Monday, January 11, 2016

Ramblings on David Bowie.

The news of David Bowie's death made me think immediately of Laura Furlich, another theater kid at Miami of Ohio, who I met within days of arriving as a freshman in 1979 and pretended, as she flipped through her orange crate of Pretenders and Blondie and Elvis Costello and Patti Smith albums, pretended to know them all. The only one I remember listening to that day was Bowie's Lodger, and my memory is that I was struck dumb and didn't move a muscle. I'd never heard anything like it and didn't want it to end.

I don't think I made the connection right away, but, though I didn't know his music, Bowie already existed in my erotic imagination. Somewhere I'd seen a promo still from The Man Who Fell to Earth (probably in After Dark magazine, every new issue of which I devoured in the DePauw University library, and which was the pipeline through which anything and everything queer reached me in high school).

I was 16. That image was terrifying, dangerous, seared into my brain. Even before Googling it just now, I could have told you exactly what it looked like, after almost 40 years.

By 1981, when I got to New York, I went along with the ridiculously pretentious critique of Bowie that he was not original but just an appropriator, sort of how people talk about Madonna. As if art could exist without appropriation. (I went along with a lot of ridiculously pretentious critiques then. Maybe I still do, but fewer now.)

I never liked Let's Dance. I always associate it with the jukebox at Boy Bar and a lonely, arid, cynical time in my life. And I hate that Bing Crosby thing, but only because I so loathe that song the name of which I won't type for fear of it adhering to my brain for a month and a half.

But Lodger is still the record that in 1979 tore a hole in my little world of music that until then was populated mostly by Broadway musicals, Judy Garland records, AM pop, and my brother's heavy metal.

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