A day after posting a poem that laments the fact that I’m too busy to blog, I find myself shirking my not inconsiderable workload in order to blog again. Which rather belies the message in my last post.
In point of fact I am too busy to post regularly at the moment but I felt it would be wrong of me not to write something in light of David Bowie’s recent passing.
I’m not a huge David Bowie aficionado, which is not to say I don’t appreciate his work. Indeed a compilation of his greatest hits is one of the few ever-presents on my, now-possibly-outdated-but-still-functional-so-really-not-worth-replacing 2nd generation 4GB iPod Nano. But much as I enjoy listening to those seminal tracks on shuffle, it is also proof that I am not a true devotee, because if I was, it wouldn’t be a greatest hit compilation but all of his actual albums. Further proof, if proof were needed, is the fact that the hits compilation I refer to was not even mine to begin with. It’s from the Mrs Proclaims side of our joint music collection. The cooler side if I’m honest.
But in so far as my opinion on David Bowie is worth anything, I am very much a fan.
And I actually did see him perform live, at Glastonbury no less, which brings me to the point of this particular post. Because more qualified people than me will pay tribute to the life and work of one of British music’s true icons – my tribute, if it can be described as such, comes in the form of an anecdote.
First allow me to introduce the cast of my little tale. There is me of course. And David Bowie. And two random blokes in the crowd, the names of whom I never learned. The final member of the cast is my mate Andrew. He’s yet to feature on these pages, perhaps because we’re both now proper grownups who live in different towns, and rarely see each other (although he does take the time to read and critique many of these posts). Back in the nineties and early noughties it was a different matter entirely.
Oh the tales I could tell.
Actually they wouldn’t be that interesting. They’d be mostly about two teenagers, and latterly twenty-something blokes who went out and drank too much while trying and ultimately failing to meet girls.
But I think this tale is worth telling.
So I’ll tell it.
It was the year 2000 and I’d just completed the last of a series of fairly significant examinations. Andrew and I had purchased tickets to the Glastonbury Festival.
That pretty much sums us up right there. We’d actually paid for the tickets.
This was back in the days when you could just hop over the fence for free.
As we discovered when we bumped into a load of our mates who had done just that.
But we were honest and we’d bought tickets.
I don’t think we had any discernible benefits from having paid other than a righteous sense of indignation.
Upon arriving we demonstrated our festival naivety by setting up our tent a little too close to one of the main stages. Apparently we were spotted on the TV coverage by one of Andrew’s siblings looking perplexed and frustrated as our tent was besieged by Nine Inch Nails fans as that particular band took to the stage. Fortunately we had two tents and having secured a more suitable location for the other one we were able to enjoy our first ever festival experience.
Three hours in a queue for the cash point, a run in with Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamaq, and a harrowing experience with the toilets were just some of the highlights.
But there was music. Oh there was so much music.
And the thing we discovered about Glastonbury was that the acts that had inspired us to part with our hard-earned cash were not the acts that made the weekend memorable. I’ve just downloaded the line up, and I’m pretty sure that at the time we would have probably been going to see bands such as Travis, The Bluetones and Embrace. All fairly middle of the road indie bands, but pretty much what we were into at the time.
But such was the eclectic nature of the Glastonbury line-up that we were able to experience and enjoy a greater variety than perhaps we’d anticipated. I’m pretty sure one my favourite performances was Jools Holland and His Rhythm and Blues Orchestra.
For the most part we’d agreed on which bands we were going to go and see because at Glastonbury it’s impossible to see everyone.
I was determined that we were going to see David Bowie’s headline performance on the final night of the festival, but Andrew was not convinced. I can’t remember who he wanted to see instead, but he was adamant that he had less than no interest in seeing Bowie.
He had a point, neither of us were particular fans at the time. But I just remember thinking that if we didn’t take the opportunity to see someone who was effectively a living legend, that we’d probably regret it.
So Andrew was persuaded and we went to watch.
Now it is possible I won the argument because Andrew was a touch inebriated. We had decided that, having spent quite a lot of money on our tickets and even more on our journey to get there, that we didn’t want to be ripped off by overpriced beer within the festival. But because we were travelling by train we didn’t want to carry lots of beer either. Yet to pass through an entire festival weekend sober seemed unthinkable, so we’d decided, with the kind of wisdom that you really only possess in your early twenties, that buying a large bottle of vodka was the way to go.
To be more specific, a large bottle of vodka each.
As it turned out we actually managed to purchase some cans of lager at a not unreasonable rate from some fence hopping Liverpudlians on the Friday and the Saturday so we found ourselves with two large untouched bottles of Smirnoff on the Sunday morning.
With an attitude of ‘waste not, want not’ we consumed them irresponsibly throughout the day.
Nonetheless I recall Bowie’s performance as being, frankly, incredible. It was by far the highlight of the whole weekend and definitely worth the ticket price on it‘s own.
Certainly the two blokes standing behind us thought so.
“Bloody Hell, he’s on form tonight,” remarked one to the other.
I don’t know if it was the charisma of Bowie’s stage presence, the crowd pleasing selection from his back catalogue, or the three quarters of a litre of undiluted Russian vodka that did it, but Andrew seemed to be won over as well.
He turned bleary eyed to the two genuine Bowie fans behind us and joined in their appraisal.
“Don’t you talk to me about David Bowie,” he blurted out to the astonished gentlemen, “the man’s a f***ing legend!”
A f***ing legend indeed.