Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ziggy Stardust post

I wrote this in March (March 26, to be exact), certainly with the intention of publishing it here, but then...I never did, apparently? I sure can't find it in the archives, though I have no idea why I would have abandoned it. It's certainly no worse than my usual blather. Anyway, I thought of it because I was listening to that album again, so here it is.

I've been listening to David Bowie lately--a figure of my formative musical years. And then someone mentioned the Beatles, and it occurred to me that Bowie really ruined the Beatles experience for me. I know this is a completely arbitrary comparison, and I wouldn't expect it to apply to anyone else, but this is how it worked for me.

The Beatles: sure, loads of catchy songs, and some good lyrics. I understand that they were seismic, and probably if I'd been there at the time, I would not be comparatively denigrating them. I don't dislike them these days, but I rarely actually listen to them, I have to admit. What happened? I'm not the world's biggest Bowie fan or anything--I'm familiar with very little after Scary Monsters (although I do quite dig "Dead Man Walking" and "I'm Afraid of Americans," which you always heard on the radio when I was in eleventh grade or thereabouts)--but he sort of encapsulates why the Beatles stopped being interesting to me.

I was a Beatles fan before I was anything else; I was very narrow-minded, music-wise. I branched out a bit into various britpop bands--this was during my long, somewhat inexplicable anglophile phase--but that's about it. Sort of stagnant.

So anyway, when I was on the staff of my high school 'literary' magazine, there was a record player--yes indeed, a record player; we were OLD. SCHOOL.--and some lps in the back room. One of those was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Now, given my sensibilities of the time, that title was NOT COOL to me. Intolerably uncool, in fact. Not something I would ever have had the slightest inclination to investigate. Ziggy, what the hell. Like the relentlessly dopey comic? DO NOT WANT. But someone played it. And...there was something about hearing "Five Years" start up for the first time. So I played it myself. And then it was too late; I purchased the CD--along with a half dozen others, best forgotten--from bmg or whatever the music club was called. Rather quickly, it became extremely cool. And that was that. The Beatles were over.

It was mysterious and weird and silly and sexy in a way that was sort of a revelation, and that made my previous idols seem very thin to me. Would John or Paul be a rock and rollin' bitch for me? I think not! Why is Lady Stardust referred to as a he? What is this love I could not obey? How can the lines thought I saw you in an ice cream parlor drinking milkshakes cold and long be suffused with such ineffable yearning and melancholy? And in all seriousness: is "Rock and Roll Suicide" not the most...? Well, whenever it goes, oh no love you're not alone, no matter what or who you've been, no matter when or where you've seen...that's a tearjerking moment. I can imagine many a closeted gay teenager taking solace in it, and I do too.

In a more general sense, becoming a Bowie fan helped to show me that I shouldn't form my musical tastes based on some inchoate sense of self-identity. I won't say I never do that anymore; maybe it's possible for some people, but not me. It's not like I go around bragging about how awesome I am for listening to what I listen to, but I won't deny it: I believe, in a sub-rational way, that the music I listen to makes me a cool person. But I do think I have substantially LESS ego involvement nowadays, and in any case, I think that my tastes have broadened to the extent that this has become more or less tautological.

Also: when Bowie was in Cash for Questions in Q lo these many years ago (I wish I could find it online), he came across as the nicest guy ever. So thanks for everything.


Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Hm, interesting. Perhaps I should revisit that album. Like you, I started listening to music with the Beatles, and now I almost never listen to them. It's not because I don't like them, either, but somehow I just don't feel the urge.

Personally, I never liked Bowie, although I greatly enjoy Nirvana's cover of "The Man Who Sold The World." I am not sure why -- perhaps it was because I had a different youthful experience, namely that the people in my high school who liked Bowie were all horrible assholes. I would say it's because I dislike preening and affectation, but I enjoy Suede (heavily inspired by Bowie, no less), so that can't possibly be the reason. Hmm.


9:38 PM  
Blogger GeoX, one of the GeoX boys. pontificated to the effect that...

Hmm. What did the horrible assholes like when I was in high school? I was so much on the outside of everything that almost anything that was popular with my peers seemed vaguely hostile. Certainly, as far as I know, Bowie was never super-popular, as indeed why should he have been at that time with that crowd? I suppose ZS resonating so strongly with me is probably at least in part a right time/right place thing, but I still think it's pretty ace.

3:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous pontificated to the effect that...

Ah, no, he wasn't super-popular, but there were different types of horrible assholes. The ones who liked Bowie were the sneering, so-fashionably-uncool-that-they're-cool hipster types who stole their wardrobes from the Salvation Army. As I recall, they were as unpleasant as the more straightforwardly cool types, sadly...


12:23 PM  
Blogger :-| pontificated to the effect that...

aarrgh... I don't listen to the Beatles much anymore either and I grew up on them but not for becoming bored. They ARE the music. David Bowie? meh... Nirvana? Bunch o' horse abusers. Who cares? ZZTop was the only way to fuck the night, shallow misogynists in hot rods that they were. You want rock n roll? Dose and blow your top.

10:22 PM  
Blogger :-| pontificated to the effect that...

Only as fucking stoned as you want to be and I aint sure what that has to do with Music Appreciation 101 in this day and age of tuning spastic fish anyway.
The Age of Lysergic Acid Exploration is long gone and Spiders from Mars are just too creepy in the fuzzy math of Jerry Garcia riffs or Robin Trower on a bad day waiting for Stevie Ray I don't care what the kids are listening to, they don't know Shit from Shineola and they miss the point, which is John Lee Hooker said it all when he said... "Ow Ow Ow"...

7:17 PM  

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