Seven shots of seven days ago.
“I’ve nothing left to offer” might begin a short eulogy completely comprised of Bowie lyrics. I could do that and it would work perfectly. Well, it would only be let down by my clumsy appropriation, not the sentiment of the lyrics. “Something happened on the day he died”. Yes. It’s seven days since 7am had the cruel news hit the UK: David Bowie had left the planet.
There it was. The gut-wrenching loss of the biggest inspiration I’ll never meet.
Seven. From Bowie’s 1999 album Hours – the first full album available on digital download and completely unrelated, the first new release Bowie I bought.
That day, I scribbled something on his influence and my debt to him over at my film blog. A blog that has been indecently served by visitors over the last seven days. That morning came a shock that heralded a week that piled on bad news, a sharp u-turn for 2016 that we can only hope isn’t establishing a pattern.
On the Sunday night, I had actually thought how well this New Year was going. So much was right, and just one little shining light of brilliance in the maelstrom was David Bowie’s ★.
But that was conveniently forgetting that my year started with two brilliant nightmares. On the 2nd January I was trapped in a fairy-tale kingdom where everyone who made a wish – well, that’s one I’m saving for a script. But the night before I’d been welcomed into 2016 with something worse. I was trapped in an interactive Bowie concert, in a fairground, with an old flame. A Bowie concert where he never seemed to appear, where I was caught in infernal machinery on stage with no Bowie at the Bowie show.
I never thought that less than two weeks later this nightmare would come true. The real shock last Monday, letting the news sink in, came not from my forgetting or underrating Bowie. It’s that I’ve barely stopped praising Bowie since I discovered him, and that momentum has now started to change in unforeseeable ways.
Last week was another of many Bowie peaks. On Friday the digital ★ arrival, on Saturday the physical album. Sunday, writing a review I’ll never publish in quite the same form… As soon as it launched, ★ was all I listened to. There isn’t a Bowie album I couldn’t praise, but really: ★ is exceptionally good. And within three days newspapers were bouncing its lyrics, still freshly burned, right back at me. And I began the process of turning that obsession into something else.
As 11th January unfolded, things changed. There have been few days where I’ve not heard a Bowie song. last Monday was the day it was the Bowie songs I didn’t listen to stood out. Of those I did, meanings changed. Particularly odd, I found never heard nuances surfacing in Under Pressure. Suddenly I was acutely aware of a huge, giving body of work, far too big for one day or one week of course, that was closed.
Now my Bowie persona has changed as well. Ashes to ashes. No hiding behind that anymore.
Things will stick out over the coming weeks and years. Like A New Career in a New Town on the phones as I took the bus down to Brixton last Monday. Like the walk back from the same town at 3am this past Sunday, coated in snow listening to the b-side of Low. There may be some new music, more compilations and off-cuts. But there’s certainly more to discover in those 27 studio albums of his. There’ll be odd facts that sift to the surface as well. Today’s was remembering that Bowie’s final full cover was George Harrison’s Try Some Buy Some on 2003’s Reality. A poignant nod to another icon lost in my lifetime.
But as much as I wasn’t suddenly shocked into remembering Bowie last Monday, his final work is painted as an immaculately engineered walk to the stage door. Aside from Lazarus and the extraordinary accomplishments of the last 18 months, in 2014 Bowie sprung a surprise when his latest compilations included new song Sue (Or in a Season of Crime). A different version may have worked its way onto ★, but over a year ago he’d already covered off his oeuvre in his greatest hits over a year ago. And from the man who knew his cards had been dealt at the time, he knowing titled it with the phrase that sums it all up. A lyric taken from his superb 2002 album Heathen, referencing the essence of his career, a early hit… But also making a definitive statement for the now. After all...
David Bowie: ”Nothing has changed”
Seven shots of 11th January 2015: