Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 12 January 2016

David Bowie

It’s three o’clock in the afternoon and I’ve spent quite a lot of time today hunting around for inspiration for this blog.

Inspiration’s a funny thing; sometimes, it’s everywhere, and sometimes there’s just one little thread of it, but that’s all I need. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and know exactly what I’m going to write on the blog. 

That’s how it’s supposed to work… I wake up, pick up my cup of tea and begin to write a post. Part of the purpose of this exercise is to clear my head before the work of the day begins, to get rid of thoughts that are idle or excess, things that are preoccupying me, but that don’t add to the work I’m supposed to be doing. There’s also the writing muscle thing; it’s nice to run off a few hundred words before the real writing begins, just to get the mind moving, the rhythm a little honed.

I don’t want to suggest that you get something that’s less than good, less than right, less than… But this is a blog, this isn’t fiction; this is immediate and fun, and a bit of honest thrashing about, and it requires different skills from writing fiction. This requires a little passion and some immediacy. Fiction requires a little discipline and some patience.

Anyway, it’s three-o-four in the afternoon, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time today hunting around for inspiration for this blog.

The thing is, in one way, I’m not exactly short of a subject.

I haven’t written about the death of David Bowie, yet, except to acknowledge that it has happened.

I generally don’t write about the deaths of public people, either on the social networks or on my blog. I seldom write about the deaths of people I actually know, either. You’ll remember that I didn’t write about the death of my own father, or about the loss I felt associated with it. It was too much… It also meant that I didn’t feel able to write about anything else while my mind was so full of my father.

This isn’t like that, of course it isn’t. I didn’t know David Bowie. I never met him. He didn’t mean anything to me, not as a person, not as a man.

The thing is, David Bowie, collectively, to the World, meant a very great deal. Every where I look, and every time my ears settle, Bowie is there.

I do not remember the last time a public person died and this happened. 

I suppose we could talk about Princess Diana, but that was really very different. Her place in the World was almost the antithesis of his. Diana was iconic and she was public. She gave meaning to things simply by being; her name and her presence had meaning, but not herself, not who she was or what she created. She didn’t for all sensible purposes create anything.

David Bowie was not so much about who he was, but what he made. He rarely gave interviews and almost never talked about himself. We know little of his private life. He did not play out his role as a husband or father in public. How many of us knew that he was fond of cats, for example? 

We know what he made. We know the art and artifice of his various images over the decades, of the costumes, the hair, the make-up. We know the gender-bending and the impact it had in the sixties and seventies. We remember the music… Above all and everything, we know the music… Almost fifty years of music.

Bowie wrote and arranged the music for his first album for Deram records, released in 1967. David Bowie, the eponymous album released on the same day as Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was a commercial failure. Bowie was dropped from Deram, and it was two years before he released his second album.

The lesson he learned from his experience as a twenty year old, was to believe in himself and in what he was doing. Most young musicians would have given up or changed tracks after this early humiliation. David Bowie regrouped; he used one of the songs from the album, Love You till Tuesday, as a demo when he needed to do the rounds with the record companies, and he revisited themes from the first album throughout his career. 

David Bowie's Website
Bowie had the courage of his convictions as a young man of only twenty, and I doubt that confidence ever left him. I wonder how many of us could learn from his example.

So many of us have simply taken Bowie for granted over the years. I’ve always been more than pleased and impressed to hear his tunes on the radio or television, but he was so much a part of the landscape of my life that I never felt the need to buy any but one of his albums. Apparently, the same is true for many of us. Today, as I write this, only two of the top ten album slots are held by records NOT made by David Bowie. The top five albums sold on iTunes are currently all by David Bowie; Adele’s 25 is at number 6 and Justin Bieber’s Purpose is at number 10. The radio, certainly including every station that I’ve tuned to in the past couple of days, is playing wall-to-wall Bowie. All my social media feeds are choc-a-bloc with pictures, clips and tributes to the man who was a rock god to three generations of music lovers… More than that, we didn’t need to be music lovers to know who Bowie was or to respond to his talent.

Honestly, I don’t know what to say about David Bowie. I don’t know what to think of him, his creativity, his adaptability, or his talent for living in the limelight and remaining out of the public gaze... Put simply, I am in awe.

I’m not sure how such a person could possibly exist among us… I’m very glad that he did.

@JeSuisDean on Twitter made this remark, retweeted endlessly, and notably, but erroneously attributed to Simon Pegg:

If you’re ever sad, just remember the World is 4.543 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie

Jon Snow made a rather lovely comment, too… one of my favourites.

In a sense, though, the tributes are a nonsense, because who can really say anything that will last longer or be more powerful or more poignant or mean more than the music, the art, the magic that the man left behind?

It’s three-twenty-four in the afternoon, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time today hunting around for some inspiration for a blog. 

It’s impossible.

How can I be inspired by anything when the World... the entire World is overwhelmed by the death of a single creative force. We can think of nothing else, even if we don’t really know how to think of Bowie, how to express who or what he was to us, even when he wasn't significant in the way that we feel artists we most respect really should be in our lives on a day to day basis. 

I always admired Bowie; I understood his worth, but I didn’t buy his work, at least not as much as I might have. It was bigger than that. It was right there, always there. It was ubiquitous. Bowie never went away. His creative energy has been part of the backcloth, the tapestry of all our lives for fifty years… it will continue to be there.

Mourning is for the family, for the people who belonged to the man. We didn't own the man, because we had something else, and that something isn’t going anywhere… 

Nevertheless, The stars look very different today…

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