Saturday, 12 January 2013

Let's (not) dance


Bowie released a single this week. He hadn’t released one for a while. He’s sixty six you know? Pensionable, bus pass and heating allowance qualifier. It was a number about Berlin – retelling stories and past glories – hanging with Iggy and wearing black and that.   Then out of the woodwork came all the glam queens and diamond dogs to pledge allegiance to the starman. You know Jonathan Ross gets a front page leader in The Guardian to basically tells us how hip and connected he is. And you wonder why the Guardian lost £44 million pounds last year – I wonder. I wonder why why why why why.  You’ve got Skyped calls to old producers, friends on Radio 4 and fans in the street – all ready to tell their Bowie story. I don’t have one. I’m going to make one up today.

I think I’ve said it before – but I don’t quite get Bowie.

There’s always some writing about him playing with the expectations of the audience – the boundaries. But he’s selling pop music isn’t he – you’re not really playing with our expectations are you? I mean it’s gonna be a tune – he’s not going to really play with our expectations of the genre is he? It will be a tune – last around four minutes – have a chorus and bits we can hum. He might dye his hair – he might put on a bit of slap – he may well ask Ronson to grow his sideburns and wear a bit of gold. We will not come out of that dumbfounded – confused or knowing anymore than we did before.  

We will be entertained. Happily sated on melody and performance.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Just stop making it into something more. I like music. You know David didn’t "challenge the core belief of rock music of its day’ as his biographer stated by adding a  bit of spoken word in Future Leader before the seven minutes of Diamond Dogs kicked in. Yes – you read it right – seven minutes of sub Rolling Stones swagger.  David made records – appropriated this and that and sold a lot of them.

Who has ever ‘challenged’ the core belief of rock music? What does that phrase actually mean? Iggy, Lou, Rob Tyner – on the edge performers – challenging the core belief of rock – oh pleaseeeee.

Perhaps I need educating. Schooling in Bowie’s ways and given reasons as to why this monarch of pop is vibrant, relevant and exciting. Perhaps I should dig out those albums picked up in second hand shops and start listening again – they are nestling in the collection – from Space Oddity to one where he seems painted blue or some such thing. I forget its name.

To be honest – I was just too young for that son of a gun. Bowie seemed over to me by the time I was getting my fix of the popular. You know his songs were on tapes for my dad made by his brother – they were not for the young things – us boys needed to keep swinging in different ways. He already seemed like a relic. I remember thinking who is this fella – with Bing Crosby – with Queen? Yet the press seemed to laud him as an artist – an alternative. What with Bing and Freddie? I might have been missing the point – but then again I don’t like points being made – do you get?

And if we trace a lineage from him through the musical ages and stages we get to Boy George – we get to Marilyn -  wearing a frock and releasing mediocre pop smashes does not make for a legacy. Oh I know it’s in lots of music – I’m being banally confrontational. Saying that Arcade Fire can fuck off – that’s not confrontational that’s a fact.

And Talking Heads. Next question?

I know Bowie fans get riled when someone takes a sideways slap at him – I sometimes get that way when Emma has a go at Brian Wilson. Yet over the years I’ve dealt with it – and let’s be honest there’s a fair amount of shit in the Wilson cannon. Sacrilege I know – but I’m starting the new year with a Lou Reed kind of mood. I want some fucking street hassle – mmaaaaannnnn.

So maybe I should give the alien another chance to fall to earth and land in my lap – I might enjoy it. Perhaps I don’t know where to start. I have tried – I tried listening to Diamond Dogs and Hunky Dory today. But it just widnae work for me.  I can’t get past the deaden rasp of his voice – clearly unique – but the pretention of the ‘cut up’ approach or the mime. You know Howard Jones tried that – mind you he got another fella to do the trapped in a box bit. And somewhere lodged in the back of my mind is the whole Let’s Dance era – all pleats and false smiles. Wrung through with Thatcher and hollow of spirit. I am certain it is the way I remember the times and not something specific to the thin white duke – but I can’t help associate that with this and then with now and that’s why Bowie’s not getting a look in.

I also remember an attempt by older lads – all part of the Scunthorpe scene – to recreate a Live Aid moment in a church hall on Ashby Road by instigating a mass sing along to Heroes at the end of a charity night of bands. The bile was rising then – it still is now. What a fucking liberty. I know Bowie wasn’t involved – he hadn’t given his blessing but it gets my gander up and typifies those big brash popular cultural sweeping statements and moments. Geldof was a cunt so why ape it – eh?

I hate being part of the masses.

I know I am part of the masses. I know I am not individual in anyway but let’s not get into all this mutual appreciation back slapping congratulations and all that sycophantic stuff that comes with an ageing pop star releasing a tune. There’s other things that should be filling our front papers.

They’re dismantling the welfare state. They’re shutting hospitals. They’re stopping trade unions. They’re taxing the poor but hey Bowie’s back though – Let’s dance. 

I managed to find this - it's more Marc Bolan than Bowie - so worth a look. It grooves.