January 28, 2016

The Most Eagerly Anticipated

The year is 1994.  Our Hero, horribly damaged by his failed expedition to grad school, has found himself a job where his (at the time) nigh-on encyclopedic knowledge of music actually has a use: he's a shift nabob in the music department at BigBlueBoxStore.  For once I'm going to brag about myself here: we were easily the best music store in town, and I was arguably the main reason why.  Between my radio experience, my personal collection, and a willingness to listen to anything except Country (and even some of that, too!), I could help just about any customer find something they'd like.  The other members of the music department would always come to me if their customer had managed to stump them on a song title... "Hey, Wonderduck, the song goes 'Juliet, the dice were loaded from the start...', who is that?"... and chances were pretty darn high I'd get it right. 

Remember, kids, this was before Google.

Or the internet, really.

I had been hearing rumors from various radio and music trade pubs (Billboard used to be the cat's meow, lemme tell ya!) that there was a movie coming out based on a comic book which sounded promising, but it was the soundtrack that had those of us in the music department drooling.  There was no way the purported lineup could be real.  Stone Temple Pilots, Pantera, Rage Against The Machine, MLWTTKK, Henry Rollins, the Violent Femmes, and The Cure?  And there's no way Nine Inch Nails could really be part of it.


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January 11, 2016

A Starman Falls To Earth

David Bowie died of liver cancer late Sunday night, two days after he turned 69.

During a musical career that spanned nearly 50 years, he managed to change musical styles practically as often as he released albums.  From glam to funk and soul to blues to electronica to rock to new wave to industrial and back again, one never really knew what you'd be hearing when you popped in a new Bowie disc.  My first real exposure to his work came in his "new wave" period, with the 1983 album, Let's Dance

In many ways, Let's Dance is both the best and worst way to be introduced to Bowie.  It's easily his most accessible work, being unabashedly pop-flavored... and it and 1984's Tonight are rather unlike the darker, more thoughtful work he produced before and after.  Ironically, the short movie/music video for "Jazzing For Blue Jean" off Tonight earned him his only Grammy out of 10 nominations. (he was given a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2006).  I went into my next taste of Bowie's music thinking he was a slightly lightweight musician.

This is many things, but lightweight pop is not one of them.  David Bowie is very much like weather in the Midwest... if you don't like it, just wait a short time: it'll change.  But along with his music, the other thing that Bowie was known for was his ever-changing personae.  From Ziggy Stardust to The Thin White Duke to the Scary Goatee Guy to Elder Rock Statesman, again he changed from hither to yon constantly.  At one point in his life he gave an interview where he basically said that "David Bowie is the costume, the thing onstage is the real Me."  In his later career, after he married supermodel Imam and "settled down", he more or less stayed in the Statesman mode.  All the while, he stayed impeccably dressed.

He collaborated with artists like Queen, Mick Jagger, Nine Inch Nails, Peter Frampton, Tina Turner, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Bing Crosby.  Countless artists covered his work.  Countless fans adored him.  I am not particularly a huge fan, to be honest... I own a couple of his CDs, know many of his hits, but beyond that?  There are many others who will write more about him in the coming days, more eloquently and with more knowledge than I can.  This, I admit.  None of this denies the fact that I know that he was a true Rock Icon, and with his passing the music world is greatly diminished.  I also know that he is the musician behind one of my favorite songs of all time.

It felt like David Bowie was immortal.  We know now that wasn't true, to our sorrow.

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