Mid to late eighties, late night TV, I’m in the lounge, my dad is upstairs snoring for England. On the box is D. A. Pennebaker’s concert film – Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. I like Bowie, like everyone else my age I’ve grown up with the singles, kissed girls that had Bowie lyrics scrawled on their pencil cases, fuck it if I’m honest I’ve even danced (badly) to his music at youth clubs.
Thing is I don’t actually own any Bowie, I don’t really own any records beyond a handful of Pink Floyd LPs and a few Hip Hop cassettes. So maybe it’s not all that surprising that the Ziggy film feels like a bit of a chore for the teenage me. It’s nowhere near as slick as the concert films I’m used to. Sure Bowie’s mullet is nicely current but the camerawork is awful, everything is a bit blurred and wobbly plus the backstage stuff feels fake. Then there’s the fact that I don’t really know any of the songs beyond Ziggy, Changes and Space Oddity and two of those songs I don’t even like that much.
I stick with it though, the funny-looking yellow man on guitar is kinda cool even if the bass player looks like a pillock. Then it happens, Bowie goes into his farewell speech before launching into Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide. I’m hooked, fucking hell did he just say they were splitting up? Jesus. All of a sudden I wish I was at the gig, right down the front next to the boys with glitter eye make up and tartan flares. The song is amazing, that crunchy guitar, those backing moans, I’m not sure what he’s on about, something about pulling on fingers and milk floats, none of that matters though, just look at the way he’s moving, he obviously means it. The whole thing is building and building, the camera stays with Bowie for the whole song, then it comes “Oh no love, you’re not alone,” and that’s it I’m in. He’s talking to me, “I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain. You’re not alone.” He’s. Talking. To. Me. “Gimme your hands ‘cos you’re wonderful.”
That was it, right then, right there, I went from liking Bowie to loving Bowie. That’s when I knew, that’s when I started taking notice.