genetLemmy wasn’t that much of a shocker, was it? He’s been deteriorating for the last few years and it’s a tribute to his cast iron constitution that he made it to his seventieth birthday, beating Mick Farren, who ‘only’ made it to sixty-nine, in the process.
Bowie, though? I always kind of thought he’d go on forever, a law unto himself. ‘The next day’ saw him make a superlative comeback, as spot on as he ever was (and a hundred times what he was in the eighties, his nadir, for my money).
And after that astonishing comeback LP, he finds out he’s got the big C – so he plans and executes the ultimate ‘see ya’ note.
I got ‘Blackstar’ the day it came out and on first play, it really wasn’t much good. Proggy noodlings, vague lyrics and yeah, that voice. It took maybe four plays before I groked it – realised it was brilliant and every time I went back to it over the weekend, it grew on me a little more.
I was just about to leave for work on the Monday morning when She-Who-Reckons-She-Should-be-Obeyed told me he’d died. I couldny believe it. It was wrNog information, in a language I couldn’t compute.
Turned out she was right, though. He had perished. I hopped on the train to work and put ‘Blackstar’ on. Again. Suddenly the album, the sombre sense of it, the stark lyrics, it all pointed to someone making their last goodbyes. I started welling up.
After Hendrix died, people started to look for premonitions of his mortality in his lyrics, particularly those of ‘Electric ladyland’, which are so open ended, you could probably find mentions of personal computers,  mobile phones and Internet porn in there if you looked hard enough.  ‘Blackstar’, though?
Bowie had known of his cancer for eighteen months. The entire planning and execution of this LP must have been done with the great dark cloud hanging over him. And he still went out, every inch the showman. He primed us with the the single (all ten minutes of it) gave us the LP for a weekend and then let go, leaving without an encore, the LP in its entirety, his last word on the subject.
Even Cecil Parkinson’s death wasn’t enough to cheer me up after the loss of Lemmy, Bowie, Boulez and Buffin. Why oh why, is Death harvesting my record collection instead of panelists on ‘Question time’?

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