio interviews and his nutritional discoveries.’ [sic]
Does Redfern not cynically exploit the occasion of Bowie’s death? Certainly, this prig’s opening sentences suggests he admires neither the artist, nor his work. Rather, he relishes presented opportunity to not only take a pop at Bowie’s ‘rock star’ lifestyle, but to use it to promote himself (‘The Serrapeptase guy’, with books to sell) and his claimed superior knowledge. You see, this arrogant arse, who I presume has never had access to Bowie’s medical notes, nevertheless considers he knows categorically what caused his death:
Odd, because from the potted tautologous biography on his ‘About’ page, he does not mention a medical qualification. No, what we have here is just more cheap anti-medical science, “I-know-best”-quackery. One who further considers Bowie died needlessly young, and who, if he had
‘… followed the Cancer Recovery Plan and with a course of GcMAF he may have cleared this in a few months’
and would still be with us. As ever with these kind of people, attempted comment expressing opinion on these potentially dangerous utterances was quickly removed from view, lest those taken in be exposed to any malign scepticism. This irresponsible cock who would have us believe, despite lacking any oncological expertise, that he can better the medical profession and cure liver cancer. Moreover, one who, as I read him, advises those so afflicted to eschew proper medical care – because medical doctors are bad for your health. Or am I being unfair when he states:
‘He died because he went to medical doctors who do not provide health care and told him he only had a year to live (NB health care is not medical/disease care as provided by doctors).’
So, rather than keeping up their profiles by taking a pop at a few mawkish (self-signalling) fans bereaved of a great, culturally significant artist – and then justify themselves and/or moan about the reaction in the process – should not professional columnists/broadcasters perhaps focus on more deserving targets? Rather than antagonise the harmless beguiled (save that for when QEII goes), oughtn’t they instead consider expending their energies in the public interest, and expose those unvirtuous virtue-signallers opportunistically exploiting Bowie’s death to their own ends? Robert Redfern’s quacking self-promotion is the most grievous, nauseating thing I’ve read on Bowie this past week.
Thanks to Peter Vintner# and Alan Henness* for flagging these up on Twitter.