BOWIE – STARMAN
Heathen came out in 2002, and what a great album it was; almost as good as his early 70’s. But different of course. It almost seems an older man’s record – and of course Bowie was in his 50’s by now – though still startlingly good-looking. A slower album, but not fey or poppy. Of his later records it is my favourite. Best songs ‘Sunday’, ‘Slip Away’ and ‘Everyone Says Hi’.
A year later came Reality. Again a very competent if hardly exciting album. Bowie seemed to be slipping into elder statesman of rock mode – he still had the gift of great song-writing, he could still sing, the records were immaculately produced – and yet, they were no longer exciting. Still – not bad for 35 or so years at the top. Best songs ‘Bring me the Disco King’ and ‘ The Luckiest Guy’. Bowie then embarked on a massive tour – really a greatest hits, without actually many Ziggy songs really. Towards the end of the tour he suffered heart problems and was hospitalised. He never finished the tour. A live album came out which I bought, and is very good, even if he does sound a bit restrained, a bit safe.
Then nothing. Absolutely nothing for years. Rumours were that he was ill or had aids or had simply stopped writing songs and that was the end of it. He did appear in a couple of cameo roles and seemed to be concentrating on his art. But ten years later with absolutely no publicity we were stunned – a new album was released. In March 2013 The Next Day came out, with the same photo as Heroes on the cover. The record was a huge hit and yet David did absolutely no interviews or live shows – which simply added to his mystique. I quite like the record, although it took a while to grow on me – it almost seemed he was trying too hard. Best songs – the single “Where are we now”, the very poppy “Valentine’s Day” and the last two slower tracks. Then again silence.
For almost three years not a word from Bowie or his record company. Then the exciting news that a new album and single were about to be released, followed by the devastating news of his death a day or so later. And the record, aptly named Blackstar was his parting gift to us. Another and a final album. And there is a finality about this record, maybe because of our understanding that it was made just before his death. It is truly elegiac, with clues dropped like little pieces of confetti all over it. The centrepiece of the record is ‘Lazarus’ – a song about resurrection and life beginning anew. The video was truly disturbing with Bowie as ‘button-eyes’ and filmed in dusky black and white. There are truly few careers in popular music that are really important and long-lasting; I am sure that Bowie will be one of those who are studied and played and enjoyed many years after his passing. It has been a pleasure to have been let in to his life.