Perfect Sound Forever


A Bowie self-portrait

by Mark S. Tucker
(February 2016)

I come not to bury Bowie but to praise him.

All flesh is grass, as the ancient sci-fi trash novel The Bible notes and which many poets and scribes - including the much later sci-fi novelist Clifford Simak - have repeated over and over 'cause it's true. None escape the reaper's scythe, and so David Bowie has moved on. Much is being made of the star's passing, properly, while those of us from his era glance nervously at the calendar, proffering our laments and reminiscences while a mindful of the cosmic inevitable.

I caught the sonic fabulist with his Spiders at the Santa Monica Civic (the concert that's now on video) and had my mind blown even after seeing Hendrix, Deep Purple, the Moodies, Gentle Giant, Zep, and all the others. The outrageous guy from Jolly Ol' definitely stood prominently with the greats, there can be no argument about that. He could hold an audience in the palm of his hand, spellbound, whether the song might be a ballad or a heavy metal pounder, Mick Ronson his early right-hand man.

I clearly recall when David sat on a simple wooden chair during a single-spotlit mid-point interlude with just an acoustic guitar and his voice: you could've heard a pin drop (either that or I was a hell of a lot more stoned and hyper-focused than I remember). The only other time I've seen that was when Jan Akkerman (Focus) grabbed his oud or lute for a solo song or two during a Focus concert: all the drunken prog-louts suddenly shut the fuck up and listened, rapt, dead quiet erupting from chaos.

Though Bowie had a certain notoriety as a skinflint (and it's noteworthy that Guitar Player has pulled a pertinent SRV article from the Web), he was also generous and became responsible for saving an artist or three from failure, Mott the Hoople the most prominent, reviving others from fading fortunes (Lou Reed, Iggy, etc.), and then saw to a maintenance of diversity in many of his bands. In turn, one of his biggest admirers was John Lennon. Bowie never remained in one mode for very long, ever the chameleon, whether going mainstream (as with "Fame" and many hits) or arty (as with Eno, work that Glass later chose to transform).

Though I have most of his LP's, I briefly lost interest after Pin-Ups until Station to Station on through to Stage, and pretty much fell away after that. My fave release, as versus most listeners' choice of Ziggy, is The Man Who Sold the World, a killer cabaretic metal venture. However, from time to time over the decades, he'd issue a DVD of a live tour that was stunningly good, reminding me and everyone that, despite whatever objections some might have with his choice of studio releases, that inimitable and electric live talent was always not far away, right in his back pocket. He could pull it out any time he wished.

No one can stay at fever pitch for too long lest they burn to a crisp, but Bowie had a way of coming back again and again because he was neither shallow nor limited, though many early on suspected he might be the latter, especially following the glam-rock movement he helped pioneer. Oh how wrong they were! I'd say I'm sad over his death, but I'm not; I've been studying Zen and esoteric practices too long for that. I know that biting the big one is the illusion Emerson averred it to be in "Brahma." My smirky comment on "death", then, is similar to Zappa's re: romance. He opined that a million and a half sonic paeans to love were already too goddamned much and so chose to go elsewhere. I feel the same about demises and sad elegies: 20 gigabillion laments aren't sufficient yet?

Everyone dies, no exceptions, and weeping over it is a waste of time serving only to sharpen our already too abundant quaking fear. Better then to celebrate and hold gratitude that such as David Bowie existed among us, to brighten up this shithole planet, and that our lives are so much the better for it. I couldn't do what he did, neither can you; best then to marvel at such a Herculean task accomplished by the gent and then happily drool over the feast of riches he leaves behind, a recurring treasure for generations to come. Would that we all could go out so well.


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