Saturday, January 19, 2013

When Firsts Fade

Scott D. Parker

Have you ever revisited something from your past and find that it either holds up very well or not at all?

I am never far away from the music of David Bowie. Of all the eras available for listening, my favorite is the latter decade, the years from 1993 to 2003. I’ve written about it extensively here. I consider it a reboot of his career, going back to the beginning with his jazz roots and migrating on through the 1990s and early 2000s, merging and reworking the then-current musical trends. When I’m in a Bowie mood, it is to this music I go. I’ve heard the 1970s stuff enough that I usually skip it (except for the instrumentals on Low and Heroes) and I’ve skipped the 1980s material since, well, 1989. 

Ten years ago, during his Reality Tour, Bowie suffered a heart attack that led the cancellation of the last shows in Europe and he all but dropped from the public’s eye. As the years progressed, more and more I realized that his 2003 album, Reality, was going to be his last. I was content with that. I saw his Reality Tour show in Houston and, despite my town being a “greatest hits town” (the town where every act feels compelled to play the hits vs. bringing out some random album cut), the show was fantastic. 

So imagine the world’s surprise when, on his 66th birthday on 8 January, Bowie releases Where Are We Now?, the new single from his forthcoming album The Next Day. This elegiac, melancholy look back through his own history hearkens back to his somber mood from 1999’s hours. This excitement for all things Bowie has lead me to listen to all eras and, for the first time in years (I hesitate to say decades but it’s nearly that), I’ve started listening to the 1980s albums and have pulled out my two videos from the 1980s tours: Serious Moonlight (1983) and Glass Spider (1987). 

Now, the Serious Moonlight tour was THE tour that introduced me to the performer that is David Bowie. Way back in 1984, I recorded this concert on a cassette…and I still have it (and it still works). Absolutely loved that show that had Bowie just being a rock-star singer even though I was unable to see it live. My first Bowie concert experience was the 1987 Glass Spider show. At the time, in the midst of all the excesses that characterized the 80s, I was over-the-top with the theatricality of this show. Since my first favorite rock act was KISS, having Bowie and his dancers (yes, dancers) romp around the stage was perfect. All rock concerts should be like this.

Or not. I rewatched the Serious Moonlight video this week and it holds up remarkably well. I still know every nuance of the music and tapped my fingers according to all the beats my younger self learned. The Glass Spider tour, on the other hand, was hard to watch. It’s so, so cheesy that it’s difficult to believe Bowie actually came up with it and no one around him told him no. Musically, the songs are pretty good, with the Glass-Spider takes of Loving the Alien and Absolute Beginners being my favorite versions of those songs. But it is so hard to watch now.

There are books, movies, and songs that meant something important to my younger self that now hold little or no interest to my older self now. Surely, I’m not alone in this realization. Is it simply that we move on, experience new things, and those important things are replaced by newer, more important things or is it something else? Can we never go home again?

And have you heard the new song? What do you think of it?

11 Songs

Everyone always makes Top 10 Lists (I go to eleven). Bowie’s hits fill up whole albums. Since I love the 1993-2003 Bowie so much, here at my favorite tracks from that era:

Strangers When We Meet (Outside version)
Don’t Let Me Down and Down
The Hearts Filthy Lesson
Buddha of Suburbia
The Motel (Mike Garson on piano, nuff said. Live version from 2004 splendid)
Hallo Spaceboy
Dead Man Walking
Always Crashing in the Same Car (live version, 2000)
Everyone Says Hi
Fall Dog Bombs the Moon

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