Saturday, March 9, 2013

Cause you're wonderful

I love this particular scene in Almost Famous. I don't know if this was a thing people did when Tommy came out (since I wasn't alive) or maybe Anita was only able to communicate with music because that's how teenagers are. Either way, there's value to what she said and wrote to William and to the music she left behind. The power of great album or a great song can be such that you do, in fact, see your future. I think you can tell a lot about a person when you know what music they love and hate. Music is a little window into someone's soul. This is why I've never understood it when someone tells me they don't like music. It feels like they're missing an entire part of their being. I would be lost without the music I love.

In a recent post, I described introducing a person to a band you like as being sacred - Anita believes this too. She and I would definitely be music friends if she was real. She wants William to be moved by what he hears and have it become an essential part of his life and future and being (like some people feel about religion). I want the same thing when I share music with someone. I make a lot of mixes for people and I'm always anxious about the process, even a little shy when I think about sharing music with a person. Will they get it like I did? Will they love it? Will they think I'm insane? Will they toss the mix aside and never listen to it but then pretend they did so they don't hurt my feelings? Spreading the musical gospel is a stressful but important part of life.

Everyone has a cool aunt - the one you can talk to about anything and you want to be like when you grow up. My cool aunt is my Aunt Pat. Aunt Pat introduced me to David Bowie (and other very important to me music) when I was younger. She never said to me, "You should listen to this" but it was on all the time and she talked about him with reverence. I knew what we were listening to was important. Of course this meant that I was going to listen to Bowie. Eventually. It's not like I was 6 years old and knew all the words to "Space Oddity" or "Suffragette City" (although I'd really like that 6 year old version of me).

As with most things in my life, I had to find Bowie on my own terms. I had to work my way through boy bands before I could truly appreciate the awesome that is David Bowie. Once I moved past the boy band stage in my musical journey, I settled on glam rock, 70s punk, and morose British bands as my essentials. Bowie became the centerpiece of my musical world. I could recite lyrics and knew all the characters he played. I was mostly into his albums from the 70s; most of the stuff from the 80s just didn't do it for me although I really do like "Modern Love" and "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)". Around the same time, I got into reading about the Pop art movement and Warhol and The Velvet Underground and, of course, became obsessed with Lou Reed. And then there was Iggy Pop and MC5 and Patti Smith and Richard Hell and Television and Blondie. Basically, everything awesome happened before I was born. I've come to terms with this (I think).

Bowie is an icon and has an incredibly cult-like following. His albums were (are) innovative and creative and definitely not your normal rock and roll. He's very good at reinvention in his music. (How many personas did he have? How much eye makeup did he wear? Have you heard the Berlin albums?) His onstage personas were outlandish and unique - everything a teenage rock fan wants to be. He wasn't afraid to be weird or different (at least on stage - read Marc Spitz's biography Bowie for more on the actual person not the persona). That was as true in the 90s (when I started really listening) as it was in the 70s. It's probably why I liked Bowie so much as a teenager. I felt like an outsider (because all teenagers feel that way) and he made it okay to be one. I remember the first time I really listened to the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and songs like "Space Oddity" and "Life on Mars?" and "Heroes" from other albums. I was a girl with mousy hair. I felt alone sometimes. I thought no one got me and I leaned back on my radio. I wanted to kiss as though nothing could fall in the shadow of the Berlin Wall. And then David Bowie told me that "you're not alone" (actually he shouted it at me) and that we're all wonderful. All you had to do was listen.

His first studio album in ten years comes out this week. The Next Day is amazing. He recorded the album in secret and used the occasion of his 66th birthday to announce its existence to the world. Outstanding. I listened to it for free on iTunes last weekend and am counting down the days until I can buy it and listen to it over and over again. There are songs that I think I will come to love as much as the classics. Rob Sheffield's Rolling Stone review is pretty spot on - my favorite line (about the song "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)") "It's like Bowie decided to fuse "Heroes" and "Space Oddity" into the same song, a feat he's never attempted before. Holy shit, David Bowie." I couldn't agree more.

And also there is this post about the album artwork. This, my dear friends, is why I still buy CDs and actual albums. Yes, iTunes is more convenient but liner notes and album art are extraordinarily interesting artistic statements. Reading the liner notes is part of the fun of buying new music. I have to listen to The Next Day at least four more times before I'll have any real opinions but my first listen made me happy. I felt a lot like when I first really "discovered" Bowie in my teens - I'm just older and you know, wiser. Just like David Bowie.

Please play this song at my funeral - not because it's sad but because it's comforting.

Videos from
The Kitten Covers - David Meowie cover (this site is amazing)
Other photo by me

1 comment:

  1. Hello Erin,
    I'm writing a book about Nebraska and would like to use a photo you took at the time change sign between Paxton and Sutherland, NE. It will be used as a fake postcard with comments by you trying to photograph it, it being so hilly!
    Can you contact me via email
    You have a very good blog; I enjoyed reading some of the entries.
    Barbara (I live in Ottawa, Canada)
    I'll tell you more about the book later. It is my fifth book.