Saturday, November 18, 2017

Kooks Raising Kids, Hunky Dory Edition

Before 1972 I knew essentially nothing about David Bowie. I knew of his existence, but only through reading Rave magazine and the Melody Maker newspaper in the mid- to late-1960s. I’d seen photographs, in other words, and read short pieces about this oddball, fringe presence on the British rock scene, a guy whose hair was impossibly long and who was liable to show up in a dress. I confess that my attitude was that he was just another poser, desperate for attention, and if he were good, we’d have heard his stuff already.

Bear in mind that I was not a member of the He-Man Woman Haters club, so the dress thing and the hair wouldn’t bother me. I’d probably have liked his music as well. In those days, it was hard to get enough information on which to base an opinion about someone like David Bowie. I was just a kid from Queens; I had no connections and little money. I had no friends who had Bowie records, even after some were available. There was already a long list of records that I wanted, and I was lucky that I could afford to buy as many of them as I did.

Then, in late 1972, RCA America re-released Space Oddity, and the single really took off on a wide spectrum of radio stations. Being able to connect some product with the photos that I had seen was a pleasant surprise. I loved the song.

I purchased the Space Oddity album, and I was knocked out by the scope of the lyrics and the production. I did something that I had never done before: I returned to the record store the next day and purchased copies of the three additional Bowie LPs in stock, Hunkey Dory, Ziggy Stardust, and the Man Who Sold the World. I think that I played all four of them every day for a month.

I was particularly impressed with the subtle differences in approach for each of the four LPs, and Hunky Dory made a particularly good impression on me. “Kooks” was a big favorite. My wife and I were in our early twenties. We had been married for three years, and we were the proud, if slightly confused parents of a two year old son. Bowie had recently been dealing with the same child and future related issues at whose mercy we then found ourselves. We found the song to be a very positive message, and encouraging. “Changes” was in the same vein, for us at least.

I have not kept up with Zowie’s life experience, but I do hope that he had a relatively positive experience growing up in a slightly kooky family. My own son seems to have survived his also slightly off-center upbringing largely intact. My son is doing well at this point, and I hope Zowie is as well. (I know that the name was changed at some point, but I don't recall the new name. I could check the whole story, of course, but you never know what you will find. I prefer right now to leave this in the realm of hopes and best wishes.)

David Bowie turned out to be, musically speaking, the gift that kept on giving. His last gift was wrapped and under the tree when he slipped this mortal coil. I do not believe that it is possible to rest in other than perfect peace after dying, so I will forgo those pleasantries. I will, instead, say that I hope that it is a comfort to the family that Bowie left behind that he is remembered so fondly by so many of the people whose lives he touched in meaningful ways with his music and his manners. 

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