Friday, 15 January 2016

16/1/2016 - RIP David Bowie (My God, It Hurts Writing That), New Job Continues & This Week's Wristwatches.

I spent most of last week learning the ropes at my new job. It's a steep learning curve, but I'm confident that I'll get the hang of it. The two main areas of learning have to do with the operating system used for optometry, and the overall pricing structure for the products themselves. I've gotten proficient at appointment setting and have a reasonable grasp of lens scripts, but still have some way to go. Both of the staff members who have been training me have said that repetition is the best way to learn. I have to agree. I'll get better at the job as I go along. 
The main down-side to this gig is that I've been hired as a casual employee rather than a part-time one. Something that I was not told about during my interviews. This means that I'm not entitled to sickness leave or holiday payments. To be honest, while I am a tad disappointed by this, I'm not overly fussed because this job was designed to get me back into the workforce and into a regular routine. I could be there three months, I could be there a year. Either way, I'm keeping my options open and will continue to look for work. Everybody always says it's easier to look for a job if you already have one. I'll put that theory to the test. 

"Wake up, you sleepy-head,
Put on some clothes, shake off your bed,
Put another log on the fire for me,
I've made some breakfast and coffee.
Look out my window,
And what do I see?
A crack in the sky and a hand
Reaching down to me,
All the nightmares came today,
And it looks as though they're here to stay."
         
               -Oh, You Pretty Things
                 D. Bowie
Monday
               January 11th marked eleven years since my Dad died, so I planned to light a candle for him. My brother sent me a text message to remind me (I didn't need reminding) and then he added some comment along the lines of '...and David Bowie, too.'
"Oh no, oh no, oh no", I thought to myself as I grabbed the iPad and ran a quick search. 
And there it was. David Bowie had died after an eighteen-month battle with cancer. 
I felt a part of my life and my soul gently being wrenched out of me. 
I lit two candles that night.

I spent the next couple of hours reading reports and tributes on the internet. One or two of them were blog posts, thinly masquerading as news reportage, written by those who had neither a clue or an appreciation for Bowie's talent, output, or place in the world of popular music and culture.
I have nothing further to add to the multitude of well written articles that have appeared in recent days. Some of them were both touching and accurate. Here's a good one, which offers a decent biography of the man;


So instead, I'll just write about how David Bowie and his music affected me.
I was seventeen when I heard on the radio that he would tour Australia, in conjunction with the release of his album Let's Dance in 1983. I decided that this should be the first rock concert that I went to. Might as well start high, hey?
And it was a fantastic concert. I knew the songs of his latest album, and I knew of his more well-known hits of the past. The man had given us a prodigious and eclectic output over the years, and he had a knack for being ahead of his time. 
We were seated quite a distance away from the stage and I decided half-way through to try to get a little closer. I headed over to the far right of the crowd and managed to get a better view of him from about ten or fifteen rows from the front. He was wearing a buttery yellow suit which almost matched the colour of his hair. 
It wasn't long after this concert that I began to snag his other albums on vinyl. 
It was a great concert.

He returned to Australia in 1987 for his Glass Spider Tour. He played three outdoor dates in Melbourne and I went to them all. The first night, it rained, and the start time was delayed by about an hour as roadies hit the stage with mops in their hands while we stood in the crowd. The rain continued and I stood there, getting soaked with my friends.
Then, the crowd let out a roar as Bowie walked out on stage; "You people are incredible", he said. He was impressed with our resilience to the elements. 
"Sorry, but because the stage is still wet, we'll have to alter the performance tonight to avoid any injuries to our dancers. So, treat this as a dress rehearsal, if you will.", he added. 
The concert began shortly afterwards and sure, there was less choreography than originally intended, but then, we were there to see the man sing, after all.
Peter Frampton was part of his band for this tour and he did great backing vocals on Sons of The Silent Age. 

We went along to the next performance and it was spectacular. This time, the stage was dry and the dancers did their thing. It was great. 
The following night, my buddy John and I decided to go along to the final show, but we didn't have any tickets. No matter. We stood across the road from the venue and listened to his show. We scaled a seven-foot high brick wall and stood on its edge for two hours. 
'Cos that's what you do for rock & roll. 

I saw Bowie interviewed by Charles Wooley on 60 Minutes back in 2002. Wooley asked him what it was like to be a father again. Bowie's wife, Iman, had given birth to their daughter Alexandria Zhara in August 2000. Wooley then enquired; 'Can you count how many nappies (diapers) you've changed since she was born?'
Bowie let out a long laugh and then replied; 'Yes!'
I always found that to be a very funny response and in various interviews that I've seen and read over the years, he always came across as quite personable. He was able to give serious responses to serious questions about his music and he often peppered his interviews with a layer of humour as well. He just always came across as a likable guy.

Bowie studied mime under the legendary Lindsay Kemp back in the early 1970s. In the concert footage from his Diamond Dogs Tour of 1974, he is seen doing the moonwalk almost a decade before it was made famous by Michael Jackson. Bowie gives a flawless rendition of this dance/mime technique and to see him do it is a thing of beauty as the soles of his feet glide smoothly across the floor yet his body remains rooted on the spot. 

I will admit that I haven't kept abreast of Bowie's music over the last 25 years or so, but I've remained a fan of his ever since that November night in 1983. His mark on music and pop culture is deep. 







The classic cover photo from his 1973 album Aladdin Sane. 




Provided the inspiration for this image of Homer Simpson which was published in Rolling Stone Magazine in 2002.










And Drew Barrymore is seen in a similar make-up during the flashback sequence in Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (Dir: Joseph McGinty Nichol, 2003);


David Bowie's influence was both far and wide. He invented the idea of re-invention, never remaining the same character for more than a few years at a time. Madonna took note of this.
When I first played his soundtrack album to his 1973 concert Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, I was amazed by the crowd's reaction when he announced at the end; "Not only...not only is this the last show of the tour, but it's also the last show we'll ever do."
The crowd let out a collective scream. You'd have though he had just murdered somebody up on stage which, in a way, he had. It was the end of his Ziggy Stardust persona.

His music changed too over the years. From his Glam Rock days as Ziggy Stardust to his synth-heavy mid to late '70s German period, featuring a great version of Bertolt Brecht's Alabama Song and his classic, classic, classic song Heroes, to his poppy Let's Dance album and Absolute Beginners single, to his turn as lead singer of a band called The Tin Machine in the late 1980s/early '90s, Bowie was constantly in motion, carving out new personas and music. 
After undergoing heart surgery in 2004, Bowie retired from touring not long afterwards, but he kept writing and releasing more albums over the years.


I stepped out to my local supermarket on Tuesday night to get some supplies. As I reached for a carton of milk, I heard the unmistakable opening riff from Rebel, Rebel. And almost burst into tears.

Thursday afternoon, my wife and I dropped some items off at a local thrift store. Two minutes after I walked in, Ashes to Ashes started playing over the sound system and my mood plummeted again.


Oh, about the eyes. The misconception was that he had one blue eye and one green eye. The truth is that he received a punch in his left eye when he was a teen (it was a fight over a girl, the only fights that matter) and this caused his pupil to dilate. It remained that way, further adding to his mystique over the years.

 
David Bowie turned 69 on January 8th. My birthday was four days earlier, so I suppose I've always felt a certain, albeit tenuous, kinship with him being a fellow thin white Capricorn. Similarities end there. That date also saw the release of his latest album. It was his birthday, but we got the gift. The album has no official title, but features a black star on its white cover. Hence, it has been referred to as Blackstar. 

Here's a couple of the final pictures of Bowie, taken by Jimmy King just a few weeks ago. The sharpest looking retiree on the planet;



A great part of me would like to hope that Mr Bowie still had much to be happy about, despite his condition. Long-time friend, collaborator and record producer Tony Visconti stated this week that Bowie was looking forward to getting started on his next album.

In the information overload age of the Internet, I admire the fact that his ill health was kept private from the outside world and I absolutely respect the man for keeping this to himself and those close to him. It showed a certain stoicism that we don't often see anymore.
Of course, the news of his passing came as a greater shock as a result of the world not knowing of his state of health. David Bowie wasn't meant to die at the age of 69. He was meant to live to 200. 

It's now just gone ten o'clock on Friday night. My daughter has a couple of friends here for a sleep-over. Gonna be a long friggin' night.
I had to take the cat to the animal hospital last night after a sudden health scare. Which wasn't as scary as the bill they presented me with for the consultation. They offered to take x-rays and perform a blood test, but I didn't have the EIGHT hundred dollars that would have been required. Took her to the vet this morning and they kept her there for most of the day. Turns out she had constipation. That would explain the howling over the last few days. Madame is resting comfortably, in case you're wondering.

I read the news today, oh boy. Another talented Englishman, actor Alan Rickman, taken away by cancer at the age of 69. It's been an awful week. Nobody's safe. Rickman first came to our attention for his cold, charming and witty performance as Hans Gruber, the main villain in Die Hard (Dir: John McTiernan, 1988). He went on to star in numerous other films in Hollywood and the UK and gained further acclaim and attention for his role as Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films. He had a rich voice and delivered subtle and nuanced performances in everything he did. He certainly made Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (Dir: Kevin Reynolds, 1991) a better film with his wickedly funny portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham. He was a gifted stage actor and director as well.
So yeah, gang, it hasn't really been a week for talking about wristwatches, but for those of you who wanna know, I wore the Omega Seamaster AquaTerra Co-Axial all week. Changing wristwatches seemed to be the last thing on my mind;


And finally, one last picture of the visionary singer/songwriter (among a host of other talents) whom we lost this week. I'm still in shock over his passing.


David Bowie was always a snappy dresser, but The Thin White Duke was particularly sharp.

I'm glad and grateful that he existed, and for what he gave to the world of music, and I hope that those close to him find some comfort in the outpouring of grief and appreciation that many of us have displayed over his untimely death. He will never be replaced.

Thanks for reading.

4 comments:

  1. Tough week indeed, but very glad you're settling well into work again. (:

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    1. Thanks very much, Ted. Yep, it's good to be working again.

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  2. That's a really great Writeup. Tough, tough week. I saw the death of David Bowie appear on my phone screen as an alert from my news up while I was at work, and I felt my heart sink.

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    1. Almost a week later and it still bites, SK. I had the iPod playing while I varnished another bookshelf and my eyes got misty when "Heroes" started playing. It wasn't the paint fumes this time.

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