When you switch on the morning news and hear Ziggy Stardust it can sadly only mean one thing.
Pop music has always been tribal. People have loved some bands and hated others – but I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who didn’t find anything to like by David Bowie.
Maybe that was because there were so many of him over so many years, and most of them were highly influential.
There are many reasons bands tend to develop a sound and stick with it – not least because the record companies don’t like to run the risk of the fans being unforgiving about experimentation.
Bowie’s sound was experimentation. He did easy listening, cabaret, glam, punk, rock, plastic soul, synth-pop, metal, grunge, you name it – his way. Even when he did covers, they were Bowie covers. Everybody loves to be regarded as eclectic – Bowie was beyond that. Eccentroclectic perhaps.
If you could find someone who’d never heard them, they probably wouldn’t think the lushly operatic ballad Life on Mars and the nihilistic rocker Diamond Dogs were by the same artist, just three years apart. He was simply incapable of coasting. Driven (and some of the reasons were really rather dark).
While I suppose the Beatles get the gong for pioneering what you might call impressionistic lyrics, Bowie was the one who really nailed the bricolage poetry, time after time, regardless of the subject. And no subject was off-limits to Bowie.
Who else in the history of music has ever thought of so aptly describing moonlight as serious?
His image and presentation were so imaginative and individual that he could be as stagey as he liked without (too many) accusations of pretension. He was like the kid at school who could get away with wearing anything. It just worked.
He’s also probably the only person ever to make mime look cool to angry teenagers. Well, almost – but then mime did rather inform his visual presence even after he’d given up the early gig with T Rex.
The total result was that Davey Jones always seemed to be simultaneously of the moment and ahead of his time.
“Though nothing will keep us together,
We could steal time, just for one day.”