Well, shit: this wasn’t how my Monday was supposed to go.
Not that I had any idea how things were going to play out today, but I certainly didn’t expect that they’d involve me spending the majority of my time eulogizing or mourning David Bowie. In fact, I’ve spent so much time either writing about Bowie or reminiscing about Bowie that I’ve literally done nothing else.
Oh, actually, that’s not true: I wrote a piece for Rhino’s website about the 45th anniversary of Chicago III. But Bowie’s so prominent in everyone’s mind over there at the moment – they’ve got ownership of his Parlophone UK material, which is from Space Oddity all the way up through 1999’s ‘Hours…’ – that it hasn’t even been posted yet as of this writing. Which is fine: of course Bowie should be the priority today.
This is, as far as I know, the last Bowie piece I’ll be writing today, and I’m kind of emotionally spent at this point, so don’t hold it against me if there’s not a lot of substance to it. No, actually, I take that back: it might actually be appropriate for it to turn out that way. After all, I can’t imagine that phrase wasn’t used to describe his Never Let Me Down album at some point.
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only Bowie fan who’s willing to concede to enjoying Never Let Me Down, but it’s been so maligned over the years that I have a tendency to make self-deprecating jokes about it, saying things like, “I actually really like that album. Well, maybe adding the ‘really‘ is overdoing it, but I do rather enjoy it. The first side of it, anyway.” The truth of the matter, though, is that I love the first side of it, and I don’t really have a problem with anything on side two. (Please forgive me: my first copy was on cassette, so I still think of it in those terms.)
If there was ever a day when I didn’t need to mount a defense for Never Let Me Down, it’s today, but I have one anyway: it was the first Bowie album I ever bought, so it was the first one that I played over and over. I really don’t know what it is about me that I became a fan of so many artists at ostensibly the worst possible time in their career, but it’s a trend that started with me when I got a copy of Paul McCartney’s Give My Regards to Broad Street for Christmas 1984, and it still recurs even now. So that’s one reason why I’m particularly partial to Never Let Me Down, but the other reason is that the only time I ever saw Bowie live was when he was touring behind the album.
Perhaps you’ve heard of a little jaunt called the Glass Spider tour?
I can tell by your failed attempt to hide a horrified expression that you are indeed familiar with this famed travesty, but don’t pity me. Again, when speaking of seeing Bowie on that tour – and I caught the performance in San Jose, California, on August 7, 1987, but more on that in a moment – I have had a tendency to say things like, “Hey, you know, not only did I get Bowie, but I got Peter Frampton on guitar,” which I really did think was kind of cool, or to mention that, although it was one of the more unlikely double bills I’ve ever seen, it really was pretty awesome that the band X opened for Bowie. The truth of the matter, though, is that there’s only one part of that sentence that matters, and although I’m happy to say that I realized it long ago, it’s never mattered more than it does today: I saw David Bowie.
As to the reason why I was in San Jose, California in 1987, I was visiting my friend Jason Consoli, who I met when I first moved to Great Bridge in 1977 and stayed in touch with even after he moved to Lafayette, California in…1981, I think? Anyway, when I graduated from high school in ’87, my present from my parents was a trip to California to visit the Consolis. In retrospect, I guess it should’ve occurred to me that Jason and I might’ve become very different people since we’d last hung out on a regular basis, and I guess it probably – actually, make that definitely – would’ve behooved me to try to be more social while I was out there. But I was still 16 at the time (I skipped second grade), I’d only just barely started to come out of my shell, and when in unfamiliar situations, I had a tendency to avoid trying to have a conversation by finding a book and starting to read. Actually, I still have that tendency, but back then it was really bad. Long story short, I don’t know that I was the house guest from hell, but I certainly didn’t do anything to inspire the further maintaining of the friendship between Jason and I, which is why he and have fallen out of touch for the most part. I can’t really blame him. You can’t force a friendship. Sometimes they just run their course.
Yet when Bowie died, my mind immediately went to that concert in San Jose, which is why I decided to drop a Facebook message to Jason’s wife and just say, “Hey, please tell your husband that I was thinking of him today, and I just wanted to check in and see how you guys were doing.” She wrote back almost immediately and said that she’d passed my message to Jason (he’s not on Facebook), and he asked me to pass along my email. So I did. I haven’t heard from him yet, but hopefully I will. Maybe our lines have finally met on the flowchart of life and we’ll be able to relate to each other a little better now. And if not…well, we’ll always have Bowie.
And with that, I present my favorite song from Never Let Me Down: