The first time I ever heard David Bowie …
A crowded Dublin beach … Dollymount … I am 14 years old … lying on my back, after an hour of frenetic football, away from the clamouring gang, my gangly legs tired and my shins stinging from the hard plastic Mayco ball.
My chest is pumping like I am a human bellows.
The coarse red towel is making the grounded wings of my shoulder blades itch, and the sharpening globs of drying sand between my toes are a right bugger.
But the sun and the heat and the tangy, shrieking seagull air are working their soporific magic, and I am barely panting as I sink back into a day-dream bliss of sound and sensation.
And silly thoughts. Like I hear a yelping dog and wonder why you never see cats on a beach.
Not their scene.
My fluttering eyelids cannot quite close out the shimmering ball of flame overhead and I can feel it reddening my rumbling belly. Thinking of those soft ham sandwiches with lashing of butter we’ve brought with us … God, I’d love someone to hand me an ice-cream … I rub my tummy and my too-big royal blue nylon swimming togs are almost too hot to touch.
A transistor radio is on nearby, the usual jingles and faux-jolly pap … just summer noise on a packed beach …
And then my ears perk up …
What’s that on the radio?
Sun, sea, air and time itself are no more, as I plug into the ca-ching-ching-ching of an acoustic guitar, then the tum, tum tumping drum, and finally the song itself begins …
Something about a starman, Waiting in the sky …
Tinny and light above the summer chatter and screeching birds … entrancing somehow.
Above the beach, above the earth, above everything else.
My imagination rising to meet it even as my bony body lies there.
Who is that?
The first time I ever saw David Bowie …
Top of the Pops days later … what is this?
This unbelievably skinny man/woman but with a strong, man’s voice and movements in some kind of blue, gold and red spangly spacesuit thing, playing a big blue acoustic guitar …
God, his band are all so skinny too, but it’s him you have to look at … or he’s the one looking at me, smirking right through adolescent, untried me with those laughing, challenging eyes … so confident and far out.
As the Top of the Pops kids dance around these exotic creatures in their usual desultory, hyper self-conscious way.
I simply can’t look away. Something strange about those eyes, one darker than the other, or something, thick dyed hair all spiky and standing up…
Oh, my God, is that lipstick, and make-up!!!
Thin face framing subversive grin through sinister tombstone teeth. Leading this spangly guitar-driven wah, wah wah wah wah wonderful song.
So many human years ago.
A time when a daydreaming 14-year-old boy believed in myths and legends, long before he learned that myths and legends too can be assembled and even sold.
Yes, David Jones invented and reinvented himself, but David Bowie showed us other possibilities and other worlds.
A star man indeed.
A starman who fell to earth, but he lives on in the cosmos, a Blackstar now.
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