is undoubtedly a great songwriter and performer, an innovator, a pioneer and a pop
phenomenon. And yet I have great difficulty even today acknowledging him as such.
I want to push him away. He scares me. |
Maybe it's the permanently dilated left eye, or the strange and bizarre personas he adopts, the latent bi- or homosexuality, or the background of mental illness in his family. ( Aladdin Sane is based on his brother Terry who was committed to a mental asylum and died in the early 1970's ).
On second thoughts it's none of these things. There's an invulnerability there which, when I was a fragile youth, I couldn't relate to - an alien knowingness which made me want to keep my distance. Writers such as Lou Reed or Tom Waits, whose territory partially overlaps that of Bowie and is often more disturbing, don't have the same effect on me. I'm drawn to them because they allow their human frailties to show through in the music.
Perhaps the instability in Bowie's background has made him afraid to take a good look at himself and acknowledge some of the vulnerabilities we all share - hence all these personas. Or maybe it's just that gets bored easily.
More recently he seems to have settled into himself a little, and the south London boy has re-emerged to some extent. I have begun to warm to an Englishness which has resurfaced. But I still find him dauntingly intelligent and unnervingly "together".
Bowie is still something of an enigma to me, and, for the moment, I'm quite happy to leave it that way.