From January 2012
Before Christmas I went for a bevvy with a couple of old school pals, Andy and Pete. Back in one of the old alehouses in our village that straddles Merseyside and Manchester. The quaintly named Delph Tavern where much tomfoolery took place all those years ago.
We have moved on. The Delph Tavern hasn’t. On a Friday and Saturday it is still home to the bright young things. The scallies and sophisticates, the rugger buggers and the football lads. On a Sunday it is also much like it always was and on this Sunday it was exactly like it had always been.
I hadn’t seen my mate Pete for nigh on twenty years and of course we should have been talking about children, careers, pension plans and middle-of-the-range cars like normal early fiftysomethings do. The only time we touched on this when Pete mentioned that his son was mad keen on Everton and that’s the only thing that keeps him going. The scouse gene was being passed on and we left it at that and talked about the old times, the footy and music. Mainly about music.
We were joined by others in the pub and as the beer flowed somebody mentioned Bob Dylan and asked what his real name was and me, Andy and Pete all burst into song:
“Oh hear this Robert Zimmerman I wrote a song for you.
“About a strange young man called Dylan with a voice like sand and glue.”
And I said: “Fucking hell I’ve not heard that for years>”
Yet I knew all the words.
It is – of course – Song for Bob Dylan by David Bowie. A song that was written for his Hunky Dory album over 40 years ago yet we still knew all the words. But that is hardly surprising for back then when we freaked out in his Moonage Daydream and spent hours upon hours in various mates’ front rooms David Bowie was the soundtrack to our early teens.
He was the soundtrack to our teenage kicks.
During the summer holidays it was playing snooker on a small table, talking about girls and listening to David Bowie – all day long every day.
The delicious folky, melodious Hunky Dory, the decadent slightly sinister, arty Ziggy Stardust and the frankly this is just about to go ballistic Aladdin Sane.
Beautiful songs such as Kooks, The Bewlay Brothers and Changes mixed with rockers like Queen Bitch and Andy Warhol makes Hunky Dory one of the best records ever made. Given that Ziggy Stardust is probably only a point or two behind it that’s some going. By Aladdin Sane we are all smitten.
He was always moving on and he was everything we wanted. I loved Bowie’s music back then but it was more than that. It was the glue that bonded our lot together. Everybody liked other bands and artistes. Pete was a huge fan of Rod Stewart, Andy Brian Eno and Roxy Music and me Cockney Rebel and Mott the Hoople but the constant was Bowie. He was different. He mattered and he produced the goods throughout those years.
He influenced everybody in his wake. From his fellow musicians to the kids on the terraces. He influenced what we wore on our feet and what we bought in the record shops. He was the most stylish man in the world in the most unstylish decade in memory (although this current decade is pushing it). He influenced us so much that we can still remember Dylan’s real name and know the words to Bowie’s eulogy to the man that we know the man in question’s words.
He was the early fiftysomethings’ hero. We went to “Bowie Nights” because all the cool people went there. We were those cool people. We were the punks and there were not many punks that weren’t Bowie fans. We were the Joy Division fans. Dexys and Kid Creole fans. We were the dressers and we were Upstairs at Ronnie’s cool. We were those cool people. We still are.
I’d hazard a guess that if you see a well-dressed man in his early fifties the odds are that he is a Bowie fan. I might add Marvin Gaye to that but if you’re a Bowie fan you probably admire Marvin as well so it’s immaterial. Oh, and before I’m accused of being incredibly sexist – yes the girls liked Bowie but the lads loved him.
And when these ageing lads get together in a month or so – as we’ve planned – you can bet in amongst the talk or Wigan and Everton’s failing seasons, our hatred of modern football, our discerning love of real ale, fine wine and malt whisky David Bowie will get a mention along the way.
So as Bowie hits sixty-five you’ll read that he changed people’s lives. He didn’t change our lives because for five years or so he was our lives.
“She’s so swishy in her satin and tat
In her frock coat
And bipperty-bopperty hat
Oh God, I could do better than that.”