This is how it unfolded for me.
SHOCK & DENIAL
I have a habit of glancing at the Facebook feed on my iPhone seconds after I wake up. David Bowie has died. No. This cannot be true. He has just released his new album. He is fine spiritual and artistic form. He is still relevant, very much part of the tapestry of everyday life. Fuck off. I wake up suddenly, call out to Charlotte. “David Bowie has died.” “Are you sure?” “No. Just checking.” Sure enough. My Facebook feed is swamped by folk feeling similar shock and denial. I go downstairs, get on the computer. More confirmation. Still cannot believe it. Play Starman, tears prickling behind my eyelids. Play Space Oddity, Five Years, Let’s Dance, Heroes… as the kids argue and rage on the half-level behind me. (Daniel wants to show off his extendable torch so he switches the lights off: Isaac has just settled down to eating his toast.) Cancer. His son released the statement. Don’t read further, don’t need to. Bowie. Wow. Fuck. Bowie. Dead.
Go out and hear people discussing it on the street. “David Bowie’s dead.” “FUCK OFF, why would you say that to me?” I remember experiencing a similar emotion when told John Lennon had been murdered. Bowie. Fuck. Man, the media is going to be swamped by tonight. Man, this should serve as an affirmation of my lowly status if anything does – not one single outlet is going to want my perspective. Charlotte wants to know if I am going to pitch a story. What? Be paid for expressing my grief. I dunno, man. Also I am not an expert like so many of my colleagues…nor even as much of a fan. Love much of his music. Several of his songs spoke to me as a messed-up teenager but I quit taking too much of an interest after the early 1980s, too many distractions. Also, I never fixated on him as I came to music in ’78 not ’73. His last two albums have been damn interesting, though. And he has influenced many bands and singers I love, equally many I cannot help but despise. No. I am not the right person. Staff writers will do what staff writers do. And others have far more of a claim than me. I do not know where I stand, worried always about the fact the adoration for Bowie is too localised, should perhaps expand to include some of the more innovative and exciting rock and pop acts that Bowie critics have a tendency to claim for Bowie alone. For example, Let’s Dance, his ‘dance’ album, came out in 1983. It is not exactly trail-blazing, is it? – however much you might like it.
Came back home. Checked my Facebook feed again. Bowie still dead. Bugger it. I loved it when his voice cracked on Starman, when he sounded so plaintive on Pin Ups, his voyages out to the stars, the “serious moonlight”, the journey of exploration awaiting me on Blackstar, the way he so pissed off all his ned supporters with that drag performance of Boys Keep Swinging on Top of the Pops in ’79, the inescapable fact of Heroes, Quicksand itself… Yeah, ‘course. 69. It is not so young. Not so old either, and…
Fuck, Bowie is dead.
PAIN & GUILT
I don’t like him as much as others, what right have I to participate in the communal, in the individual grief? I never dressed up, I was never part of the cool or the ‘outsider’ set. I was just alone. I was always put off by the wankers who liked him in the playground, by the wankers who liked him who were in crap bands. I would listen to Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust… sure. “Oh, you pretty things”, man what a great refrain, “and the workers have struck for fame/Now Lennon’s on sale again”. “War-hole, actually – as in holes.” Just cos I liked several dozen of his songs, loved many of them… that gives me no right. I was at his 50th birthday anniversary concert at Madison Square Gardens, I even met him by accident… fuck man. How unworthy am I? Others, so more deserving. You take stuff like this for granted while it’s happening and you swear to yourself you never will again once it stops happening but of course you never have the opportunity again.
Communal stuff I have a problem with. Why? What is wrong with me?
Also, he was a pop star not a rock star. A pop star, a bloody fantastic one but a pop star. If ever a person proved that the notion of ‘authenticity’ has no relevance within popular music it is David Bowie.
ANGER & BARGAINING
Woke up this morning, hated everyone especially myself. Especially that travesty of a tribute the BBC rushed out last night – Lauren Laverne talking about how society-changing The Jean Genie was (he was only one of many at the time! he was only one of many!) when she was not even alive, when it was Boys Keep Swinging that alienated the establishment (the preceding was theatre, and obvious theatre at that); some nobhead waxing on about Pablo Picasso like Bowie needs validation from Modern Art freaks. Dickhead. I have not read a single Bowie tribute by the people paid to write Bowie tributes. I am only interested in the fans. And of course I am not really interested in the fans either. Just me. Always just me.
Christ, I am crap.
Thought I would publish a snapshot of my Facebook feed early yesterday morning to try to give an indication of the overwhelming sense of loss hitting everyone. I do not think it worked though. It needed to be 100 times, a 1000 times longer and even then it would not have worked. I am fucking useless as a critic and curator and reader. I envy those who are able to articulate emotion, or even give voice to feelings. Thought I could compile a playlist of bands and singers who have interpreted Bowie songs as well as Bowie himself. Did that work? Doubt it. My knowledge is so transitory. I wrote a third tribute, using another device. Meaningless. Junked it before it was even finished.
Maybe if I post enough tributes, I might be accepted into the club? What club? Why do I need validation?
DEPRESSION, REFLECTION, LONELINESS
This happens every day. Every single day. Has Bowie dying fed into this? Probably but not in ways I understand yet. (Perhaps I am still in stage one?)
Bowie made theatre feel so real.
Rock star. Bollocks. Rock is about authenticity. I do not believe Bowie would ever have claimed authenticity for himself. Of course I could be wrong. It was all an act, artifice. A glorious act, glorious artifice and open to myriad interpretation on the part of those who listened to Bowie, or watched him. He inspired people and perhaps that was the most wonderful part of Bowie the act, he inspired people. And now who is going to…?
THE UPWARD TURN
Well fuck. All the people out there who already exist.