The year was late 1970-something. I was visiting with some of my older cousins. I had lots of them. Which meant I was always being treated to all kinds of hand-me-downs. Usually it was just boring velvet dresses and plaid pantsuits. (Pipe down. It was the 70s.)
But not this time.
I still remember when my cousin handed me one of her old records, a 45. (Yep, the kind that needed an adaptor in the middle.)
“Do you want this?” she said, handing me the old record with no sleeve. It had ballpoint pen scribblings on the affixed label. Clearly, it had been played a lot. “I’ve got the whole album now, so you can have this.”
The printing on the tan label said “David Bowie – Fame – RCA Victor” … plus lots of other stuff that meant nothing to me at the time. (Like the fact that John Lennon was one of the songwriters.) I was just a kid, happy to be given anything, especially from a teenager. That made it automatically cool.
“Yes!” I said, grabbing it, thrilled to have my own 45 record that I could put alongside my only other record, a full length 33 LP album by Donny Osmond. (Again … it was the 70s.)
I brought that 45 home and played it immediately. As a child, I absolutely loved the twenty-five successively sung “Fames” that moved down the scale from Alvin the Chipmunk to the Exorcist Demon. It was the one part of the song I could sing along to immediately. I wore that record out. I was hooked.
A picture of one incarnation of my bedroom, circa 1980-something. He made the wall twice. That’s saying something.
Over the years, his songs would continue to serve as the soundtrack for the highlights of my life. Rebel, Rebel was playing at a school dance when I danced with … and, let’s be honest, kissed … my first crush. (Where the hell were the chaperones, by the way?) And as John Hughes guided me through my adolescence, Young Americans found its way into Sixteen Candles and a pointed quote from Changes (one of my all-time favorites) kicked off the Breakfast Club. Once in college, Under Pressure would serve as the party anthem for the entire courting period with my husband. And the song was ten years old.
Honestly … Heroes, Space Oddity, Jean Genie, Ashes to Ashes, Modern Girl, even his holiday duet with Bing Crosby that I was lucky enough to see when it first aired … I could go on and on. David Bowie set the benchmark. Which is why … at age 69 … when so many other rock icons of his era are watching their fans age right along with them (I’ll be nice and refrain from naming them), David Bowie remained relevant. And cool. The man was 69 years old and never stopped being cool.
As one of my music-loving Facebook friends wrote on her feed today … “The world without David Bowie will be far less interesting.”
I couldn’t agree more, Suzette.
RIP Mr. Bowie.
I’ll be wearing my 45 adaptor necklace all week in memory of you and my first 45 record.
“We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day”