I didn't hear the news until someone told me at work. I was on early shift and the BBC World Service were obviously as equally unaware as I was. Knowledge comes with death's release. Funnily enough I had found a clip of Bowie performing Quicksand with Robert Smith of The Cure just a few days before.
My earliest memory is Tony Blackburn playing The Laughing Gnome on the newly formed Radio 1. I loved it. Any song that mentioned the word belly was a delight to me.
My next memory is Tony Blackburn playing Space Oddity, but refusing to play the last bit because there was some American space mission going on at the time. It was 1969. I wonder what that was all about?
These were all mixed and muddled memories, with an odd dislocation of time and place. Like a fractured mirror reflecting different periods and emotions in my life. The first time I heard Starman was on my transistor radio in my bedroom. It spoke to me in some way. Nobody but nobody wrote songs like that, but it chimed with my state of mind at the time. For some reason I still don't understand, John I'm Only Dancing really struck a chord with me. The music is inextricably entwined with images from a Continental magazine that was published over here under the title of Dracula. It was a mix of horror, myth and science fiction and the mood of the visuals complemented the mood of Bowie's song, if not the lyrics. I don't understand why and I've never really tried to fathom it, but at the time I felt a bit isolated in my own mind from the rest of the world. My life was going through, or had gone through a great deal of change at the time. Other than Starman the Ziggy album pretty much passed me by.
My subsequent aural encounters with Bowie were through the offices of schoolfriends. I have particular memories of the people I was with when we sat down in a cold and sparsely furnished bedroom to listen to Aladdin Sane. Someone's kitchen for Pin Ups. Another bedroom for Hunky Dory. All out of chronological order in terms of release, but this is how I heard them.
Well, time flexes like a whore. The Eighties brought new life in the form of a wife as we danced to Let's Dance with a new-model Bowie. Along with a new wife came a new generation with their own reflections of Bowie.
My children were subjected to all sorts of music during car journeys. Very broadly speaking, they have rebelled against Dad's musical tastes and found tastes of their own, which is only right and proper. Some things stick. A bit of Richard Thompson here. A smattering of Nick Drake there. Steely Dan has passed them by completely, but Bowie...?
In a reversal of roles, my eldest introduced me to Heathen and Reality. And when he, in his turn, got married, his bride-to-be walked down the aisle to a stripped down version of Sound and Vision.
So, do I have a favourite Bowie song? I have favourite Bowie albums, Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane if only for the sake of nostalgia, perhaps. If I have to settle on one particular track, then it would have to be Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?). Mike Garson'spianosolo still thrills me to the marrow every time I hear it.