Last night as I was climbing into bed my husband read a post online and said, “I think David Bowie just died”. I was absolutely certain this could not be the case so I went back downstairs and searched every possible combination on the internet. Everything I saw said it was probably a hoax so I turned off my computer and headed back upstairs tabling that emotional response for another day. I climbed back into bed and my husband reported that he had just seen the twitter feed of Duncan Jones, Bowie’s son, and it was confirmed. So, I climbed back out of bed, went downstairs, and turned my computer back on. I essentially climbed into my seat and dove into the memories of discovering and following one of my all time favorite artists in any medium.
I was 13 years old and staying up too late watching television. I happened upon a channel called Videowest. It was a very early station to show music videos – long before MTV and lightyears before Youtube. It was the 8 Track cassette to an MP3 file. I got my first glimpse of Ziggy Stardust singing Ashes to Ashes. I was mesmerized by his outfit, his makeup, and most of all his voice. The haunting melody, his heavy makeup, and the solarized color combined were not like anything I had heard or seen. It was 1980 and I was not supposed to be awake at this hour, this performer would definitely freak out my parents, and for once (living in a family of 8) I had the TV to myself. This was long before you could record or replay anything so when the song was finished it was gone. He had held me captive and lingered in my mind like the sunspots you see after staring into the rainbows a crystal throws. He was a sparkle I could not and will never forget.
I was not the type of kid who blazed any creative trails musically. I was number 6 of 6 and found that having a “go along to get along” attitude worked best to keep me under the radar of parents and siblings alike. So music I listened to was usually what my dad played on the stereo, my brother blasted from his room, or a friend played on her clock radio after school each day. Most of the adventures of my youth took place in my head rather than the real world. I imagined amazing journeys and accomplishments but from the outside I may have appeared pensive. Visually, colors and textures screamed at me constantly and I filed the stimulation in my brain as just something you ignore. But this man, David Bowie, wore it like a badge. Loud and colorful and soulful and stunning. I couldn’t look away or file it, I had to experience and absorb it. And to top it off, I did not care what others thought. When I overheard people ridicule David Bowie’s look or presentation, it rolled off my back because in my mind he was perfect.
Through the years his look and sound changed drastically and I followed him along happily. He remained my beacon of how creativity looks personified. I did not have the self possession to do it myself but I could live vicariously through his expressions. Amazingly I didn’t feel compelled to emulate him because I really didn’t feel qualified to do so. I had no collection of Pierrot costumes or electric eyeshadows. I was content in discovering the evolution of his style as it jumped from neon red lipstick and astronaut costumes to slim-fitted sport jackets and expertly frosted hair. I continued to wear Chemin de Fer corduroys that I had modified into knickers and beaten up Adidas tennis shoes with rainbow laces. No rhyme or reason, just an interpretation of the current fashion combined with the comfort of something that is well worn in. I definitely did not blaze any fashion trails in high school. If anything I created the concept of “What not to wear” but I didn’t care enough to change it. It was enough to know what was cool to look at and I seldom looked in the mirror. Time has passed, many many people have guided me in fashion, and I now paint the colors I was not bold enough to wear but with the death of David Bowie there is a gray spot in my view that I will need time to fill with sparkle. RIP.