Bowie

Well fuck.

 

All the cleverness, wit, presence of mind and loquaciousness that I use like an armor has left me and I’m just left with expletives.

Fuck.

I’m a fan obviously. A huge fan. There have been times in my life when Bowie was a key ingredient in the mixture that added joy to the situation. Sometimes situations that had precious little joy.

To be honest the impact that Bowie had in my life, the instances when he was important are too many and too disparate to recount but I will give some highlights and some editorial comment.

Warning this may be rambling.

There will be people who hail him as just a genius. Some who will dismiss him as a Magpie. Somewhere between those two extremes is where he was. He wasn’t perhaps as revolutionary as some hail him to be, but if you think it’s easy to see three things and mingle them into something equally or more brilliant that’s palatable to the masses then you’ve never done it. Only people like Madonna can judge him then and she thinks he was a genius. Not only that there’s jealousy. It’s what artists do, they steal, they intertwine, and they create art from a million different sources. But very few do it was openly or as brilliantly as he did Bowie talked about and cited and hailed his influences, he often worked with them. That’s not how you do it, you’re supposed to read quietly interweave your influences and act like you invented everything you do when asked. Like Gene Simmons does. As Ronnie James Dio said “If you ask Gene, he’ll tell you he invented shoes”. Bowie gave credit where credit was due and he never stopped being influenced. For Bowie being ahead of the curve wasn’t just something that he stumbled upon, it was his full time occupation. He was probably the most successful futurist ever only instead of putting out books or predictions he put out albums.

Bowie didn’t invent the internet but he was one of the first people to see it’s potential. I remember going to bowienet back in 1999 and being blown away. Oh! So that’s what this thing is for. He was the first artists to have downloadable content on the back of an album. Before that he wrote an entire album about the Pre-millennium tension 1995’s Outside (which is one hell of an album and sounds almost as fresh today as it sounded revolutionary back then).

Then in 2002 he released “Heathen” listening to it now, holy hell it’s a good album. It blew my mind at the time, here was a great album from a man nearing his 60’s not only that this was an album that my partner at the time bonded over, got obsessive about. So much so that I persuaded her to leave the house to go to an actual concert. 2004’s Reality tour. It was Friday Feb 27th 2004.

I was sceptical. Although I was totally going. I had seen some of Bowies Glass spider tour recently and I thought that he was phoning it in on that tour so I didn’t have high hopes for this one.

Boy was I wrong.

He was invigorated. Clearly enjoying himself and more than capable of not only delivering the hits but delivering new takes on old material. His stripped down version of “Life on mars” left me with chills.

His version of “Let’s Dance” a song I had never rated…made me love the song.

His performance of “I’m afraid of Americans” surprised me because it was the Trent Renzor remix version and it killed. Stupid Melbourne audiences who always sit on their hands and show appreciation with a golf clap were suddenly dancing and singing along.

Flash forward 12 years and here we are.

Two albums later. He disappeared for 10 years to be a father. I can totally understand that. Still I didn’t think I’d see another album and yet there they are. The Next Day and Blackstar two albums that I have not yet made my mind up about. Even though I’ve owned The Next Day since it came out.

In the days since I learned that he had died I keep flashing back to a place and a time.

I am cooking in a kitchen at a beachouse near Rye, we had just been fishing that day we had mostly caught flathead I am trying to make something French using what was frankly the wrong fish.  But there is a boom box on the counter and Best of Bowie is playing. We are on holiday, just the two of us, on a well-earned vacation, that night we will go to a local park lie on the grass and watch the shooting stars for hours and talk. Bowie in the background the whole time as it was the only Cd’s we had thought to bring. But we didn’t get sick of the two disc set. But the memory that sticks with me most is humming along to Rebel Rebel as I smiled to myself cooking the person I loved dinner in what was a perfect moment.

One more thing:

The year I was born 1976 Bowie was busy, the next year for him was insane on levels that only cocaine can explain.

Feb- Releases the classic album “Low” which was written and recorded in January Low contains the landmark song “Sound and Vision”.

Starts rehearsals for Iggy Pop’s UK tour which he will play keyboard on.

March- Tours the UK with Iggy Pop then the US then Canada

April- Iggy Pop releases “The Idiot” which David Bowie co-wrote and produced in March. American Tour continues.

May- Finishes Canadian tour with Iggy Pop

June- Records “Lust for Life” with Iggy Pop which he once again co-wrote and produced the album which is considered a proto-punk classic and is completed in 8 days.

July- Attends the premier of “The man who fell to earth” a film he made in December of 1976

August- Goes back in the Studio to record “Hero’s” an album which is considered one of the finest in his catalogue.

September- Hero’s is released Bowie goes on a press junket to promote it.

October- Bowie tours around the world to promote Hero’s

November- Discovers the band “Devo” and flys out to America to promote them.

December- Writes and records new narration for a live version of “Peter and the Wolf”

 

I’m getting tired just reading about it.

 

So if we include Peter and the wolf that’s 5 albums two of which are considered to be among the most important albums of the 70’s and three tours. Suck it…..everyone else.

 

 

And now ruining Hi-fi

largeLast week a friend of mine and I went to see the “Devialet Phantom” a new kind of sound system that will totally revolutionise how people with ears behave. It’s suppose to be all things to all people. A compact, beautiful single unit that is an engineering marvel which wives and people who are astheticly inclined will love as well as an Audiophiles wet dream. A system that sounds as good as $20,000 systems that costs a paultry $3,000AUD. It saves space, it makes sweet love to your pets and in the event of a water landing it can act as a folation device.

It’s been getting rave reviews. The kind of reviews that make it hard to ignore. Professional reviewers are having to pay for their units as when they hand them back Devilalet can’t get the drool marks off.

A lot of people reading probably won’t know this but I used to work in high end hi-fi. It was a great job in a lot of ways. I got to play with and hear systems costing over $100,000 and because the store I was at had very few customers I got to sit around watching movies all day. I love hi-fi and I have a lot of opinions about it. And my bat like senses tell me that when something claims to be this amazing: it’s bullshit. But I also love technology and Im ever hopeful so we went and we heard. What did we think?

Well what does it claim? It claims to be blutooth, check, it claimes to be wifi, check, it claims to be revoltuinary….um….not too sure about that one…it claimes to be 3000 watts. WHAT?! I’m  going to go ahead and say “no” to that one. 3000 watts is the kind of power you run through statium speakers, the kind of power that you need serious and massive transformers to just attain. This little unit may be mostly one piece of alumimum and that may add to it’s strenght and durablity but there’s no way that it’s pumping out 3000 watts. It’s just not. This is the kind of hyperbolic bullshit that hi-fi enthisuasts have had to put up with for years. Fudging the ratings for speakers and amps is basically a hobby for most maufacturers. It also claims to have 0 distortion (impossible to tell really) and 0 hum (I didn’t hear one but then we wern’t allowed to turn it up without a signal going thru it but I’d be surprised)

Most people have never heard a system that costs more than $10,000 or spent much time with systems that are over $30,000 but my friend and i had. And not ruin your Chirstmas….. but we were bitterly disapointed. This technological marvel sounded about as good as a Bose system (which having worked for Bose, I dont rate). Maybe a little better.  Yes it’s true that there is an impressive amount of bass produced from such a small unit. But everything else was terrible. A good $20,000 system will blow your head off. Heck a good $3,000 system will make you believe in an interventionist God. A good system will immerse you in the sound, it will make your recordings come alive, it will reveal detail and power that you’ve never heard before. It will make the hair on your arms stand on end. This system did none of that. I’ve been impressed by single units or small speakers before noteably the B&W soundbar which costs half the price of this. Ok so it looks like a Corellian Corvette from Return of the Jedi but other than that I was left totaly cold. If this were less than a grand then I’d think about it. But for $3,000 you can get a pretty good system. Shop around and know what your doing you could get a really, really good system but here’s the kicker. If you want to get the best out of these things you need two of them as technically this is mono… and you also need a dialoge unit to make them work together so your really shelling out $7000AUD and for that kind of money you can get a freaking spectacular system that really will blow your socks off and make this sound like the cheap hyperbole that it is.

*(Whilst we were there we also listened to the Qsound bookshelf speakers that come in around $600 and for my money they blew this thing away, acutally they were so awesome my friend bought a pair)