David Bowie terrified me. I was 9 years old and hanging out with a babysitter, well actually she was putting with me and a friend of mine whose home I was visiting. At the time, The Beatles swallowed up my brain to the point where I was walking to the beat of Ringo Starr's drumbeat and Paul McCartney's bass line. Naturally, being 9 and having no social skills, I would talk to any one about their musical genius which included this poor babysitter. "I'm not really a Beatles fan," She said passively while flipping through a magazine. I was shocked. Who did this brat think she was, and what the hell did she listen to? "I'm more of a Bowie/Queen girl." Bowie Queen. The hell was a Bowie Queen?
She dug through a long white leather purse to dig out cassette tapes of Queen and David Bowie. Obviously, Bowie grabbed my eye: thin, pale white, stately cheek bones, bright red mullet and beautiful. I didn't know what he was. Boy? Girl? Gender and sexual fluidity was an alien concept, much like Bowie. "Ground control to Major Tom..." echoed from the living room speakers. I'd never heard anything like this before. A part of me felt like I was in space and that he must have actually recorded it among the stars. How else could it sound that way. I thought myself foolish for thinking that, but the feeling of drifting through space was real and utterly terrifying.
Major Tom and his plight stayed with me. Laying in bed, imaging myself drifting through the darkness. What it would be like to be welcomed by stars as you burned toward your oblivion. Scary shit for being 9 years old. Bowie got me thinking about loneliness, death and the cosmos and my place in between. More importantly, he gave me a lesson in story telling through song. I had loved music and stories and yet some how I had never put two and two together. That's what songs are, aren't they? They're always tellling us about love and loss; all things humans felt but what about songs from an alien? After all David Bowie was the Man Who Fell to Earth.
"Space Oddity" was the first song I learned to play on the guitar. I listened to it over and over whilst I strummed along, over and over trying hopelessly to sound like his inhuman talent. Learning where to position my fingers on the neck of my instrument seemed to parallel finding my position in life. I never understood how lost and alone I felt drifting in the void that was my teenage years. David Bowie, I know realize was vital to survival during what seemed to me like an impossibly difficult time. I was tender and delicate and thankfully didn't find myself in the arms of bands like Fall Out Boy but in the orbit of Ziggy Stardust and his Spiders from Mars. Bowie seemed to speak to my pain of isolation and that feeling of being an outsider, being weird, being human. "Planet Earth is blue and there is nothing I can do." And what can one do but turn with it?
Dying your hair, wearing an eye patch, these where all expressions of Bowie. He couldn't hide himself and why would we ever want him to? Which then forces me to ask: Why should we ever hide who we are, from anybody including ourselves. Bowie was the soundtrack to my self discovery; traveling as an astronaut to all the distant planets that twirled around inside of my head. The journey is far from over. There are so many worlds and star formations to discover inside ourselves and in each other and you can bet it'll be Bowie's voice leading the way, traveling at the speed of light, waiting to blow our minds because he knows we're worth it. Thanks to the Starman, so do I.