arts & music

Five Times David Bowie Has Provided The Soundtrack To My Life

by Cheney — January 12, 2016
Illustrated gif by Helen Green from

Illustrated gif by Helen Green from

  1. I’m seven years old and my favourite thing to do is watch a worn VHS tape of Labyrinth that my Mum taped off the TV. I watch it so much, my brother regularly hides it from me so he won’t be subjected to it on an at least weekly basis. I act out scenes from it in my bedroom – sometimes I wear my white cotton blouse with puffy sleeves to be Sarah, and other times my best glass marble is a crystal ball and I am the Goblin King Jared. My stuffed toys are recruited to help sing Dance Magic Dance.
  2. In the days of early share house living, a birthday party is held with a Gender Bender theme. My friend dresses as 1975 David Bowie – all platinum-blonde centre-parted hair, suspenders and neatly-pressed trousers. She loves David Bowie more than any of us, and has recently gifted another friend a David Bowie songbook for piano. As the evening reaches a crescendo of alcohol-induced silliness, we gather around the piano for a rousing rendition of Life On Mars?. I finally get to belt out, “Sailors fighting in the dance hall” like I always want to every time I listen to it in public on my headphones. We are certain we sound amazing.
  3. I find myself, in my early twenties, working a job in publishing that pays so little that if I divide the salary into hourly increments, it turns out to be the least amount of money I’ve made ever. The only upside is that the office is a leisurely 10-minute stroll from my house, so every day I carefully choose the handful of songs to accompany my walk. I have very few good memories from that job, but shaking off the drudgery of the day by first strutting up Strickland Crescent to Fame, then dancing the rest of the way down Carrington Street to Young Americans is definitely one.
  4. I have a crush on the guy who is teaching me Japanese, so I make a point to delay the end of the lessons by engaging him in conversation I know he’ll find interesting. We often talk about music. One afternoon, we stay so late that it gets too cold in the campus park, so we duck into the Asian Languages building to keep talking. We sit on the floor of an empty classroom and play each other music, taking turns to choose songs on our iPods and swapping headphones. I play him Oh! You Pretty Things (and probably Life On Mars? too, because I make everyone listen to it). We kiss in the dark.
  5. It’s the day after I hear David Bowie has died, and I wake up early after a hot and restless night. I change into my gym gear, grab my backpack and headphones and head out into the crisp, still morning. I walk down the stairs to the opening bars of Under Pressure and my eyes immediately well up with tears because it is perfect and devastating. I must look ridiculous to the handful of cars on the road – some silly sad girl in her #activewear. She must really hate working out. It feels strange to be upset by the death of some famous stranger, especially as by the time I was born, he was already in the third decade of his career. But as he and Freddie Mercury sing, “This is our last dance”, I feel as if I’ve lost a friend. I think of the man walking down our street late last night singing Space Oddity, and realise how many people feel the same. I’m not alone. Not even close.



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