There has been an overwhelming amount of grief, love and sadness on social media over David Bowie’s death. I immediately thought of all my favorite Bowie songs and the memories that come with them. All our favorite songs come with some of our strongest memories. “Let’s Dance,” came on the radio once in high school while my friend Julie and I were driving around. Julie said her normally very anxious mother became a different person whenever the song came on the radio. Her mother would close her eyes and open up her arms and dance with total abandon. Years later, at my wedding, I told the DJ to play the song. Julie, her little sister, and their parents were all there. It had been the most stressful day of my life. When the song came on, we all closed our eyes, lifted up our heads and arms and totally let go. It is one of the very few positive memories of my wedding day.
I’m listening to “Heroes” right now and this song reminds me of me and my high school boyfriend and I oil painting together in La Jolla and dreaming of our magical possible futures. “You, you could be king, and I, I could be queen…And nothing will keep us together…we can be heroes, just for one day.” I have so many favorite Bowie songs but the one that comes to mind the most is his tender, eloquent cover of “Wild is the Wind.” From the nightclubs of San Francisco to Spotify streaming in Los Angeles on the day after his death I mourn.
An ex who was more of a Brian Eno fan than a Bowie fan introduced me to the album Low via the song “Breaking Glass.” Listening to it reminds me of laying on the hard industrial-carpeted floor of our then-still-shared apartment days after we broke up. Low is still one of my favorite Bowie albums.
“Five Years” is my pick. I was in high school and it so accurately, inexplicably portrayed the way I felt: trapped, in love, bound by time in ways I couldn’t understand. The melodrama felt authentic and other-worldly.
Bowie is a problematic fave for me. I hate all the fascist & occult undertones (& overtones) in his music but I love the songs/videos for “Life on Mars?” and “Boys Keep Swinging.” Both really affected my aesthetic interests and self-conception. I also have a really visceral memory of watching the “Ashes to Ashes” video for the first time while alone in the basement of my abusive best friend in high school.
David S. Atkinson
The entire Labyrinth soundtrack. Watched that movie so often that almost any of the songs brings back practically my entire childhood.
It’s funny to choose an instrumental, but, “A New Career in a New Town,” is the one for me. I bought Low in Barcelona when I was 21, and brought it back to our apartment off La Rambla, to a bed I was sharing with my brother. It was maybe the last time we shared a bed, and he was still out that night because we’d just had a really horrible fight in the streets. I remember I just took off walking ahead of him as a form of abandonment, not looking back the whole way to our place, an Orphic stroll. So I lay in the bed and put the CD in my old discman, and got lost in the jumpy strangeness of Low, not quite clicking until “A New Career.” That one hit me hard enough that I put it on repeat until I fell asleep. I think it was the first time I truly felt the crushing, devouring ghost of nostalgia, as a half-adult so far away from the places I’d been a kid.
“Life on Mars.” A song that has remained a constant through many different events and periods in my life. Though the song has meant many different things, its familiarity has somehow provided a necessary tether.
“Rock & Roll Suicide” is a song I remember feeling particularly melodramatic feelings about as a child. My dad drove my brothers and I to elementary school everyday on his way to work, and he’d go through phases of being obsessed with various records. Ziggy Stardust is one of those records that I fell in love with too, and I’d ask him to play this particular song over and over again. It felt to me, and still does, like a song that affirms life even when the world feels terrible, offering solace and companionship and tenderness while paying careful attention to creating a sonic universe dedicated to despair and the revolution that might come from it.
“This Is Not America” came on a radio when I had my heart broken at 17 and somehow this soaring vocal in the ice sheen of the music soothed me, took me out of my own skeleton for a moment. “Space Oddity” coming on after I, at 18, crashed my car and felt lost and useless but then was enveloped warm by the wobbles and spaces…tiny before the imagined space and tragedy, the whole moment seeming to expand out till the music ended.
So many and many already mentioned. “Life on Mars?,” “Always Crashing in the Same Car,” “A New Career in a New Town,” “Boys Keep Swinging,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” the list goes on and on and on…