The Man Who Sold the World

January 12, 2016 — 37 Comments

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In 1983, none of my friends were dead yet.

In 1983 I was a rose in red overalls, vibrant yet obscure; flushed, tender and fragile.

In 1983 I was 14 and beginning the second longest love affair of my life – with music. Love of literature had taken permanent residence in my brain. Music was located in my heart and in my loins.

 

In 1983 I experienced my first rock concert.

David Bowie. Serious Moonlight Tour. Madison Square Garden, New York City.

 

 

That brutally hot summer I decided to not only attend the concert but to somehow, some way, meet David Bowie. It was pure unadulterated fan girling, and I am not in the least bit embarrassed of it. I would do the same thing today.

My eldest brother, who frequently bounced back between the right and left coasts, was planning to be in New York that July. We made the momentous decision to buy tickets from a scalper and see The Thin White Duke up close and personal – close enough to see (and maybe capture?) the sweat droplets on his face.

I had about $300 saved from babysitting and my crappy summer job. My brother mailed me his $300 and instructions to drain my bank account and contact a ticket scalper via an ad in the Village Voice. It was, to this day, the best $300 I ever spent.

Third row, center.

 

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars was my first Bowie album. It’s the album responsible for turning David Bowie into a superstar – and me into a lifelong fan. It’s a conceptual masterpiece. Flamboyant fashion and showy theatricality align perfectly with Bowie’s artistic vision.  Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a rock and roll landmark and THE soundtrack to the glitter/glam movement.

The message? “Freak out in a moonage daydream.”
Oh yeah.

 

I was a 14 year old mesmerized earthling listener when I first heard Bowie as Ziggy, the gender-bending, rock n’ rolling bisexual alien. I was smitten with its epic saga of a space rock star’s ascent to superstardom and his subsequent fall.

I had been reading edgy beat literature since I was 11. This was the summer David Bowie leapt up and throttled my musical sensibility with this raw, sexy, funky, witty, and completely weird record.

It’s a delicious, shimmering slice of pop perfection. I fell into a trance at the footstep drum opening of  ‘Five Years.’ I hung on every note until the last song, the lyrically brilliant  ‘Rock n’ Roll Suicide,’ built to an emphatic climax before finishing with its final, dramatically suspended, violin note.

This was my first David Bowie album, and it will always hold a very special place in my heart.

 

 

Concert day arrived.

I wore an outfit I bought at The Limited: a glittery silver tank top with one strap, cut asymetrically across the front, and red jeans. I teased my hair wildly, and slapped on gobs of eye makeup.

Madison Square Garden is on 34th Street in Manhattan. This area, midtown, was a sordid festival of glitz and debauchery in the 80’s, and I was dressed perfectly for the occasion.

I purchased a single red rose that I planned to present to David Bowie after the concert. I had no idea how I would get it to him, only that I would.

 

Sometimes when we reminisce over past events in our lives, we embellish them into something far more grandiose than they were. Was this really one of the best concerts I have ever seen, or simply the very first?

Answer: Yes.

Bowie performed in a paradoxical style both unhinged and wholly self-controlled. His ambiguous sexuality, outlandishly ornate fashion and makeup, the grand theatricality of the concert and his sheer creativity changed my entire notion of rock music.

The hit song off of his latest album was “Let’s Dance.” As the pop disco beat throbbed a sweaty yet still elegant Bowie performed simple dance moves while crooning in his unmistakable, achingly beautiful honey voice. I was overtaken by a wild urge and as he sang the lyrics, “…and tremble like a flower,” I suddenly tossed my rose to him – which he caught gracefully, never missing a beat.

And made eye contact with me (huge fangirl moment)

I had the 14-year-old version of a spontaneous public orgasm.

 

The story of David Bowie is that of the most colorful and provocative musician/artist in rock music. He managed to remain relevant and relentlessly hip for five decades.

Bowie’s art crossed boundaries of art and reality. He pulled me into his art, into HIS world. This was at age 14, a time in my life when I began to question my own identity and what I was told my identity should be. Many of the choices I made were inexplicably linked to the explosion of freedom that Bowie gifted me.

Moreover, Bowie created an ambiguity to his sexuality, which allowed me to question my own. The cultural norm for tween sexuality in 1983 was very rigid. The uncompromising sexuality of Ziggy Stardust was hugely important in allowing me to confront and overcome sexual taboos. I began to resist rigid sexual identities, which turned into a lifetime of sexual fluidity and openness.

 

 

In 2016 too many of my friends have died.

And with them now goes a cultural icon, a groundbreaking musician who sang his way deeply into my soul. His global legacy was the transformation of musical performance into an art form. His personal gift to me was freedom. And on suffocatingly provincial Staten Island, a place that still has not caught up to the new millennium?

It really WAS as if he were the man who fell to earth.

 

What was your favorite David Bowie song? Did you ever get to see him in concert?
Tell me your Bowie memories. Talk to me, I’m listening. 

 

Join me on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter  so I can have friends without leaving the house. 

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37 responses to The Man Who Sold the World

  1. 

    That picture of Bowie is stunning. I have loved David Bowie for decades and I was so sad to hear he died. My favorite? I don’t know if I could pick.

  2. 

    FRIST!!!!!

    • 

      Damn, I wasn’t.
      Everything you write takes me there. I was watching him catch that rose. I was never so lucky as to see him. But his voice brings me back to so many crazy nights in the 80s. Music always does that. His music will always bring me back to a time that makes me smile.

  3. 

    OF COURSE David Bowie was your first concert. It couldn’t have been Debbie Gibson or New Kids or some other embarrassing awkward phase group. (mine was KISS but I was only 5 or 6 years old and had no clue what was going on). No, I never saw David Bowie. My favorite Bowie song? I’ve always been partial to China Girl just because I love how he says “Oh baby, just you shut your mouth.” But I also loved I’m Afraid Of Americans that he did with Trent Reznor. And of course Fame, Changes, The Man Who Sold The World. But All The Young Dudes is probably my favorite. I love that you got to see him with your brother ❤

    • 

      KISS is NOT an embarrassing first concert, not at all!

      I got lucky with the Bowie thing, having an older brother and all. Thanks for noticing that it was with him. That’s part of why it’s a special memory. I’ve actually had this post in my drafts, half written, forever. This was the right time to publish it.

  4. 

    Wonderful piece, Samara. In 1983 I was a young mother, nearly oblivious to modern culture as I played patty cake and washed diapers. Thanks for taking me with you to a Bowie concert in this story. At 13 I saw the Beatles perform in Cleveland on their first tour. Later I saw bands like the Stones and the Who. The music of our youth is a tattoo on our souls.

  5. 

    Maybe Ashes to Ashes.

  6. 

    Amen, sister. Don’t forget his acting talents too!

  7. 

    I love that he caught your rose, that’s a perfect moment! Bowie was one of the few celebrity deaths where I’ve felt so personally upset, as have so many others. The outpouring has been so wonderful to see. Last night I really wanted to watch Labyrinth and couldn’t find access to it anywhere, I’m going to try again tonight, I haven’t see it in years. Love Space Oddity, couldn’t pick a favourite song though.

    • 

      It WAS a perfect moment. The rose moment.
      And I have been grieving for two days. I can’t help it, I’m just very sad. I didn’t even know he was ill.
      It’s too hard to pick a favorite song, isn’t it? I have about five, I think.

  8. 

    I never saw Bowie in concert. You’re so lucky! And to have it be your first concert, too! Wow, where do you go from there? My earliest memory of David Bowie is watching him on TV with my oldest sister when he was Ziggy Stardust. I must have been about five or six and I thought he was so cool. I could never pick a favorite song! So sad he’s gone.

  9. 

    Thanks for recounting this wonderful story. 🙂

  10. 

    Wow… what a cool experience for you! Like you, my first album was a David Bowie vinyl record Changesonebowie in 1976. (I am a few years older than you) I was 12 and I learned every single word to every single song! He truly was one of the greats and a legend that set the stage and laid the path for many successful artists today. (too bad they don’t all know that or appreciate it) :-/
    My favorite song is probably Space Oddity but I love Fame and Golden Years also. Thanks for sharing your awesome story Samara! 🙂

  11. 

    I saw Bowie 3 times in the 80s/90s – Glass Spider Tour at Wembley, UK; Milton Keynes Bowl; & at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert at Wembley. I adored David Bowie! My favourite song was Heroes – although I loved every record he made. Funny story – my mum & I met one of Bowie’s session drummers whilst on holiday, a charismatic guy himself – I was 16 & both my mum & I were smitten (my mum liked Bowie too) – we dated a couple of times & he gave me his copy of the album Heroes – still got it! This was in 1981! 😊

  12. 

    Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed…

  13. 

    The Man Who Sold The World is probably it – which I heard for the first time just last year (you are correctly guessing now that I am not a huge Bowie fan.)
    But when I heard it, was one of the rare times where I drop everything and google the lyrics to find out what is that song so I could add it to my playlist.

  14. 

    Ziggy.
    No.
    (WordPress is still dumb today; can’t go to any blogposts directly from my followed blogs feed.On either computer for 2 days now. And I can go to “slower” sites just fine, so I’m sayin’ it’s WP, not me.)
    Well done, Samara.

  15. 

    Gorgeous memories, and I WISH I could have seen him in concert. He is probably one of the few stars I would have bothered for, had I ever had means and opportunity line up at the same time.

    He is the ONLY person whose face I’ve ever had on a t-shirt I’ve worn.

    He’s a LEGEND and I adore him.

    My favourite songs…Changes, Starman…gah I love so many of them.

  16. 

    Wow, you really took everybody on a journey to that concert. Beautiful post. Beautiful and sad.

  17. 

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I loved Bowie’s music, but I never owned an album. The way you describe his work makes me nostalgic for the days when an album was a work in and of itself, not unlike a symphony, with a story thread connecting it all. It seems like with today’s albums being so calculatingly put together to bring in the almighty buck, they are more a collection of somewhat random songs, yes, perhaps all representing where the artist is at in that space and time, but missing that continuity of story, of theme.

    Thanks for bringing me to your first concert; and what a moment, throwing the rose! Perfection!

  18. 

    This was beautiful. Thank you.

  19. 

    Wonderful tribute. 🙂

  20. 

    At the age of 14 I was watching David Bowie on MTV and wishing to see him in concert. At the age of 14 you were seeing him in concert. YaY you! I can’t pick a favorite and art will never be the same. RIP.

  21. 

    Wow, what a moment S! I’m older than you, and never got to see him in concert. But I’m in Tel Aviv now, nursing my broken heart. We both wrote about this, because that’s how we express our inner stuff, but not even words can really capture this one. With the time difference, I heard just moment after his family announced it, and found myself in a cafe writing my grief, surrounded by people who either didn’t know yet, or didn’t seem to care: “how can you all be drinking? Laughing? Don’t you know that The Space Man is gone?” So, I wrote… I’m glad you did too, Samara. Powerful memories, thanks for sharing them!

  22. 

    There are so many brilliant moments, but I can’t take my eyes off him in this one, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tgcc5V9Hu3g and he is STUNNINGLY sharp in this one: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/videos/flashback-david-bowie-rips-into-mtv-for-not-spotlighting-black-artists-20160113 (seriously… watch how eloquent and persistent he is, while listening to such utter bull shit. He rocks me)

  23. 

    I’m an 80s baby so the first time I heard David Bowie, my aunt & mother were listening to him. The first time I saw him though was when he played Jareth, the Goblin King in Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. I fell in love. & Grew up on his music.
    The hole left with him now gone is crazy, but he’s free. Finally free from that suffering. Cancer really fucking sucks.

  24. 

    Yes to all of it! Fantastic ride you just took me on.

  25. 

    I like “China Girl.” Probably because I’m partial to Asian chicks.

    That’s all I’ve got.

  26. 

    nice tribute…I was older than 14 in 1983, but no wiser

  27. 

    Favourite Bowie song: Ashes to Ashes.

    I cried the day I learned he died, which was strange and surreal because I was in the Middle East working to help Syrian refugees. The death of a western pop icon seemed somehow trivial by comparison. No matter, there I was crying in my fwal, hummus and pita.

    In reality I can’t deny the impact his music had on me – I was a weird kid and Bowie was really a champion of boundary-defying weirdos wasn’t he? He saved a lot of young souls; he was a cultural refuge from the shallow, vapid, Western banality that was threatening to psychologically and sexually smother another generation of youngsters.

    The world is a lot less cool without him. I think it was British actor Simon Pegg who said it best, when he said something like “humans have existed for thousands of years but we were lucky enough to live in the era of Bowie.”

    Spot on.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. We Really Should Do This More Often | The Waiting - January 18, 2016

    […] captured wholly personal moments in our lives. Posts like Karen’s and Denise‘s and Samara‘s made me realize that David Bowie’s passing was one that I wanted – needed […]

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