Tuesday 12 January 2016


I was hesitant to write about David Bowie simply because it would inevitably mean having to address the, umm, difficult to talk about song China Girl (sure: there's an argument that it really isn't that racist, but it's not exactly a convincing one). However, since Jeremiah has already cleared the way on that one, I can simply dive into the fact that if you were born at any time from about 1955 onward his music has been an inevitable part of your life in a way that not even the Beatles, whose truly productive period lasted only about five years, really managed.

Even if you weren't much of a music aficionado, and I can't claim to be one, his music brings back memories. Here's mine -

Any Friday night at Kenny's bar in Miaoli 2001-2002:

The day after the wedding, very hung over, singing along whilst my brother noodled around on guitar, Wroclaw, 2014:

David Bowie was of my parent's generation, a generation that is now mostly either retired or fast approaching retirement, and which will start to pass from the scene in the coming decade. Unlike them, I and my middle-class middle-England peers did not, generally speaking, have to struggle against the social mores and constraints of our parents the way that they had to against theirs - we could if we wanted have long hair and wear make-up, listen to loud music and so-forth.

There is of course something embarrassing about this inter-generational cosiness, the embarrassment of a younger generation that never really rebelled all that much but which instead lives increasingly in the parental home and is reliant on parental money, but it sprang from an attitude of personal freedom and liberation which that generation championed simply by exercising it.


Anonymous said...

Ever the musicologist, FOARP.

I was over the obits and tributes after about six hours. Much repetition involving a ton of googling.

The Boomer generation sending off one of their own with all the gravitas equal to the planting of JFK.

Crikey, half the folk doing the scribbling wouldn't recognize a turntable (which was the only technology able to play Ziggy Stardust in its day), if one dropped from heaven and knocked over their Oasis collection.

I'll go for Moonage Daydream.....its easy to deconstruct FOARP, and the Bowie/Ronson two steps in platforms is totally hilarious


Since all great music accompanies great social moments, here's mine.

A good friend (RIP) and I visited a radical feminist student household. After thoroughly denouncing patriarchy in all its incarnate forms, the central question arose: what goes on the turntable, and of course it was Ziggy Stardust. One thing led to another and Max and I ended up getting the full make-up treatment...eye liner, lippy etc. (I know, a radical feminist household.) Logic prevailed and and it was on to the hippy cheese cloth dresses. This was a trans-moment to far however, so we called it a day, raided the food coop kitty, purchased some pot and spent the rest in the pub.



Ji Xiang said...

It's funny, but I have never been a fan of Bowie's music however. The only song of his I even recognize is "Starman", which is alright. I am not at all familiar with any of his other songs. I tried listening to some these last few days, but they don't do much for me. Perhaps because they don't hold any associations.

I grew up with the Beatles (especially), the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd and the rest, so it's not like I don't listen to music from the sixties and seventies. I guess Bowie just never spoke to me.

I totally identify with what you're saying about our parent's generation though.

Gilman Grundy said...

@KT - awesome comment.

@Ji Xiang - Bowie was kind of a joke when to me as a kid. He was, after all, the guy who played the Goblin King in Labyrinth. Later on I started to listen to his stuff a bit more seriously after Nirvana did that famous unplugged version of The Man Who Ruled The World. I also used to hang out at a Goth pub called the Gloucester when I lived in Brighton where, in between the Marilyn Manson, Nine Inch Nails and Gary Numan they would play the occasional Bowie track.