I’m still not convinced that David Bowie is actually dead. He was such a never-ending force of artistry and bold creativity for so long, that it makes accepting the fact that he’s no longer on this planet a hard pill to swallow. Nevertheless, he is actually gone from this realm. But he hasn’t stopped inspiring me.
With a mere 8 days left of my daily blogging fest, I’m slogging towards the end and feeling creatively zapped. I sat down this morning with coffee in hand and knew I had to start reading and listening to things that inspired me. I can’t summon these witty, wise wonderful posts on my own, people. So I had to act fast. If I let a feeling of “Oh, screw it!” takeover, I will be paralyzed and ain’t nothing coming out of this keyboard, honeychild. After falling down, the Google/YouTube rabbit hole, I landed, as I have before, on Bowie. I’m toying with idea of writing posts about different records from 1987 (like I did with True Blue and Tidal last year) so after perusing the Wikipedia page from that year, there he was: David Bowie. How could I forget that Bowie had released Never Let Me Down in 1987?
The record, considered a flop by many, was one I owned and in my 15-year-old brain didn’t think was that bad. Sure, it wasn’t the Changes One, greatest hits cassette that I burned a hole in. Nor was it Let’s Dance. But it was still Bowie for crying out loud. Bowie to me is like that saying about bad pizza- it’s still pizza. Besides, there are some great tracks on the record. Like the title song, for example. It’s Bowie does Motown or Motown does Bowie does 1987. Whatever it is, it’s decent track that holds up today. Also, you can do a lot worse in an 80’s song than “Day-In Day-Out”,the lead single from the record.
And even Bowie himself considered “Time Will Crawl” to be one of his all time favorite songs. The homoerotic dance moments in the video alone prohibit it from being a throwaway track.
Yet the album is far from perfect. Many of the songs are way over produced, a quality Bowie blamed himself for as he handed off the project to other people and didn’t stay involved. Some of the songs songs should probably not exist at all. I mean nobody, least of all our dear David Bowie, needs a song featuring a rap by Mickey Rourke. I swear I’m not making that up. Plus, the timing of the record is notoriously crappy. After the mega success of Let’s Dance in 1983, Bowie struggled to find his footing. The followup, Tonight, was a commercial failure which breaks my heart to no end considering it features Bowie and Tina Turner singing the title track. That alone should shield it from any negativity.
Couple that with the tanking at the box office of Labyrinth, a fate unimaginable to kids who grew up loving that film and its music, and Bowie couldn’t catch a break. Things didn’t get better in 1987 as Never Let Me Down, despite decent sales, was seen as a flop, critically. Listening to it this morning, and I know this is a mega-fan speaking so my opinion isn’t exactly untainted, I found it to be really good. Charming, experimental, observational about societal issues yet tinged with Bowie’s cosmic optimism, Never Let Me Down, is far from a bad listen. Yet the real reason, I believe, I stumbled on it this morning, is this quote from Bowie in 1995 about the record:
“I felt dissatisfied with everything I was doing, and eventually it started showing in my work. Let’s Dance was an excellent album in a certain genre, but the next two albums after that [Tonight and Never Let Me Down] showed that my lack of interest in my own work was really becoming transparent. My nadir was Never Let Me Down. It was such an awful album. I’ve gotten to a place now where I’m not very judgmental about myself. I put out what I do, whether it’s in visual arts or in music, because I know that everything I do is really heartfelt. Even if it’s a failure artistically, it doesn’t bother me in the same way that Never Let Me Down bothers me. I really shouldn’t have even bothered going into the studio to record it.”
I got chills reading that. Why? Because it felt so relatable and shocking at the same time. There is something incredibly human and reassuring about David Bowie struggling to find his footing in his work. This man, this god, this inspiration to millions, had bad times where he felt like his work sucked. What a relief. If David Bowie can feel disheartened by the creative process and hate what he’s doing but somehow still carry on, than goddamnit, I can keep writing for the rest of the month. I can let myself off the hook. I can breathe and laugh about things that weren’t that great. And most importantly, I can keep going.
So thank you, David Bowie. As always, you never let me down.