Like a lot of people growing up in the 1980’s David Bowie’s music was a staple of FM radio. But for me Bowie really struck a chord in the late ’80s and most definitely the 1990’s and beyond. What really grabbed my interest in his music was when formed the band Tin Machine back around 1989. It was very much a noisy/aggressive sound that pushed the boundaries of rock. Underlying the noise rock was Bowie’s etheral voice that could cut like a razor blade or caress like velvet at the perfect moment the precision of an old master painting the Sistine Chapel of my mind.
Back then I was living in a very small and conservative town and an even more so in regards to my high school. I was a shy/artsy kid that never felt like he fit in with the place. So discovering Tin Machine/David Bowie along with more of Bowie’s less radio friendly music, really connected with me. I didn’t feel so alone in that school surrounded by corn fields and filled with hair metal fans and football players.
Once I got into college I continued to follow Bowie and he along with artists like Duchamp, Dali, Man Ray, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Henry Miller etc became a pantheon of nonconformists creatives that were my mentors and influence as a young man delving into the world of academia. Compared to my high school days, college was liberating. It was here where I could fully explore ideas and topics fully and meet like minded people my own age. People that were more interested in art and expression. All along the way Bowie’s music was part of the soundtrack (along with various others).
Bowie’s ability to mix pop along with more experimental/weird sounds and lyrics really appealed to me. But I would say that my favorite album by Bowie is ‘Outside’. It’s not the kind of thing that really would get radio play since its a concept album essentially about a serial killer/kidnapper who’s quite insane and a man investigating the crime. It’s quite brilliant and weird with a mixture of industrial music and rock. The imagery and concept of the album is one that continues to fascinated me even though it came out back in 1994, I believe.
The reason Bowie appealed to me so much is that he never stopped pushing the boundaries and exploring his creativity. Although he achieved much financial success throughout his career it always came across to me that he wasn’t doing it just for the money, like so many ‘pop’ artists. I wouldn’t even call him ‘pop’. He was one of those artists that couldn’t be confined to a genre or niche. Bowie’s visual and musical style was a source of inspiration and encouraged me to continue my own pursuit of my creativity and not succumb to the pressures of society to paint or draw ‘nice’ things or ‘normal’ things. Bowie was the crown prince of wonderfully weird and in a large part is responsible for my ongoing expression of my own creativity regardless of not making a boatload of cash off it. Bowie proved that you didn’t have to be like everyone else or sound or act like every other musician/artists/writer/etc. That doing things your way was the way to go.
Although he’s dead, his legacy will stick with me for the rest of my life and I’m sure his music and artistic vision will continue to influence others. The other night I was watching a short concert video of him and my one year old daughter was in the room dancing along with the music. I think that says it all right there.