Daily Archives: January 8, 2013

I’m Afraid of Americans (V1) (Radio Edit)

It’s David Bowie’s birthday. And Elvis Presley and Shirley Bassey and a whole lot of other people I am sure. But today for me it’s all about David Bowie. I only recently started appreciating Elvis Presley and that is mainly consigned to his Sun Records period. David Bowie has been part of my life for a lot longer. When I was growing up I was more into pop music, Elton and whatever was on the top 40 I guess. Sure the Beatles were around in different variations, mainly as solo acts with the Fab records being historical artifacts by the time I was aware.

The ‘bad’ kids liked David Bowie. Diamond Dogs was the big shocker, at least album cover wise despite the removal of the dog’s bollocks. I being a good boy, or rather a pussy, I stayed away from those kids who were mostly boys, squeezing a breast and copping a feel of girls that I knew most of my life. The girls seemed to allow it, at least on a class trip to the Hayden Planetarium. I guess it was the autumn of 1976 when I really heard David Bowie for the first time and I wasn’t sure if I liked it.

It was Ziggy Stardust, and most of the kids knew it. Hang On To Yourself, Suffragette City and Ziggy. I went to CYO. I didn’t really fit in with my freshman class in high school and missed the kids I went to school with for 9 years. They didn’t seem to miss me and made new friends from their new school. My high school was regional and there was no one I knew from school in my neck of the woods. And David Bowie seemed to reflect my alienation. He didn’t help and showed me how alone I really was.

It was such an unpleasant and lonely evening, seeing my former classmates growing up faster that I was and I didn’t like David Bowie for providing that soundtrack. Only a few weeks later did my sexuality come into bloom and that was a whole other nightmare with a most depressing soundtrack by Elton John, Blue Moves. To be a gay teenager in Bergen County in 1976, going to an all boy Catholic school was no fun at all and I set about constructing a closet that would provide some shelter for a few years that followed.

It was when David Bowie started getting weird to American ears, that was when I started to take interest. My brother gave me a cassette of Young Americans but I only played the first song on side A, Young Americans and the last song on side B, Fame. Oddly enough the tape folded in on itself and those two songs were the only ones playable since everything else wound up being played backwards. I also liked Golden Years and then Bowie went to Berlin and got too weird for most US fans.

I liked Low, and bought Heroes for my brother Brian (and I wound up stealing it from him years later). The first Bowie album I bought for myself was Lodger, the last in the so called Berlin Trilogy along with Low and Heroes. In 1980 I did see David Bowie on Broadway in The Elephant Man. I went with Laszlo Papp and Debbie Robinson from work and we sat in the first row center. At the end of the show, people in the second row behind us gave David roses for which David thanked us, much to the rose purchaser’s dismay.

A few years later I met my good friend Jet Watley who it turned out was quite a Bowie fan from back in those Ziggy days. He also liked T Rex and the other Glitter bands, but David Bowie was it for Jet. Jet slowly got me into Bowie, playing me certain tracks that were overlooked and unheard in the St Francis de Sales auditorium in 1976. So I began to appreciate David Bowie. Jet died a few years after that and I got most of his record collection, including Bowie, T Rex and Jobriath. And they were mainly all washed away by Hurricane Sandy last year.

Years pass, and Bowie is part of my DNA. Everyone I know likes Bowie, I like Bowie. I find myself working at Right Track Recording. I meet big names and the biggest was David Bowie. I was reminded of Karen Lynn Gorney’s character in Saturday Night Fever who worked in a recording studio much like myself. In the movie she is telling Travolta and friends about David Bowie going to her studio, but the lunkheads in Bay Ridge didn’t know who David Bowie was. I made jokes when I started in the studio about being like Karen Lynn Gorney and here I was actually meeting David Bowie.

And David Bowie and I hit it off. He always said hello and one time I recall just sitting there and chatting with him for about a half hour. Then when he left I called my sister to tell her sotto voce that I was just talking to the Thin White Duke. He was great and so nice. He had a promo cassette of the Earthling album and gave it to me, taking it back a few minutes later so he could properly autograph it for me, ‘To John- Best Wishes, David Bowie’. THAT I still have.

Around that time, or rather this time 15 years ago, David Bowie turned 50 and thanks to someone named Darrell Shines I was able to attend the show celebrating his birthday at Madison Square Garden. And David Bowie was phenomenal. It was a great show, guests like Foo Fighters, Robert Smith, Frank Black, Sonic Youth, Billy Corgan and Lou Reed all sang a song or two with David. A week later I met David again at the studio and I could not look at him the same way.

The bloke I was chatting with was David Bowie in a chair, but I had just seen David Bowie on stage, in his element and was blown away. He laughed and shrugged it off when I mentioned that so many people had ripped him off with his stage moves and manners. Obviously it was nothing he hadn’t heard or seen before.

I actually thought David Bowie’s birthday was yesterday. It is today apparently. I caught myself and posted a video about how I had the day’s wrong. Harpy posted a wish that David would record again and I posted that I guess he had retired for good, since no new music came from him in ten years. A couple of hours later, my friend John in Munich posted word of a new Bowie record.

I was taken aback and with some rapid legwork, I confirmed John’s posting. And I also posted all over Facebook, the info, the price of the single ($1.29) and the album ($13.99) available for preordering. I duly preordered. I could have gotten it for free, but opted to throw some money to the Dame. Harpy’s wish came true, a little Christmas miracle.

The song is wistful with a tint of sadness. The video is fascinating and also a bit sad. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great but sounds world weary, yet hopeful. It’s only one song I heard so I don’t know what the rest of the album sounds like. I’m posting the video here in case you haven’t heard or seen it yet.
The return of the thin white Duke, throwing darts in lovers eyes.