A few valedictions on Bowie

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Stuart Marshall: I have to say that listening to your Bowie show last week was a very emotional experience. When you started crying at the end my girlfriend started crying as well, which forced me into the same emotional plunge as well. Quite cathartic really. I honestly haven’t been so upset over a musician’s death since Charlie Gocher. Needless to say, we’ve been hooked on Blackstar, though thanks to you ‘I’m Deranged’ is her favourite overall.

Ed Pinsent: Thanks Stuart, I really appreciate your simpatico feelings. I think Bowie’s work will only deepen in its impact and meaning as time goes on, regardless of how we may try and over-simplify it or generalise it.

When I say that, I’m thinking of one “tribute” slot I saw on the telly. Midge Ure was speaking. He recited the “Ziggy on TOTP singing Starman in 1972” moment as if he were reading from scripture. All the “accepted” tropes were there, a Mojo Reader’s 39 Articles. Broad-based assumptions that everyone who saw this was having the same experience.

I’m protective of “my” Bowie. I resent the way that personal experience is being made into a general, shared experience, which is why I hated the Velvet Goldmine movie. It’s amazing to me how quickly this way of thinking has become fossilised into a shopping list of how we apprehend the cultural value of Bowie.

But it’s also so superficial. At one level, in saying “it was like an alien had beamed into our living room over the TV set”, Midge Ure was merely restating the lyrics and theme of the song itself, only in a much more banal fashion.

I’d contrast your simpatico message with what a relative said to me, when he couldn’t apparently grasp why I was even upset about it. His arguments seemed to be…

  • Bowie may have meant something once, but he doesn’t any more, so why make a fuss now?
  • I’m just nostalgic for my own record-buying youth…there’s nothing special about that.
  • The release date of Blackstar was cynically engineered to generate maximum sales.
  • Why didn’t I also do a tribute radio show for Glenn Frey?

There are so many things wrong with the above that I don’t know where to begin.

Stuart Marshall: Apart from the Economist’s obituary and a DJ set he did on the Beeb in 1979, I pretty much skipped all of the reminiscing for the reason you point out: ‘My Bowie’ – so true. He gave himself to everyone to discover their own interpretation, yet all we hear are the same, strung-out tropes about reinventing himself etc. Surely if his identity changes were so revolutionary, they’d have had greater individual resonance than the recital of such clichés? I’m dreading hearing what comes up when Ron Mael’s time comes… distant may it be!

Podcast attached to this post is a two-minute excerpt from my Bowie tribute show.

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