As millions of voices mourn the loss of a true inspiration, it got me thinking about what he meant in my life. I was immediately bombarded with flashbacks, realisations and fond memories. I’m sure some people might be slightly indifferent to the news and others completely devastated for their own reasons. Music shapes people. It’s why I’ve always been drawn to it and it invokes emotional attachment to those that inspire you.
The sad news of David Bowie’s passing this morning got me thinking back to my first memories of ‘discovering’ him and the impact he’d personally had on me as a person. I was instantly reminded of a time 15 years ago in a book store in Llandudno, North Wales, when a teenage me was standing at the counter and ready to buy some pretentious/incredibly boring Russian literature. It was book number 20 of my attempt to work through a big list of ‘100 classics’ that apparently everyone should read. Tolstoy successfully put an end to that particular personal quest. What can I say? He’s not my cup of tea. Or any type of drink I would choose to have again. I digress.
The best thing that came from buying that seriously dry book was the event that involved the man in front of me in line who had a pile of vinyl next to the till. I got talking to him and he told me he was taking them to a charity shop as “everything is on CD now”. He wasn’t wrong. I was still shocked that someone would just give away their musical collection so flippantly. He must have picked up on that as he asked if I’d like to take any of them for free before he gave them away. I was 15 years old and being offered free music… “OF COURSE I’D LOVE SOME!”.
I chose the two records pictured (Bowie’s Hunky Dory’ and ‘Diamond Dogs’), Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’, a shit Rod Stewart album and some random live thing by Chuck Berry. I’d heard Bowie before on the radio and liked a few of his tracks. I can’t say I fully appreciated or ‘got it’ when I picked those two records up from the pile. I had no way of listening to them either. With no record player at home, I became fascinated by the artwork. The Bowie sleeves were striking. When I bought CDs, I just used to take them out of the case and put the loose CDs in the car. With no way to press play on the vinyl, I was forced to appreciate the albums aesthetically and purely imagine what they sounded like… that remained the case until I’d washed enough pots and pans to pay for my own stand alone player.
Fast forward a couple of years, uncountable hours of listening and a teenage home-made gifted ‘Diamond Dog’ t-shirt or so and it was safe to say David Bowie was very much a part of me. A part of who I wanted to be and importantly, guidance to what I didn’t want to be as a human being. I needed that as a teenager and will always appreciate all of the music, films and friends that shaped me then, not just Bowie. For me personally, he was there at the beginning of that journey.
Now I can start to reflect on the lasting impression that the outcome of this ‘vinyl book store’ moment has left on me. Selecting those albums on vinyl started something in me. A chain reaction. For one, it started my love of vinyl. It also in turn fuelled my already prominent obsession with music and desire to constantly discover more as I dug around in charity shops, thankfully managing to pick up all kinds of music for next to nothing. Many of the of the vinyl LPs I discovered after that moment have been a defining part of my life. They have created friendships that are family to me and memories that will last a lifetime.
I can’t pick a singular song or a quote that feels right to present in isolation. Just go and listen to ‘Hunky Dory‘ and ‘Diamond Dogs‘ and if like me, his music has impacted you in any positive way, celebrate that we were lucky enough to grow up with him in our lifetime.
Thank you David Bowie.