Mr. Jones and Me

Conversations with myself.

Image “borrowed” from Vevo via Google.

“Were you always a Bowie fan?”

“I must admit that I was not.”

“You ‘must admit’?”

“Seems like all the cool kids were, are, and always will be Bowie fans. Growing up, I did not fancy myself a Bowie fan.”

“Because you didn’t like his music?”

“No, growing up in Bakersfield — and probably just growing up in that period, period — you were defined by your musical choices. Remember Sara Bird Allen?”

“Of course?”

“And remember what happened to her?”

“Nothing terrible. She was just shunned.”

“She was shunned because she was a white girl who liked The Commodores and Earth, Wind, and Fire. She was a white girl who liked Bootsy and The Mothership and Parliament Funkadelic.”

“She liked Black music.”

“She liked Black music for Black people. There was black music for white people, and that was okay.”

“Like, disco.”

“Right. Nothing you could shake your ass to, just polite music you could white-man two-step to.”

“But you liked it too.”

“Of course I liked it! Have you heard that shit? It blows all the radio crap out of the water! But I would never admit that I liked it, let alone go to concerts.”

“Like Sara did.”

“She knew her shit.”

“What does that have to do with Bowie?”

“Weird people liked Bowie. People who smoked liked Bowie.”

“You were weird.”

“I was trying to pass.”

“So no one knew you were gay.”

“He wore make-up. He wore outlandish costumes. He dressed as a girl and sang ‘Boys Keep Swinging’.”

“What changed your mind.”

“Nothing changed my mind, I just grew up a bit and started figuring out that weird was okay — as long as your friends were weird, too.”

“And then ‘Scary Monsters’ came out.”

“Yeah. I can almost remember the first time I heard that song. I think ‘Fashion’ came out as the first single. More radio-friendly, more mainstream. I thought that one was okay. But when I heard ‘Scary Monsters’ playing on KROQ it was amazing. It was noisy and weird. I didn’t know David Bowie sounded like that.”

“You thought he sounded like ‘Young Americans’ or ‘Fame’.”

“I guess? I probably just dismissed him because I couldn’t picture myself as a David Bowie fan.”

“But you liked his music.”

“I liked him. He was fearless and daring and didn’t give a shit, and who wouldn’t want to live like that? But that particular album changed my opinion about him, and I started to listen to the other albums, the earlier ones, the Berlin period and Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane.”

“Brian loved Aladdin Sane.”

“Brian loved Bowie. Brian was cool. We were best friends of a sort, even though we didn’t attend the same school or live near each other.”

“You met at the movie theatre.”

“My employment at the movie theatre probably broke open the shell I was in, the one high school sort of forced me into.”

“Well, fear forced you into it.”

“It’s comfortable. Having a shell.”

“Did Brian make you listen to Bowie?”

“No one can make you listen to something. If they try to do that then the shell comes up and walls you into your safe place again. No, I think he would just sometimes play Bowie. But that period of time, there in the early 80’s when New Wave and Punk were everywhere, new bands were flooding in from small towns and from England, The Smiths, The Cure, R.E.M., The Ramones, The Cars, Blondie, Adam and the Ants, Siouxsie Sioux, and on and on and on. There was a new band every week, a new album with music that didn’t sound like something else, or it did sound like something else but you didn’t know it at the time.”

“And Bowie was part of that explosion for you.”

“Yeah. I mean, he’d been around forever. But with Scary Monsters…”

“(and Super Creeps)”

“…he found his way into my vinyl. Then he did that Saturday Night Live performance with Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias and it was all everyone could talk about the next day. Like, ‘did you see that? what was that?’ and lots of my friends made fun of it and didn’t get it, but I loved it. I loved the fuck out of it. It was amazing.

“And from then on you loved David Bowie.”

“From then on I did. I didn’t always love every album, but Jesus that man tries everything. There are as many misses as there are hits. And then I finally had the chance to see him live and it was so, so good.”

“In Berkeley.”

“Yeah, at Berkeley Community Theatre.”

“On his last tour. The Reality Tour. 2002. It’s a small venue, 3,000 seats or something, so you could see him and watch him and not be removed from the experience, and he was great.”

“He’s 69 years old today.”

“Plus a new album.”

“Have you heard it?”

“Not yet, but I plan on putting on my headphones and sinking into some Bowie as soon as I can.”

“Happy Bowie Day!”