Thursday, 5 August 2010
Whilst I'm on the subject of iPods . . . I may have mentioned the so-called "shuffle mode/random setting" on the infernal devices before. Tonight whilst cooking (Kakavia from Jamie Does . . . Dallas page 252, I think) my iPod threw up this wonderful song from David Bowie Live at Santa Monica 1972 along with a whole string of songs about death. Now, I know what you're thinking. However, I 'm going to write about it anyway.
I was an arty type in the early '70s, so Bowie fascinated me. I didn't buy into the whole thing, I mean I didn't become gay and wear make up and "men's dresses" and all that. Well, not too often, anyway. But I did go to the first Rainbow gig where he played Ziggy Stardust (and Roxy Music played their second big London gig*). As a fairly innocent lad of about 17, Bowie completely blew me away. Perhaps I should re-phrase that. As I was at the gig alone I just sat and took in the whole thing and honestly, I'd not really seen anything quite like it. Peter Gabriel and Genesis had prepared me for it so I wasn't completely spastic in time (thanks, Kurt) but when Bowie and Mick Ronson** sat and performed a short acoustic set, I really was totally blown away. I had heard of Jacques Brel - many before me and after haven't - but Bowie's solo performance of My Death was astonishing. I mean, Jesus, a man not many year's older than me singing about mortality in such a way was quite a mind-blowing experience. Listen to it if you can. Then listen to Scott Walker's version (all available on the ubiquitous youtube). I like Walker's version but, to me, he doesn't really get the angst or je nais sais quoi over. Oh, I don't know . . . (haha).
Bowie's version (written by Brel in c. 1950 with English lyrics by Mort Shuman) was a bit of a revelation to me in 1972 ( Christ, I was only 17!). I love it and still feel a thrill when I hear it. Bowie's version is hesitant and so youthful (I would think that a Doherty would give his left gonad to write/sound like that) but to me then it had a gravity to it that still resonates today. Listening to it tonight unexpectedly threw me slightly. The awareness of what is just beyond "the door" reminds me so much of my youthful angst (up until that point Peter Green's Man of the World was my guiding light). Solo, acoustic 12-string and an awareness of mortality framed this version. Hesitant, maybe, but quite knowing. I'd dedicate it to any that went before (there have been a few). I really am beginning to get upset that I missed the night Bowie got up at Bowes Lyon to sing a few songs (this happened just before I was there to witness - god help me, Iron Butterfly - or a great Strawbs gig with Rick Wakeman on keyboards).
I don't smoke a pipe, by the way, but it's a sly nod to both Jacques Brel photos AND the cover of Bowie Live.
Well, it seemed to make sense at the time. Much like the 70s, I guess.
* I believe a supporting gig for Alice Cooper was the first
** Great guitarist but a man that was uncomfortable with the glam rock look of "builders in skirts". The two of them performing a short acoustic set - Space Oddity, Andy Warhol and Kooks remains an abiding memory. My Death was always performed solo.