This Saturday the DJs at XXL will be adding a touch of the Thin White Duke to the music at XXL with their Bowie Retrospective. We asked owner Mark Ames and Fur Lounge DJs Joe Egg and David Robson to each tell us their own David Bowie stories.
A lifelong Bowie fan, one of my very first fights at school was with one of the local hard lads dressed up in a Bay City Rollers outfit, critiquing my emerald green flares, Bowie boots and T-shirt. My first Bowie record was Gene Genie on 7-inch vinyl, which I still have, my favourite track is Life on Mars and the last track I bought was Blackstar. It was his voice and music on the radio that first caught my attention. I was then blown away when I saw him on Top of the Pops, and I was fascinated by the reaction from the rest of my family. I loved his ability to morph across all boundaries including sexuality and fashion without repelling people. He enticed the ignorant with his intrigue and drew them in because he had such a natural talent. I can remember standing in the queue to get into the Blitz club with all the painted faces and we were completely blown away when Bowie was queuing too. He won everyone over with his charisma and accessibility – he was the Starman who fell to Earth. For me there is no number one Bowie song, and there is no final Bowie song – like the man himself his tracks are timeless and essential.
I wasn’t there that Thursday evening in July 1972 when David Bowie draped his arm around Mick Ronson on Top of the Pops and the very crust of the Earth’s core split in two. Watching the clip now, I recognise myself in the guy in the audience with the tank top more than the swaggering jump suited gum chewers in front of him.
It was my turn to be mesmerised by the reissue of Space Oddity in 1975, this time by a slightly sinister film shot through fisheye lenses. This was my first clue that David Bowie (spoiler alert) must exist in the same nonlinear narrative of time as the aliens in last year’s Arrival film, where everything happens at once, and it is just us unsophisticated humans who have to put events in an over-simplistic order. Maybe his time on Earth was one endless loop of invention and infinitely reflecting inspiration. Those clues are all there in plain sight, not least his ‘role’ as the alien refugee in The Man Who Fell To Earth. To me, he was just another part of the exhilarating kaleidoscope that was 1970s pop – 10cc, ELO and Elton John – and it was very, very exciting. Hence my obliviousness to what are now clearly Bowie’s private Arrival-esque flash forwards (still going with the film here, not the Abba album). He effortlessly encapsulated new wave music with the angry Boys Keep Swinging, and when the underwater sploshing synths of Ashes To Ashes dripped out of daytime Radio 1 in 1980. I wasn’t to know David Bowie was now personally unveiling the complete decade to me there and then; it was stunning and strange and new, but I took it for granted as all children do.
Last January, after Bowie returned to space, I watched men at XXL, young and less young, dance euphorically to Let’s Dance, Young Americans, Rebel Rebel and more. And, although I hadn’t seen Arrival at that point, it became clear that we earthlings will forever be spellbound by those songs and sounds until something else crash lands and splits the Earth in two a second time.
What can I possibly say that hasn’t already been said about David Bowie? I find it hard to put into words what he means to me. I suppose it comes down to the era you identify with and although I find the last five years of Bowie’s life an artistic triumph, he’s actually responsible for one of my favourite periods in queer London; the New Romantics in the 80s. Not only a movement inspired by the music, fashion and ideology of David Bowie, but a period that changed the way we club forever. My love, adoration and appreciation for a true visionary artist who I didn’t appreciate enough until he was gone. Thank you, Starman.