David Bowie and Chinese folk

An impostor of some kind

While writing yesterday about Bruce Springsteen’s Hyde Park show, I was reminded of a story I once heard about David Bowie.

It harks back at least 10 years. A friend of mine, a big Bowie fan, was in the audience for an episode of Later with Jools Holland, and David Bowie – Derek to his mates – was one of the guests.

At some point in proceedings, filming had to be stopped so the crew could deal with a technical fault of some kind, and everyone in the studio just stood about, waiting for it to be fixed. A minute or two in, Bowie said “no point in us all waiting in silence”, grabbed his guitar, and began to sing Life on Mars.

For my friend, this was ludicrous fantasy, dream comes true, I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-even-though-I’m-watching-it-happen territory. An acoustic Bowie serenade, with the man just a few feet away. It was a perfect moment.

And then, about two-thirds of the way into the song, a BBC floor manager walked out in front of Bowie and said “OK, OK, everything’s fixed now, if you could all return to your places, please!”

Didn’t occur to him to wait till the song was finished. To appreciate that his priorities might not quite align with everyone else’s. To enjoy the moment. To have some fucking respect.

“Wow,” said Bowie, turning to the floor manager. “You must be a very important man.”

I like to think that at least a day or two passed before that floor manager realised – with a sudden flash of insight – that Dave had, in the most Bowie-esque way possible, just called him a c***.

Recently, I’ve heard several times that David Bowie is either no longer interested in making music and leading a public life, or is very ill. So far as I’m aware, since his mid-tour heart attack in 2004, he has barely made any public appearances. I hope he’s happy, and healthy, of course, but it would be good to have the man back out in the world, making records and performing some shows.

Or so I thought. But a quick Google, trying to find out what he’s been up to recently, led me here – to an interview with bass player Gail Ann Dorsey. And she said:

“He closely follows bands like Arcade Fire in recent months. But he is inspired by ancient Chinese folk and jazz these days as well.”

Chinese folk and jazz. Hmmm. No need to rush there, Derek. You take your time.

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