Steve Beauchampé pays tribute
The Beatles, Dylan, Bowie…without question the three most important and influential musical artists of the twentieth century. And all three influential way beyond music – culturally, socially, artistically, politically, across genres, across generations.
There will be no bigger or more significant death in 2016 than Bowie’s, the news of his passing so shocking, so unexpected, and so untimely, three days after his sixty-ninth birthday, three days after the release of his latest critically acclaimed album. As David Baddiel said, it is so disorientating, the world seems out of joint. As Roger Taylor said, what a vacuum he leaves and one that cannot truly be filled. In a hundred years, when memories of now are distilled into a few key names and events, David Bowie will be one of those remembered and immortalised, as Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Dickens are today.
I saw him perform twice. First, from the second from last row of the NEC in the early 1980s, he in white suit with bleached blonde hair, all Serious Moonlight and Let’s Dance…not my favourite Bowie period, not my most memorable concert. Then in 1997 at the Que Club in Birmingham’s Corporation Street. It was early one July Monday afternoon, and the Birmingham Evening Mail arrived. There on the front page it read: “David Bowie to play Birmingham’s Que Club, tickets on sale today at the box office”.
Things like this just didn’t happen in Birmingham. It was a small venue and it held but a few hundred. I headed straight in to town, bought my ticket, came home,‘phoned friends to alert them. A couple of Fridays later on August 1st there I was, standing twenty feet from the man as he gave a blistering performance of songs culled from a quarter century of his seminal, vital, essential music. So many of my friends had tickets too so the occasion was and has been ever since a collective one. As life experiences go, it really doesn’t get any better than this.
Shortly before I went to bed on Sunday night, I e-mailed a friend saying that Blackstar would be my next album purchase. Like the rest of the world I had no idea. Bowie’s friends and family were so loyal; they kept the news of his 2013 comeback single and album so secret, they kept news of his impending death so private. We have his music, his films, his art, his legacy, his words, his thoughts, his ideas and inspiration. Today as we mourn him, as we cry at his passing, they are everywhere, on every media. And they will always be with us. He was a genius and we are incalculably richer for his being alive.