I don’t want to write this. I don’t want to write this. I don’t want to write this.
If I write this it makes it real.
But if I don’t write it I feel like I will burst.
It’s ridiculous really, it’s not as though I knew the guy, but a huge part of my light and life has left this world.
David Bowie has been with me since he first mesmerised me in the Labyrinth when I was a kid (and caused me to force my parents to repeatedly hire it from the video store, though I knew it word for word.)
He was with me through my awkward teenage years – when I was at my most scared and isolated telling me I was ‘not alone’
Oh no love! you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if i could only
Make you care
Oh no love! you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone
As a young adult navigating the murky waters of mental illness at a time when nobody talked about it All the Madmen from The Man Who Sold the World was a two-fingered salute to the rest of the world. It was okay, he got it. It was our secret.
‘Cause I’d rather stay here
With all the madmen
Than perish with the sad men
And I’d rather play here
With all the madmen
For I’m quite content
They’re all as sane as me.
David Bowie taught me that it was okay to be different. He taught me to embrace it, to run with it and see where it led me. That if I wanted to dress in orange paisley dye my hair blue and do ridiculous stuff on stage I bloody well could. If I wanted to blast Aladdin Sane when everyone else wanted to be the Spice Girls then I should, and at maximum volume.
I was fascinated by his influences, I discovered new (and old) writers, new music and art.
He was, he is, my best friend. He taught me to be me.
I have never met the man before but he has been with me for my entire life. Through gleeful celebration and abject misery. He graduated university with me and held my hand through journalism school. He’s sailed across the South Pacific with me and celebrated the publication of my first book.
In a way he also helped develop my writing style.
Back in the days of dial-up internet that sounded like R2D2 in a blender I discovered a world much bigger than my own. In trying to navigate this exciting new place where you could easily talk to people on the other side of the globe I joined a mailing list (do those even exist anymore?) called BowieList where, through group emails I was able to banter with a bunch of intelligent, funny and eloquent people from all walks of life, with the connection of our mutual admiration of Mr Stardust. I really looked forward to those emails, spending quite a bit more time on the university computers than I needed to ‘study’.
I enjoyed and appreciated the way these people wrote, the way they made me smile. I magpied the hell out of them and discovered a wittier more confident version of myself in the process. I made friends with some wonderful people who, while we are not in touch as often now, I still think about a lot.
I graduated to other Bowie groups, The Man’s own website Bowienet and even a proto virtual reality chatroom with avatars (Bowie did everything first) and I think this is where I developed my conversational writing style. I have so much to thank him for.
I also very much associate David Bowie with my Mum. It was her ‘best of’ album that I loved (and nicked) that led me to discover him.
We were lucky enough to see him in concert when he came to Wellington for the 2004 Reality tour. It was the most amazing night of my life. I don’t think I have ever felt that high. We’d gotten seats right up the front (of course) but as soon as I heard his voice I screamed like a banshee and ran for the stage – poor Mum managed to grab the back of my shirt and go with me, narrowly avoiding being left in the dust.
We were right up the front. There was a barrier, a security guy and then my Main Man. We couldn’t have gotten any closer if we tried. Typical inhospitable Wellington it was hosing down with rain but, while the band stayed where it was safe and dry, Bowie was out on the apron prancing about, getting soaked and having to have towels regularly thrown to him. He dedicated Heroes to us for sticking it out in the rain, but he was the hero.
Mum snuck a disposable camera in and managed to sneak a couple of pics before we were stopped. That’s how I will always remember him, looking right at us with that spectacular smile
Just last year Mum and I took a girls trip to Melbourne to see the David Bowie Is exhibition and I am so glad we did. It was incredible, everything I hoped it would be. We had a wonderful time.
Just yesterday (before I heard the news) I was blasting out his new album Blackstar, marveling at how he was still making such challenging, haunting yet gleeful music. That he was still experimenting, still twisting and changing, still messing with our heads.
When my sister told me last night I couldn’t breathe, it was like all the air had been sucked out of the room. If it wasn’t for Paddy letting me blubber all over him like a trooper I probably would have had an anxiety attack then and there.
I had to get out of the boat, I put my headphones on and walked round the waterfront playing Blackstar and finding new meaning in the lyrics. I oscillated between feeling completely numb and sobbing to myself like an idiot.
But even then I wasn’t alone. He was singing to me. It sounds silly but it felt like he was holding my hand.
I didn’t want to write this, but I feel a bit better now I have. I am also really touched by the messages I have been getting from family and friends who know how big the part he played in my life really was. I love that my facebook and twitter feeds are filled with Bowie, I love that everyone has a song that is special to them and they are all different ones. Everyone has a different place and a time where he really spoke to them and that makes me smile.
This isn’t goodbye Mr Bowie, Mr Stardust, Mr Jones. You will continue to be the soundtrack to me life and so many others. You have shaped who I am and that is never going to change.
You left the world on a spectacular note, you played us right to the end you clever boy. Keep on creating wherever you are, you’ll keep on inspiring down here.
‘This way or no way
You know I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now, ain’t that just like me?’