My college dorm room was a shrine to Bowie. Big posters plastered across the walls, with the rare and more sensual photos next to my and my roommates' beds. David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, Low, Lodger, Heroes, The Man Who Sold The World, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust, and Scary Monsters albums were all in regular rotation on our turn table. When DJing on college radio, it was a struggle for me not to play too much Bowie on my show, partly because it would be too much of one artist, but also because it would be too much major label music.
Throughout college, I cut and colored hair to earn spending money. When someone asked for something interesting, (for a year or so, 1982-83) they got Ziggy Stardust (call me a-decade-late, but it was cutting-edge at the time in Olympia, WA). I saved up money so that when I was back home in Chicago, I could go to Wax Trax to buy records, where I bought the Bowie Rare Singles box set (an expensive investment for the time). I saw Bowie perform live in The Elephant Man. I saw The Man Who Fell To Earth. I watched The Hunger many times, discussing with friends the roles of Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon and how they interacted with David Bowie.
In contrast to my other favorite bands in the late '70s and early '80s, such as the Dead Kennedys, Bowie was not outright political. Yet the forward-looking (downright futuristic) nature and innovativeness of his art brilliantly pushed social-political boundaries and norms. Bowie made androgyny sexy. He brought class to being bi. And as wrong as his Thin White Duke persona felt, I understood that it represented a societal attraction to fascism’s simplicity along with its glamor and fame; that persona made gave him more contrast, even if part of it was evil.
Perhaps Bowie and Lou Reed’s fascination with Berlin drew me into my first dark and sexy fling with that then-walled captive city; at the end of 1983, I spent three months living in Berlin. I met my first serious/long-term partner in Berlin, when I fell in love with an Irish punk — “Helden” (“Heroes” in German) became our song. Later I saw the film Christiane F. — Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, not only because Bowie was in it, but because it captured the Berlin I knew and lived in, plus I had met Christiane F along with her boyfriend Alexander Hacke (Einstürzende Neubauten member).
David Bowie is the artist I’ve never met who has had the greatest impact on me. Hunky Dory gave me a punk in to folk; it worked because it was richly dynamic, uncharted and adventurous, with dark themes. Bowie mastered subtlety and aloofness, while employing glamor and class, all through supremely cutting edge art forms across a lifetime.
David, I can’t thank you enough for your magnificent and personal contribution to our little universe.