Upset and saddened to hear of Bowie's death. At least he got Blackstar out in time! He changed my life with his songs. He opened doors to art and made life more exciting. God I am going to miss him.
You live in a tiny village by the Pennines and one day WHAM BAM Art Man comes and shakes you and your friends awake. I cannot even imagine how I would think about poetry without Hunky Dory and Space Oddity. All you need to know about the transformative power of art is in those first three albums. I'm not even sure how to explain how Bowie wired my understanding of sexuality because I was just this kid--but he did; he really did---but over everything else there was this great imaginative power wonder and dread in his music--think of the end of Belway Brothers. That is just so incredible. Such strangeness and awe: that changes you because you feel odd, a little strange yourself, 'out of the ordinary', I guess the word is 'queer' in a very broad encompassing sense. At the same time--totally paradoxically--he was also very English.
In ’95 I wrote ‘Ziggy ’72: A catalogue of LostObjects’ for Mike Harvey’s Ziggy website. It was a popular piece with many thousands of readers and is quoted in Jim Miller’s book Almost Grown: The Rise of Rock.
I started work on a companion piece to ‘Ziggy ’72’ which I then shelved as I moved on to new projects.
Ziggy '72 ends with this sequence which I'll end with here . . .
width of a circle
When we get back, I lie on the bed staring at the ceiling. All I can hear in my head is the song 'Width of a Circle.' What is the width of a circle anyway? That can’t be the same as the diameter, or the radius, right? Maybe he’s talking about the width of a circular line -- but I already know that lines are connections between points. You mark a circle with a line and suddenly you have a radius, a circumference, and a diameter, but the line has no properties of its own. For to mark a space is to generate properties.
It’s late. In the bed across the room, Paul grunts in his sleep. What had he been fighting with dad about today? Had he wet the bed or had I misunderstood the encounter with mum this morning? There was a sadness about my brother that was difficult to fathom. Dad was clearly disappointed with him.
I get up, poke my head through the bedroom curtains and look at the yellow streetlights. Once, perhaps, the world had been magical. There had been gods, elves, myths and places you could hide where the world couldn’t find you. You felt that magic when you followed the river from Delph to Uppermill. It was there but hidden, forgotten, like the power of the stone circle in Penrith. Now there were cars, streetlights, schools and factories. Someone had drawn a timetable in the air and had created routines.
You played the stranger
The one who stands on the threshold
Awaiting our reply
In the hard rock amphitheatre
I crammed in everything to store
yellow skin, beetroot hair, a few
idle remarks to the audience
You pushed the microphone stand
into waves of adulating hands
played the crowd for all we were worth
as all dictators do.
No grave Apollo, you asked:
would you follow the way from outside;
would you become an outsider too?
you were in this song
I had known loneliness -- the quiet walks by the river, the silence of the paper round when all I could hear was the soft crunch of my steps over fresh snow -- but I had yet to feel the loneliness that comes from a feeling of incompleteness. I was a virgin to the notion of romantic love. As ‘Five Years’ drew to a close, Bowie sang:
I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlour, drinking milk shakes cold and long
Smiling and waving and looking so fine, don't think you knew you were in this song.
And then I was touched by a new feeling. I was alone but now there was the hope that this loneliness might be removed forever by a girlfriend. I was alone but somewhere out there was a girl who would love me and I would love her. Our New Love would be magnificent, monumental, the stuff of legend! Fated to be together for all time, we would live our lives laughing at the world. And all the songs you ever heard were about this one simple truth: you would always be lonely until you found the one you would love at first sight. The one you would love and who would love you. All I had to do was to keep my eyes open for her.
If you can slash your face by wearing the mark of a god, you are still a ghost who ignores the history of the sigil you wear and the debt you owe to the ones you haunt.
If you can put away the masks and puppets to uncover the face of the one you followed, this is still a ghost claiming another’s memories as his own.
Star and fan, adult and child: each one haunts the other, neither stands alone. Where is the face of the corpse to be found?
In the telephone box he stands waiting for the call; although the grave is only a cigarette away, still he savours the moment.
The opening line of Bowie’s last single “Lazarus’: “Look up here, I’m in heaven.’