Amazing People 5: David Bowie

Everyone seems to be writing obituaries to David Bowie who, sadly, died yesterday, so I will try not to repeat anything from those. I just want to give thanks for the profound influence he had on my life. He gave me belief in myself.

Bowie with the Buzz at Southampton Pier
Bowie with the Buzz on Southampton Pier

I first heard of him around 1965 when David Bowie and the Buzz performed in Southampton. Everyone thought that this androgynous bloke who dressed a bit different was enigmatic. He had one of those distinctive voices too whereby you could still hear his London accent even though he was singing a range of things. In 1969 Bowie wrote Space Oddity in time for the first man on the moon – it had got on Top of the Pops by  1970 and at this time he was wearing ‘really weird clothes’.

I had been brought up in second-hand clothes and had always felt an outsider because of it, so I created my own style. Bowie not only made me feel okay, he made me feel cool. Suddenly I was an ‘it girl’. In the early 70s he was due to back Lou Reed on his Transformer tour at Southampton Guildhall.  Everyone rushed for tickets – mainly to see David Bowie, but I couldn’t get hold of one. I waited outside the Civic Centre and just begged others to sell me their ticket. As one woman had only really wanted to see Lou Reed, she agreed to come out for five minutes and lend me her ticket for one song if I bought her a pack of cigarettes, around 5/- or there-abouts (25p in the new decimal currency).

Bowie was dressed so theatrically – I vowed then to always do the same. The song I listened to?  Life on Mars – which I adopted as if it had been written for me.

life on Mars

Bowie onboard the QE2 Southampton during his Ziggy Stardust tour
Bowie onboard the QE2 Southampton during his Ziggy Stardust tour

It’s a God awful small affair
To the girl with the mousey hair,
But her mummy is yelling, “No!”
And her daddy has told her to go,
But her friend is no where to be seen.
Now she walks through her sunken dream
To the seats with the clearest view
And she’s hooked to the silver screen,
But the film is saddenin’ bore
For she’s lived it ten times or more.
She could spit in the eyes of fools
As they ask her to focus on

Sailors
Fighting in the dance hall.
Oh man!
Look at those cavemen go.
It’s the freakiest show.
Take a look at the lawman
Beating up the wrong guy.
Oh man!
Wonder if he’ll ever know
He’s in the best-selling show.
Is there Life On Mars? 

Later in the early 80s a band consisting of four blokes from Winchester, named 4 People I Have Known, asked me to write them a song. Heavily influenced by Life on Mars, I wrote a song along the lines of:

PERMISSIVE SOCIETY

Just finished with my girl
and I’m feelin’ pretty mean
Went down into town
to watch the silver screen
but its dogs eating children
(can’t remember this bit)
so I pick up someone new and leave
Permissive society, such variety
Man! Is this the only way to live?  
Embarrassing now when I look back, but DJ John Peel liked it and played it his radio show.
David Bowie played at Southampton Guildhall on two or three more tours, but as an art student I couldn’t afford the rocketing prices. I did get all of his albums though and happily moved along all the trends from Glam Rock to Punk to New Romantics with all the glamour and creativity that dressing up and escaping poverty could bring.
Click on this link to hear the Southampton Ukulele Jam session of Ground Control to Major Tom at The Last Night at The Brook 
R.I.P Darkstar
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25 thoughts on “Amazing People 5: David Bowie

  1. Bowie heavily influence my youth too and I was saddened to hear he’d died. I was too young in 65 (just 5) to even know he had come to Southampton and, sadly, never got to see him live. Like you though, I was a girl brought up in second hand clothes who was an outsider because I didn’t have the latest fashions. Bowie allowed me to be what I wanted and I’m still an oddball in terms of what I wear to this day. The first Bowie single I bought, with money from my paper round, was Life on Mars and I swore Sorrow was written about me because I had long blonde hair and blue eyes. The world just got a little less interesting!

    Liked by 2 people

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