It seems as if this January the Reaper awoke from a holiday stupor, burped up the last dregs of alcohol, rolled some kinks out of his neck, cracked his knuckles and scythe a-swingin’ started mowing down creative souls left and right. With David Bowie he cut a large swath of my youth out of my heart.
At high school dances in the late 70’s whenever I heard the beginning of Suffragette City I would stop whatever I was doing if not already on the dance floor, and grab a hand to drag a partner out, or if no one was around fly solo, dancing with abandon and joy. When it came to the climax of the song I was sure to throw back my head and howl the loudest: “Awwwwww wham bam, thank you ma’am!” Then continue dancing, a whirling blur of long blonde hair and thrusting hips.
In college student dances evolved from DJ’s to more live bands; in the early 80’s a mix of skinny-tie New Wave and the leathery whiff of bad boy rock and roll. I remember one time in particular dancing with Hannah, and the unmistakable opening riff of Rebel Rebel whipped us into a proper frenzy. I was wearing black tights and leotard with a wrap-around skirt and when the lead singer sang “Rebel Rebel you’ve torn your dress” I tore off my skirt and flung it over to the side of the dance floor. When the lyrics came around to that line again he changed it to “Rebel Rebel where is your dress?”
The first week of mourning Bowie’s passing was spent watching videos, listening to his music in the car, grabbing dusty CD’s and riding a nostalgic wave along with the rest of the world. This last weekend, nearly a month later, Hannah and I joined a sold-out crowd of fans at a local venue, The Tractor, to see a tribute band called Bowie Vision. The band was phenomenal. They didn’t impersonate or dress up, but got down to business playing and singing the songs we all know and love. The stage was packed with eight band members, each impressive in their own right, but the lead singer, Stefan Mitchell, brought it all together with charm and style. I realized as the show went on that the beauty of a tribute band, especially this one considering the sad timing, is that everyone is welcome, even encouraged, to sing along, whereas at other shows I’ve had to talk-down overzealous fans whom I felt were competing with my enjoyment of the person I paid to hear and see sing. Ahem.
Hannah, true to form, danced and sang every word to every song, so that by the end of the night she was hoarse, but smiling. I was holding my hard cider can for a large portion, which slightly hindered my dancing, but was delighted to find that when the audience sang loud enough the can vibrated with the raw energy. A tall Flannel-Shirt in front of me stood unmoving throughout the show while we all undulated, sweated, and pogoed around him, and I was sorely tempted to tap him on the shoulder and tell him that if he wasn’t going to at least tap his foot he had to move somewhere else. I was wearing red boots (yes, I “put on my red shoes and danced the blues”) and started poking a pointy toe between his legs, unbeknownst to his stoic self. You do what you gotta do to deal.