Ashes to Ashes

With his passing fresh in the world’s mind, delivers a personal reflection on the music, the image and the legacy of David Bowie

Bowie 2 edit

It’s the morning of the 10th of January and I’m sitting in my room. Around me lies the typical mess of beer cans, crisp packets and academic papers all fighting to be noticed and to have something done about them but I do nothing, I just continue to sit. The phone rings and I hear my editor asking me about the articles needing finalisation and confirmation, his voice buzzing into the space between my ears and I sit there for a few minutes before I acknowledge what he’s saying and what is required of me. The phone clicks off and I’m once again dropped back into the silence of my thoughts. David Bowie is dead, and that’s all that will be seen to for a while.

For most people, the music of David Bowie was something they grew up with, the soundtrack to long car-journeys to Dorset that meandered through English countryside and valley leaving little to focus on except for the equally mobile sounds coming from a strange, man-alien thing that their dads liked for some reason.

Bowie’s music was a lot of things to a lot of people, but Bowie’s music was everybody’s and for this reason, we should mourn.

Bowie’s music was something played by the hip kids with Berkshire bank accounts at house parties in Victorian houses in Dulwich or Dalston, thudding and jiving along to the blur of adolescent intoxication that filled the heavy air. Bowie’s music was a lot of things to a lot of people, but Bowie’s music was everybody’s and for this reason, we should mourn.
Born in Brixton in 1947, David Robert Jones showed great artistic talent at an early age, commonly seen singing or dancing or creating something individual that he cared about. As Jones got older and delved into the world of music and art, he soon realised that he wanted to be a part of it. From here, Bowie experienced the hardships of breaking into an artistic world that was populated by normality. Blue-eyed boys with bobs singing songs about girls and going out surrounded him and a young Jones, going by the moniker of Davy Jones followed such a pattern before realising that something wasn’t right. Here, an epiphany occurred, one that will never be forgotten and will never be tarnished.

Jones became Bowie, a chameleon, postmodern prince morphing in and out of styles, personas and images displaying shocking sights to a small and uncertain world tentatively transitioning into the 1970s. Colour, sound, and power burst onto people’s TV screens with David Bowie’s blood red hair and lightning strike displaying a man who was something higher and something alien but at the same time something so human and raw that would swallow up popular culture for over 50 years with 27 studio albums, over 22 credited film roles and a golden legacy that will simply never be surpassed.

Bowie thundered open the doors of music for me, grabbing me by the pre-pubescent bum fluff that inhabited my face and flinging me down the hall of artistic, experimental and emotionally honest music.

For me, Bowie was something a little bit different. My parents had never played his music to me as a child but I remember clearly my first discovery. On a family holiday to Madeira I’d grown bored of listening to the same old music I’d always listened to. Early Arctic Monkeys and The Strokes had drip dried my musical horizons leaving me thinking that real music consisted of guys in Chuck Taylors and jeans talking about pixie-girls and Marlboro Reds. Here I looked at my primitive iPod touch and taking advantage of the hotel’s free wifi I downloaded Bowie’s 1972 magnum opus, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. From here, nothing was the same.

Bowie thundered open the doors of music for me, grabbing me by the pre-pubescent bum fluff that inhabited my face and flinging me down the hall of artistic, experimental and emotionally honest music. The way Bowie morphed his image and sound so lucidly made me look at artists who had played the same three chords for their entire careers and think of them as lazy and base in comparison to the boundlessly broad sounds that were laid before me by the man himself. In short, I felt like I had experienced an epiphany, with this moment in particular being a memory I know will remain with me until the day I die.

This is what made David Bowie an icon. Bowie had the power and presence to look down at any person and show them a world outside of their own through sound, image and presence.  People tend to forget that despite Bowie’s universal acclaim, he is one of the most personal artists of all time. No other artist captures so many moods, time frames, people and places like David Bowie did and that’s what makes him perfect: his universal humanity.

As I sit here now and put the finishing touches to this piece of writing I think not to Bowie or his music, but to people like me. For millions, Bowie was not a musician or an image but a being that simply understood what it is like to be human, to desire to understand the true beauty and variety of life that sits before us and to simply immerse yourself within such a world. David Bowie did that, and took us all along for the journey.

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