Fans paying their respects to David Bowie at the Aladdin Sane mural in Brixton last night
I think I finally can summon up the emotional strength to write about the passing of David Bowie…but in truth I don’t really know what to write.
So I’ll start with something that happened in September 2014.
There was a bereavement in the family. I was in Finland at the time, looking for a place to hold a combined hen/stag do a few days before my wedding. Whilst approaching the venue that me and my wife would eventually make enquiries to, I got a call from the UK saying that a relative had died. Once the call finished, we stopped for a moment and, after a brief discussion to determine what we should do, decided to carry on. I paused for a moment, did the venue viewing, and then thought that that would be that.
Except it wasn’t quite so simple.
Once the ‘official business’ was done, I just wanted to be at home. For the remaining hour or so that I was out in town, I wanted to be in solitude. When I returned to my parents-in-law’s home, I hid myself away in a room for about two hours. I listened to Trouble Will Find Me by The National and spoke to a couple of friends online for comfort. That comfort is something I’m still very grateful for, alongside the support of my wife.
Now let’s talk about yesterday morning.
I woke up at around 7:30am, half-an-hour later than my alarm told me to. As I stumbled into the living room, my wife said to me that David Bowie was dead. I asked her to repeat that information. She did.
And then the next ten minutes was spent browsing the social networks and The Guardian, looking for confirmation and reaction. I wrote something off-the-cuff and posted it on Facebook. I then put on The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars and I thought: “Ok, let’s get ready for work.”
Except, as soon as the opening drum beats of Five Years began rising from the speakers, it wasn’t quite so simple.
I spent most of my time getting ready for the day ahead desperately holding back tears. Every euphoric refrain that I heard seemed bittersweet. The crescendo of Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide was almost just too much to handle. I felt confused, disorientated…and deeply sad. That deep sadness followed me to work. A colleague said that I must have felt gutted. I sighed heavily, which perhaps spoke more volumes than any of the…I’m going to say fourteen words I uttered all morning. I was not pleasant company, I’d argue.
In my experiences of grief and mourning so far in life, it takes a good fifteen minutes to half-an-hour for the news to actually hit you. And when it hits you…it hurts. What was most surprising about the way I reacted to Bowie’s death was how I responded in a way that was similar to bereavement closer to home.
I think I know why that is. I think it’s because his music has slowly become indispensable to me. It’s hard to imagine a world without him.
There are several other bands that I absolutely adore with every fibre of my being. Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, The National…all of them make songs that resonate with me in many different ways. For all of them, Bowie was a huge part of the equation. It’s no exaggeration to say that without him, my music tastes would be vastly different.
It is only recently that I have come to understand why that was the case. I have become obsessed with Aladdin Sane, Heroes and The Next Day in the same way that I became obsessed with In Rainbows, Sound Of Silver, Alligator, Reflektor and The Downward Spiral.
All of this made me very excited for Blackstar, which is phenomenal. There are many more weeks and months to go in 2016 but I bet that many artists won’t even touch the vital energy of that record. It’s captivating, spellbinding and, in true Bowie style, a little bit deranged and perplexing.
I even saw a photo on his official Facebook page over the weekend that seemed to show him in tremendous spirits. My heart fluttered. This presented an artist who was still enjoying life and approaching yet another creative gold rush.
And then, without warning, he’s suddenly gone.
Even after twenty-five albums, I feel as if we’ve been unfairly robbed of a man whose greatest achievements may well have been just around the corner. Maybe Blackstar is that career zenith. It’ll take weeks and months for me to find out. Even then, I’ll change my mind frequently.
And then I remember: “Holy shit, he’s released so much music. So much that can still be enjoyed for decades.” We all discover different things from music at different times. I hope that, as the years go on, that is true with his back catalogue.
So I look forward to the next few decades of listening to David Bowie. I mourn his death, but I also celebrate his work, and will continue to do so until I’m no longer able to.