Ashes to Ashes


Fun to funky ! The first album I ever bought was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I bought it on cassette. We’d managed, my brother and I, to persuade my Dad to let us have a Radio \ Cassette player. My Grandmother, Nana Rankin, contributed to the cost. We bought an Hitachi, it was expensive, we’ve still got it. This was around 1974 I reckon. I was about twelve. I don’t know what made me buy this album, how I’d got into it, where I’d heard it first. Now I write this it’s coming back to me. I reckon it was amongst a small collection of LP’s  he’d borrowed off a school pal. It was amongst the Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Yes and Led Zeppelin albums. I played Ziggy over and over again and when the album went back I had to own it for myself. When we finally got a player this was the first purchase. I can’t admit to any deep contextual reason why I bought it, the androgyny, the underlying sexiness of it,  the musical experimentation, the poppiness,  the artyness, the radical shift, the love songs  etc etc. I just liked the tunes, the melodies, the lyrics. The one song you’re up and the next you’re down. The fact that whatever mood you were in, there was a song on this album for it. There still is.  I was twelve for God’s sake, what did I know about such things ?  ” Satisfaction, satisfaction ! ……keep me satisfied “.
I can’t admit to being a massive, obsessive fan. Ziggy was the only Bowie album I ever bought. Some of his stuff I just didn’t get/like but, and here’s the truth !  David Bowie was always there ! Either at the front of music I listened to through the airwaves or in the background.  There was Rock and Roll and there was Bowie. There was Blues and there was Bowie. There was Progressive Rock and there was Bowie.  There was Punk Rock and then there was Bowie. There was Pop music and then, thank God, there was David Bowie ! A few years ago I was doing my Photography MA at University and downstairs from our Lecture Room  was Prof Martin Richardson  working with holography. In his studio was a holographic portrait of Bowie who it turned out had been working with Martin. I think Martin had signed some secrecy clause but talking to him I could see he was thrilled to have been working with Bowie. Me ?  I was bowled over by the fact that while Bowie had not recently been in the public arena he was still out there working on stuff as an artist and I’d had a sneaky preview.  He was an Artist, a true Artist in every sense of the word.

So last week I shed a tear for the death of David Bowie and it’s taken me a few days to realise why. I was shedding a tear for sentimentality, for nostalgia. My own ! An essential aspect of my past, a culture that I embraced, that kept me warm, kept me stimulated and in that sense, alive. When someone dies, you are reminded of your own mortality, your own fragile existence and it is this that I was shedding a tear for. Nevertheless I thank David Bowie for being around and giving us songs like Starman, Wild is the Wind. Suffragette City and others and perhaps most important of all reminding us that ‘We can be Heroes, just for one day ! ”