I have never not been aware of David Bowie. I mean I cannot remember a time when I had to learn who he was or what he did.
I do remember my Mum singing “Space Oddity” to me, emphasizing the lower class twang on “Major”, and laughing at the way he sang “balls” in “Ziggy Stardust”. But she never had to contextualize Bowie for me. He had always been.
When my mum was a young Londoner, she took the bus into town for a radio contest with me on her shoulder. I was less than a year old. I burped on air; she correctly answered “David Bowie” to a question and won a prize. David Bowie has literally been part of my life always.
So my “vintage” selection may shock you, as it was a commercial hit from the spring of 1993: “Jump They Say.” I was trying to think of a pivotal memory that is just mine, as everybody remembers watching “Ashes to Ashes” on MTV, or the first time they screamed “Wham! Bam! Thank you, ma’am!” out a car window. I wanted to share something truly personal.
I was 18 or 19 and a student at the University Nevada, Reno. I was away from home and driving on the freeway, probably having just got groceries, when the radio said “We have new Bowie coming up!” After Tin Machine (which was ok, but also Tin Machine) and “Cool World”, which was a fun track but no “Life On Mars”, I was excited but also a little scared that he was becoming The Stones.
He was not. That initial drum came in and then a bunch of synth stuff and then that sultry baritone voice. I turned the volume dial up to eleven. I was cautiously bopping around behind the steering wheel when the chorus kicked in, with the sax and trumpet and strings, and then I was car dancing in full force. By the end with the refraining “Got to BELIEVE somebody!” I was pulling off the freeway and whipping back around to the record shop.
This was the first Bowie I heard all on my own, without a parent or MTV-watching friends. It ended up placating me on nights I battled suicidal depression (it is actually about his brother’s suicide). I have danced to it a thousand times. I have belted “Got to believe!” ten thousand times. It means different things to me at different phases in my life. It is pure joy.
It has David Bowie on sax and Lester Bowie on trumpet. What’s not to love?!
Enjoy the video. I think this is his most handsome era.