I was lucky enough to see Bowie live a couple of times – but growing up, I didn't have that connection with his music like a lot of the people paying their respects to him in Brixton this week. I was a bit too young for Ziggy and when I was older, China Girl and Let's Dance seemed like, well, pop music! (makes a cross with fingers). Life On Mars and Ziggy Stardust did always hold an unearthly fascination for me though – and not in the literal sense. I knew it was different, special even, but I couldn't tell you why.
Eventually, after Dancing In The Street* had (thankfully) fucked off out of the charts, I was given Aladdin Sane by a good friend and that was the catalyst to re-appraise the early recordings, the songs and albums beyond the usual 'greatest hits' CDs. It was during this time that my mother died – and Bowie became the soundtrack to that period. Not in a morbid way; it just seemed like the fitting soundtrack to how I felt. I was alone and Major Tom was alone – and at least I wasn't floating in a 'tin can'.
My abiding memory was seeing Bowie at a secret gig in 1999 with two lifelong friends. The venue was the 'sadly no longer there' Astoria in London. Bowie was snotty (he had a cold which is why the footage wasn't officially released, I think) and wore a pink jumper and feather boa. The set included songs he hadn't played in years and even included the first single, as the newly renamed David Bowie And The Lower Third, 'Can't Help Thinking About Me'. I've always felt lucky to have been there.
The Bowie 'memorial' in Brixton
The impromptu memorial was already impressive by the time I got there, some 4 days after his death; the thing that struck me was the amount of messages that contained words of liberation, freedom, sensitive words from whole families and, most of all, thankfulness. Thankfulness that people were able to share Bowie's talent throughout their lives.
* The only version I like is the Dancing In The Street parody