Julie told me this morning that David Bowie had died. I didn’t even know he had been ill.
He was five years older than me, and his music and acting had been a part of my life since 1967, when I first heard the rather silly song, ‘The Laughing Gnome.’ He popped back briefly, with the hit song ‘Space Oddity’, before disappearing for a while once again.
When I next heard from him, I was 18, and along came ‘The Man Who Sold The World.’ His style had changed, something that would happen many times during a long career. The following year saw the release of the amazing album, ‘Hunky Dory.’ I played this almost to the point of wearing it out, overwhelmed by the talent displayed, and the freshness of the songs. Forty-five years later, I could play it again, and still listen with the same amazement.
Then came ‘Ziggy Stardust.’ Another change, another different look. Androgynous, setting trends, and some incredible songs too. It was obvious that this man was no flash in the pan. He was going to last.
You couldn’t get fed up with him, he made sure of that. Just when you thought you had seen enough, something else came along, and your interested was immediately re-kindled. After the so-called Glam Rock years, he reappeared as a sharp-suited-super-cool guy, with a jazzy feel, and more new musical influences. In between, he starred in the strange sci-fi film, ‘The Man Who Fell To Earth’, and his fans realised that he could really act as well. Embracing the age of pop videos, those accompanying his songs were often small masterpieces themselves, adding to the song, rather than detracting from it.
By the time the great album ‘Tonight’ was released, in 1984, I was thirty-two years old, and owned every record he had ever made. I continued to like him as a person too, a rarity in the world of the pop star. He came across as a nice guy in interviews, never assumed an American accent like so many others, and retained his European persona, eventually living in Berlin for some time. The year before that, he had given another memorable film performance in the POW film, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.’
I had seen him in concert, making a rare trip to Wembley to watch a thrilling showman in action. I once stood next to him at a film premiere, surprised by how big he seemed in real life, and amazed by his full Ziggy get-up, with the shining disc on his forehead. But it was his music that held me. The albums, the changes of style, the unique songs, all marking the decades of my life over the years. It is often said of actors and music artists that, ‘we will never see another like them.’
In his case, that is actually true. R.I.P. David Jones. 1947-2016