That's exactly how I remember him. Just enough cold to make you shiver, just enough strangeness to make you feel scared, just enough glamor to make you understand, just enough video to freak you out. Once somebody like him goes, you get what he means, and it's startling. You've depended on his strangeness to get you through. I have. Truly. Depended on David Bowie's oddness and fearlessness and creepiness, his shapeshiftingness, his ability to disappear and reappear. It gave me hope. Gives me hope still. He pursued a swarm of off-kilter notions that turned into a kingdom. His musical catalog is an electronic nest of hallways, every word and note merging into rooms that flow into one another and then suddenly you're outside in the cold again, freezing, wanting to freeze: "Sons of the Silent Age," "Always Crashing in the Same Car," "Boys Keep Swinging," "D.J.," "Wild Is the Wind," "Heroes," "Ashes to Ashes," and so on. I'm in a Berlin k-hole here, fixating on the albums Bowie made right before, during, and after he moved to Berlin and got God (Brian Eno): Station to Station, Low, "Hereos," The Lodger, and Scary Monster (and Super Creeps). You can't escape their importance, nor their interstellar drag, a music that defines a secret era through saturation and slurred loveliness. It's the late 70s and very early 80s, but also it's just Bowie: disco refashioned into robotic trance, punk recalibrated into thoughtfulness, rock's warmth and stir disconnected and rewired into beautiful crooned terror.
Bowie was a weirdo that somehow found a way to make weirdness majestic, worth putting up with. He did this through experimentation, but the experiments, at least those I'm referencing, always paid off, always found their way out of flaunts and fancy-flights into direct bullets to your brain and soul. It's the kind of music so connected to life it feels foreign to it; you just want to ride inside the spaceships he's made, close your eyes, find that planet of ladies rubbing lipstick off their faces, the planet of furious D.J.s and harlequins entrancing bulldozers.
Even before Berlin, Bowie was like that. One of the first memories I have of him is from Soul Train. For real. Bowie singing "Golden Years" on Soul Train. Well, lipsyncing at least. Out of it. He was thin and regal and looked doped-out, emptied of all feeling, but still into it, lizard-like and connected to some kind of malevolent corporation. The perfect thing:
All those guises, all those identities. I was maybe 10 years old. Loved watching Soul Train. Bowie's presence, though, made Soul Train feel gorgeously soul-less, like purgatory, and yet you wanted to be there, wanted to figure out what the hell? That was him: so strange he defined "strange," and now nobody is strange. They are just wannabes.
God bless the Thin White Duke. Rest in Peace.