Okay, I am finally ready to write about David Bowie’s passing. When I get truly, down-to-my-toes upset about something, I cannot speak…I cannot find the words for a few days. Maybe I am being overly dramatic, but Bowie’s passing has had a great effect on me. His early 90’s record, Buddha of Suburbia – a soundtrack to a BBC mini-series of Hanif Kureishi’s book by the same name, is my all-time favorite record. I’ve always loved Bowie, that’s no secret, and Kureishi is one of my favorite authors. But this record means so very much to me. I discovered it at Mystery Train, a fantastic used record store on Newbury that has since ceased to be, soon after I had moved to Boston in 1994. My mother had just died and I didn’t know many people. I had always dreamed of moving to a city, and I was grateful to be there, but I was not prepared to feel so alone…not lonely…I don’t think I’ve ever felt lonely…but being in alone in a new city is tough.
On the weekends would put on my walkman (yes, walkman) and walk across the bridge from Cambridge into Boston. I would stop at record stores, book stores, rock clubs, and cafes throughout the city. That all sounds very romantic now, but it was hard…really hard. On one of these forays, I found Buddha of Suburbia, and was never the same after I came home and played the CD for the first time. I instantly recognized, This is how I feel!! Some songs rock out, while others are melancholy and slow…jamming out while searching for peace. I instantly made a copy and sent it to a friend from hometown, happy that I could find something to express how I was loving Boston, but was also really struggling to find my place.
Bowie also taught me to ALWAYS go see an artist you love when you have the opportunity. My mother and I really wanted to go see Bowie together, but we never did. We almost went to see him at the Meadowlands during the Glass Spider tour in 1987, but said we would see him later. We didn’t realize then she would get sick just four years later and then pass a year and a half after that. Thankfully, we DID go see U2 at the Vet during the Achtung, Baby! tour while she was sick (and my future-brother-law was also at that show!!), and it was my favorite memory of all time with my mama. She put her hands on my shoulders during “Pride, In the Name of Love” and we rocked out together. I that moment I knew she got that my intention to make a difference in this world, and that she would still be supporting me long after she passed. I cannot tell you how many times that song has come on right when I need her.
I saw an interview once where Bowie said Buddha of Suburbia was his favorite record, which brought me great joy. I always strive to find the authenticity of things and in people, and knowing my favorite Bowie record was also his made me hope and think he considered this record “pure Bowie.” My favorite tracks are #4 The Mysteries and #7 Dead Against It – a great mix of ambient music (I have to think my other favorite artist Brian Eno had something to do with this track) and just straight up, fun electronica. You can listen to the whole record here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfEKAigomxg. The record is a bit of a synth rollercoaster ride and a perfect musical companion.
Just a few weeks ago I thought of Bowie when I was wandering around SoHo on a random Thursday while I was in the city doing research for school. I had read in another interview that he would never go out in NYC on the weekends because too many tourists and people bothered him. But during the week he could just go about his now business without anyone saying a word. So whenever I was in New York during the week over the years I always hoped I would just catch a glimpse of him at the market or simply being Bowie.
Ironically (or not), just last Thursday I listened to this record from start to finish for the first time in forever. I was finally sitting at my school computer with no deadlines or homework. I was just there to catch up on a few things and to have lunch with a fellow classmates. I didn’t realize Bowie’s birthday was the next day (last Friday), but I was thrilled at the coincidence. I watched the Bowie Storytellers on Palladia that night…another one of my favorite Bowie records/performances, especially since Gail Ann Dorsey plays with him. I swear I loved seeing Bowie in concert (yes, I finally saw him a few times after my mother passed) to see her perform just as much as him. Her bass and style are impeccable.
And then, just three days later, my husband told me the sad news when I woke up. The news sort of seeped into my heart and bones, and the grief washed over me. My heart remains heavy, just like so many others. But, ultimately, there is gratitude. For the longest time growing up, as well as during those early days in Boston, music was my only true companion. While in high school, being a DJ at the local college station WBUQ literally saved my life. Turning up the music to 11 in the sound proof booth altered the molecules in my bones and in the air around me for two hours a week, and I knew all would be well in the long run…and Buddha of Suburbia made me feel the same during my first years in Boston.
So, thank you, David Bowie, for making music and for being you. You helped me, as you did so many other people and you made the world a better place. You will be missed. xo