Hello. Happy New Year and all that. A dry new year and all is well. I say is, I mean was. This morning came news of a death. A death not just of a man, but of a genius. Not a genius like people with no taste say ‘Ed Sheeran is a genius’ but of an actual genius. Seriously, up there with Wren and Mozart and Da Vinci. At least in my book. It’s very rare that the death of someone not in my intimate circle could cause much beyond a shrug and a forced sigh. Lemmy dying the other day was sad, as much out of surprise of speed as surprise of delivery, but Lemmy, for all the great things he may have been, was no genius. Maybe it takes a real genius to die to make people see what a genius actually is. I’m not bothered with the dictionary definition because words can’t do it, you’re just as well off drawing a picture, but whatever it is Bowie had it. By rubbery giblets did he have it.
So the day has drifted by and plenty of work has been done. Who am I kidding! Some work has been done but it was only when I got to the gym that I began to weigh up what Bowie actually means to me. When Lemmy died I listened to the beginning of the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 where that smug little draining board wanted to know why some people had suddenly become big Lemmy fans overnight. Sorry Jeremy I didn’t realise you were a massive Motorhead fan. Oh, you’re not! Shut your pie hole then. He did make a good point in one sense; in that there are an awful lot of people out there who claim to be Bowie fans. I’d class myself as one but I’m not in the premier league. I never saw him live and I don’t have ALL his stuff but that said I’m not doing badly and I could probably hold my own for a few rounds. All this taken into consideration it made me glower today when all people could do was make some daft reference to Ziggy Stardust or sing the only line from ’Heroes’ that they could remember. Bowie was so, so ,so, so much more than that and to pigeon hole the poor bugger into a couple of friendly lines from popular ditties of his is an insult. Ideally punishable by a brick in the face.
Watching the TV tributes made me cry, not because of Bowie’s passing but because most seem to miss the point a bit. He wasn’t just great and an inspiration. He was one of the last remaining actual geniuses of music, indeed all the arts, we had left. So many never qualified – Sinatra and Presley were great at what they did, but they required others to get there and stay there. Morrison and Mercury weren’t fit to wipe dog dirt off the shoes of the guy who lives 3 doors down from Bowie and Lennon’s ghost has lived in the same universe of over-praise he was plonked into about 54 years ago. As far as I can work out we’ve got Bob Dylan (struggling) and Brian Wilson (beyond struggling) left and that’s it. Much as I love Keith Richards he’ll just have to settle for the world’s gift to rhythm and feel and rock and roll as a whole, but I’m not sure I can argue for the G word. Possibly what fucked me off most today was reading (on the ever undercooked BBC news website) the fact that in a 2006 BBC Culture Show public vote for ‘greatest living icon’ Bowie came in at number 4. 3 was McCartney and 1 was David Attenborough. Barely forgivable even at a real push of the imagination. Number 2? Number 2 must be a fucking joke. Or ironic. Morrissey. Fucking Morrissey. Seriously!!!! Mathematically speaking the British public thought, in 2006, that a whinging, northern, toxic irritant with the voice of Chewbacca’s wife having contractions was twice as worthy as David Bowie. What that says about us as a nation makes me shudder. I should add – The Smiths were a great band but suffered from one massive fatal flaw in the shape of a huge talentless turd with two bags of crinkle cut chips on each shoulder. Guess who!
Bowie refused an OBE and a Knighthood but it’s quite gratifying that as a nation we were ready to show our appreciation anyway. His music shall remain evergreen and all those songs everyone remembers are untouchably brilliant. But as a way of signing off to a hero and all round top bloke I’d like to try and shove his high-water mark in your face and I’d like to think you’ll give it a shot. Go for the rest first of course, get out your Ziggy and your Let’s Dance and your Space Oddity and your beloved Berlin Trilogy but please, please, at some point turn off the arse lickers on the radio and play Station to Station. The whole album, from start to finish. And when you’re done play it again, and again. It makes my top 3 albums of all time. Bowie claims he couldn’t remember making it, off his head on coke and milk and sausage and so on. He was only in his late 20’s when it came out but it sounds like the work of a man who has absorbed all the wisdom in the world and is now just playing with it like a kitten would a Christmas tree bauble. To my ears it is his most human work, his most vulnerable set of songs and it also serves as a bridge across his sparkling, unmatched 70’s from rock and white soul to a glacial world that no artist bar Brian Eno had ever seen, let alone imagined. Furthermore, to my eyes it represents Bowie at his coolest; a decadent, intellectual, coked-up, charming, skinny little devil – The Thin White Duke dressed in black with a pack of Gitanes threatening his every move. If you think you’re a Bowie fan then you probably haven’t heard Station to Station. If you know you’re a Bowie fan then you almost certainly have. If he’d have made just this he would be up there with the greats but instead he occupies a tiny mountain top that few other artists can make out through the clouds. We owed David Bowie a living and in death we owe him respect and admiration beyond measure. And that means personally, not through the drone of Ken Bruce. He was a bloody genius, a proper one. And he always will be. Please rest in peace. But if you can’t then feel free to haunt the quiff off Morrissey when you have a moment. I salute you, sir, but not with alcohol, that’ll have to wait until February. With added interest.
G B Hewitt. 11.1.2016.
Ps, I’m so glad David Cameron got to air his thoughts on all this. I’m sure Bowie would have blushed with pride.