It’s been wall-to-wall Bowie here for the past 24 hours and I’ve been wondering why when a close friend asked me what relationship I had with him, my response was pretty lukewarm, to say the least. Sadness at his departure, yes. Great music, yes - and music that I can appreciate and like. But not so much that I ever really wanted to own it. In fact, I’ve only ever bought two records which feature David Bowie: his narration of Peter and the Wolf and his collaboration with Pat Metheny on the soundtrack to The Falcon and the Snowman.
But I suppose those two do at least illustrate his real genius: that he always knew who to collaborate with - those people that he knew would always push him forward.
But that doesn’t answer why my relationship with him is so tangental - and I think it all goes back to 1972. That was the year that he released what was regarded as his breakthrough album - and the response to that was fuelled by his appearance on Top of the Pops. And at the time it completely passed me by.
1972 was a year of enormous change and upheaval for me. The year started with my wife and I living in a rented flat in Southampton and me commuting to work in London, but in February we moved to Manchester for me to return to college to do a research fellowship (which turned out to be a mistake), our return to the south in October, then buying our first house in Winchester in the December, with me returning to work in London. It leaves me breathless when I look back and see just how much we squeezed into life in those twelve months. Oh what it is to be young and free(ish)!
But we didn’t have a television in all that time, and I didn’t listen to the radio (I didn’t drive then, which was maybe part of the reason for that). So that was perhaps why Bowie passed me by.
Which made me wonder what music I was listening to in 1972 - and here are the records I can remember buying:
1. Neil Young (regular readers from the past won't be surprised by that)
2. Paul Simon
3. The Beach Boys (perhaps their forgotten masterpiece)
4. Isaac Hayes
And the film I remember: Fritz the Cat
And there’s one particular song that I always associate with Manchester in 1972. It’s that song that is always associated with summer, with walking down the street and hearing it wafting out of open windows. It was the year that Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits was released, and the song was Bridge over Troubled Water. That song always takes me straight back to 11 Hesketh Avenue.
Interesting, looking back, to see that all my cultural references seemed to be originating in America. I never would have thought that.
And what were you up to in 1972 (assuming you'd been born by then)?