Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A few thoughts about Bowie

The room at the top of my mum's house was dark and a bit musty, full of model aeroplanes and books. Still is. But that was where my brothers kept their record collections.

In one room there were Beatles and Sisters of Mercy LPs. In the other, a Bowie collection. It was from these records that I first heard Station To Station, Ziggy Stardust, Space Oddity and Hunky Dory. (Oddly, I only came to Low and 'Heroes' much later, and was blown away by how modern they sounded, how I could see the clear lineage between these albums and those of my other favourites, Radiohead.)

David Bowie reminds me of home. My sister playing me “The Laughing Gnome” when I was a kid. Being taken to see Labyrinth (and when we got our first VCR I recorded the film off the telly and watched it daily). My dad taking the piss out of his mannered singing style (a bit rich, frankly, given that he was an opera fan!). Playing tapes with my oldest mates. Me and Peter were CB radio nerds. We used to broadcast out to the taxi drivers and other weirdos and jam the airwaves with tracks off Space Oddity. Bowie's genius was that – even though he was a global rock star – he always felt like yours. I think, to a degree, we felt like we were the first to discover him.

I am aware of how old I sound right now. I'm 35. And no, I don't want to know what Bowie had already done at my age.

Over the years my Bowie listening has drifted in and out of focus, but he's always been there. I listen to “proper” dance now because of his much-derided, actually-pretty-great drum 'n' bass album, Earthling (or is it Eart hl ing? I've never been sure). My interest in soul started with Young Americans. And it's not just music – I read 1984 because I was obsessing on Diamond Dogs. 1. Outside fed off of and fuelled an interest in cyberpunk. He's even in Twin Peaks, my favourite fictional world.

No matter who or what you've been

I had a bit of a bad time a while back, linked to the depression I've struggled with since I was a teenager and my dad died. But I still had Bowie. In 2013 I spent a fun weekend with friends in London and, on the last day, decided to check out the David Bowie Is exhibition. I'd read the reviews, but I remember expecting something small that I'd nip in, then out, then get on the train home to Bath. As you entered there was a sign that stated 45 minutes was the average viewing time.

I was in there for four hours.

Three bits leaped out at me from that show, for different reasons.
  1. “The Man Who Sold The World” video with Klaus Nomi. It seen it before in YouTube blur-o-vision, but here it was pristine and gloriously, bogglingly weird.
  2. The “Boys Keep Swinging” video. One of the weirder things that's happened to me in recent years is the Lodger has become my favourite of the Berlin trilogy, and here's one of its best tracks with Bowie in drag and cool as fuck.
  3. The end of the exhibition. It was an enormous hall, with screens on all sides projecting various Bowie videos. And on one of them was “Rock 'n' Roll Suicide”.
So here's a thing – I don't rate the Ziggy Stardust album that highly. Hey, some great songs for sure, but it's no Hunky Dory, or Low, or Station To Station, or...

But then “Rock 'n' Roll Suicide” came on. And Bowie sang “Oh no love, you're not alone” and, man, I cried hard in the middle of the V&A. The video ended, and I sat there and let it cycle around. And again. And again. I know I'm not the only one who had that experience. In fact, from talking to others, mine was one of the more moderate reactions.

That was a big moment for me. I'm not exaggerating when I say it was that precise point that I realised that things would be OK. Hey, David Bowie got through worse than this! Maybe I could ease back on the booze and other stupid things that were propping me up at the time?

Heaven loves ya

One more memory: last Friday. I was the first person to walk into HMV Bath that morning. I grabbed the CD and vinyl copies and then... paused.

I buy a lot of vinyl. Like, a shit load. A few months back I decided to cut back on that. And I chose not to buy Blackstar on black wax. It was more than twice as expensive as the CD and the cover was bleeding horrible (now I think that star is a piece of hilariously self-aggrandising genius on DB's part). 'I'll pick it up later,' I thought. 'There'll be an expanded edition out at Christmas, no doubt, and another album next year.'

David Bowie died two days ago. I still don't really understand what that means. There were so many David Bowies and we've already said goodbye to many of them that I think it's going to be a while before it sinks in that there will be no more.

It's not even about the music, at this point. After Reality I was resigned to there being no more records, so everything since has felt like a lovely bonus, but it just felt right that he was in the world. He was hanging out with Tilda Swinton and reading novels and being a family man. And good for him. If anyone had earned it...

And now he's gone, his death as stylish as anything he did in life. Yesterday, when I wrote the first draft of this, was sad. But after seeing the reaction to his passing, I feel heartened. It's nice to hear how many lives he touched. Maybe Lodger will get the reappraisal it deserves, now, cos honestly it's fucking great.

I didn't know how to end this, so I decided to take some inspiration from Big Dave and rely on the randomness of the universe. I put my Bowie album playlist on shuffle and planned to use a quote from the first track. iTunes picked “Neighbourhood Threat” from Tonight. Fucking hilarious – a forgettable track, and a cover at that, from an album that even he would happily admit was a contender for his worst. But never mind, eh? I'll just hit shuffle again and who knows what will come up? Glam rock? Ambient music? R&B? A spoken-word interlude about Baby Grace Blue followed by goth techno?

Godspeed, David.

Will xxx

Monday, 16 December 2013

A Christmas ghost story... of sorts

Hello you.

Here's a thing I wrote in 15 minutes today. It's kinda dumb, but it made me chuckle and I read it to some other writers tonight and they seemed to like it. It was written to be read out loud really. Hope you like it.


I don’t believe in ghosts,” I said, ignoring the translucent grey man hanging around at the end of my road.

I still don’t believe in ghosts,” I said, when I woke up the next day and found an old lady silently howling at the end of my bed.

I don’t believe in ghosts,” I angrily muttered, flipping the bird at the drowned child crying in my bathroom. “Sod off.”

No, really, I don’t believe in ghosts,” I stressed at work, when a cavalcade of headless horsemen galloped through the office and floated through the wall by the photocopier. That was a weird one.

FOR FUCK’S SAKE,” I swore that evening, as a raven-haired Korean girl levitated through my living room. “I don’t believe in ghosts!” She glowered at me and disappeared into the TV.

I don’t believe in ghosts,” I said tiredly as I surveyed my ruined flat while chairs flew around of their own accord.

I DO believe I should have kept taking those anti-psychotics,” I said to the doctor the next morning. “I think I’m having a few problems…”

Will Salmon 2013

Sunday, 3 March 2013

A new story

Hello. I've written a new story. It's got a rubbish title, but otherwise I quite like it. It's going to be published in the March issue of arts mag, The Bath Burp, but you can also read it here RIGHT NOW. If you want to.

Joe, 29, Patriotic
Will Salmon

How do I get into it each day? Well, I have my little rituals, y'know? Coffee. I need coffee. Without coffee I turn into a bit of a monster. And if I haven't had breakfast... oh, man. In a job like this, you spend a lot of time just staring at screens. Lots of screens! So it's important that you take care of your eyes. I've got one of those packs that you put in the refrigerator, y'know?
Chat? No, not so much. We're busy, y'know, and we like to keep the atmosphere professional. There's a lot going on, and you have to keep in contact with everyone all the time. The times where things have gone wrong are usually the times where communication has broken down. And, y'know, this is life or death, man! I mean afterwards... sure. I'll chat with some of the commuters or maybe grab a beer, but mostly I don't wanna know what people are doing at the weekend. I just wanna get in there, do my job, boom! And get out. Go home and chill.
I don't use Facebook anymore. I don't wanna be staring at a computer screen when I get home. I've been doing that for the last 12 hours, man! And there's too many people posting pictures of their kids. The things you see in this job... I don't want to think about kids. I just listen to music or go to the gym. You've gotta keep fit. A lot of the guys here... they do the bare minimum. They're nerds. I mean, that's how they got the job, right? And they're smart guys, but they don't look after themselves as much as they should. We're soldiers. I keep reminding them that, but they just keep hitting the Twinkies.
It does get rough, sometimes, yeah. Most times it's OK. I mean, it doesn't feel real. When you make a kill... it's like playing a video game. A really fuckin' good video game with, like, the best graphics you've ever seen. And then you remember and you feel... not sad. But you know on an intellectual level that you've just made somebody go away. A few people have quit because of the stress. There was this one guy, couple of months back, started crying in his chair. Totally flipped out, man! Someone else had to take control of the UAV. It was kind of embarrassing. I mean, it's not like we get much recognition from the regular forces anyway and that's not gonna help.
The thing is, we're fighting a war. Most of the people we kill, they're soldiers too. The families? Yeah, sure, it's nasty, but these things happen. Do you think they'd care if our sons and daughters were getting blown to pieces? Hell no!
My perfect weekend? Well, I don't work straight Mondays to Fridays, y'know? But when I'm off duty... I dunno. Sports. I play sports. Pretty good at baseball. Go to the movies. Sometimes I like to kick back and play Xbox. No, haha, no. Not flight simulators. Christ, can you imagine? Hahaha!

© 2013 William Salmon

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Smugglers Records, Bridlington

This last one is my sole recorded output so far, as part of a school group (not choir) back in 1987. We even appeared on Blue Peter, where I had my first ever beefburger, in the BBC canteen. Fact.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Straight On Till Morning

I love this film, and not just because I wish I looked like this man.

In my mind, this is what the whole world looks like...

Get the proto-hauntology band look.

Some words by me: http://www.sfx.co.uk/2011/04/08/blog-straight-on-till-morning/

Friday, 11 March 2011

Drunken nonsense

I've just played a piece of vinyl from 1974. It's brand new. Never been played until now. That piece of wax (lordy, I always feel like a tit when I say that) has been around longer than I have. And it's just been sat there on the shelf. Waiting.

Presumably it's gone from owner to owner, but never been taken out of its sleeve. And now it's mine. I don't really have anything to add to that but, y'know, weird. It makes me think of all the other old records and books just out there on shelves, in boxes, long after the labels and publishing companies have dissolved. Just waiting to be discovered and come alive.

The record was Sacrifice by Mandingo, incidentally. Yeah, not exactly a lost classic...!