A Thank You to Two David's:
A Thank You.
If a blog is for anything, I figure its for getting down whats on your mind, and this one is a thank you to someone from my past. When I was 7yrs old, we moved to Ivy Rd in Bolton. Well actually, the Front door was on Ivy Rd, but the back door opened out onto a short garden that ran out to Thornley Avenue, and Thornley Avenue was where my mates lived. A couple of doors down lived Mark and his elder brother Tony, (now sadly deceased), at the other end of the street lived Brian and his family, and in the street running parallel to Ivy Rd lived Michael. But the subject of this blog lived opposite Tony and Mark. His name was Dave Gaskell, and he was plenty older than me. Dave was a good looking lad with shoulder length hair (this was the early-mid’70’s), and he lived with his dad in a terraced house on the Avenue. His mum had left years before, and so Dave pretty much had the run of the house when he was back from school, and while his dad was at work. But the best thing about Dave, was that he absolutely loved Pop music. And pop music in the early-mid ’70’s was good. We spent many a happy afternoon listening to Slade, T.Rex and early Gary Glitter, as loud as his record Player would allow, and his enthusiasm for these glam rock icons was infectious and enthusiastic. A nice guy, he never belittled me because of my age, and instead enjoyed my boyish enthusiasm for the spangled be-glittered productions that fell from his stereo. But the biggie. The real biggie, was Bowie. We LOVED Bowie! At the age of 11, I had become the worlds greatest Bowie fan. I still am. At that time however, there seemed nothing else in the world that mattered to me. I had barely got over how much it was possible to love an album full of music (Ziggy Stardust), when the almighty sonic heaven that was Aladdin Sane was released.
In later years I can look back on some of the mixes and wonder just how baked they had to be to allow some of that stuff out, (The vocal mix on “Watch That Man” is all but AWOL) but the sheer, ribald, coke-fuelled energy of the thing is still a thing of personal joy to me to this day. If I fire up “Lets Spend the Night Together” whilst on the ski tracker at the gym, I can almost guarantee a further 50 calories will be burnt in the first 5 minutes. It is just electric.
And I knew it then.
I knew it would stay with me for ever.
These days I can listen to Mike Garsons avant garde piano playing on Aladdin Sane and appreciate it from a players perspective, back then, I just liked the fact that some of the notes sounded ‘wrong’, and that made them perfect.The whole feel of the gate-fold sleeve and Bowies’ lightning strike make-up was a thing of beauty to those 12 year old eyes, and I wanted to be part of it. I wanted to be creative and make music and write lyrics that had dangerous words like “Wanking” and “Suck baby Suck, give me your head…. I wanted to be dressed in spandex and make up and play like Mick Ronson (I hadn’t quite managed to coax those kind of sounds out of my Japanese ‘Zenta’ telecaster copy and my 5 watt amp, but christ knows I tried….) In short I was in love, and I determined then and there, that I would a) get my hair dyed, and b) become bi-sexual.
Admittedly, I hadnt quite worked out how I was going to pull this second part of the equation off, as I had already developed a robust interest in the fairer sex, and I couldn’t for the life of me find anything remotely attractive in the sweaty, muddied, naked forms surrounding me in the school changing rooms, however the hair colour thing was, some female friends advised me, very possible indeed, but thats another story……
One Day, Dave told me there was a new Bowie album and he was going into town to buy it. He would show me when he got back.
When Diamond Dogs arrived I was apoplectic.
The gatefold cover was enough. Portraying Bowie as a half man – half dog, it was banned fairly quickly for showing the dogs cock, but musically…… I remember Dave bringing it out for us to hear for the first time. Sharing his new purchase with me, I couldnt have been happier. Bowie reading the opening tract set to Rodgers and Hammersteins ‘Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered’ was a moment of new glory as far as I was concerned, but to hear him shout the nonsensical “This aint Rock n Roll, this is Genocide!” before the the opening guitars of Diamond Dogs itself, sent me reeling.
The point is that these were seminal moments for me. They were the first time I felt I ‘owned’ something, these songs were written for me. I understood the meanings, and they had relevance. Bowie was talking to me and others like me, but most important of all, he wasn’t talking to my Mum and Dad. And I loved him for that.
And still do.
To love Bowie is to love the idea of art and creation, indeed the constant re-invention of looks, style and sound was breathtaking to behold, but he was also a Phenomenal songwriter. His earlier ‘hippy-fied’ Space Oddity album contains the beautiful “Letter to Hermione” among other superb examples of the genre. His “Man Who Sold The World” album was a forerunner to some of the hardest progressive heavy rock, and in all these styles and genres HE was the one writing the riffs and the hooks.
Keith Richards is widely regarded as one of the best writers of Rock n Roll guitar Riffs, and he’d have sold his own mother to have written the opening riff to ‘Rebel Rebel’, or ‘Ziggy Stardust” or “Diamond Dogs”. From a players standpoint, after having outriffed the guitarists, some of Bowies sax work is beautiful to behold. Simplistic and uncomplicated, yet completely recognisable as him, some players work all their life to achieve a ‘voice’ of their own, and his playing was always valid wherever it turned up.
His later shift to the “Thin White Duke” phase, were also hugely pleasurable for me, and as I say I have followed and loved Bowie ever since, but around the end of the Diamond Dogs album, we were all growing older, and as will happen with the advent of secondary schools and new friends, I saw less and less of Dave, until one day he had gone. Moved out, and moved on.
I’ve never seen him since.
I hope he’s well.
He won’t ever know the effect those hours spent with him listening to music had on me. It was there and then, that I decided to become a musician, to follow my guitar playing.
Neither of us could’ve known what a stubborn pig headed young sod I was to become. How school and teachers and authority were to become the bane of my teenage life. But also, how in those hours curled up on my bed listening to a mono earphone plugged into a Phillips Carousel tape recorder playing the cassettes that Dave had allowed me to tape from him, I could escape to places that would set my soul free forever, and burn into me the resolve needed to push myself forward, and onward, to a life where playing guitar and writing music allowed me to earn a good living for my family, to travel and see the world in a way I could never have done in any other job. To have good, close friends all over the world that I made through music, and to sit here now late at night and look back on a life that has constantly revolved around music, and still does
And for all this, I thank him from the bottom of my heart.
Wherever he is.