The world lost today the biggest artist of all times and everything you say will never be enough to describe the man we owe so much to.
Bowie has been in my life ever since I bought my first Bowie record at the age of 15 when I was living in the city of Coimbra, Portugal – “The rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”. I still remember the day, walking down a green avenue with tall trees with that record in my hand. It was the late seventies, guitars still ruled the decade and his songs were just mind-blowing. I was fully into science fiction and his songs spoke of creatures from outer space. This is was just the beginning of a close relationship with the music and the imagery of this fascinating character. I used to play zero gravity games in prep school and months after discovering Ziggy I met Major Tom, a character floating in space in the most peculiar way. Two years later, I became more interested in dance muisic and there he was, he had launched a record full of American soul and I could not stop dancing to “Young Americans”. Bowie had also a close relationship with Berlin. My parents had moved recently to Germany and I was travelling often to that country. Planes were too expensive those days and used to take the train, and there I was listening to Bowie for two days, starting my train journey in Lisbon listening to “Hunky Dory”. Reading was an important element in these long journeys on the Sud-Express. I was into George Orwell and so was Bowie who had recorded “Diamond Dogs”, based on the book “1984”. Upon arriving In Paris I would take the train to Cologne, which reminded me of course of the track “Neuköln”. Warsaw was the final destination of that train and I still retain the memory of listening to “Warzawa” crossing Belgium. I was 17 by then and “Heroes” was my hymn, “We can be heroes, just for one day”. Synthesizers and fashion were two of my major passions at the turn of the decade. While in Köln and Bonn “Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger” were the perfect soundtracks for my long stays in Germany. Those were also the days of punk, I was into it and “Look back in anger” had the very same aggressive mood.
At the beginning of the 80’s fashion took to the clubs. I was fully into the New Romantic movement when he released “Scary Monsters”. Ashes to Ashes featured Steve Strange on a video and it was perfect. Another great soundtrack for club nights when we used to, like Bowie himself, dress up. And I was fascinated with his mime, which he had learned with Lindsay Kemp. Hairdos were also extremely important those days and his orange hair in Station to Station was just the right colour. “How do I want be remembered? Well I hope people will say ‘what a great hairstyle he had’!” he joked. In 1982 I moved to Lisbon and before leaving Coimbra i dyed some strands of my hair blond. It was the closest I was to a Bowie hairstyle, my hairdo closer to Bryan Ferry’s polite hair and who I saw live that year. I arrived in Lisbon on October that year and the city was booming and Bowie was there in the clubs too. That’s when I met two friends, Rui and Toni, who shared the same passion for Bowie and the same orange hair and hairdos. “Absolute Beginners” was the perfect song back then,the beginning of my life in this city. In the first half of the 1980’s David Bowie reached worldwide audiences with “Let’s Dance”. It was Ok, but I preferred the previous Bowie whose lyrics I had learned by heart, the darker and more mysterious songs by this man who was somehow into black magic, who composed dense soundscapes, who had produced “The Idiot” by Iggy Pop” and “Transformer” by Lou Reed.
Bowie’s records kept piling in my room and despite the fact that they did not have the same intensity as before I listened a lot to “Tonight”. I fell in love at the sound of “God Only Knows”, a Beach Boys classic he raised to perfection. For every important stage in my life there was a Bowie song to go with it. And I knew he would surprise us again and be back to his avant-garde spirit and so he did when he invited Louise Lecavalier from the avant-garde dance group La La La Human Steps. Some of his records at the end of the 80’s and 90’s did not match his previous masterpieces. But by then my vault was already full of Bowie sounds. I could always go back to “Time” and “Lady Grinning Soul”. I learned the opening sequence of Diamond Dogs’ “Future Legend”, by heart and I was rock and rolling with him. And I had in the meantime found a number of pop stars who acted and sang a bit like Bowie, who had inherited his good taste and some of the mannerisms, people like Billy McKenzie from The Associates, Richard Butler from The Psychedelic Furs, Brett Anderson from Suede or Jarvis Cocker from The Pulp In 1995, Bowie was back in force with “Outside”, produced again by another hero, Brian Eno, and I loved every little bit of it. “Strangers when we meet” was the perfect song from that record. In 2001, I had the pleasure of meeting him in New York at a cocktail party. Thre he was there, nice, smiling. We talked a bit and I was just fascinated. The man was not only a great artist but also a very nice person.
In 2002 he released “Heathen” another great album and “Slip Away”, a beautiful song about friendship. A ten-year hiatus followed and the man did not release any record. But I had crammed so many things by him and I had a lot to see and hear. I had movies like “The man who fell to earth”, “Just a Gigolo”, “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence. I had “Baal”, a record of Brecht songs, I had his version of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” narrated by him”, I had bought “Black Book” a book with pictures of him. And I had retained his sense of style. In recent years, like Bowie, I travelled often to Berlin to visit close friends. Everywhere I would go I would find something related to Bowie. The Wall described in “Heroes”, the neighborhood of Neuköln where my friends had moved to, Schöneberg where he used to live. I went to some of the bars he had been drinking and spoke to people who remembered him. And then he released an album “The Nex Day” which was a true trip back to Berlin. The man was following me as much as I was following him. In 2014 I had the chance to see the “Bowie is” exhibition in Berlin and like today I cried so much that my face was wet. I was in a large room surrounded by sounds and images of the man who, since I was 15, had been there all along. I know all his songs by heart, I saw him live and I have always been eager and curious to find new things just like him. An important part of my life was in that exhibition room.
I was awakened today with the sad news of his passing, two days after having released his new album with the opening line “Look at me I’m in heaven”. You are, and the world will thank you forever for having moved so many people. We do not have five years left to cry you. We will cry your death for all eternity and we are extremely thankful for the body of work you have left us. I absolutely love you, David Bowie.
Carlos Tomé Sousa