What Was Your First One? – Bowie Scribblings


“Will you stay in our lovers’ story
If you stay you won’t be sorry
‘Cause we believe in you”

My head is a jukebox.
It is playing Bowie at random – Kooks to Starman to A New Career in a New Town to Blackstar to Hang on to Yourself to Where are we Now?.
If I am honest, my head had to make up some of the words for Blackstar, they’re not all stored yet.

Walking up the hill to school this morning, I couldn’t understand it. Wouldn’t everyone be talking about Bowie? Was there any other topic of conversation? Apparently there was.
What strange people.

I played another record in my head, though it kept coming back to Kooks.
Was that my first favourite?

I had the advantage of older sisters. This meant there was a copy of Hunky Dory in our house, and a 7” of Sound and Vision (with A New Career in a New Town on the B side).
At 9 years old, I was drawn to sweet sentiment in song, and so I was drawn to Kooks.
By the time I heard Hunky Dory, Bowie had made much more. This was 1978, but sadly one of my sisters had been foolishly sidetracked by The Bay City Rollers.
Before long, we had Lodger playing on a record player whose arm was so heavy you’s think it was designed by fundamentalist mormons determined to destroy the world’s music by boring holes in it.
(Foolishly, when talking Bowie on our Vitriola podcast, I suggested I wasn’t too keen on Lodger. Then I listened to it again, what a dick, it’s great…as you know).

Low on cassette, and Let’s Dance on some weird Malaysian import tape brought in by a boy at school. Tonight bought for my 16th birthday, and somewhere between the ages of 12 and 22, the rest of the back catalogue was filled in. I was doubtful of Black Tie, White Noise, but adored Outside (what! even that is twenty years old).
Knowing the messiah qualities Bowie had for many, the pop Dylan in terms of the magnitude of reverie and worship, I can only see myself as a casual fan, by which I mean I bought every album when it came out from Tonight onwards (including Tin Machine), and picked up all the back catalogue.
But I never styled my hair or clothes in reflection. let’s be honest, I never had the figure for it.

A few years ago, Brian Cox and I were doing a show at Hammersmith Apollo (formerly the Odeon).
We were attempting a live link with CERN. As with so many attempts to showcase the cutting edge of scientific discovery, the live link hissed and jerked and hid. We filled time dicking about.
There was a moment when we looked at each other in the eye, and I thought, “he is thinking what I am thinking”.
Later, I discovered he was. There we were, having fun on that stage, just being foolish, and our minds were saying, “what the hell are you doing? This is sacred ground. This is where Bowie said,
“This show will stay the longest in our memories, not just because it is the end of the tour but because it is the last show we’ll ever do.”
They screamed and they wept.
Every time I stand on that stage for the soundcheck, I think of Bowie. I think of how ridiculous it all is that I should even be allowed there at all.

I met Bowie once, ever so briefly.
Backstage at a gig in New York.
I knew he’d be there, so took an album to be signed for my sister. I had worried that, having always looked so remarkable, I wondered if there would be some ghastly reveal, that really he was sagging and dusty, like the Bowie in the attic of Catherine Deneuve.
He was as a vivacious as you would imagine, courteous and quick, and then gone. (I hope my sister hasn’t lost that album, plucking about the courage to get that signature caused nerve damage).

There was a habit, there might still be, though I think it is has been publicly shamed, of saying on the death, “oh, that’s a bit of my childhood gone”, but that doesn’t seem true to me at all. If anything, that is a bit of the childhood reinvigorated, flaring brightly again.
The sad news of an artist dying has neurons firing, a deluge of memories, of songs playing, a memory of the excitement and delighted nausea of your teenage idol worship.

When the artist dies, we dust off albums and return to vinyl unplayed for years. Sometimes, we had forgotten our adoration, lost in the humdrum of growing up.
This was not true of Bowie. I was listening to Blackstar last night, then to Station to Station. This morning, Low was going to be played whatever, I’ll just be hearing it a little differently today.
And the sweet sentiment of Kooks was a little sharper as I walked up that hill with my son, hand in hand as always.

Last year, Michael Legge and I stumbled through our favourite Bowie LPs and songs on Vitriola HERE

Josie Long and I interviewed Bowie cover specialist, and occasional astronaut, Chris Hadfield HERE


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7 Responses to What Was Your First One? – Bowie Scribblings

  1. Lovely tribute, thank you. I walk my own son to school most mornings – I didn’t think I was going to cry but that last line just destroyed me.

  2. Beautifully written Robin.

    “And when the clothes are strewn
    don’t be afraid of the room
    Touch the fullness of her breast.
    Feel the love of her caress
    She will be your living end”

    As with you, his lyrics abound within my head today.

    – esme.u.t.C

  3. David Burnage says:

    Robin, I spent all weekend listening to your podcasts with Josie. Suffice it say that I loved your passion (both of you) with so many things, and I went to your blog to see if you mentioned todays news. I did not expect such a heartfelt tribute, but in retrospect I should have done. I agree about Kooks today, but it did alternate with Quicksand, Fill Your Heart and Love You Till Tuesday (at least I’m honest!)

    I know that if you or I ever met there would be big things we wouldn’t get on with, but I love the integrity and honesty of both of you, and look forward to more podcasts.


  4. Beautiful words Robin… I found it so difficult to put into words how much pain and how sharply I felt it on hearing of David’s passing – it has only ever happened once before – the day John Lennon was murdered. I never thought I could feel such imense feeling for someone I had never even met. We played the Ziggy album cranked up to 11 last night in his honour and wept at the passing of David and the wonderful memories every song invoked…

  5. Djuke Veldhuis says:

    I continue to read your posts with much intrigue and frequently find myself chuckling along too. This one, poignant. Yet as always you succeed in making me smile as well as bringing in science related material. Keep it coming!


    From: Robininces Blog <comment-reply@wordpress.com> Reply-To: Robinince’s Blog <comment+e3b17un2bio0to_reb-nz_m@comment.wordpress.com> Date: Monday, 11 January 2016 11:04 To: Djuke Veldhuis <djukev@aias.au.dk> Subject: [New post] What Was Your First One – Bowie Scribblings

    robinince posted: “My head is a jukebox. It is playing Bowie at random – Kooks to Starman to A New Career in a New Town to Blackstar to Hang on to Yourself to Where are we Now?. If I am honest, my head had to make up some of the words for Blackstar, they’re not all stored y”

  6. ade says:

    At the centre of it all, at the centre of it all……

  7. thebadlizard says:

    ‘Wouldn’t everyone be talking about Bowie?’

    How true. I woke up in New York on Monday – incidentally, the first time I’ve ever set foot in the USA – thinking the same thing. Whilst the beginnings and ends of Bowie songs swam around in my head, most of New York went about it’s business.

    I walked past the makeshift memorial on Monday night, but kept walking as it was a media circus. I went back the next night; it had become a place of quiet rememberence. A girl in her late teens was playing Ziggy Stardust from Five Years to Rock n Roll Suicide, but for some reason it was ‘Where Are We Now’ that was playing in my head.

    Thanks for your post.

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