Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Swimming against the tide - again

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I never did get David Bowie. I totally accept that this is my fault and not Mr Bowie’s. I didn’t even know how to pronounce his name correctly until he died. I thought the bow was as in lowering the head or upper body as a social gesture and found out instead that it was as in bow tie.

So his son’s name rhymes with Chloe.

Countless millions worldwide considered him one of the greatest artists of all time; his undoubted talent passed by me unnoticed.

I did try to get an understanding. I watched a 90 minute tribute to him on Prime Rocks last week. At the end of the programme I was more confused than ever.

I guess my problem is that I was brought up on a diet of the likes of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra. These two didn’t have gimmicks; just nice voices. Notice I didn’t say they didn’t need gimmicks, that would be too unkind during this period of mourning.

My uncle had a purebred Pointer named “Bing.” He reckoned when he whined he sounded like the celebrated crooner. I’m not sure who would feel the most demeaned - the dog or Crosby.

But honestly Bowie’s voice did not have a particularly pleasant sound. Cast back to the likes of Eddie Fisher, Dean Martin, Al Martino, Perry Como, Bobby Darin, Matt Munro, Julio Iglesias, Guy Mitchell, Pat Boone, Vic Damone, Mel Torme, Jim Reeves, Harry Connick Jr; even Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley. Bowie wouldn’t feature on this list.

Mind you, neither would Ringo Star or even Paul McCartney.

Last weeks’ Time magazine, published just prior to his death, said Bowie’s voice had a “dry metallic timbre”. Hardly flattering, so was it the lyrics that made him such an international icon?

I Googled Bowie’s lyrics. In a song called Moonage Daydream, from the celebrated Ziggy Stardust album, I found this opening stanza:

I’m an alligator,
I’m a mama-papa comin’ for you
I’m the space invader,
I’ll be a rock’n’rolling bitch for you
Keep your mouth shut,
You’re squawking like a pink monkey bird

And I’m busting up my brains for the words.

He suffered a severe eye injury when a friend punched him at school. This left him with an unconventional facial feature and people seriously began to wonder if he was from another world. After reading these lyrics, apparently totally acceptable to the rank and file, I’m starting to think that I’m on the wrong planet. They are like the peace of God; they pass all understanding. 

Time also said: “Bowie wrote hard-driving, angst-ridden songs.” This week, in a more sombre mood, I’m sure they’ll be more charitable.

So if it’s not the voice and it’s not the words then it must be the melody, though I don’t recall anyone ever whistling a David Bowie tune.

David Bowie smoked, drank, and took drugs; a typical diet for so many celebrities for whom fame and fortune still doesn’t seem to quell relentless ambition.

A close relative tweeted: “I love that Bowies death was massive news that resonated globally. Means we have our priorities right.”

The whole world, except me.

I’ve never responded well to entrenched negative thinking” - David Bowie


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