Chameleon Comedian Carnithian and Caricature


8th January. It should be self explanatory. A date that should be etched in history. (For more than one reason) A name that no one should ever need to introduce: David Bowie, who would’ve turned 70 years old today, and perhaps even may be, with fans in another plane. (Bowie himself was pretty happy with the date being as it was: it allowed him to share birthdays with his childhood idol Elvis Presley.)

Some people can do so much more with the mere sounds and words that we so unthinkingly and blatantly use all the time, the impact it leaves is forever. And David Bowie was, and in all his influence, will continue to be, forever one of this kind.

Personally, I haven’t been listening to Bowie for as long as some others, who have been following and loving Bowie for longer than I have been alive. In such regard, it would be a bit improper for me to state my own sorrow at his passing, for then the long time listeners’ pain would be like a stellar implosion. (Yes, the influence extends even to the charmed fascination he had with the above-and-beyond, outer space.)

But, for even the short while I have been on this planet, and for the couple of years that I have been listening in, Bowie was unlike any artist I’d ever heard before. There was a sort of freedom in the way he sang, a haunting reflection in the undertones of many a song, the raw emotion he put into each song, (one particular bit that sticks in your head is the vocals in the chorus of Five Years, where towards the end, one can hear the utter helplessness of a character who now knows that he, and everyone around him has just five years until oblivion, in his voice as he screams out and cries, “Five years! That’s all we’ve got!”) and how he basically turned songs and albums into a theatre production, his other big passion.

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With Bowie’s music, detail mattered, and this was something his songs aroused in his listeners as well. An odd quirk, I seem to remember every single detail about the first time I heard a particular song of his. (It could be said that this was a commoner thing a decade or two ago, but as time has been progressing, the rate at which our timeline runs it’s opera has been increasing too, and many a time has left us with no room to spare for anything more than the bare essentials we need to get by the technical aspects of another day, hence we find the smaller, “less important” details, the ones which ironically matter more in the end, getting sketchier.)

Every little detail, about the exact spot on the floor I was standing, all the work I was putting off to give this work of art my priority, the exact feeling I had before, it’s all there on the tip of my tongue.

The first David Bowie song I’d heard was Rebel Rebel. I remember being outside and hearing it play, thinking to myself that the name sounded familiar and I made a mental note to go home and listen to it. (I also remember it being after  a movie we’d gone to watch.)

The time was around 4:30. I remember sitting at my table and having some written work to be completed, what that was, I don’t remember. I figured, since it was only written work, I needn’t apply myself and so I could listen to some music, in particular, an intriguing song I’d caught a snippet of, called Rebel Rebel.

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I’ll skip the rest of the details and just let you know that I couldn’t take my finger off the replay button till 8.

I guess somewhere down the line, the whole idea of paying attention to the little bits you may have so easily missed and the idea of being free, something that Bowie stood for, creep inevitably into his songs.

Ditto for the time when I heard that the great legend I’d been idolising for so long, was no more. Again, with the details, I remember listening to Heroes when I heard the news, and my first reaction was that this was a sneaky prank. I was still recovering from the shock of Lemmy having died.

The shock now doubled, and all I could think of was of how I’d reacted on coming to know that Bowie had officially retired from touring the previous year, I’d been sad that I’d never see my hero live. Now, I remember thinking, devastated, I’d never get to see my hero alive!

But I suppose I’m still lucky. I’ve never seen Bowie face to face, never in concert, only in live videos and interviews, on YouTube, the boon and bane of our generation. So missing that touch of reality, Bowie was never a normal, regular human to me. He was always just the Starman flying all over, with a new face everyday, and when you’ve never known anyone to be alive, you’ll never know them to be dead too. It could also be that his voice is always alive, through all his records, stuck in time, that putting things into perspective, that planet Earth is short of David Bowie today, that Bowie no longer walks our soils, is only surreal.

Many still believe the ever-changing chameleon could be walking right around, with a different face and a different persona, and who knows.

I know that I just believe one thing, something someone had said last year, that I’ll never forget: In over 3000 years of human existence, I feel really lucky that somehow, for sixteen years, Bowie and I have existed on the same plane.

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