1992. I’m 12 years old and sitting in my bedroom with one of my friends. We’re listening to Prince’s Love Symbol album loudly. We turn it up for Sexy MF and sing along with gusto. Halfway through the song I look up and my mum is standing in the doorway. She doesn’t bat an eyelid and asks if we want something to eat. “Your mum is pretty cool,” says my friend.
A snapshot of an evening from the early-noughties. I was in Barfly in Glasgow, dancing and singing along to Raspberry Beret. I felt completely alone in the best possible way. It would have appeared to be an unremarkable event but I will never forget it because it’s one of the moments where the transcendent joy of pop music set me on fire.
In 2014 I went up to Glasgow to see Prince at the Hydro with my brother. I was excited enough to don a purple tie for the gig but nothing could have prepared me for what we experienced. Alongside the entire arena, we sang and danced like it was the last night on earth. Prince exuded a truly unfathomable charisma: “Do you all have to work tomorrow? I could stay here all night. I got too many hits!” I was grinning for hours afterwards.
I shouldn’t have to be writing this so soon after Bowie, another of my defining heroes, passed away. Yet here I am again, listening with tears in my eyes to the music I’ve listened to my entire life, seeking comfort in the innumerable happy memories I associate with it. Probably because he was around well before I was, I can remember exactly when I properly got into David Bowie; Prince, on the other hand, just seems to have always been there. I still loved him when people were dismissing his triple-albums and I still rushed home in excitement when HITnRUN Phase Two leaked last year. I still love him and I always will. I have to write that down. I have to, in my own small way, let him know that.
I listened to Sometimes It Snows In April on repeat when my dog died. Now it will forever have a dual poignancy. Yet in the main Prince inspired in me an almost-unparalled ecstasy, an out-of-body abandonment which I’ve needed in so many difficult times. I hope I, and everyone who ever loves his music, will always have that.
The beautiful ones/U always seem 2 lose
RIP Prince. You truly were one of the beautiful ones.
In this age of grand illusion
You walked into my life
Out of my dreams
I have a broken heart today. The last time I woke up to a bunch of messages about David Bowie it was January 2013 and he had just made his surprise return with Where Are We Now? I spent my initial half-awake moments thinking he had died; instead he had been reborn. The Fantastic Voyage had set sail once again and it proved as thrilling as it ever had been.
Now the journey has turned to erosion and, even though he died just after his 69th birthday, David Bowie will never get old. He will forever be a young hippy with curly hair, floating round his tin can; he will always be an ethereal, beautiful alien, casting an arch glance at the freakiest show; he will stand eternally in light, plaintively telling us that we can be heroes. Just for one day.
Just turn on with me and you’re not alone
Let’s turn on with me and you’re not alone
Let’s turn on and be not alone
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful
I have a broken heart today. Social media is full of people telling their own stories of how David Bowie made it okay. And as trite as it sounds, he really did. He made it okay to be different. He made it okay to be queer. He made it okay to be an awkward, bookish kid at a Catholic school in Hamilton, trying to figure out why he liked looking at boys when he’d been told again and again that only freaks and perverts felt like that. I feel sorry for those who can’t comprehend why people would weep for someone they’ve never met because it means they never found anything like the indescribable connection which so many had with Bowie. He not only saved us, he showed us a way to live. As much as I cried this morning for the end of Bowie’s journey, for no more mornings waking up to new music and shaking with excitement, my tears were of course also about that kid I used to be. It was fitting that the first song which came on when I put Bowie on shuffle this morning was As The World Falls Down:
As the pain sweeps through,
Makes no sense for you.
Every thrill is gone.
Wasn’t too much fun at all,
But I’ll be there for you
As the world falls down.
I have a broken heart today. However we found him, so many of us scrambling through the jungle of our teenage wildlife grabbed onto Bowie like he was a ladder out of there and, whatever his missteps, he never let us down. It was Bowie (and Madonna and the Manics, two artists clearly enormously influenced by him) who pulsed through my veins when I wore badly-applied mascara, feather boas and cheap plastic tiaras out to nightclubs in Glasgow (my face was indeed a mess). Even today, as a 35 year old man, I find enormous comfort in, and take strength from, his music. You can easily spot the fellow travellers who found a flattering mirror for their awkwardness in Bowie, just as you can quickly recognise those who only namecheck him because it’s the done thing to do. The latter group may be somewhat bemused by today’s reaction; for the rest of us, things will never be the same again.
I can’t answer why
Just go with me
I’m-a take you home
I have a broken heart today. I cannot imagine my life without David Bowie. I cannot imagine myself. We are the dead. Yet as the starman himself finally disappears, a vanishing deity as foretold in The Next Day, we can think of how fortunate we have been to have had him and how much better he has made this place. We will always have that and David Bowie will live on in millions of hot tramps who owe so, so much to him.
Goodbye and thank you, David. I will always love you, more than anyone could ever know.