Bowie Mime

i could do better than that

Looking back there were a lot of releases around 1972/3, a couple of albums a year and various singles, some that were not featured on albums, so welcome as well. But I was hungry for more, there just wasn’t enough.

Then I discovered something that I’d never heard of before, a back catalogue, and did Bowie have one hell of a back catalogue. I think the first that I started listening to was The Man Who Sold The World, a strange one to start with you may think, especially if you are a Julie Andrews fan who likes to start at the beginning.

After listening to Ziggy Stardust, TMWSTW, laziness is creeping in already, just two paragraphs into the blog and I’m using acronyms, was a massive eye opener. This was more like rock than the scuzzed up guitars that featured so heavily on Ziggy, in the short period that I’d known him I felt that I could refer to him as Ziggy now and use the one word to describe him.

David Bowie Mime
David Bowie

Why TMWSTW as a starting point to delve into the back catalogue. It actually wasn’t my choice, a friend of a friend had bought the album and he invited me round to listen to it, so that’s why I started there and not working forward with Space Oddity or working back with Hunky Dory.

Before you start screaming that there’s loads of music recorded prior to Space Oddity where I could have started, I’ll say that I felt that the cheap albums, The World Of David Bowie, for example, didn’t measure up to the material that came after 1969. My old mate Dave Priest would have had my balls for that comment if I’d said it in front of him, and I’m sure that many of you feel the same. There are certain merits in some of the tunes, but to me it’s a mish mash of styles and ideas that couldn’t focus. I read an article which said that David’s management couldn’t decide whether to make him a cabaret artist or a pop star and I think that sums up that period very succinctly. Once Bowie had decided which way HE wanted to go he smashed it, and the rest is history.

Back to the album. I was listening to a lot of rock music at that time and TMWSTW was right up my street, The Width Of A Circle just blew me away, it was so different to what I’d heard of Bowie so far. The guitars, the changes in the song tempo, the lyrics it was definitely a great track. I’m not a music critic, and I don’t like to analyse songs for their merit or technicality.

I’ve been a radio DJ for over 25 years and specialise in new and unsigned music, and am always being asked by the record companies for my thoughts, but I’ve felt that’s going down the road of being a critic and have shied away from it. My passion for new music is something I’ve got Bowie to thank for, I’m always looking forward for new, exciting and different sounds, something that I felt that he pioneered.

If there’s a tangent I’ll go off on it, we were talking about the first time that I heard TMWSTW, I actually typed TMWFTE and had to change it, the Freudians amongst you can break up into discussion groups and work out why that was. Some may put it down to my being brought up in a strict catholic household, that’s not true by the way, others may put it down to my latent bisexuality, once again, sadly not true, but I’d put it down to my lack of concentration and my thoughts wondering about what I’m going to have for lunch.

Anyway, back to that wet Saturday afternoon sitting in Dave’s bedroom eagerly waiting to hear the album with a great photo of Bowie kicking out his leg whilst playing the guitar. I’ve tried to recreate this pose with my ukulele but only ended up tweaking a hamstring, so I wouldn’t advise people over a certain age to try it. If you want to recreate an album cover find yourself an old phone box and lean against that, it’s much safer.

Thinking about Dave’s room it’s just occurred to me how much it was like Vince’s room where I first heard Ziggy Stardust. Dave had a little stereo as well, but the album still sounded magnificent. And it was long, that was great, just when it should have finished it sprung back into live. Brilliant. Although they weren’t spiders then, the Spiders From Mars were a great rock band.

The tracks didn’t flow, they were disjointed and if I was a music critic would say that they were all over the place, but I’m not, so I won’t. There’s some great songs on that album, and to this day I’ve always called After All Oh By Jingo, that line is just so hypnotic. So we’re sitting there listening to the tracks and I start to get carried away, I remember this so vividly.

The title track comes on and by this time I’m beginning to feel that I should be writing critiques of all the greats in my own Sunday Times column.

“I don’t understand what that clicking noise does for the song.”

“What?”

“I don’t understand what that clicking noise does for the song.”

“What fucking clicking Noise?”

“The clicking noise where it sounds like someone’s put a lolly stick in the spokes of their bike and are riding it round very slowly.” I’ve since heard Woody talk about how they got that sound and it turns out that he didn’t put a lolly stick in the spokes of his bicycle wheel and ride it round very slowly.

“What are you talking about?”

I was beginning to lose confidence in my ability as a music critic by this stage.

“That sound like he’s running his fingers along the teeth of a comb.”

“Are you sure?”

“Are you deaf?”

“I have got no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Bollocks.”

I think I can safely say that the word bollocks was the last word I ever used as a music critic and I never tried it again. When I say that I never tried it again I mean attempting music criticism, not using the word bollocks, in fact I’ve used it 15 times during the writing of this piece.

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