Bowie, my Gatekeeper, RiP

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“I’ve always cited who my influences are. I felt it was important for people to be able to see how things are put together at any given stage. I let people know what’s going through my head. I’ve been quite vocal about that through the years… I’ve always loved the process – to see how things are put together.” Bowie

Bowie was a gatekeeper for me. He opened gates into interesting worlds, ever interesting he was interested… A polymath, interested in art, all art… A truly Romantic figure, avant-garde, he opened gates into even more avant-garde worlds.

My school daze were a disappointment, I left formal education under several clouds at sixteen, but thank God I had teachers in the wider ‘popular’ culture around me and Bowie was my way in.

Heroes, the first album I bought of his, in 1977, was followed by Low then Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory… I trawled his back catalogue for extraordinary sounds, discordant then melodic, with a suburban south London drawl.

And the gates he opened for me… most importantly: William Burroughs and writing from cut-ups; Lindsay Kemp and his creative dance/mime; Bertolt Brecht and the Berliner Ensemble. Diamond Dogs opened Orwellian gates and a fascination with the dystopian, it was a Brave New World. Nic Roeg, Man Who Fell to Earth ‘weird’ movies; Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess, Kubrick, Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence; Camus, The Wasteland, Greil Marcus, Colin Macinnes, Andy Warhol, Pop Art; Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and the Velvet Underground; and Eno, Roxy Music, Robert Fripp; Bolan, Nina Simone, Scott Walker, Brel … all of these people, interested and interesting opened ever more gates. From Kraftwerk to Kafka to Kabuki, even his nightmarish cocaine fuelled thin white nazi caused confusion – ‘how could he?’ This leading to Rock Against Racism… and  the ‘bible’ of all this, and the burgeoning punk scene, was the NME – Charles Shaar Murray, Jon Savage, Nick Kent, Parsons and Burchill and Danny Baker… The Clash, Pistols… more gates opened as this boy looked at Bowie, at Johnny, at Joe, at Patti, and my walk on the wild side.

Bowie has left us many a canon beyond just the music, for example his list of 100 books. For me he points to something essential that those in both popular, high, wider culture have a duty to open gates for those who have been somehow lost to education. Our public life, where we come together, needs to be interested and interesting and magpie like picking on a wide range of references – thoughts, ideas and works.

I did a ‘gig’ at a school the other day and was congratulated for my ‘polymathic presentation’, how I had included a wide range of references, thoughts, reading and examples, which included Bowie. It is him I have to thank for helping to broaden my horizons.

Heroes.

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4 thoughts on “Bowie, my Gatekeeper, RiP

  1. Leigh Taylor

    Beautifully eloquent Martin. He was an amazing man and his legacy is a privilege for us to inherit.
    David Bowie.com has a fabulous photo and quote montage- I could scroll through it again and again….

    Liked by 1 person

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  2. dradcarroll

    Thanks for writing this Martin, there will be a lot said over the next few days but little that will frame this sadness in the context of teachers’ responsibilities to develop (what I now know to be called…) cultural capital, so well. I am reminded of a trainee English teacher in 1979, who lent me a copy of The Correct Use of Soap by Magazine, which led me onto great music, art & literature. “I could have been Raskolnikov but mother nature ripped me off” was but one example. Ziggy stardust was a very significant species in my own cultural ‘evolution’ . Thank you for reminding me of this.

    Liked by 1 person

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