It’s a discouraging thing to realize our heroes and superstars are just. . . human. They grow and move on and change. My first lesson in this was when I was a pre-teen. I’d pillaged my older brother’s record collection and found the Monkees. Being the very demographic for whom they were created, I was hooked. Gentle reader, if you are unfamiliar with the Monkees, they were put together by some management team to slip-stream in on the popularity of the Beatles ~ 4 guys: 1 cute, 1 talented, 1 “character,” 1 other. It took a while for them to learn any musicianship so they could stop lip/instrument synching, but they were marketed with their own television show! It’s a shame those were the only albums I inadvertently saved before the Great Rehab Rock-&Roll Purge, but that is another story. I loved the Monkees, particularly Davy Jones, the cute one. I found the show on TV. (Looking back, it was obviously in syndication by then.) The album jackets provided information for the Monkees Fan Club. Joy! I wrote to them, as fans do. The letter came back, “Return to Sender.” My mother gently explained to me how old those albums were, that the Monkees were probably no longer together as a band. I was crushed. It was as though something real and living had suddenly been pressed under glass, stopped in time, no longer the interactive force I had believed in the day before. Over the years, one member and another would pass through the news, but the Monkees had, indeed, ceased to exist.
This may have been less disappointing than what another David Jones has done to me. In the late ’60s, in order to differentiate himself from Davy Jones of the Monkees, David Robert Jones became David Bowie. In the early ‘70s, he was on the bleeding edge, glitter glamorous, punk presaging, gender bending, rock & rolling. Through theatrical personae, he let his angels and demons loose on the stage. His music was eclectic, his lyrics compelling, and the whole show was an instigation.
He lived through the ‘70s and way too much cocaine, but kept working. He was evolving, too. David Bowie of the ‘80s was cleaned up and respectable, but the music still made me want to move. When he attempted to be “just another member” of a band with Tin Machine, and failed at it miserably, the music lost my interest. He continued to produce through the ‘90s, but I retreated to the old Bowie that I loved. When Heathen was released in 2002, I gave it a listen. Meh. Then he didn’t release another for a decade.
Recent public appearances have shown that Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke have given way to . . . my dad. Not my particular father, but he’s looking like everybody’s dad. He’s looking his age. It’s the human thing to do. I can’t blame him. But the music . . . the tracts I’ve heard have been so lifeless. That’s what is killing me. David Bowie is still making music but I don’t want to listen to it. He’s always been a chameleon, always changing, and if this late-60-something year-old man wants to make rocking chair music, that’s his bag.
But to be fair, I hadn’t listened to all the songs on his later albums. It was just too depressing. So, just now, I’ve sampled some more. There may be hope. That voice which has always moved me is still there. I can picture the smile Ziggy wore, crooked teeth and all, when he was having so much fun and on fire about his art. Nature’s first green is gold . . . these golden years … I’ll stick with you, baby, for a thousand years.