Bowie Land – Matt M.
There will be a lot to say and a lot said about David Bowie over the next few weeks and with good reason. As an artist his work was outrageous, intimate, and immediately personal. Each persona, each album marked out something in what, at times, felt like a global psyche. I was covering a morning shift for a friend at an FM station back in 1984 when the station manager rushed into the studio. “Play this next,” he said and thrust a just opened package into my hands. It wasn’t a suggestion.
The package was the album, Tonight, and the song I was ordered to play, Blue Jeans. The reason for this order to do it? A push into the lineup? A day long feature of Bowie’s new album? No. The station manager wanted to show that he’d gotten it on the play log as soon as it came out. Before he snatched it back from my turntable and retreated to his office. Before he canceled all his meetings and made clear to the staff he wasn’t to be disturbed, by anyone. He had to be alone with David Bowie’s latest album. He needed to have him to himself before the rest of the world would have him.
I saw the station manager later that day. He emerged from his office a little past noon. Given the length of album, he’d probably listened to it at least six times since I played the track, Blue Jeans. Requests were coming in for that track and his assistant informed him of this. It didn’t seem to register with him. Instead he passed the album over with instructions as to what tracks to play and orders for his afternoon appointments and meetings to be canceled. The only explanation he offered was that he had to go home and “process it.”
As I take in the news that I’m now living in a world without David Bowie I think that is where I’m at with all of this. I have to process it. The idea that a musical magician who engaged the imagination, transformed the possibilities, and created anticipation in everything he did has left us isn’t something that is simple or easy to understand. All artists try to bridge the vast isolation of their audience’s existence, to engage them and inspire them. But only an exceptional few lift them out of all of that and deliver them to worlds without end and to dreams undreamt. Fewer still transform themselves and their audience in the process. Life continues, David Bowie is gone and I’m processing it.
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