Sunday, 19 February 2017

we're all james bond now

we could be heroes just for one day . . .

I was looking down over a ski slope in the Pyrenees last week as I was sitting on a chairlift thinking about how lucky I felt being able to slide down the sides of mountains. What I mean is that the World has changed so much in my sixty one years.

When Ian Fleming started writing the James Bond books in 1953, he gave an impression of being very worldly-wise and attempted to provide an exotic life for his hero. In truth much of what he created was rather naïve. The traits he gave Bond were mostly his own such as his favourite brand of toiletries and his love of scrambled eggs. There has been much written over the years about the vodka martini he drinks - including Daniel Craig's Bond ditching the drink in favour of a different one. Most people don't really care, I'm sure, but evidently the Fleming drink is not supposed to be particularly pleasant. Not being a cocktail drinker I really don't care. However, there is a point to my ramblings here.

Whilst skiing in the Pyrenees last week as opposed to our usual haunts of the Alps, we skied off-piste briefly which added a frisson of excitement to the proceedings. It struck me again that whilst taking great pleasure in the activity, back in the post-war years when Fleming was writing it would have seemed like life on another planet for many of his readers.

As many people have probably grown up with the films rather than actually reading the books, Bond has become synonymous with an exotic and exciting lifestyle. This lifestyle must have seemed extraordinarily fascinating back then in those harsh and austere days of rationing. Rationing was brought to an end on 4th July 1954, two years before I was born. Bond's easy familiarity with fine dining, cocktails and how to undress ladies without fumbling like Captain Hook must have fueled many fantasies of a smarmy, charmed life.

This life now very much seems to be with us. Many of us have been to exotic locations, eaten far more interesting foods than Bond ever seemed to and driven some very flashy cars too. The amount of things my car can do seems way beyond even the worst excesses of the awful Roger Moore years of the Bond franchise. Mind you, I still haven't found the ejector seat or machine guns but I'm fairly sure that Nissan have provided them.

We use communication devices and can track people via their phones and cars if we are suspicious enough of our partners. Mrs Dave can just look at her wrist to read her texts without even checking her phone due to her exercise doo-hickie. When I want to check a fact I can google it or use the Wikipedia app on my phone within seconds. It's quicker to check a recipe online than it is to look it up in a book too. The pleasure of looking things up is still there though. Having instant access isn't always the best thing in my very humble opinion.

Air travel is definitely something that has changed over the years. Loads of people seem to have been to the most far-flung parts of the World quite happily and experienced some very diverse cultures. In Fleming's time very few - only the very rich - really travelled abroad. Flying must have been very exciting. Probably not the long slog through airport security that we have to endure nowadays. Given how much we have to take off and put in a tray now I'm surprised they don't just tell us to walk naked through the security checks and have done with it.

Cameras. Let's not talk about cameras.

So, exotic holidays, food and drinks are available fairly cheaply nowadays. Our technology is so advanced (even if our battery technology hasn't kept up) that we can keep in touch and have instant access to many forms of knowledge. We drive cars a that many of us still can't work out all the things it can do. I have a pen that is a stylus for my phone, two different screwdrivers, a spirit level and a short ruler. A useful item for me, mainly to tighten the screw on my glasses and write quick notes with. You can use it to stir tea too. Mind you, the refill is so short you can't write many notes with it.

Still, with all this going on I feel that we are all James Bond now. Okay, without the murder and violence, but I'm sure some people manage that too.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

nicely out of tune again

For in and out, above, about, below,
'Tis nothing but a Magic Shadow-show,
Play'd in a box whose Candle is the Sun,
Round which we Phantom Figures come and go.



Alan Hull would have been 70 this year. In fact, his birthday was in the same month as mine, so he'd have been 71 in February next year. So, exactly 10 years older than me.

I'd been worrying a lot recently about how I was going to slam my funk and start writing again: this date was on my mind. I won't keep you too long but I'd love it if you checked out a few things. I've written before about Alan (checkout the Archive bit, somewhere to the right of this) but I have other reasons for writing now.

Firstly, and let's get this bit out of the way - he'll be spinning in his grave over the current state of the Labour Party. Personally, I think that had he'd survived (and hadn't passed away in his 50th year) he could have possibly been our first genuine Labour leader (PM?) that had a Rock'n'Roll background: our Bill Clinton?! Still, onwards and upwards . . .

Somehow, the fates drew together and decided that I would receive the new album by The Alan Hull Songbook today - Some Other Song. Serendipity. The aforementioned collective is really Alan's* son-in-law and another latter day member of Lindisfarne. What they've done is get together and record some songs from the huge backlog of songs Hully had demoed somewhere between 1967-69. If you read the Dave-Ian Hill biography of the band then you'll be aware that he'd written hundreds of songs by the time the band had properly formed and that he'd also recorded quite a few of them too. Now, this is in no way intended as a review - I've only listened to it a couple of times. I have a few thoughts on it, and Alan's legacy, and that's as far as it goes.

The new album is a collection of new recordings of new versions of demos Hully made all those years ago. Many of them are great. They have the feel of genuine AH songs because Dave Hull-Denholm has spent his working life keeping his father in law's legacy alive. His voice is slighter than Alan's but it works here because the songs have the air of being from the early late sixties/late seventies. Alan's voice would have had that slighter/softer timbre then anyway. There is a "Beatlesque" vibe about some of the songs (check out page 22 of Fog On The Tyne) which isn't surprising given how influential they would have been in the late 60s. I was given a little shock at the Stephan Grappelli-like influence on Little Things but given Alan's love of Classical music and strings generally, I guess I'm not totally surprised.

Some of the songs here have been given an earlier outing, stablemates Capability Brown had recorded I Am And So are You on their swansong Voices album. Mind you, I noticed also that they'd recorded Wake Up Little Sister as a B-side for a single, which was recorded by Lindisfarne for their third Charisma (and least successful Lindisfarne 1) lp. This had included Alan and an orchestra on the title track Dingley Dell - a great song that later gave the title to a fan club and fanzine. It also suggested future string-driven Hull things. It works here on this album. There are certainly "Beatlesque" moments on this album. It shows how influenced AH was. Unlike the Thea Gilmore Sandy Denny-based album of a few years ago, this smacks of a genuine knowledge of his work. I guess his son-in-law was so immersed in his work that he could not do much more than work within the ouevre set out all those years ago. Still, as I said, this isn't really a review but a chance to remind any interested parties of a lost genius.

In checking over a few facts for this, I am reminded that Alan loved Surrealism and must have seen a similar account of the exhibition of Magritte's works somewhere back in the late 60s that shocked me. I wrote about my own introduction to this elsewhere. My memory sticks it in the old time magazine Reveille but as always, I could be wrong (I'm not though!).

I'm desperately trying to keep this first new post short so I'll end on this note. There is a song on the new album that also resonates with my younger days. I sit here with a copy of the Rubyaiyat of Omar Khayyam sitting in front of me. I was given a copy of it by my uncle for Christmas back in 1976. There is a song on this album that is a version of some verses of the poem  - from what I can work out it's the first translation by Edward Fitzgerald (which is the copy I own). Hully has taken a few verses from it and put them to music. It works.

So, a little psychedelic, a bit Beatlesque and quite mature for a late-60's wanderer not too sure where life was taking him. Well, I can't really rate it higher than that.


* I feel that after having met him a few times, and as the previous post explains, I am fully within my rights to call him Alan.


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

where the wild thyme blows

We're the mystery of the lake when the water's still.
We're the laughter in the twilight
You can hear behind the hill.
We'll stay around to watch you laugh,
Destroy yourselves for fun.
But, you won't see us, we've grown sideways to the sun.

The Globe Theatre, of course, is an educated guess of what Shakespeare's original theatre may have been like. Modern health and safety rules and regulations have played their part in bringing an approximation of what Elizabethan times may have been like to life. Illuminated signage, fire-retardant materials and modern backstage machinery help ensure that modern audiences can attempt to get near to the 'genuine' experience.

In my previous life I took a group of pupils up to the Globe for a workshop, I visited the theatre on various occasions but have never been to a performance there. Finally, yesterday, my wife and I were able to experience a production there. This was a thrill for us both and the fact that this year is the 400th anniversary of his death helped push us into going.

The current production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is not without its detractors and critics but it was a glorious first one to see. Just like Middle Class audiences in the Bard's time we sat on cushions and watched the groundlings getting soaked. Yes, typically after the best weekend weather of the year, the day we had booked to go to the Globe was a wet and dreary affair. Still, a quick lunch in the bar and we climbed to the top of the East Tower to take our bench in expectation for one of Shakespeare's lighter plays. Whilst the BBC trudges through the mud and blood of his History plays, no doubt reflecting their own bloody battle to the death with the current government, the Globe sought to update Shakespeare's play of fairy folk and lovelorn youths.

Emily Rice, the director of this production has attempted to update the play by setting it in a modern London - hence the "Hoxton Hipsters" instead of the Athenian youths - but has also brought in many other more contemporary themes and ideas. The bawdiness of the play is certainly brought out more than just in the obvious Titania/Bottom scenes. Whilst Oberon squeezes the potion onto Titania's eyes, his actions suggest its more of a date-rape drug. The changing of Helena into a male character and therefore the Demetrius/Helena pairing helps the audience keep up with who is who in the usually rather confusing (and boring) lover's scenes in the woods. Oberon's sexuality is played with too. His fondling of Demetrius as he tries to correct Puck's mistakes may be, at first, a little shocking to some. However, it does remind us of why he is so insistent that Titania hands over the Indian Changeling child. In Ancient Greece, older men often took younger boys as lovers and taught them the ways of the(ir) world. Not the sort of thing I mentioned much when teaching the play to younger students of course. It used to be bad enough when they realised how old Juliet was.

The current need to make Shakespeare more "diverse" leads to many slightly startling changes. Aegeus is played as a paraplegic and there are hints of honour killings. The main fairy, Mustardseed, suggests Voodoo rather than English fairyland, but what a great voice she has. The music was fabulous with much made of the popularity of Bollywood with the background drones of the sitar and the sudden outbursts of full-on Bollywood dancing and singing. Ewern Wardrop as Bottom has a nice line in George Formby pastiche which - in the very Shakesperean term - went over the heads of many younger members of the audience, I'm sure. At one point Bottom and the Mechanicals burst into a few verses from David Bowie's Space Oddity which confused the American couple in front of me. They left not long after. Still, to me it suggested not only an affectionate nod towards the thin white one but also a nod to the fact that the Dame had brought about a change in perception of androgyny, bisexuality  and theatricality all those years ago. I thought it was a lovely touch and it also made sense when the Moon was presented in the mise en abyme Pyramus and Thisbe. I always saw in that little playlet Shakespeare taking a swipe at himself and it works as a great parody of Romeo and Juliet, and I did teach that to kids.

At least one critic to my knowledge thought there was little "magic" in the production. I'm not sure many of us in the Globe yesterday missed that. I always thought that it is a dreamlike play and this production certainly had the mad swirl and surrealism of dreams. We weren't allowed to take photos during the performance of course but I've added a picture of the staging. The white balloons and green tubes represent the woodland trees (and allowed a slightly distorted view, interestingly enough) and the tables allowed much jumping on and off of stage therefore bringing the players amongst the crowd. You can just see one in the lower right of the photo - there were three set up offstage. The woods are the habitat of the fairy folk and the Dream really takes place within those woods. Personally, amongst those imagined trees and banks where the wild thyme blows there was magic enough. The dirty fairies and the glorious turn by Meow Meow as Titania in all her Burlesque charm and the licentiousness of the scenes with Bottom's Ass reminded me that fairyland was never really as effete and childlike as many think. Look again at the characters that populate Richard Dadd's The Fairy-Feller's Masterstroke and think of all the different types of magic folk that abound in myth. There was enough rough magic for me in the production. Nowadays the fairy folk are nowhere to be seen, maybe they've simply turned sideways to the sun so we can't see them anymore.

One more point to bring me back to where I started, the audience reaction was superb. From the cheering and spontaneous "Ugh!" from a student as the gay couple kissed to the interactions with Puck, I'm assuming that the Bard himself would have revelled in how much the audience got into this very modern and fun version of the play.

I once saw a production of AMND at Regent's Park open air behind the zoo. It was in the early 1980s and Robert Lindsay was Lysander. It was a fine performance but this new one showed how far we've come. Now I no longer teach I can enjoy watching Shakespeare for what it is and don't have to worry about how I can get the points over. I would loved to have been able to take a group of school kids along to this production and any teachers out there I would suggest you get onto the box office straight away. I have never felt anywhere near what it might have been like to see a play 400 years ago but this production helped get me a little nearer to what it may have been like.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

smoke filled rooms

See you in Heaven or next time whichever's first
I ain't USDA prime God knows you seen worse
Just tell Saint Peter at the Golden Gate
Can I get a beer, can I smoke in here?

Ten years ago we were in in Kinsale just outside Cork. We were there to celebrate my good friend John's fiftieth birthday. After a day of travelling and before the other families were going to turn up the next day, John and I slipped out to the nearest local bar for a drink.

It's a late Saturday evening in a busy Irish bar with a roaring fire, we had a pint of Guinness each but there was something missing. Every so often a few people hurried out into the cold night air and huddled together in the tiny back yard. That's when John nailed what was missing. People had to go outside to smoke. In fact, in Eire people had been going outside to smoke for three years by then. In the UK we were a year away from the ban becoming law.  In Eire the ban started on 29th March 2004. Here in the UK the ban started on 1st July 2007. They also have a ban on smoking within 3 metres of a public building.

Now, it was quite a revelation that evening. We noticed how much more pleasant the ambience was. We'd both been going to pubs for all of our adult lives - in fact, most of our teenage lives too. John had worked in a pub and I had spent a lot of time in pubs because my parents used to look after the White Hart in Stevenage High Street whenever the landlord went away. So for at least two weeks a year for many years I had spent time in a smoky atmosphere. That hadn't bothered me much as both my parents smoked as did my sister.

Flash forward ten years and we have become used to people not smoking in bars, restaurants or anywhere really. Well, except for the doorways of anywhere you're trying to get in or out of. Still, this isn't an anti-smoking rant as such. Two weeks ago I was in Austria. Now, Austria is a foreign country, and, like the past, they do things differently there as L. P. Hartley was wont to say.

Having spent the last nine years avoiding smoke in public spaces, it was a shock to find out that they still smoke indoors in Austria. I've been to this same hotel many times over the past twenty or so years but the last time I went there was about 2009 when I took a group of students on a ski trip. My mind, like the bar, was a bit hazy. Having travelled there with the feeling of a cold coming on anyway, I tried to avoid going in to the bar as much as I could that week. As did quite a few others. The biggest problem for most of us appeared to that the smoke aggravated our throats. One friend of my wife's didn't have a cold but had a right stinker by the end of the week. Talking of which, the smell permeated the whole hotel. Now, it's a family hotel so there are a lot of children that stay in it. I think most of us came away from a healthy pursuit in an alpine region feeling that we'd been set back a few years. As I gave up smoking on 31st January 1980 that was quite a jolt to my system.

A remarkably well-stocked tiny bar at the top of a mountain. Everyone's outside because the smokers are inside!

The view from that little bar.
Through diligent and extensive research (I looked it up on Wikipedia) I discovered that Austria has technically banned smoking in public places - except in many bars and restaurants. Now to me they are the very establishments where it should be banned. Evidently many bar owners such as mein host Walter have tended to ignore such frivolities as the law. However, as from May 2018, smoking will be prohibited everywhere except (wait for it . . . ) in bars where they are going to be allowed to have a smoking room (non-serviced). Maybe I'll go back in 2018 to check it out.

As I said, this isn't a diatribe or a rant, just a statement really. It is surprising how quickly most countries have taken to banning smoking in public places. The map on Wikipedia was interesting and I checked up on Cyprus as we were there back in October. I seem to remember that people did smoke in hotels and bars but, as Wikipedia comments, the results of the ban have been "variable" at best. When the ban came in back in 2007 I remember all sorts of arguments and concerns about the impact it would have on businesses but it would seem that generally throughout most of the world it's become an accepted fact of life. I guess the paint manufacturers had to stop making that particular shade of tarry yellow that must have sold in huge quantities through most of last century.

I do wish that people who do smoke wouldn't stand right in the doorways of shops smoking though.


Sunday, 31 January 2016

which side are you on?

All them cowboys are old men
Longing for a mission once again
Gambling everything, boys we were fearless
Well we had the right stuff then

A regular early Friday evening will find me in my local, the Fludyer Arms* with my friend John mulling over the state of the World. Usually we talk about music. A fairly lengthy and animated discussion last Friday evening was about double albums and were they actually necessary? In truth, no they weren't really and were mainly useful as live albums. Still, the discussion reminded me of something I've been thinking about quite a lot recently.

The other week when Bowie died I wrote about what his early 1970s albums meant to me. During the process of writing that piece it occurred to me that we have lost, in part, the art of sequencing the two sides of albums. The point came up again during our discussion last week. Now, don't get me wrong, I know that it's important to sequence modern albums too especially the opening track. A good example is the new Show of Hands album where the song Breme Fell At Hastings features Historian Michael Wood speaking in Saxon and quite a stunning opening to a (great) album.

Anyway, it is also important to have a great last track to leave your audience with some emotional attachment to the experience. But back in the days when cds appeared and the record company executives rubbed their hands with glee at the thought of selling our record collections back to us this art of sequencing began to break down to a certain extent. When those greedy bastards same chaps realised by adding extras such as demos and live versions - and tracks that shouldn't have been released - things changed. There was also a lot of crap filler on albums that now lasted 70 minutes - hence why the discussion with John brought me back to this point. Vinyl records were at their best at about 14 minutes a side, hence Lowell George going to great pains to ensure that Little Feat albums only lasted exactly that amount of time. I mean I love Richard Thompson dearly but Psycho Street? Not his finest hour.

The power of the experience of listening to David Bowie's Hunky Dory is certainly diminished a little now when instead of the record ending with the strange chanting and madness of The Bewlay Brothers, the previously unreleased Bombers (surely an inferior song not deemed worthy of releasing nearly twenty years) bursts in. There are then another three demos and "alternative versions".

Let's look at that particular album as an example. The album opens with Changes - not only a great song but a truly great opening statement after the heavy metal of The Man Who Sold The World. Side one ends with Quicksand. Back when I were a lad, you then had to get up and turn the album over to listen to side two. Now, Biff Rose's Fill Your Heart isn't the best track on the album but at the time DB was still happy to record covers (something he did to excess on the rather woeful Pin-Ups album). It also set the tone for the second side which was mostly playful: a homage to Lou Reed, a rant at Dylan and a tribute to Andy Warhol. Then came the sheer weirdness of the aforementioned Bewlay Brothers which explored Bowie's fears about the insanity that haunted his mother's side of the family. His insane half-brother Terry was an important mentor in the nascent star's development. The nightmare world created by that track would stay with you for ages after listening to the whole album.

The world moved on and cds begat mp3s and the total fragmentation of the listening process. Many a slightly stoned listener had to drag themselves up out of their stupor to turn Dark Side Of The Moon over halfway whilst hoping someone would invent cds. I remember coming home very tired after a day at the factory in the late seventies and putting the second side of John Martyn's One World on and leaving the arm on the record up so it played continually (great live version of the final track Small Hours here). A great soporific track that aided my rest and helped me drift about in my head happily before the pub opened. Anyway, this fragmentation has meant that many people never listen to whole albums any more or only buy the tracks that they like. As I've always said, wouldn't it be great if you could buy a copy of CSNY's Deja Vu without the execrably twee Our House on? Time has not dimmed my view but at least I can create a playlist of the album without it on!

Many albums from the sixties and seventies were so well sequenced that listening on shuffle seems to be a crime. Steely Dan's wonderful Can't Buy A Thrill is a perfect example. The album kicks off with Do It Again - so good Michael Jackson plagiarized it - and the first side ends with (my all time favourite SD song) the wonderful latin rhythm of Only A Fool Would Say That. And when you turned the album over Reelin' In The Years burst out and had you dancing around your room. The last track is the rhapsodic Turn That Heartbeat Over Again and in between these two sides of sheer class you also got Dirty Work amongst other glories. Even Mike Oldfield had to work out how to start and end two sides of Tubular Bells which was obviously an album waiting for cds to be invented. I'm sure we can all name favourite albums and probably with some classic even remember the running orders.

I've tended to steer away here from concept albums and prog in particular. Four sides of ying-tong song twaddle from Yes? No thank you. However, the whole point here was to remind ourselves of that fine art of deciding the running order of what was essentially 30 minutes of fun. I've just looked at a couple of recent albums and I'm sure there's a lot of thought gone in to their running orders but I'm wondering if they would work as two sides of vinyl. I'm guessing that if the current trend for vinyl continues then perhaps marketing types will have to think about it more seriously again.

The cd re-issues of some of Bruce's finest still retain their two-sided running order

* Named after Sir Samuel Fludyer, the Lord Mayor of London in 1760 evidently.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

simple pleasures

As gentle tides go rolling by,
Along the salt sea strand
The colours blend and roll as one
Together in the sand.
And often do the winds entwine
Do send their distant call,
The quiet joys of brotherhood,
And love is lord of all.

A strange winter indeed. Storms lash the coasts, apocalyptic floods take out major towns and one small Welsh village gets 85 consecutive days of rain. Meanwhile, over here on the east coast it's been a bit breezy occasionally.

Yesterday the sun shone brightly and the winds dropped from forty mph to about ten and it seemed too good not to go for a stroll. Get out there and walk along the beach. I wandered down to the beach and turned to the east and started off briskly with any breeze behind me and gently pushing me along. Along the way there were a few fishermen, quite a few dog-walkers and one beachcomber hoping for treasure but just finding old tin cans by the looks of it.

It only takes about twenty five minutes to get up to the little hamlet (long legs) and it was far too early to entertain the idea of going to the pub for lunch. So, I crossed the path and walked along by the River Deben towards the Kingsfleet. Supposedly, this was part of an important Medieval port called Goseford and ships were sent off from here at the start of the Hundred Years War. By now the path was becoming increasingly muddy. I stopped to chat with an elderly couple* - newcomers to the area - and they warned me of the path. Actually I didn't think it was that bad but they also told me about seeing lots of geese. As I wandered along with the fields on my left and the creeks and mudflats to my left, the noise became noticeable and the fields seemed to be covered with these honking hooligans. In the distance a woman walking her dog must have spooked them as they rose up almost as one. The sky was filled with low flying greylag geese and for a moment it was all very exciting as they were only a few feet above me. They circled round then came and settled back in to the field after a few minutes.


I walked on and saw a couple of redshanks snuffling about in a creek, then turned back towards the way I'd come. And then from behind heard me I heard a real raspy croak that seemed near and from something quite big. To my pleasure, an egret had got spooked and flew off in alarm nearer to where the redshanks were foraging. I managed to take a couple of shots just as the geese flew up in alarm again overhead. But with a phone for a camera I only really had a white blur to show for my troubles. I wandered back towards where it had landed but it flew off another few feet so it was still too difficult to get much of a shot. Just above me a cormorant flew over which I watched for awhile with my binoculars and it flew further over the river towards Bawdsey and the sea beyond. I guess it was in the same frame of mind as me. It was looking for fish for its dinner. I only had to go to the fishmonger's shed, though, the poor bugger had to dive for his.

So I bought some alien looking fish which looked so weird and beautiful that I had to have them. There were only three and as that was how many I needed it just had to be. When I got these Gurnard I realised that I had no idea what to do with them but a quick Google came up with a Hugh Dick Furry-Whittington recipe, he of the River Cottage, and much hilarity ensued as the family wrestled with them to take the bones out and remove their heads. Mrs Dave reckons that looking at them from the underside made them look like the face-hugger from Alien.



A pint of Suffolk's finest and a decent sandwich whilst I completed a crossword in the local hostelry later and I was ready to yomp back home. Facing the breeze and with the sun having moved on a bit so I wasn't blinded I worked up a fine head of steam home. I thought afterwards that I would have killed to have spent a day like that when I was young. I had winter fields and woodlands to walk around but not the sea and rivers. The bird life was fine when I was a kid but having the chance to see such things that I still find exciting made it a good day.

And that's the point really. I haven't written this to gloat because I don't go to work any more. I guess I just wanted to revel in taking simple pleasures and still being able to get excited by the natural world, much as I did when I were a nipper. I love the American expression, "Some days you eat the bear, some days the bear eats you" and that's how it is. Today wasn't so wonderful what with a leaking toilet and irritable boiler syndrome but at least I can think back to the sheer joy I felt yesterday.


* I mean they are old enough to be drawing a State pension not just stopped working and collecting a teacher's pension. 

Thursday, 14 January 2016

just a mortal with potential of a superman

don't believe in yourself 
don't deceive with belief
knowledge comes with death's release

Along with many others I awoke to a news item on Monday morning that took me a few moments to make sense of. The alarm radio comes on at seven but for some reason it isn't exactly seven - the clock isn't quite in step with reality. So what I heard seemed like an article about David Bowie's new album.

The phrase, "this comes as a major loss for music" shook me out of my stupor. Hang on, he's only just released an album on the previous Friday! What's going on?

Bowie's death appears to have had a huge impact publicly which means that his life had a huge impact on many. People from all sorts of different walks of life. The media jumped on anyone and everyone to see what Bowie meant to them. Yesterday on Today the Thought for the Day was about Bowie rather than that other well-known spaceman that seems to have had an impact. The latter one didn't have outrageous dress sense and didn't play guitar either. Probably didn't wear makeup either but most pictures do show him in a Man's frock though. The Archbishop of Canterbury seemed to have got the two of them a bit mixed up. Obviously I couldn't give a flying one about what politicians think about Bowie - certainly not the likes of Cameron or Blair - but what it all comes down to is that everyone seems to have had their David Bowie.

Over recent years during Bowie's absence (and now we know why) I and one or two friends have been bemused by loving parodies of him by the likes of Stella Street and Flight of the Conchords. However, I've never stopped listening to him as quite a few of his albums are on my iPod and, for some reason, tracks from the bootleg Live Santa Monica 1972 regularly play on Shuffle. The point I made above about everyone having their own Bowie is what strikes a chord with me mostly. Because his work has spanned six decades and he seems, by his own admission, to have had ADHD his output was huge. If you didn't like an album, don'y worry another one will be on the way soon.

My David Bowie existed around the time the sixties became the seventies. As a Film Studies teacher I have taught students that the sixties didn't really end until about 1973, which is why The Wicker Man is seen as a sixties film. I had bought Space Oddity* as a single in 1969. Being only thirteen I wasn't totally impressed with the album and, in truth, it was another year or two before I started buying whole albums. I still remember hearing discussions on Radio 1 about his next album, The Man Who Sold The World, but the music seemed aggressive and rather unusual. Although I knew it was exciting, being a shy young lad in an all boy's school I didn't buy it due to the cover most likely. Another year or so down the line I bought the American import as the cover although not as good seemed a better bet. My parents thought I was strange enough without making them think I was turning into Stevenage's answer to the Danish Girl! By then, Bowie had recorded both Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums pretty well back-to-back. Appearing on Whistle Test on 8th February 1972 - the day before my 16th birthday - Bowie and the Spiders performed Queen Bitch and Five Years. Notice please, this performance was a full five months before his iconic performance of Starman on TOTP. In truth, the appearance on the latter show was shocking and exciting but for many of us, we had already been prepared for it!

I remember being away on holiday in Poole in Dorset during that summer when the tickets for the Rainbow show were advertised. In those days you either had to queue up for a ticket or phone to book one and send a postal order (!) to cover the cost of the ticket and postage. So there I was standing in a red telephone kiosk outside the caravan site earnestly hoping I would get a ticket for my only ever live Bowie gig. I sent my £1.50 (plus p&p) off and was lucky enough to see the second night of the two Rainbow concerts. Believe it or not, Roxy Music were the support band. As I was in the third row I guess I got very lucky.

The gig was fantastic. The solo opening act, one Lloyd Watson went on to play in a band with Roxy's lead guitarist so maybe it was worth him being there. I was never a big fan of Roxy Music but at least I got to see them with Eno. Bowie had the Spiders backing him with Procol Harum's keyboard player Matthew Fisher as well. The mime artist Lindsey Kemp fluttered around on stage whilst the band played. If you only know him as the landlord in Wicker Man, he also taught Kate Bush to flutter about too.

From the set list of the gig you can see that essentially it was made up of David Bowie, The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory and Ziggy  and a few covers. The short acoustic set of Space Oddity, Andy Warhol (both played playfully by Bowie and Mick Ronson) and the solo My Death were my favourite part of the gig. Bowie's performance of Jacque Brel's My Death** stays with me to this day. It was astonishing and, of course, it is the song and performance I think of now when thinking of him. The depth and power in Bowie's voice was also there occasionally on part of Diamond Dogs - I love Sweet Thing - but it was always controlled. During all the reports and having read several articles this week, very few have mentioned much about what a great singer he could be.

I have been to some amazing concerts in my life but this one still stands the test of time.

Over the following few years Bowie released Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs but gradually my interest started to wane just as the World woke up to his latent fuss. I remember sitting in a crowded room with a group of others, mostly older than me, listening to David Live. We had been to the pub and came back for coffee and other refreshments. It was there in Zouk Delors' room where I realised that I had lost interest. I thought it was a terrible recording and I have never ever listened to it again. I picked up on Diamond Dogs and occasionally over the years I have bought other albums - ...hours is a favourite of Bowie's later years. I bought Bowie at the Beeb in 2000 because it was essentially an alternative version of my David Bowie.

So there we have it. Bowie produced a major part of the soundtrack to my teens. For a few years he could do no wrong. As the World caught up, and this week shows how much of the World caught up over the years, my interests changed and I went looking for pots of gold at the ends of other rainbows.

When I was thinking of writing about Bowie I was going to write about one of his songs. I may do that tomorrow. However, yesterday's Thought for the Day on Radio 4 got me thinking - probably not in the way the speaker expected - about the different Bowies. I haven't talked about personas and characters we all know about those. Maybe your Bowie was one of those characters. My Bowie was an outsider one who seems to have been instrumental in bringing many outsiders in from the cold. He made me feel that being a bit of a loner, feeling a bit different was okay. And please, no matter what is said, David Bowie wasn't really an alien from another planet. Perhaps he was an alien but from this planet.

I guess any of us who care will be thinking about who our personal Bowie was and what he meant to us. It doesn't matter if it was just one single or an album track. Maybe it was Ashes to Ashes. Whatever or more to the point, whoever your personal Bowie was I hope you take some time to listen again to what it was that touched you.

Something kind of hit me today
I looked at you and wondered
If you saw things my way
People will hold us to blame
It hit me today, it hit me today

* The b-side was a far superior version of The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud which appears on the album.
** Sorry, it's not as good a version (and it isn't entirely solo) but you get the idea.