Sunday, 23 May 2021

LoveSong: Life on Mars: Bowie

So many songs, so little time.
I woke up this morning thinking about Bowie. There'd been a boozy discussion about 'genius': which musicians the word might apply to. It's a conversation as potentially incendiary as a pub trawl over the values of 'Art'. You don't need to like something to appreciate its value. Prince anyone? Genius, but I don't reach for his albums often. Dylan? Indubitably. I play Bruce more. Miles? Yes. Joni? Yes. Macca? Lennon? Nope. I love them both, but their 'genius' was collective: with the Fab Four. Paddy? Possibly. Neil Hannon? Possibly. I don't reckon Paul Buchanan a genius but his music means more to me than Prince's and almost any other artist's.

I rate this particular song, on record, as one of the great modern productions: one of the great vocals. Apparently when Bowie recorded the version on Hunky Dory, he nailed it in one take and fell in a wrecked, wracked, weeping mess at its conclusion: genius made man at the recognition of his gift. That literary giant/midget Rimbaud said “Genius is the recovery of childhood at will” and perhaps that was Bowie's gift: that he could wilfully tap into past wonders: the mysteries and mischief of formative life. Ironic then that the song is apparently about a teenage girl's desire to escape her restrictive childhood. Also paradoxical that this otherworldly man, so often likened to an alien, could speak with a common tongue.

So: Bowie? Yes: without a shadow of a doubt. He dressed his genius up in the clothes of imaginary friends and yet... he still made the song his own.
And here he is, stripping it down to its undies. Even the Liberace piano stylings cannot undermine the power of this brilliant performance.
What a genius!
What an Artist!
What a man!

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