Station to Station

David Bowie, 1947-2016

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As pretty much everyone surely knows by now, David Bowie passed away earlier this month, and the response was remarkable in the extent to which it crossed musical party lines. Fans of seemingly all genres of music expressed their feelings of loss, underscoring just how influential and impactful Bowie was across a huge spectrum of music.

There’s not a lot I can say that hasn’t already been said, so I thought I’d just mention my first memory of Bowie. I may very well have heard his music on the radio prior to this, but I remember my first awareness of him from a shopping trip to the supermarket with my mother. We were standing in the checkout line and on the magazine rack was what I (in retrospect) believe to have been the September 6, 1976, issue of People magazine featuring Bowie on the cover. I asked my mother who he was, and she said something to the effect of, “He’s a very strange singer.” I would have said that she called him a “weirdo,” but looking back on the cover now I see that it calls him “rock’s weirdest act,” so I might just be remembering that particular phrasing. She seemed perhaps a little dismissive, but not necessarily of his music — I think maybe she didn’t quite get what he was up to with the androgyny and ever-changing characters. (I should clarify that I know that she calls herself a fan now, regardless of her opinion then.) But her response then, however noncommittal, intrigued me, and from there on I began to put the man to the music and gradually pieced together that not only did I love his music, but also that he was one of the most fascinating musicians in rock. And he never ceased to be that, regardless of how well his releases did or didn’t do commercially over the years. I had the good fortune to see him on his 1996 four-date “East Coast Ballroom Tour,” at Boston’s Avalon club (the entire tour was at small music clubs) — I still consider it one of the best concerts I’ve ever had the pleasure to see; he was one of the most warm and engaging performers I can recall seeing, at odds with those sometimes cool and distant personas he portrayed in the ’70s.

The song I’ve decided upon to go along with this in memoriam is “TVC 15,” from Bowie’s great (aren’t they nearly all?) 1976 album, Station to Station. Not for any particular reason other than it has always been a favorite of mine that I think is one of his more overlooked gems. Sure, I hear it every once in a great while on the radio, but it certainly doesn’t get as much recognition as many of his hits in heavy rotation. So let’s give it a little showcase of its own here, shall we? It rocks, it’s funky, it’s got a great piano riff (courtesy of Roy Bittan, of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band), and I think Bowie’s vocals on it are among his best. Enjoy the song, and the fact that we still have Bowie’s incredible body of work to continue enjoying in the absence of the man himself.

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