I can’t remember which of my parents I stole it from. It was a double CD, The Best of Bowie. I’m going to guess my Dad; I have a vague memory of an argument in the back of a car about the best version of The Man Who Sold The World. We had some great musical arguments back in the day, Dad and I – like the time he insisted that Hanson were really girls. I think that argument lasted longer than Hanson.
The cover was a composite of David Bowie’s face, each feature from a different era. A man with many faces, white and orange on a dark blue background. I closed my door and popped Disc 1 into my metallic purple boom box and listened as the opening bars of Space Oddity filled my teenage turquoise bedroom, with its unnecessary fairy lights and smell of nail polish. I was transported. I lay on the carpet and let the music take me to the stars. Hours passed. Disc 2 whirred to a halt, and I removed it, carefully placed it back into the case, and put Disc 1 back in. I pressed play.
And so it continued, for months. I danced to Suffragette City as I applied frosty eyeshadow for the school disco. I hummed Let’s Spend the Night Together while I doodled in my diary, wondering about that boy on the bus that always smiled at me. When the girls at school referred to Heroes as ‘that song from Moulin Rouge’, I shook my head knowingly. I didn’t enjoy being fourteen – does anyone? I was spotty and shy and awkward in my new woman-body, the sadness that has plagued me ever since just starting to make its presence felt. But when I listened to Bowie, I felt that fizz of energy, like the world was full of possibilities, and the strangeness of it all was exciting rather than terrifying. I could picture myself as a ‘70s rebel, putting the needle to my vinyl in a city that still knew how to swing. Bowie was from South London, like me, yet he seemed immune to the mundanity of it all. Listening to his music was like a vaccination against the expected and the everyday – a shot in the arm of pure glamour.
And now he’s gone. The world is a less colourful place, and we mourn a cultural hero. An artist who never stopped making music, pushing the boundaries of style and genre, searching for some new way to move and astonish us. He meant something different to every fan; glam rock icon, star of Labyrinth, hilarious sending up Ricky Gervais in Extras. And that legacy will endure for generations to come. Simon Pegg said it well:
“If you’re sad today, just remember the world is over 4 billion years old and you somehow managed to exist at the same time as David Bowie.”
It was a pleasure sharing a planet with you. RIP.