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Just For One Day
I had occasion to work directly with David Bowie. Of the megastars I have worked with/around/near, he was among the most approachable and congenial. It helped my impressions that I was a megafan, as well.
It seems that Bowie's songs have been the background soundtrack of my life. I can't think of a time, since becoming socially aware, that one of his songs wasn't there in the general fog of life. On occasion, while I work here at the LOFSWHQ, I spin up one of his albums or compilations and the memories begin to ooze out of every fold of my cerebellum. Every major epoch of my life seems to have at least one Bowie tune attached. Though I haven't heard his final album, I have a feeling that it could become a marker for this moment in my life.. Perhaps Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, perhaps Elton John, are the only other sounds that invade my timeline this way. Yet, of all the artists I have glommed onto in various incarnations, perhaps Bowie is the most timeless.
In my library of favorite artists, there are dozens of individuals and groups that define eras in my life. The Talking Heads, Bruce Cockburn, Peter Gabriel...all of them have become the soundtracks of moments. When I spin up Fascist Architecture, I am sitting in my apartment in Albuquerque. When I dust off Shakedown Street, I am driving through the Rockies in a Saab 900 Turbo in a tunnel of silver and gold aspens. When I peel the dust cover off of Hiway 61 Revisited, I am sitting in my sophomore homeroom in high school.
With Bowie, though, every song seems to evoke different memories of different moments in my life. From China Girl in grade school at my buddy Mike's house (we're still buddies too), to Changes in Dublin, to Rebel Rebel. The list goes on.
What's more unique still is that with every album, Bowie was accused of selling out to whatever zeitgeist ruled the times - disco, hard rock, even his stint with Bing Crosby - but later those songs became just as classic and enigmatic as all his previous work. Precious few artists can claim to have been relevant to so many for so long. One is tempted to say that Bowie will outlast probably most of his contemporaries. One imagines in 300 years still hearing Bowie tunes in cultural references, much like folks today recognize Mozart, though they likely (anymore) don't know who created the sounds.
Regardless of how Bowie's music continues to effect my life's soundtrack, the moment in time that I worked with him set him in a class of very rare stars, at least in my experience. He never raised his voice or threw a hissy fit when something when wrong. He never blamed the crew or demeaned anyone in the company. He did not demand the removal of brown M&Ms or have tantrums about lunch meats not fitting the bread. Instead, he showed up for work on time, did his job with consummate professionalism, and went off afterwards to do what made him happy. In other words, he was a true performer: he hit his marks, did his lines and got off stage.
I admire that. I've seen a lot of other "stars" who couldn't or wouldn't do as much.
On the night before the tour flew out to Australia, he gave a party for the US leg of the tour. This was not unusual. What was unusual was that us grunts were invited too. We ate well. We drank well. We did what we did well. And Bowie was the host. We were not separated away from the performers, nor made to feel lower than the artists. We were all equals who had done a job and who were rewarded with a fine evening.
"David," I said at one point, "thanks for the invite and I must say it was my great pleasure to work with your group. I really appreciate your professionalism and for including the roadies in the gang."
"For want of a nail," he said, before being whisked away by a corporate lackey.