Just like Lazarus: David Bowie is reborn.


The first time I heard Bowie was doing my “O” level revision listening to Radio 1 and I heard what I thought was the guitar part to “You keep me hanging on” which I liked as a song and it turned out to be someone called David Bowie singing about a Starman, in a sort of cockney voice a la the Oliver Twist musical and letting the children sing. I rather liked it.

A female friend then had Hunky Dory and I thought it all very nice. Slightly wierd but Life on Mars was good.

Then I saw him on TV – convenient – and after that DB was a complete and constant influence south of the Watford Gap as they say here in the UK. Everything you did was judged alongside Bowie and that was that. there was – is – a sort of Cult of Bowie, whether he likes it or not.

But Starman is very beautifully recorded – pop style – but Ken Scott as production engineer and Trident Studios? That’s a good plan, as I know now: I knew nothing about it then. That’s cash. And strings. So that’s an arranger. ‘Spensive. I didn’t know that then.

I couldn’t stand Glam Rock. I was right. But money prevailed for a while.

But from that time, south of the Watford Gap, DB was Disco King. Warped and cracked, on might say, but King. Talented guy. Colorful and interesting in every way. But there’s Steely Dan; Stevie Wonder. 10cc! Tamla. Talking Heads. Peter Gabriel….The Stones!

But no. Everything was David Bowie. South of the Watford Gap.

I’m sure that’s because he spent a great deal of money south of the Watford Gap hiring people. The “factory System” like Warhol has been used since Renaissance times and before. DB used it. I’m all for it.

But no. DB is special, he’s something special, etc. Etc….etc….

So there was a bit of a Bowie mania thing that prevented sensible discussion about his records – but given how much DB spent I can see why.

So he had influence, even power, in this geographical and professional area.

He was an empresario. He financed other acts. Clever. Talented. Slightly wierd stage persona, probably influenced by his brother, but a very talented chap all round. The nearest I was to it all was through Robert Fripp who I met in 73/4, but the whole DB thing was like a secret subject. It was a bit of a culty thing, but that’s after the event anyway. While I was learning production engineering with Tony Arnold DB was the Thin White Duke playing slightly wierd funk in America. Sounds expensive too. Very.

Couldn’t play lead guitar though. I’d like to have heard that, but I assume it would be Fripp-esque. Fashion. That’s another good one. Then there was the Ashes to Ashes video. I see what he’s doing but still a bit wierd. Nothing wrong with that. He went to New York.

After that he seemed to become slightly more distant but still his influence was dominant in the uk music south-of the-watford-gap scene. Not in the public culture but in the business, as they say: behind the scenes. L’eminence gris.

So I think it is true that, as a music person south of the Watford Gap, DB had an enormous influence beyond anyone else because of the number of people he worked with (as they say) and quite right too.

I happen to like wierd. It’s existential. But Bowie, David Jones, wasn’t wierd. He was just intelligent. And it’s all entertainment. Some people seemed to go for it hook, line and sinker. I didn’t but I like it. That damned me to hell, so to speak. That was the extent of the belief. Slightly exaggerated, fuelled by too much cocaine, I would think now.

So, I liked his art work and arty stuff. He made 111 singles and 28 studio albums. never mind the other stuff. That’s amazing.

The king is dead and I can feel the ripples as a result. There you are. Probably not so significant in other places but south of the Watford Gap? Very much so.

Actually I liked Where are we Now, I think that’s good especially recording-wise and Lazarus the song is good, the recording is very detailed in an un-detailed way.

But Fame says it for me: funky, but in a wierd way!

That was DB.