Frankly, I’m in shock. It’s been a horrible year or so for music fans, with so many greats leaving us – but this was so unexpected, especially as a brand new David Bowie album, Blackstar, was only released a couple of days ago. Now it seems like that the album was his way of saying goodbye, a last gift for his fans.
As an 80s kid, I was always drawn to Bowie’s striking appearance and the music he was making at the time (plus there was Labyrinth, and the lovely intro he did for The Snowman). But it wasn’t until I was older that I began to explore his 70s output, and it immediately struck a chord with me. Here was a man whose music and image told people like me that it didn’t matter that we felt like freaks and weirdos, that we felt different to the rest of the world – in fact, it was a good thing and we should nurture and treasure our differences, our weirdness. He was uncompromisingly himself (whoever that was at any given time) and we should be too.
And that was a message I, and so many others, needed to hear.
For all the immediate, visual theatricality of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane and all the rest, Bowie was real, and that’s why he had such an impact. If it had only been the front, the image, I doubt he would have become as iconic as he did. Instead, he had the image, AND the passion, the commitment and oh! so very much the music. And it’s the music which secures his immortality, beyond question or debate. So, it is with his music that I pay tribute today.
I’ve chosen two classic Bowie live moments to share with you. First up is that breakthrough Top Of The Pops performance of ‘Starman’ in 1972 – the androgynous look, the spiky hair, the multicoloured jumpsuit and arm round Mick Ronson one; the one that changed so many people’s lives, and sowed the seeds for the creation of more bands than I could ever count.
My second choice is a great thrash through of ‘Queen Bitch’, also from 1972, which I think was broadcast on The Old Grey Whistle Test. Full of confidence and self-belief, this is Bowie at his fiercest, loving every second. He carried himself like a superstar even then, and you can see it in every move he makes.
And he was a man who remained a superstar right up until the very end.
David Robert Jones aka Bowie (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016)