A birthday cake and lit cigarettes - A tribute to David Bowie

Advert in the Fife Free Press for David Bowie's Kirkcaldy gig in 1969
Advert in the Fife Free Press for David Bowie's Kirkcaldy gig in 1969

Last Friday I left for work half an hour earlier than I normally would for one reason only, I wanted to get the new David Bowie album.

I didn’t want to get it after work as time is of the essence whenever there’s a new Bowie album - out of all the bands and singers that I love - and there’s lots - he’s my favourite one of all to an obsessive degree.

David Bowie with Tin Machine at The Forum, Livingston,  on July 7 1989.

David Bowie with Tin Machine at The Forum, Livingston, on July 7 1989.

So I spent the weekend with ‘Blackstar’ and am happy to report that it’s a fabulous piece of work. Only Bowie could still be producing startling and challenging new material at the age of 69.

And then he went and died.

Fair to say at the time of writing, just a couple of hours after hearing the horrific news, I’m still pretty stunned as David Bowie has been a huge part of my life for such a long time. I’ve had a flood of texts from friends asking if I’m OK.

No, I’m not.

‘The Laughing Gnome’ was the second single I ever got. Bought for me by my mum because I used to dance about whenever it came on the radio. I still have it.

His 1973 album ‘Aladdin Sane’ is my favourite album of all time and for my 30th birthday my wife threw me a surprise party complete with a cake which had the cover on it.

For my birthday last year I got his new ‘Five Years’ box set.

‘Sound and Vision’ is the ringtone on my phone.

I consider his vocal on ‘Wild Is The Wind’ to be the best one recorded by anyone, anywhere, ever.

When she was less than a week old I had a picture taken holding both my eldest daughter and Bowie’s ‘Heathen’ album which had come out just days before.

When my wife was pregnant with our second daughter we referred to her for the nine months as Ziggy.

I will sit down with anyone and give them an intricate and lengthy breakdown as to why his 1995 album ‘Outside’ is one of his greatest and a much misunderstood masterpiece (form a queue).

And if all that isn’t enough to convince of my hardcore Bowie credentials, in 1989 I sat for 22 hours on a bridge in Livingston with an atrocious hangover to get tickets to see Tin Machine.

I actually saw Tin Machine twice and was fortunate enough to see Bowie solo four times. The last time was in 2003 and remains one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to.

It’s heartbreaking to think I’ll never see him live again.

Thinking about his career what is often overlooked is just how long Bowie had been a musician. He released his first single as a 17-year-old in 1964 - that’s just over a year after the Beatles first single - but it would take a long time before he made it big in 1972, with the one off hit ‘Space Oddity’ his only success in the intervening years.

And it was on the back of that hit in 1969 that the Starman came and performed in Kirkcaldy. He had played a few sporadic gigs in London that year and in October was the support act on Humble Pie’s tour, but on November 7 he set off on his first ever headline tour since changing his surname from Jones, a short seven date jaunt around Scotland.... where he completely flopped.

“They hated me,” he later remembered. “They threw lit cigarettes at me!”

The date in Kirkcaldy was advertised for 8pm but was switched to an afternoon matinee, with Bowie heading through to Edinburgh to play two further shows that same evening, at Frisco’s and the Caley Cinema, the last dates of the tour.

FFP reader Gordon Levack was at the Adam Smith Theatre, saying: “If my memory serves me well there was a rumour circulating that the concert had been cancelled and therefore there were only 50-100 people there.

“This was in the old halls where the capacity was 1,000. Notwithstanding, Bowie went through his act and tried to build some kind of atmosphere.

“It was good but not great!”

Happily he would improve and go on to be one of the most important and influential pop musicians of all time.

Listening to his music introduced me to others who would also become huge favourites of mine like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop, who has paid his own tribute saying “David’s friendship was the light of my life. I never met such a brilliant person. He was the best there is.”

So farewell then to the Thin White Duke, a musician whose work was untouchable but at the same was about so much more than just the music.

He was a truly remarkable human being and I feel honoured to have lived at the same time as he did.

RIP David.

“I’m not quite sure what I’m supposed to do,

So I’ll just write some love to you”.