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More from Mr Morley

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on May 01, 2013

 

“Funny how secrets travel”

 

We posted the first of two (or three or more) extracts from Paul Morley’s David Bowie in a weekend book a couple of days ago.

Here follows a second lot of excerpts with lots of contributions from the cards that visitors filled in at the V&A during Paul’s residency.

One of the contributions took the form of a USB drive which bore the simple legend: David Bowie is POSTCARD. It contained the following:

 

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The fact that he actually KNEW his own destiny from such an early age (David Bowie Is, is proof of that)...and the permission he gave us all to be anything we wanted to be too...and the confidence he gave us not to care who didn't like what we were becoming.

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1969, and then I first knew about him again in 1972. And then I continued to first know about all of the subsequent David Bowies as each of them arrived.

I would describe myself as: Anonymous and irritatingly smug for taking the right roads from the age of eleven by following his signposts all the way from 1972 to 2022.

 

 

We reckon there are more than a few that could identify with those feelings.

There’s also an extra post card scan at the top of the montage here that isn’t mentioned in Paul’s text. We reckon it’s just a bit of, um…role-play.

And so, on with it:

 

11.36 a.m.

I have a suggestion box on my desk. It is there so that visitors to the museum, most likely those that have come because of David Bowie, can offer their own thoughts and memories. Perhaps their words will be of use to me during moments when I am having trouble working out what to write next. Writing a book in this way, sat at a desk surrounded by people who can observe, disturb and inspire me, means that I do not have to go out into the world to research, but the world can come to me, without me having to make it up too much. It will be the world of David Bowie filtered through fans that happen to be here this weekend.

               I have had printed onto these cards three questions, which I hope people will find interesting – essentially, I am asking what they found most interesting about Bowie, when they were first aware of him, and how they would describe themselves.

 

12.16 :  at first, I thought no one was going to fill in the cards. Maybe they find the questions a little uninspiring, but then suddenly, there is a rush of filled out cards placed into the box on my desk. I decide that every hour or so I will empty the box, find out what the answers are, and make them an instant part of the book. What starts to happen is that more and more people fill out the cards when they can see on the screen behind me revealing my work in progress that I am genuinely folding the answers into what I am writing, and that I am using their responses as part of this book.

               This is where the exercise, this experiment that may have ended going nowhere, begins to take on its own unique life, with an energy that could only exist during this particular weekend while I am taking on this particular role and sitting in the particular place I am sitting. The connection between me and the visitors to the V and A and the David Bowie is exhibition increasingly becomes a collaboration, and I note with relief and excitement that something that feels real, and which could lead to a real book reflecting a very singular experience, is taking over. I do not have to contrive an event, or fake the writing; a proper story is emerging, another way of writing the history of David Bowie.

 

13.00 p.m. 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is; him

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1974-75, I drove all the way to Memphis from New Orleans to see him in concert.

I would describe myself as: Geisha=arts person and future Diamond Dog

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: the oddness and slight absurdity

I first knew about David Bowie in: the song ‘Heroes’

I would describe myself as: a nerd

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: the looks/the texture of his voice

I first knew about David Bowie in; mid 70s, the plastic soul into Nic Roeg era

I would describe myself as: under his influence even now

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: Low

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1972

I would describe myself as: inquisitive

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: he is timeless

I first knew about David Bowie in: when I fell in love with his face on an album cover

I would describe myself as: a culture skimmer

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: how he did great things from terrible beginnings

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1998, a school chum played me Space Oddity

I would describe myself as: me

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: that he is a chameleon

I first knew about David Bowie in: the Seventies

I would describe myself as: middle age middle class liberal wishing I was younger

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: When I was 16 I thought I was an outcast and mentally ill. Then I discovered Bowie.

I first knew about Bowie in: -

I would describe myself as: I would not

 

13.46 p.m.

Someone around my age – that greying combination of greying hair, stooping shoulders and glasses necessary to give the world a vital level of focus greyly give the game away -  fills out a suggestion card, and so therefore I only know him as how he described himself, as a Redcar schoolkid – (‘always’). The fact on the card I did not ask people their name, but only how they describe themselves, is also becoming a factor. People are finding it a challenge they are intrigued by to not use their name, but something they think or believe or reluctantly accept that explains in quick detail who and what they are. They create their own mask to hide behind, or to reveal themselves.

               The Redcap schoolkid’s moment of first knowing Bowie is ‘72, and it also involves a school uniform, and an album sleeve magically materialising into what we now realise was still post-war Britain, with a multitude of social and environmental problems, a country crushed by its own history facing potential all-encompassing desolation. He talks to me of coming across Bowie on the Founders Day of his Grammar School in Redcar, North Yorkshire, so everyone is all done up in their school uniforms, stiffly blazered beyond belief, and ‘Flash’ Carr, and I think there was a ‘Flash’ Carr at my school as well, has a fresh from the shop copy of the Ziggy Stardust album. Naturally, and this is also a very common thing, he made damned sure he held the sleeve under his arm as he walked amongst his mates – album sleeves at the time seemed to be part of your clothing, a way of instantly breaking through the uniforms we were all given to keep us in our place, and you would hold them because they would be the one thing you owned that was something you had chosen, that represented who you really were. All these blazered boys followed Flash to his house, where they all listened to the Ziggy album, with what must have been almost erotic reverence. It was, writes the perpetual Redcar kid, the coolest thing, and wrapped inside his memory is the poignant element that nothing may ever be quite as cool again. But at least there was that moment of revelation, that has, forty years later, taken him to the V and A, and the David Bowie Is exhibition, and an astonishing demonstration of what can happen to memories and moments when they collide in such a way.

 

14.07 p.m.

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The constant changes

I first knew about David Bowie in: Early 70s when my aunty used to sing and dance along and frustrate my gran.

I would describe myself as: trying to keep up  . . . (that short lass from Wigan that works at the college according to Stephen.)

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie: the way he inspired my girlfriend.

I first knew about David Bowie in: listening in my girlfriend’s car in 2011

I would describe myself as: a garage and grime DJ. “I put on a (very messy) free party (rave) in a forest in a Welsh valley last weekend. We’d been playing garage and techno and house all night but put on some Bowie at dawn and it took everyone to another place. I’ll remember that all my life.”

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The beguiling myth that penetrates through time. The layers and layers to uncover and discover. Fearlessness. He goes for it.

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1983. ‘Let’s Dance’ was massive. Then I heard ‘Life on Mars’ and had to buy ‘Hunky Dory.’ I cried. I bought everything else slowly over the years.

I would describe myself as: A cross between Thin White Duke and Queen Bitch, from the Channel Islands.

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his ability to always look forward and never get stuck in one character or period

I first knew about David Bowie in: my college years, when I first heard ‘Life on Mars.’

I would describe myself as: a fan of the ever-evolving, ever-changing, always brilliant David Bowie

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: sexless. Male/female I mean

I first knew about David Bowie in: when he married an African-American model

I would describe myself as: ignorant of British stars – a black American on holiday

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is; His music and his gay announcement in 1971

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1969 – ‘Space Oddity’

I would describe myself as: Holly Johnson x

 

 

14.00 p.m

Reading the cards, I notice various patterns starting to develop, depending on the age of the visitor, and where they come from. I notice that so far the only person who uses their name to describe themselves is in fact someone who has been a pop star, and thinks it is enough to use their actual name. The cards become a fragmented, surreal survey of constant emotional engagement and indentification with Bowie. There are many who began their relationship with Bowie at about the same time as me, seeing him for the first time whilst sat in an old hall in an exhausted English provincial city in the early 1970s that had suddenly been invaded by energised other beings with an amplified otherness that was destined to profoundly alter environment, psych up sensitive teenagers, and productively disorientate minds. Then there are those who found Bowie at other times, in other spaces, for other reasons, all the way up to now.

               These following cards did not all arrive one after the other, but not far off, and a new route to finding Bowie I had never considered before, mostly for fans born after the 1980s, is opened up.

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: not being afraid to be who he is

I first knew about David Bowie in; Labyrinth

I would describe myself as: someone who is afraid

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: that he is unpredictable

I first knew about David Bowie in: the film ‘Labyrinth’ – I found him scary

I would describe myself as: imaginative

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his eclecticism

I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth

I would describe myself as: possibly a tad too obsessed

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The song ‘Kooks’ – I love to sing it to my own sons.

I first knew about David Bowie in: probably the film ‘Labyrinth’

I would describe myself as; a mother of two from Norfolk

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: he is who he wants to be. We can all learn from that

I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth. I grew up on it. And musically through a friend’s brother

I would describe myself as: a kindred Bowie spirit. I was born on the same day as Mr.Bowie. I thank my mum for that every birthday

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: that he is the greatest pioneer of progressive pop, immediately post-Beatles

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1986 – ‘Labyrinth’

I would describe myself as: Ziggy Played Piano

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is; his voice

I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth

I would describe myself as: a guitar playing architect

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his image, fashion, persona

I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth

I would describe myself as: fashion-conscious, creative, educated, philosophical

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his fashion style

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1980s – in the Labyrinth

I would describe myself as: cool

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: That stuff he did in Berlin and for taking the high minded and popularising it for everyone. He’s the BBC of rock.

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1987 – via a VHS of Labyrinth. But only properly in 1996 thanks to a camping trip, a tape recorder and Hunky Dory.

I would describe myself as: Someone attempting to make my way in the world, unsure if I’ve properly grown up yet and if I ever will. (I’m 32.)

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: His eyes. (I never knew the dilated pupil is due to a fight he had at school.)

I first knew about David Bowie in: The Labyrinth film. I went to watch it in the cinema as a six year old and was captivated by the story and music

I would describe myself as: one of the good guys

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: the adventure

I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth. Sex years before I knew what sex was.

I would describe myself as: all in the mind

 

 

14.53 p.m.

A story about David Bowie from 2004; someone who wishes to remain anonymous tells me about seeing him during the recording of a television programme in Los Angeles, and how as he walked along a corridor towards the studio, the people all along his route separated to let him through, because they were in the presence of a real star, actually, something wilder than just a mere real star. They could tell he was a real star, or the next stage up and beyond, not least because also appearing on the show was Marilyn Manson, there with his then girlfriend, the burlesque dancer and actress Dita Von Teese. “He just looked pathetic next to Bowie,” my witness says, “like someone had covered him in cheap Kiss make up and then thrown a bunch of metal studs at him. “ Her abrasive comedienne friend, not known for being sentimental, was introduced to Bowie, and before she could think of anything cool to say, immediately burst into tears.

 

15.05 ; On my desk, I have a box of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategy cards, and piles of books, which I have brought along to give me inspiration, to help me think of things to do and say if I run out of impetus. Before I started, I imagined I might need help and advice from the cards, and that I would have to steal some lines and phrases from the books, to build up some words, and create content and maybe a direction for the ‘book’ I am writing. I had no plan for what the story might be, other than it could be a collection of my own reflections and recollections about Bowie and his music, perhaps a little memoir about my own connection to the appearance and identity of the exhibition, a few confessions, a list of all the Bowie Is slogans that never made it into the show.

               It turns out very quickly that the people passing my desk and chatting with me, coming from the exhibition, or going to it, those who have no tickets, but have just come for the weekend of free talks and events, these are becoming as much the subject of the book as Bowie, as me writing about Bowie and wondering if it is possible to write a Bowie book in a weekend. The cards that people are filling in, more and more as though it is an important part of their day out at the museum, inside which the life of Bowie has fantastically landed, are becoming an equivalent of the Oblique Strategies; I consult these cards filled out by people to determine where the book is going, to find a way to touch and change my mind, to introduce surprise elements, and to research the collective conceptual force made up of those that love him, like him, take an interest in him, want to know more, a mysterious that has invented the idea of David Bowie as much as Bowie did himself. 

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his fabulousness   . . .

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1985, when I was 3

I would describe myself as: Bowie’s number 1 fan from the land of ice and snow and probably the only person who cried when standing in front of the ‘Life on Mars’ suit

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is; 1920’s Wiemar Cabaret Station to Station style

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1982, hearing ‘Young Americans’ on the radio when I was 8

I would describe myself as: wanting to be someone different to who I am

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his use of glitter I have a pair of glittery boots that are like his and his understanding and use of theatricality

I first knew about David Bowie in: since I can remember car journeys with my mum and dad. They also played Leonard Cohen – then we take Berlin!

I would describe myself as: normal but I don’t think other people think that I am. I am friendly

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his permanent changes – without caring what people think

I first knew about David Bowie in: Nirvana’s reprise of The Man Who Sold The World

I would describe myself as: shy

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: the emotions his music excites

I first knew about David Bowie in: age of sixteen – father introduced him to me

I would describe myself as: interested

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his inconsistency

I first knew about David Bowie in: he probably infulbucated (sic) my subconscious at birth

I would describe myself as: pneumatic

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The fact that he can’t remember making his best album

I first knew about David Bowie in: Arguments over how to pronounce his surname correctly

I would describe myself as: Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2006

 

(I have checked, and the following will help me greatly with a possible index to this book, broadening out the scope considerably, because the Time Person of the Year 2006 could be Hugo Chavez, Sacha Baron Cohen (I am inclined to think this is a strong maybe, but maybe not), Raul Castro, Bush, Cheney or Rumsfield, Stephen Colbert, Katie Couric, the great grandson of Henry Ford, Al Gore, Michael J Fox, the cast of Heroes, the citizens of Iraq, Kim Jong II (unlikely), Angela Merkel, the planet Pluto, Pope Benedict XVI, Condoleeza Rice, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, Robert Altman, Betty Friedan, Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, Coretta Scott King or Slobodan Milosevic.)

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: he still sounds the same now, forty years on

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1973, when I became a teenager

I would describe myself as: 50 + + young when I listen to Bowie, I am transported back

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his cheekbones

I first knew about David Bowie in 1976

I would describe myself as: inspired by the beauty of the cult of Bowie

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: His imagery – the sound and vision

I first knew about David Bowie in: I’ve always known about David Bowie

I would describe myself as: me

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his flamboyance, his song writing ability and appearance

I first knew about David Bowie in: 1996 when I was four years old and my mum sang ‘Space Oddity’ to me

I would describe myself as: a steampunk mod girl

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: always looking for something new or making the obscure the normal

I first knew about David Bowie in: Top of the Pops. As a kid I remember seeing him and it looked so good and it has always stayed with me

I would describe myself as: I would like to think rebellious, and individual – but isn’t everyone !

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his old cheekbones

I first knew about David Bowie in: The soundtrack of the tv series Life on Mars

I would describe myself as; an art student !

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: that no matter who you talk to they can relate to him

I first knew about David Bowie in: 2012 (I’m 16)

I would describe myself as: having no idea of who I am, but that’s ok

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: he looks like he smells nice

I first knew about David Bowie : on holiday

I would describe myself as: a six year old girl

 

My favourite thing about David Bowie is: Where are we now

I first knew about David Bowie in: 2009 (one year old)

I would describe myself as: kind and pritty

 

16.58 p.m.

By the end of the first day, I begin to understand that there is some wonderful generosity of spirit amongst those people coming up to me, urging me on and even giving me material as I write inside the V and A's Grand Entrance, an energy that with time I will be able to connect to what is happening inside the rooms where the Bowie Is exhibition is laid out - the visitors, most of them strangers to me, see what I am doing, and they want to help, they want me to complete the task I have been set, and tell me their own stories. David Bowie was going to be a big part of whatever I managed to write; and now his fans are, and therefore, much, much more of Bowie and what he means than there would have been if it had just come out of my own mind. 

blog image: 
    1 May 2013
    More from Mr Morley

     

    “Funny how secrets travel”

     

    We posted the first of two (or three or more) extracts from Paul Morley’s David Bowie in a weekend book a couple of days ago.

    Here follows a second lot of excerpts with lots of contributions from the cards that visitors filled in at the V&A during Paul’s residency.

    One of the contributions took the form of a USB drive which bore the simple legend: David Bowie is POSTCARD. It contained the following:

     

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The fact that he actually KNEW his own destiny from such an early age (David Bowie Is, is proof of that)...and the permission he gave us all to be anything we wanted to be too...and the confidence he gave us not to care who didn't like what we were becoming.

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1969, and then I first knew about him again in 1972. And then I continued to first know about all of the subsequent David Bowies as each of them arrived.

    I would describe myself as: Anonymous and irritatingly smug for taking the right roads from the age of eleven by following his signposts all the way from 1972 to 2022.

     

     

    We reckon there are more than a few that could identify with those feelings.

    There’s also an extra post card scan at the top of the montage here that isn’t mentioned in Paul’s text. We reckon it’s just a bit of, um…role-play.

    And so, on with it:

     

    11.36 a.m.

    I have a suggestion box on my desk. It is there so that visitors to the museum, most likely those that have come because of David Bowie, can offer their own thoughts and memories. Perhaps their words will be of use to me during moments when I am having trouble working out what to write next. Writing a book in this way, sat at a desk surrounded by people who can observe, disturb and inspire me, means that I do not have to go out into the world to research, but the world can come to me, without me having to make it up too much. It will be the world of David Bowie filtered through fans that happen to be here this weekend.

                   I have had printed onto these cards three questions, which I hope people will find interesting – essentially, I am asking what they found most interesting about Bowie, when they were first aware of him, and how they would describe themselves.

     

    12.16 :  at first, I thought no one was going to fill in the cards. Maybe they find the questions a little uninspiring, but then suddenly, there is a rush of filled out cards placed into the box on my desk. I decide that every hour or so I will empty the box, find out what the answers are, and make them an instant part of the book. What starts to happen is that more and more people fill out the cards when they can see on the screen behind me revealing my work in progress that I am genuinely folding the answers into what I am writing, and that I am using their responses as part of this book.

                   This is where the exercise, this experiment that may have ended going nowhere, begins to take on its own unique life, with an energy that could only exist during this particular weekend while I am taking on this particular role and sitting in the particular place I am sitting. The connection between me and the visitors to the V and A and the David Bowie is exhibition increasingly becomes a collaboration, and I note with relief and excitement that something that feels real, and which could lead to a real book reflecting a very singular experience, is taking over. I do not have to contrive an event, or fake the writing; a proper story is emerging, another way of writing the history of David Bowie.

     

    13.00 p.m. 

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is; him

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1974-75, I drove all the way to Memphis from New Orleans to see him in concert.

    I would describe myself as: Geisha=arts person and future Diamond Dog

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: the oddness and slight absurdity

    I first knew about David Bowie in: the song ‘Heroes’

    I would describe myself as: a nerd

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: the looks/the texture of his voice

    I first knew about David Bowie in; mid 70s, the plastic soul into Nic Roeg era

    I would describe myself as: under his influence even now

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: Low

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1972

    I would describe myself as: inquisitive

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: he is timeless

    I first knew about David Bowie in: when I fell in love with his face on an album cover

    I would describe myself as: a culture skimmer

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: how he did great things from terrible beginnings

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1998, a school chum played me Space Oddity

    I would describe myself as: me

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: that he is a chameleon

    I first knew about David Bowie in: the Seventies

    I would describe myself as: middle age middle class liberal wishing I was younger

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: When I was 16 I thought I was an outcast and mentally ill. Then I discovered Bowie.

    I first knew about Bowie in: -

    I would describe myself as: I would not

     

    13.46 p.m.

    Someone around my age – that greying combination of greying hair, stooping shoulders and glasses necessary to give the world a vital level of focus greyly give the game away -  fills out a suggestion card, and so therefore I only know him as how he described himself, as a Redcar schoolkid – (‘always’). The fact on the card I did not ask people their name, but only how they describe themselves, is also becoming a factor. People are finding it a challenge they are intrigued by to not use their name, but something they think or believe or reluctantly accept that explains in quick detail who and what they are. They create their own mask to hide behind, or to reveal themselves.

                   The Redcap schoolkid’s moment of first knowing Bowie is ‘72, and it also involves a school uniform, and an album sleeve magically materialising into what we now realise was still post-war Britain, with a multitude of social and environmental problems, a country crushed by its own history facing potential all-encompassing desolation. He talks to me of coming across Bowie on the Founders Day of his Grammar School in Redcar, North Yorkshire, so everyone is all done up in their school uniforms, stiffly blazered beyond belief, and ‘Flash’ Carr, and I think there was a ‘Flash’ Carr at my school as well, has a fresh from the shop copy of the Ziggy Stardust album. Naturally, and this is also a very common thing, he made damned sure he held the sleeve under his arm as he walked amongst his mates – album sleeves at the time seemed to be part of your clothing, a way of instantly breaking through the uniforms we were all given to keep us in our place, and you would hold them because they would be the one thing you owned that was something you had chosen, that represented who you really were. All these blazered boys followed Flash to his house, where they all listened to the Ziggy album, with what must have been almost erotic reverence. It was, writes the perpetual Redcar kid, the coolest thing, and wrapped inside his memory is the poignant element that nothing may ever be quite as cool again. But at least there was that moment of revelation, that has, forty years later, taken him to the V and A, and the David Bowie Is exhibition, and an astonishing demonstration of what can happen to memories and moments when they collide in such a way.

     

    14.07 p.m.

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The constant changes

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Early 70s when my aunty used to sing and dance along and frustrate my gran.

    I would describe myself as: trying to keep up  . . . (that short lass from Wigan that works at the college according to Stephen.)

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie: the way he inspired my girlfriend.

    I first knew about David Bowie in: listening in my girlfriend’s car in 2011

    I would describe myself as: a garage and grime DJ. “I put on a (very messy) free party (rave) in a forest in a Welsh valley last weekend. We’d been playing garage and techno and house all night but put on some Bowie at dawn and it took everyone to another place. I’ll remember that all my life.”

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The beguiling myth that penetrates through time. The layers and layers to uncover and discover. Fearlessness. He goes for it.

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1983. ‘Let’s Dance’ was massive. Then I heard ‘Life on Mars’ and had to buy ‘Hunky Dory.’ I cried. I bought everything else slowly over the years.

    I would describe myself as: A cross between Thin White Duke and Queen Bitch, from the Channel Islands.

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his ability to always look forward and never get stuck in one character or period

    I first knew about David Bowie in: my college years, when I first heard ‘Life on Mars.’

    I would describe myself as: a fan of the ever-evolving, ever-changing, always brilliant David Bowie

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: sexless. Male/female I mean

    I first knew about David Bowie in: when he married an African-American model

    I would describe myself as: ignorant of British stars – a black American on holiday

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is; His music and his gay announcement in 1971

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1969 – ‘Space Oddity’

    I would describe myself as: Holly Johnson x

     

     

    14.00 p.m

    Reading the cards, I notice various patterns starting to develop, depending on the age of the visitor, and where they come from. I notice that so far the only person who uses their name to describe themselves is in fact someone who has been a pop star, and thinks it is enough to use their actual name. The cards become a fragmented, surreal survey of constant emotional engagement and indentification with Bowie. There are many who began their relationship with Bowie at about the same time as me, seeing him for the first time whilst sat in an old hall in an exhausted English provincial city in the early 1970s that had suddenly been invaded by energised other beings with an amplified otherness that was destined to profoundly alter environment, psych up sensitive teenagers, and productively disorientate minds. Then there are those who found Bowie at other times, in other spaces, for other reasons, all the way up to now.

                   These following cards did not all arrive one after the other, but not far off, and a new route to finding Bowie I had never considered before, mostly for fans born after the 1980s, is opened up.

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: not being afraid to be who he is

    I first knew about David Bowie in; Labyrinth

    I would describe myself as: someone who is afraid

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: that he is unpredictable

    I first knew about David Bowie in: the film ‘Labyrinth’ – I found him scary

    I would describe myself as: imaginative

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his eclecticism

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth

    I would describe myself as: possibly a tad too obsessed

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The song ‘Kooks’ – I love to sing it to my own sons.

    I first knew about David Bowie in: probably the film ‘Labyrinth’

    I would describe myself as; a mother of two from Norfolk

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: he is who he wants to be. We can all learn from that

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth. I grew up on it. And musically through a friend’s brother

    I would describe myself as: a kindred Bowie spirit. I was born on the same day as Mr.Bowie. I thank my mum for that every birthday

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: that he is the greatest pioneer of progressive pop, immediately post-Beatles

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1986 – ‘Labyrinth’

    I would describe myself as: Ziggy Played Piano

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is; his voice

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth

    I would describe myself as: a guitar playing architect

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his image, fashion, persona

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth

    I would describe myself as: fashion-conscious, creative, educated, philosophical

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his fashion style

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1980s – in the Labyrinth

    I would describe myself as: cool

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: That stuff he did in Berlin and for taking the high minded and popularising it for everyone. He’s the BBC of rock.

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1987 – via a VHS of Labyrinth. But only properly in 1996 thanks to a camping trip, a tape recorder and Hunky Dory.

    I would describe myself as: Someone attempting to make my way in the world, unsure if I’ve properly grown up yet and if I ever will. (I’m 32.)

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: His eyes. (I never knew the dilated pupil is due to a fight he had at school.)

    I first knew about David Bowie in: The Labyrinth film. I went to watch it in the cinema as a six year old and was captivated by the story and music

    I would describe myself as: one of the good guys

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: the adventure

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Labyrinth. Sex years before I knew what sex was.

    I would describe myself as: all in the mind

     

     

    14.53 p.m.

    A story about David Bowie from 2004; someone who wishes to remain anonymous tells me about seeing him during the recording of a television programme in Los Angeles, and how as he walked along a corridor towards the studio, the people all along his route separated to let him through, because they were in the presence of a real star, actually, something wilder than just a mere real star. They could tell he was a real star, or the next stage up and beyond, not least because also appearing on the show was Marilyn Manson, there with his then girlfriend, the burlesque dancer and actress Dita Von Teese. “He just looked pathetic next to Bowie,” my witness says, “like someone had covered him in cheap Kiss make up and then thrown a bunch of metal studs at him. “ Her abrasive comedienne friend, not known for being sentimental, was introduced to Bowie, and before she could think of anything cool to say, immediately burst into tears.

     

    15.05 ; On my desk, I have a box of Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategy cards, and piles of books, which I have brought along to give me inspiration, to help me think of things to do and say if I run out of impetus. Before I started, I imagined I might need help and advice from the cards, and that I would have to steal some lines and phrases from the books, to build up some words, and create content and maybe a direction for the ‘book’ I am writing. I had no plan for what the story might be, other than it could be a collection of my own reflections and recollections about Bowie and his music, perhaps a little memoir about my own connection to the appearance and identity of the exhibition, a few confessions, a list of all the Bowie Is slogans that never made it into the show.

                   It turns out very quickly that the people passing my desk and chatting with me, coming from the exhibition, or going to it, those who have no tickets, but have just come for the weekend of free talks and events, these are becoming as much the subject of the book as Bowie, as me writing about Bowie and wondering if it is possible to write a Bowie book in a weekend. The cards that people are filling in, more and more as though it is an important part of their day out at the museum, inside which the life of Bowie has fantastically landed, are becoming an equivalent of the Oblique Strategies; I consult these cards filled out by people to determine where the book is going, to find a way to touch and change my mind, to introduce surprise elements, and to research the collective conceptual force made up of those that love him, like him, take an interest in him, want to know more, a mysterious that has invented the idea of David Bowie as much as Bowie did himself. 

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his fabulousness   . . .

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1985, when I was 3

    I would describe myself as: Bowie’s number 1 fan from the land of ice and snow and probably the only person who cried when standing in front of the ‘Life on Mars’ suit

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is; 1920’s Wiemar Cabaret Station to Station style

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1982, hearing ‘Young Americans’ on the radio when I was 8

    I would describe myself as: wanting to be someone different to who I am

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his use of glitter I have a pair of glittery boots that are like his and his understanding and use of theatricality

    I first knew about David Bowie in: since I can remember car journeys with my mum and dad. They also played Leonard Cohen – then we take Berlin!

    I would describe myself as: normal but I don’t think other people think that I am. I am friendly

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his permanent changes – without caring what people think

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Nirvana’s reprise of The Man Who Sold The World

    I would describe myself as: shy

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: the emotions his music excites

    I first knew about David Bowie in: age of sixteen – father introduced him to me

    I would describe myself as: interested

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his inconsistency

    I first knew about David Bowie in: he probably infulbucated (sic) my subconscious at birth

    I would describe myself as: pneumatic

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: The fact that he can’t remember making his best album

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Arguments over how to pronounce his surname correctly

    I would describe myself as: Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2006

     

    (I have checked, and the following will help me greatly with a possible index to this book, broadening out the scope considerably, because the Time Person of the Year 2006 could be Hugo Chavez, Sacha Baron Cohen (I am inclined to think this is a strong maybe, but maybe not), Raul Castro, Bush, Cheney or Rumsfield, Stephen Colbert, Katie Couric, the great grandson of Henry Ford, Al Gore, Michael J Fox, the cast of Heroes, the citizens of Iraq, Kim Jong II (unlikely), Angela Merkel, the planet Pluto, Pope Benedict XVI, Condoleeza Rice, Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, Robert Altman, Betty Friedan, Milton Friedman, John Kenneth Galbraith, Coretta Scott King or Slobodan Milosevic.)

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: he still sounds the same now, forty years on

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1973, when I became a teenager

    I would describe myself as: 50 + + young when I listen to Bowie, I am transported back

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his cheekbones

    I first knew about David Bowie in 1976

    I would describe myself as: inspired by the beauty of the cult of Bowie

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: His imagery – the sound and vision

    I first knew about David Bowie in: I’ve always known about David Bowie

    I would describe myself as: me

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his flamboyance, his song writing ability and appearance

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 1996 when I was four years old and my mum sang ‘Space Oddity’ to me

    I would describe myself as: a steampunk mod girl

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: always looking for something new or making the obscure the normal

    I first knew about David Bowie in: Top of the Pops. As a kid I remember seeing him and it looked so good and it has always stayed with me

    I would describe myself as: I would like to think rebellious, and individual – but isn’t everyone !

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: his old cheekbones

    I first knew about David Bowie in: The soundtrack of the tv series Life on Mars

    I would describe myself as; an art student !

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: that no matter who you talk to they can relate to him

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 2012 (I’m 16)

    I would describe myself as: having no idea of who I am, but that’s ok

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: he looks like he smells nice

    I first knew about David Bowie : on holiday

    I would describe myself as: a six year old girl

     

    My favourite thing about David Bowie is: Where are we now

    I first knew about David Bowie in: 2009 (one year old)

    I would describe myself as: kind and pritty

     

    16.58 p.m.

    By the end of the first day, I begin to understand that there is some wonderful generosity of spirit amongst those people coming up to me, urging me on and even giving me material as I write inside the V and A's Grand Entrance, an energy that with time I will be able to connect to what is happening inside the rooms where the Bowie Is exhibition is laid out - the visitors, most of them strangers to me, see what I am doing, and they want to help, they want me to complete the task I have been set, and tell me their own stories. David Bowie was going to be a big part of whatever I managed to write; and now his fans are, and therefore, much, much more of Bowie and what he means than there would have been if it had just come out of my own mind.