I believe it was in the fall of 1988 that a family friend gifted me a cassette tape containing an hour and a half of the radio station KOME. I can’t remember exactly how the transaction went down. Realistically, I probably badgered him into giving it to me because it contained a song that mesmerized me: David Bowie’s "Rebel Rebel". The lyrics both excited and scared me. How could your own mom not know whether or not you were a boy or a girl? My hyper-literal nine year self was confused and loving it. Despite 85 and a half other minutes of music, I just wanted to listen to that song. Repeat was not a mode on cassettes, but I developed the analog version, masterfully coordinating my walkman’s chunky rewind and stop buttons, and made due for the time being. After that brief affair with being cutting edge, I made a hair pin turn, acquiring as many Bobby Brown and Mariah Carey tapes as I could. "Rebel Rebel" was a thrilling footnote in my short life.
Summer, seven years later. I was riding my bike around my hometown of Santa Cruz, heading toward what at the time was a small hot dog stand. On my approach to the hot dog shop I passed a parked panel truck with the back open and a couple of dudes moving stuff around. Blasting forth from panel truck’s open windows I heard the unforgettable opening chords of "Rebel Rebel". I was floored. Every feeling of excitement and confusion came flooding back. This time, it was co-mingled with teenage hormones:
"Hot tramp, I love you so"
and was that something about a torn dress? Yikes. Yes.
At this point I hadn’t thought of Bowie in years… wait. That’s not true. Somewhere in the passing years I’d seen a Pepsi commercial featuring Bowie with Tina Turner singing a version of "Modern Love". The commercial was seemingly a riff on Weird Science. This song lodged in a random vacant part of my brain that at the time wasn’t taken up with Another Bad Creation lyrics and cub scout knots.
Back to 1995. I rode my bike to the record store to obtain "Rebel Rebel" once and for all. In the movie version of my life I’ll grab a hot dog without stopping my bike and cruise one handed downtown to make my purchase while "Rebel Rebel" moves from being tinny background noise and into full THX stereo. Anyway, it wasn’t the same day and I’m truly curious as to how I proceeded. Even for an early internet adopter, there was no Shazam or Google or even Jeeves to ask. I must have known that it was Bowie or perhaps some kindly record store babe pointed me in the right direction.
ChangesOneBowie. There it was on the back, "Rebel Rebel", it was $4. I could afford that.
I’ll never know exactly what happened next but I’m guessing went like this: Go home. Go straight to "Rebel Rebel". Listen to it eight times. Decide to give the whole album a shot.
Now I’m guessing I listened attentively and appreciatively, but the whole time I couldn’t wait to get back to "Rebel Rebel" which I did. But then. After "Rebel Rebel" came a song called "Young Americans"?!?!?! HOLE LEE SHIT. IT’S A MOTHERFUCKER!!!! And wait a minute. Was the first song on side one about going into space? And what the hell is a Diamond Dog!? Do I want to be one!?
Cut back to the movie version of my life, in which I go out and buy some weed and start wearing eyeliner. However, as you determined earlier (regarding the aforementioned Mariah Carey thing) I was neither that cool nor that self confident. Two things, however, are for sure. One, I was never truly the same and two, from that point on Bowie never left me.
From here, I could reiterate the neat stuff he did, and damn he did, and how he further moved in and out of my life throughout the years. Instead, I’ll fast forward to this morning. Suddenly I’m 36 with two kids and a wife and job. This morning was not unlike any other Monday. I was hiding in under the covers, hitting snooze on my smart phone, trying to ignore the impending start of the week. Once I’d resigned myself to joining the waking world I opened Instagram. In the strange way that the world works these days, I was informed via Ryan Adams, another all time favorite musician, that the man who fell to earth had returned to the stars. I can’t think of a better way to receive such heavy news, and for that I thank you Ryan.
I sat in a daze for a bit and scrolled a bit deeper past a few more Bowie posts until I could find a random dog or sunset post to momentarily distract myself. I lay there hearing my wife move about the kitchen preparing her daily kale omelette thinking "shit… now I’m gonna have to go ruin her day".
I knew it would affect her, I knew it affected me, I knew it would affect many near and dear friends, I knew it would affect countless oddities across time and space. I spent the first half of the day pushing my emotions down, as society has trained us heterosexual males to do, and the second half writing this.
I wanted to share my discovery of Bowie. I wanted to remember that sunny day on my bike when I was reacquainted with a long lost song. I wanted to recall a young dumb kid learning that if you want to make up a weird space story that you should just go for it. To remember that love is complicated, scary and amazing. That things can hurt so fucking bad but I wouldn’t miss them for the world.
My experience with Mr. David Bowie is but a speck of the stardust that trails his presence wherever he roams. But it is mine and it will stay with me always.
With that said, goodnight David, you glorious motherfucker. I’m going to miss you.
If for whatever reason you want to see the rest of the site here you go.