Forty years ago yesterday, I went to see David Bowie at Bingley Hall, Stafford. It was a life-changing experience. I was 18 years old and it was, to me a pilgrimage. For five years, David Bowie had been my hero. He had been the one Icon who made sense. Jesus and a christian God had let me down… I had spent years looking for spiritual guidance, been to various denomination of churches, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Catholic… None could give me a proper explanation for the reason my ten year old brother had to die. I know this was a naive response to bereavement, but I was Fourteen for fuck’s sake, so how sophisticated do you expect my response to be?
As far as I was concerned God had let me down. I became an ardent atheist. Then Bowie came along and told me You’re not alone, and that you are wonderful. And he came to represent a Godhead of sorts to my young formulating mind. I spent much of the intervening years, alone in my bedroom, listening to Bowie and finding some kind of spirituality in his music.
So to actually go to see him live was the biggest event of my life. In a venue with 5,000 others, I was alone with my hero. I was mesmerising, a truly joyous experience… It was love, It was baptism… It was being reborn. It was worth the entrance fee.
Then came another DB… David Byrne, forty years on. And I’m not a young naive boy. I’m a sophisticated man. I have a world-view. Singular but well-formed. I am still iconoclastic, but no longer an avowed atheist. I have a belief system, broadly pagan and Taoist. I believe in the natural world and worship the beauty of nature. I am a pacifist and try my hardest to do no harm… Not an easy path for someone like me… I get very angry about injustice… but passionately believe in non-violent opposition to it. Love is the only answer. Love is always the answer. You cannot hope to change the world with violence and anger… Because you are accepting their paradigm.
So, any way, David Byrne. he blew me away. His simple but effective set, could have been trite, but for the fact that he played it all straight. He played with joy. It was therefore, life affirming. I do not worship rock stars these days, but David Byrne did take me to a spiritual homeland. The beauty of this experience was that I was able to share it with my beloved, Marie. This is a major spiritual change. Forty years ago, I was alone in a room of 5,000 people, experiencing a religious awakening, but unable to share it.
Now, I can share and enjoy the sharing. I have learnt to belong. We were part of the audience, not aloof from it.
Forty years is a long time, I don’t think either of us expected to still be here. But I’m glad we are, and I thank David Byrne and Bowie for enriching that experience.