Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Like a Muse Part 4: David Bowie

Let's talk about David Bowie! Why? Because we loooove him. I was listening to, "Soul Love," as we were driving across the bridge from the Asian side and it occurred to me I haven't written about him, exclusively him, on here before. And I thought to myself, what is this madness!? David Bowie ranks right up there with Madonna and Iron Maiden and before I go on my customary boring spiel on why I love him and why he inspires me and why roses grow wherever he sets foot and why my eyes shine like stars when I behold his visage and hear his dulcet tones, let me explain why I was in Asia.

Among the million things that make Istanbul awesome is the fact that it spans two continents. I live on the European, and in my expert opinion, the far superior side but my little cousin had his 8th grade graduation today, so we trekked all the way out there to attend. Middle school graduations are a pretty big deal here because they're basically the prologue to high school graduations. Every kid has to take an exam that evaluates which high schools they can get into and each school has different scores that students have to meet to be eligible and the preferred schools are usually fought tooth and nail for. I thank God I never had to deal with that crap. But so we went to cheer my cousin on and as we sat down in the courtyard it was held in, it started raining. It was only a few sprinkles and the principal announced the kids wanted to have the traditional walk down the school to the courtyard and so we should indulge them. So everyone was huddled under umbrellas and it was all right especially since it stopped after a while. Right at 7 pm, a remixed version of "The Wall," started playing and the teachers marched out. Yes, we were so in awe of how cool they were. Then the, "Carmina Burana," score started playing (yes, rather over-bearingly epic and kind of morbid for a middle school graduation. I don't know why but my country loves this theme. It's played with the news, during movie ads, and I'm for everything else. I wouldn't be surprised if I saw a tampon commercial with it accompanying some demonstration of leakage) and the heavens opened up and...the largest, most vicious raindrops came bulleting down. We stood there getting drenched as the kids, instead of walking sedately, abandoned all dignity and basically ran across the stage. After the last of them zoomed by and we waved to my cousin, it was announced they were moving the ceremony indoors to the auditorum. The miniscule auditorium that was on the second floor of a building with two doors. I used to come to drama festivals at my cousin's school when I was attending my own school and I had some not so happy flashbacks of being crammed into that building suffering through various mediocre performances. Not ours, I assure you. But it took so long to get people in and no one knew what was going on and finally my mom had to go lasso the principal and order her to let parents in first and then have extended family. Of course it had stopped raining by that time. She, my sister, my cousin (the graduating one's older sister) and I ended up hanging out at the back watching. We did have our moment though. When they announced his name, we screamed and cheered and clapped like maniacs. EVERYONE turned to look at us. Yup, that's how we roll in my family.

It was a rainy drive back but it was so pretty crossing the bridge between continents with the lights twinkling and when David Bowie came up on random on my iPod, well it was just a nice moment. Onwards to Bowie now!

I discovered Bowie by chance when I was in high school. I think it was my sophmore year and on a whim, I decided to order the albums Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Hunky Dory from Amazon. I'd always heard of David Bowie and knew his radio hits like, "China Girl," but I was curious to listen to more and since it was also around this time I got into T. Rex, I thought it made sense. Oh. My. Allah. Those were the two best choices I could've made. I have exactly three people I am in touch with (beyond superficial, "Oh heeeeys," on Facebook) from high school and I truly believe Bowie contributed to our bond. Each song had such a different effect on me. "Kooks," was just the sweetest little ditty, it makes me want to squeeze cute things and pinch their cheeks and go aww as it plays in the background. "Soul Love," and "Five Years," are so simply soft and beautiful, I've spent many a night cueing them up before going to sleep. My friend Kit and I would always belt, 'Life On Mars," at various points in the day and I think she and I especially got close because of Mr. Bowie. You see, every year there'd be the Istanbul International Film Festival and we'd always try to go to a few movies. That's how we saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch, at a midnight showing in a huge, old-fashioned theater off a pasaj. This one particular year, we kept missing movies and being unable to sync schedules. Finally we made it out the last day of the festival and kind of half-heartedy agreed to go to the last movie playing, some Russian film I can't even begin to remember the title of. It had a lot of consonants. Maybe it was Polish. But when we got to the theater there was a sign up saying that the movie had been cancelled and in its place they were playing, "Ziggy Stardust and thr Spiders From Mars," the concert film. I think it was at that point we wet ourselves. Or worse. We double-checked with the ticket person who probably thought we were high, we were so giddy, and ran in and parked ourselves on the best seats. The theater was playing the album as house music and we got even more excited, they were actually going to show it! See, at that point we still couldn't quite believe it. We sang along to most of the songs and even did the clap-clap part during, "Space Oddity," and got the one other person in the theater to join in too.

Over the years, our love of Bowie has grown both individually and together. His music gives me such mixed feelings. Sometimes it's a rush like when I listen to "Blue Jean." It's my favorite and yes, I admit it's an odd choice because it's from his less popular, 80s years but I first heard it on TV and it enthralled me. It was really late at night and it was on VH1 and I just saw the name Bowie flash by so I dropped everything and and watched. We had a channel here that would turn to VH1 after a certain hour and we'd always stay up to watch videos and every once in a while we'd luck out and get Bowie (this was the reason I also never really wanted to go out Friday nights becaue VH1 had a metal show every Friday from midnight to 2:30 and it was usually classic stuff and I'd just stay home and bask in the Motorhead and Judas Priest and Warlock. They played Warlock a lot, I don't know why). The video for Blue Jean was so wonderful. It had David Bowie in two roles; a showman everyone was in love with (doi) and a nerdy guy on a date with a girl he's trying desperately to impress but she just ignores him for the performer. It's part of a short film called Jazzin' For Blue Jean, which I also adore, and from the moment I saw it, it became my favorite. But then I have some older classics as favorites too like the aforementioned, "Soul Love." It just gives me such a relaxed feeling of peace that I'm happy to listen to it and just be. Just exist in my contentment.

I went to his Reality tour with a friend and it was the most overwhelmed I've ever felt at a show. It was just so awe-inspiring being in the presence of a musician I admire so much. And he was so charming and charismatic, it just seemed to roll off him in waves during his stage banter. I teared up during, "Under Pressure," and when he stopped to say hello to a little girl on the balcony with the words, "Hello little girl in a white dress. There's nothing more rock 'n' roll than a girl in a white dress," augh, it just killed me.

And all through this my friends and I, usually Kit, always touch back and keep each other updated on his activities like when our other friend Des saw him at a restaurant or when my cousin told me where his recording studio was in NY and we jokingly (eh, for the most part) made plans to stalk him. She'd seen Labyrinth as a child and I never had, even though I was a huge Jim Henson fan, so I got to enjoy it with Kit for the first time as I took in his infamous Goblin King bulgy pants. We also got to witness the "Dancing in the Street," video with Mick Jagger together and I still remember how helpless we were with laughter. The cheapest, most ridiculous video ever. When he was on our favorite talk-show, Parkinson, we both watched it individually and then called each other immediately afterwards just like when The Linguini Incident was on TV and we discovered that highly underrated bit of cinema.

When I got to college, I was known as Bowie girl for the first couple months as I was wearing his shirt and that's how a bunch of people got know me. My first day, I was given a hug froma complete stranger for wearing a Bowie shirt and I think Bowie is partly the reason I loved Emerson so much. I came from a place where no one really had heard of him, or cared, past my best friends and here was this entire school where a grand portion of the students worshpped at his altar. David Bowie is also the reason I've made quite a few, ahem, internet friends, as lame and loser-y as that sounds.

I can't think of any other male who, like our dear Madonna, has been through so many transformations and reinventions, each affecting his music. I love his glam years and I can't help but enjoy and dance to his 80s era. But then he has his Berlin years and his exploration into electronic music not to mention his earlier folksy, hippie years. Of course, there's always going to be stuff I don't like. It's natural with anyone. I don't really like Madonna's uber-dancey stuff and her American Life album, and with David Bowie I never really got into his early stuff and though I enjoy some of Outside and Low, they're not at the top of my list. And he's a pretty fashionable man, let's not kid ourselves. I want his Thin White Duke fedora.

I don't think I'll ever push him aside and even though its been a while since I've really sat down and listened to him, he's one of the few musicians that I will turn back to time and time again and enjoy both the music and the memories. Blue Jean Genie was actually the name of the blog prior to this one, it's a combination of the songs, "Blue Jean," and "Jean Genie." Not to mention, he's got some pretty great groupie/rock stoiries and coming in the fall is Cherry Vanilla's book and I'm sure I'll be enjoying it as soon as it's out.


  1. Hey Bowie girl :) I discovered Bowie when I stumbled onto Labyrinth only recently and he's awesome as Jareth. Only after that did I discover his music and realized his charm and genius, and I'm so glad that I did. Lucky you cuz u got to see him perform. I guess I never will, but I won't stop dreaming!

  2. Aw no, hopefully he will tour again, I can't help but be wildly optimistic. Thank you for stopping by!


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