What Bowie album did I fall in love with first? Well, I was born in 1982, so I had every opportunity to fall in love with Let’s Dance, but that wasn’t it. And I didn’t work backwards either, David Bowie wasn’t something forced on me; my father is probably impartial and my mother is tolerant at best. My ear turned towards David Bowie in the 1990s; he was part of my time, too. Earthling was released in 1997. That’s crazy. I was 15. Prodigy’s The Fat of the Land was released the same year. At 15 years old, this was the stuff I could get into. Grunge was fading fast and boy bands were on the rise. It seemed I had to decide quickly as to which song I wanted to dance.
My musical taste changed a lot in the next five years, as I’m sure it does for most 15 to 20 year olds. Techno to ska and punk then to a long stint of classic rock and 80s new wave before I got into to the Strokes and other indie rock bands in the early 2000s. During my impulsive CD purchasing phase in the late 1990s, I grabbed all the greatest hits albums of “old” rock bands thus obtaining musical and pop culture knowledge that would only help later in life during meaningless games of pub trivia where I consistently lose to the Quizz Moppers, a team full of cheaters by the way. One of the CDs I purchased at this time was ChangesBowie, which is basically a greatest hits album that was released in 1990. That was one of the biggest mistakes in music I’d make.
Oh, but it’s that guy that had the Earthling CD. It’s his older stuff. I’m cool now, right? Not so fast. The purchase was a mistake in that I gave in to yet another “best of” album. Of course I loved it. I couldn’t listen to the first track, Space Oddity, enough while mowing the neighbor’s lawn and collecting $10 each week so I could buy some other Greatest Hits album (Billy Joel, Talking Heads, The Byrds, The Cure, Elton John, Squeeze, Hall & Oates, The Cars, or the Smiths, maybe). But that’s who David Bowie became to me, a guy who had one of my favorite “best of” albums and also a techno album in the 1990s. And someone respected as a musical genius that I was lucky enough to see live in 1997 at the State Theater (now the Fillmore) in Detroit, Michigan.
Also, he was someone who was Jareth, the Goblin King? Wait, what? That was David Bowie (that’s me asking this question in the 1990s when my brother reminded me of one of our favorite childhood movies, The Labyrinth)? I thought “king” was just a generic term and they were trying to be weird by having a woman play the role, like a reverse Peter Pan or something. But that was David Bowie (again, me about a decade after the last time I had seen the movie)? I always felt confused by that character; like I wouldn’t mind succumbing to her. Him? She seemed nice. Like, all he wanted to do was love that girl so he could love that baby. That’s a lot of love. And there were a lot of Muppets. So I was okay with all of it. I mean, I knew he was the bad guy. Girl? But with a voice like that, she didn’t seem so threatening. I mean, come on Jennifer, what’s the worst that could happen if you just give the Goblin King the baby and live in Muppet land forever (I’d just advise getting a piece of real estate far away from the Eternal Bog of Stench)? He looked the same but seemed much nicer and human than the possessed version of Sigourney Weaver from Ghostbusters. It turns out that David Bowie is probably the reason why I’m a feminist and a big fan of equal rights for all the people of this world and also why I don’t give a shit about what activities go on among consenting adults.
Okay, maybe not so much the hair but those high cheek bones, right? Plus, coming from an Italian American family where no one is thin, as a child all skinny people might have looked the same to me.
But this isn’t about equality right now (which it probably should be, since that’s the far more important issue). This is about his music. A few years after I saw him live, I listened to Heathen then Reality. Then I went for his older albums, Space Oddity, Aladdin Sane, and Diamond Dogs. After that I really didn’t return to him much since he had nothing new and no one recommended anything else of his to me. Then my brother, bless him, asked me if I had ever listened to Low. I hadn’t. This was maybe mid-2000s, when I was into Muse, The White Stripes, Interpol, Spoon, The Walkmen, Man Man and stuff like that (also mostly because of my brother). Low. Was. The. Best. I’m sure most people will want to fight me on this but that album is unbelievable. It proves to me, musically, the capability of David Bowie. I am always amazed by bands like R.E.M. (yes, I just did that), that could evolve and stay a year or three ahead of their time (for most of their career). But David Bowie was light-years ahead. When I listened to Low (1977) approximately thirty years after it was released, I wouldn’t have known it was older than I was if someone hadn’t told me. It was brilliant in the 1970s, I’m sure, in the 2000s, and still now in 2016. For someone to make music that can easily blend in with the times forty years after it was released is remarkable. David Bowie wins forever. A lot of people claim that the Beatles were the pioneers of music, the Lewis and Clark sort of- where they’d go many would follow- and I can’t ever really argue with that, but David Bowie was the Pythagoras of music, the one who knew that music wasn’t flat and wanted to prove to the rest of the world that it just isn’t so.
Just a disclaimer: it should be known that all the dates and facts in this post, including album release dates and my birth year, were googled for reference. I didn’t know any specific dates or who the first person was, arguably, to say the world is round until I searched the internet for answers. You can reference Google for anything now; it’s pretty amazing. Like, you could find out the name of the only original actor/actress from the Brady Bunch who did not appear on the Brady Bunch Variety Hour. Because there’s no way anyone knows that it was Eve Plumb without googling it, Carl from Quizz Moppers. Stay off your phone during pub trivia, asshole.