It sounds bucolic. Something that should grace the pages of The Countryman. Accompanied by a picture of daffodils bravely poking their tender heads above the snow, and maybe a quotation from Wordsworth as well, something symbolising hope and renewal.
Except this time of year doesn’t feel like that yet. It would be stupid to say the whole world reeled over the past few weeks when one by one, the musical figures I grew up with simply died; if you’re trying not to get ebola or hoping your house doesn’t get bombed again in Syria then you probably, I concede, have more to worry about than whether there really is a starman waiting in the sky who’d like to come and see us, or whether that weird light and unearthly sound is just an F-14’s afterburner kicking in.
But they still died, one after the other. Bowie, Rickman, Mott the Hoople’s drummer, the guy who played guitar in The Eagles. I’m not going to do the whole “their loss means” blah. I know it doesn’t mean much in the whole scheme of things, but then again, what does? I’m now a better guitarist than the guy in the Eagles and my guitar playing isn’t great. I’m a better drummer than that guy in Mott the Hoople and I don’t play the drums at all. But I could try. And he can’t anymore.
But I’m not extending this line of thought to David Bowie. He was special. I don’t know whether he was special because he was the perfect pop-star, the one guaranteed to get your parents howling with confused rage. It can’t be just that. We had a long queue of pop-stars who could do that, from Alice Cooper to Noddy Holder, Marc Bolan and in my house at least, ELO. They particularly enraged my mother because, listening to just the start of Rockaria, it was clear they knew something about music. But then they just had to spoil it, didn’t they, with that thump thump thump. Ian Hunter’s habit of nicking bits of Debussy and anything else that was out of copyright went down much the same way.
I can’t say anything about David Bowie. I mean I won’t. Because it hurts. I stopped listening to his stuff after Ashes to Ashes. I listened to when it first came out, my first term at Bath eating breakfast in a warm new house in frosty Larkhall before I rode my Triumph up the hill to the university. I came back again with Heathen, then stopped again until what I still call last year, in 2013. Oh because I’m old and senile, alright? Happy now?
The Next Day album (see above – it’s what we call it at my age) quietly stood every other song broadcast on its head, asking Where Are We Now? of a world that had learned to pretend that identikit boy dancers were musicians and synchronised strippers were empowered businesswomen leveraging their assets.
And now Lazarus. And it’s still a lie. David Bowie is not going to rise from the dead. I can’t even bear to listen to this too much, or to be honest, most of his other stuff. Not right now.
This, a film of a man dying written and produced and directed by a man dying, along with a big percentage of our hopes and alternative dreams, our fantasy of jumping up on the stage to sing the songs of darkness and dismay, or at least mine until I did it a couple of times and found another world there and not the one I’d quite expected, this is too much right now.