The Bay on Bowie: Bay Area bands memorialize the iconic cultural hero
Our beloved Starman has passed on, and as the news has sunk deep into our hearts and minds, we at The Bay Bridged are giving a space for some of our favorite local bands and musicians to dedicate their David Bowie tributes, however they wish to honor him.
The consensus, if we could ever come to one? It’s quite hard to distill years of Bowie memories into words; many had their sexual awakenings to Bowie’s package in Labyrinth; and so many parts of his body of work had a profound impact on people. Read their poignant words below.
Like many born in the 1980’s, my earliest memory of David Bowie was in the great, enchanting, and hilarious Jim Henson film Labyrinth. I remember staying up late at a friend’s house, rewinding the VHS copy of the film over and over at the “Magic Dance” scene. For many reasons, we found the scene unbearably funny. In particular, it’s when Bowie declares “You remind me of the babe
[…] the babe with the power […] the power of voodoo […] you do […] you remind me of the babe!” and then, somewhat cruelly, throws a puppet goblin high into the air that brought us to cachinnation. We nearly wore the damn tape out from that scene alone. And, as I often say to friends, not even Jim Henson could devise a creature or puppet more terrifying to a child than Bowie’s famous “bulge” throughout the film (no disrespect intended, just, well, y’know…).
It’s later in the film, though, when I first fell in love with Bowie’s voice — the wonderfully-cheesy 80s-ballad “As The World Falls Down” and crystal ball/masquerade scene. I still think fondly upon the fretless bass riff and major-to-minor cadences. And who can forget the uber-creepy, M.C. Escher-inspired stair scene at the end of the film in which Bowie sings “Within You.” The lines “Your eyes can be so cruel / Just as I can be so cruel!” and “Live without the sunlight / Love without your heartbeat / I, I, can’t live within you,” may be a bit heavy for an 8-year-old kid. But, damn, as I watched Bowie’s face look away from the camera in near-tearful reverie, that’s probably when I realized there was a much deeper world behind this man’s music. Years later, and despite the significant influence his albums have had on me since (Hunky Dory, Low, Scary Monsters, etc.), it’s still Labyrinth that brings me back to the time when I first became acquainted with Bowie: The Goblin King.
I don’t believe that he is gone. My body won’t buy the news. Ahhh!!! You ask for a favorite, but how can I choose one album, one song, one video, one outfit?
Bowie is an all encompassing hero of art, drama, musicianship, fashion and freedom for me. His ability to define and redefine timelessness in art is perhaps the most potent of all of his powers. I don’t believe he is gone because he feels more alive now than ever. A true rock & roll superhero.
“Width of a Circle” is the opening track of perhaps my favorite of his albums, The Man Who Sold The World. One of the most inspiring moments I’ve seen footage of is his performance of “Width Of A Circle” at Hammersmith Odeon in 1973.
That look in his eyes as his ghostly face appears out of the darkness while Ronson weaves that wicked riff makes my heart pound. Bowie’s stillness is as breathtaking as when he convulses out of mannequin mode into motion, and what ensues is a 14-minute epic adrenaline rush that blows my mind and makes me horny. And Ronson? Holy shit. No words.
David Bowie’s amazing groover, “Golden Years” first danced into my ears while I was a watching A Knight’s Tale back in the days of my medieval obsession. I didn’t even know it was a David Bowie song at the time, but something about it really set the mood for Heath Ledger’s sexy appearance as a knight in shining armor. I have since grown to become quite a lover of Bowie’s songs, the change he ignited in pop-culture and can only dream that my music and art will inspire beauty and love to a similar degree one day. The question I have is if I will ever stop seeing that beautiful Heath on horseback every time “Golden Years” comes on.
Candice: Growing up listening to my parents’ records, I didn’t really understand some of the hidden gems, among them was Changes One & Changes Two. When I got older, I acquired their turntable and record collection because they went digital. I got super nostalgic listening to Bowie and found that I really appreciated the songs and albums in a new way. I’m a Libra, so it’s really hard for me to choose a favorite! And then there’s always Labyrinth (his package, right?!)
Kiki: Yes, Labyrinth! I grew up with all of the “best of” albums from popular artists…my parents played the hits and not much else. So when I decided, “I need to know Bowie!”, I bought the Best of Bowie compilation at the CD store in the mall. THERE WERE SO MANY GREAT SONGS! And now that I’ve spent years listening to actual albums, THERE ARE SO MANY GREAT SONGS! It’s impossible to choose my favorite…but it might be “Modern Love.”
To be honest, every time I sit down to try and write something about what Bowie means to me I go totally blank. It’s not for any lack of reason, but for an overwhelming amount of reasons. Frankly, to really divulge what Bowie meant to me makes me a little uncomfortable. I’m kind of a private guy. Does that go against the ways of Bowie?
I tried taking photos of my Bowie tattoos, but I look like a real jerk in all of them. I’ll just tell you what they are. On the inside of my right arm is “I’m happy–” and then on my left it reads “hope you’re happy, too.” It’s a line from my favorite Bowie song, Ashes to Ashes.
Last year when Wave Dweller and the Bay Bridged co-presented the Night of the Living Shreds Halloween show, Everyone Is Dirty performed a David Bowie cover set. It was absolutely amazing. I thank them — that’s the closest I’ll ever get to actually seeing Bowie live. If you’re free on January 21st, Wave Dweller is hosting a show at Bottom of the Hill with Everyone Is Dirty, Kaz Mirblouk, and Schlemiel O’Neal. I’ve heard that EID is going to pay tribute to Bowie with a couple songs of his. I can’t wait.
The line “nothing will keep us together” has resonated in me ever since my first listen to the song “Heroes.” I was completely floored. The song describes a most beautiful, entirely hopeless love affair. The song exists in one brief flash of two lovers’ fleeting moments together. It crushes your soul and shatters your heart once you realize that they are saying goodbye to each other. They know their love is doomed, yet they steal their precious moment despite the walls and guns firing and their world crumbling in on them. They dream of all the things they could’ve been, but never will be. Yet they are heroes still, each other’s king and queen, for just a moment. They’re standing and facing their end together, with a big middle finger waving in fate’s face as it rips them away from each other. “Heroes” offers empathy to any listener who’s ever had a love affair stolen from them by death, distance, time, or any other merciless device of fate. It’s Bowie putting his arm around you and telling you his own story of love and loss.
I remember deciding I liked David Bowie in 9th grade, mostly because of the rollicking proto-punk “Suffragette City”, which was and is played in numbing rotation on Classic Rock Radio, and because he wrote songs about an alien named Ziggy, which I thought was a really cool name. I begged my dad to buy me a CD copy of Ziggy Stardust during a trip to Sam Goody in the St. Clair Mall (Fairview Heights y’all) — and he did. It’s a great memory of my dad being super cool, especially considering that he thinks David Bowie is a freaky teenybopping beatnik.
The album, despite “Suffragette City” and Mick Ronson’s chomping guitar, surprised 14-year-old me by being more soulful than rocking, and it doubtlessly rearranged my tastes. As a “concept” it melted my ideas about music and listening to albums (considering my CD collection contained, among other gems, the entire discography of Stone Temple Pilots, I’ll grant this wasn’t necessarily a Herculean task). I wanted to know the “story” of Ziggy Stardust; I wanted to know what these songs “meant”: is the “Starman” the eponymous Ziggy? Is “Lady Stardust” Ziggy too? The “droogie” reference — does Ziggy Stardust take place in the same universe as “A Clockwork Orange”? Pink monkey bird — is it bird or monkey? What is “nazz”? Who are Weird and Gilly? What the heck is a “fat skinny” person???
I’m not sure any of these questions were ever fully answered. I’ve learned to let this album, and so many of his others, take me on journeys that aren’t delineated by narratives or a definitive “hidden meaning.” I’ve since become more of a Carlos Alomar guy, and gun to my head I’d choose Scary Monsters as my favorite Bowie album. But Ziggy remains that rare record that still transports me to the urgent curiosity and excitement about life and art that once existed (*sigh* j/k!) in my youth.
As a mature listener, “Soul Love” knocks me out as much as anything else. “Love is careless in its choosing” trips me up more than ray guns and droogies these days.
“Love is careless in its choosing /
Sweeping over across a baby /
Love descends on those defenseless /
Idiot love will spark the fusion”
Remembering David Bowie today, defenseless!
Goodbye, and godspeed, from all of us at The Bay Bridged.
Hailey is a recent Cal grad and full-time cat & music lover. When she's not writing words for The Bay Bridged, you can find her spinning tunes on KALX Radio or downing copious amounts of Philz coffee. Follow her on Twitter @hailey117.