What is it about David Bowie suddenly passing away that has me actually weeping tonight? Actually water on my cheeks weeping? What the fuck has created such an electric current right through me at hearing of the death of a pop star that I feel like I've lost a family member? After all I didn't know him. I have never met him. I don't know anyone who knew him intimately. There are a few people I know who had conversed with him and one or two who worked with him once or twice yes, friends of friends and all that, but I have no connection to him at all other than some very contrived distant claim to fame. Nothing at all except for a lifetime of knowing that he is always there. Always quietly watching over us weirdos. The godfather of the outcast. The patron saint of the lost, the isolated, the alientated and searching few. Our big brother Uncle David making sure that we were not totally alone in our alienation.
He's always been there to tell us that the freak in us is all right. It's ok to be odd. Really ok. With David Bowie lurking somewhere on the planet we could feel safe that there was a master freak watching out for all us mini freaks out there. Leading the way. Showing us all that it was actually good to be an alien. An alien at home. An alien at school. An alien at work. An alien splashing around in an straight world. Empowering us to break walls, be eccentric, prance about confronting the safe, berating the boring and never being afraid to be different than that kid sitting silent and obediently there next to us.
Judging by the outpuring of shock that's already flooding the interweb tonight, I know that he did this for a whole huge bunch of us. My entire feed tonight is already full of so many people that I know who are expressing intense feelings of loss and weeping tears in text just like I am. Most of them had no connection to the man himself either but they all still feel a grief that is real, personal and painful. He made so many of us feel that we belonged to his alien world and he did it all with grease paint, weird characters, strange voices and even stranger pop structures that were nothing our ears had been trained to hear. Ear worms. Man, he was the king of the ear worms. Those little hooks that just worked their way into your societally soaked brain until you were eaten alive by them. Damn he was the ear worm king. And fuck me if he didn't do it again on "The Next Day" two years ago and again, just three days ago on his 69th birthday. Once again he shifted and gave us a fucking brilliant new record "Blackstar". And then he left us. There was just so much that I expected to hear from him in the next decade. It was as if the Starman was waking up and ready to show us our humanity. I'm just...gutted.
I was very fortunate to see him in concert once (and only once) thanks to my childhood friend Phil Defalco who took me along as his "date" and it was fantastic! Hearing those riffs, that voice at full force, seeing him dance under the serious moonlight that night was fecking magic. But years before, when Phil and I were back in high school, it was all very very different. Phil was a Bowie believer, and I hated Bowie! Fucking despised him. It was the "Let's Dance" period and I was too cool for school to dig that shit. I was beyond all that. I was into Steven Strange and Visage, Marc Almond's Soft Cell, the New Romantics, their makeup, weird clothes and strange otherworldly sounds not Bowie's comercial pop music, never having a school boy clue that Bowie was the very reason for the New Romantics' musical existence. Phil even conned me into performing as the guitar player in a school competition our Junior year, all made up in 'Blue Jean' makeup and sashes, for his Bowie air band with me complaining the whole way. I have to admit that Phil's Blue Jean makeup and moves were epically out of this world but mine sucked. I think that's why we came in second. I can't remember what but something much more un-alientaing won I'm sure.
You know the odd thing about my years despising Bowie is that just as I was entering pubescence I received a surprise package in the mail here in California. It contained a cassette of David Bowie's greatest hits 'Changes' album sent to me by my aunt Annie in England. I devoured it. I ate it up! It was fantastic. That Changes album was off the hook wild for a 12 year old kid! It also had Wings' 'Band On The Run' on the other side which makes some melodic sense but Changes, wow! I feel that a small grain of that record has stayed with me laced somewhere in the DNA of all the music I've attempted to create all of these years, right along with the Beatles' "Sgt Pepper" album. In fact during all the time that I was in Truckee Brothers we only ever covered three songs live. Tom Waits' "Going out West", John Lennon's "How Do You Sleep" and David Bowie's "Queen Bitch". We dug him that much. So what happened? Why did I fall back to Earth? Why did I sneer at his 'China Girl' (even though I quietly horndogged my way through the 'China Girl' video every time it played, and it played almost every hour on MTV). Was it Bowie's musical shift? Was it my musical shift? Was it snobbery? Was it stubborness? Was it fear of my own freakdom? I don't know. I was just young dumb and full of ... well you know the saying. I just had a Bowie Black out, ok? It apparently happens to freaks like me. But one day I saw the light from a distant star and that same buddy Phil handed my his extra copy of the 'Low' album. I fell on my knees dumbfounded and changed. I played it over and over and over. I made friends listen to it over and over and over. I gave it away to force feed it on people and got another copy. I had been turned. Reawakened. I was reborn a Bowie devotee. 'Low' was my open door and from that moment on my freak flag was flying. I thank you Phillip Defalco for bringing me into the church of Bowie. I'll always be grateful.
David Bowie has left the planet and us lesser human beings are left to make sense of what a life without him in it is like. I really haven't got a clue what that is except that we take one breath after the next like all humans do, until we don't anymore. And we make sure that we look out for the freaks, the searchers, the lost, the alienated all around us and deep within us. If you ever bumped your ass to 'Let's Dance' or tried to mimick "Ziggy played guitar..." to friends at a party, then remember what Bowie did for us. For all of us. I know that in our lives there will be more of these moments to come. People close and distant splitting the planet and us left bereft and lost for words, but tonight I am grieving one single Star Man. Thank you Thin White Duke. You gave me us permisson to be myself and I'll make sure to try and pass a little bit of that on. And to his children, wife and family who shared him with us, I thank you too for letting us share a small part of him with you.