David Jones – who had to change his surname to “Bowie” after the Monkees debuted in the UK, almost fifty years ago – passed away yesterday, way too early, at age 69.
He’s been a longtime candidate for one of my “Things I’m Supposed To Love…” bits. I have always been ambivalent about Bowie’s music – and like a lot of music I started out as ambivalent about, it’s probably something I should look into further.
Historically? It probably doesn’t help that I first encountered Bowie at at time when he was at his most pretentious – and I was, personally, at my most pretentious in my disdain for pretense. And even some of his biggest fans will cop to the fact that, especially earlier in his career, a lot of style had to cover for not all that much substance; he started out as a pretty rudimentary lyricist. And, duh – rock and roll is more about style than substance; never let anyone tell you rock and roll is “poetry set to music”; it’s doggerel set to music slathered in style!
But it wasn’t my style.
So one way or another, Bowie had very little music that really, truly grabbed me where I lived, at least initially.
But it’s not quite that simple. It never is with music, is it?
Even back when I was a serious un-fan of Bowie’s, I loved “Fame”:
White-boy funk could be fun! Who knew?
And “Rebel Rebel” was, and is one of the great garage band songs of all time.
Still, the seventies came and went, and I still just didn’t care all that much. It wasn’t my thing.
It was Stevie Ray Vaughan’s participation on “Let’s Dance” that caused me to give him a less-jaundiced ear:
And since I wasn’t a huge fan, it took me until the mid-eighties to learn about Bowie’s two Springsteen covers (both covered from Greetings from Asbury Park, Springsteen’s 1973 debut album), recorded for his “Pinups” covers record, that actually made me sit up and give Bowie a serious listen.
“Growing Up” was a pretty competent reading – although nothing a good garage band couldn’t have pulled off:
But his cover of “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City?” One of very few Springsteen covers that’s better than the original; written during Springsteen’s verbose early period, it’s almost as if “Saint” was written for Bowie:
Anyway – I’ve got some catching up to do.