I AM NOT YET READY TO TOUCH DEATH

 

 

 

 

 

Unknown-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am currently in my easy season: from December to April the schedule is much lighter. And so I had the time, and the space, to waste some time in Yokohama city centre today before my lessons. I went to Tower Records. It still, just about, exists in Japan. I went to the David Bowie Section. Black Star, the new album, was sold out. Except for one edition of the vinyl (hurrah that records are coming back!)

 

 

 

A man standing next to me had a plastic basket full of CDs, about fifteen, all Bowie.

(Why was he buying them? Out of curiosity? Because of the ‘hype’?)

 

 

 

I moved towards the new record. And I felt suffocated. Oxygen stopped, just by looking at it, even though I had just been quite seriously considering buying it. David Bowie’s epitaph. His brilliant joke. His gravelly, barking, voice beyond the grave. And it suddenly seemed electrifyingly creepy. Petrifying, actually. As though my breath were being negated. The idea that I would put that on the player, and have his voice, his body freshly cremated, today, or yesterday, or whatever time zone he is in, coming at me through the speakers. Speaking, singing to dead, from the ‘beyond’. An ‘agonizingly lovely record’, or whatever the reviews are saying.

 

But looking at the plastic, and the vinyl beneath it, and the paper sleeve beneath that; and then the label on the record beneath that, I really, quite viscerally,  felt the BLACK. The death. A sense of being enfolded. Of being entombed. Of being somehow drawn against my will, with the fingers of Lethe, into a lightless void. And quite frankly I was on the verge of a panic attack. There was no way in hell that I was buying that disc, even though that had been my intention, just minutes before; even though I had played Station To Station, though half-heartedly, and at very low volume, earlier in the morning.

 

 

I went to another record shop, one of those hidden away emporia just for geeks  (I got a new stylus for my birthday, and so am loving my plastic record player in the kitchen), a place surprisingly busy for a Thursday afternoon, a place I thought I could pick something obscure, or long forgotten, unobtrusively, and inexpensively, a cheap thrill before work – but, as I well should have imagined,  it was all Bowie, Bowie, Bowie: records out on display; posters, picture discs, and every conceivable playstation or video booth or radio speakers playing some form of the greatest hits: I had just escaped from Black Star (David, no offence: I genuinely think this is genius: you planned it exactly, as I would have, probably, had I been in your position); you knew that there would be a brief ‘before’, to get the reviews (it’s apparently a masterpiece, but who knows what to believe anymore); you knew that then people like me would stand before the vinyl – it is beautiful – and potentially have this exact reaction (seriously, what the fuck is a download? it is nothing). Even a CD is nothing compared to the record: that great, physical, deathstar of Black, of oblivion and cancellation, so big and so light-consuming that I felt instantaneously snuffed out even just looking at it : the whole thing is just so MAGNIFICENTLY RENDERED.

 

 

But hearing Let’s Dance, and China Girl from one speaker, and This Is Not America from another, and Blue Jean from another, and Absolute Beginners from yet another; all at different volumes, and in different places, an aural disorientation, and then the array on display of all the albums, all those faces, all those looks from the beginning to the end, we couldn’t escape your face at all, it was a cacophony and I started to feel a bit unhinged- and having just had that ‘blackout’ at Tower Records, I was starting to feel I couldn’t breathe. Very ;  highly;  unpleasant. I was sweating. It is very cold right now and I was typically overlayered and be-scarved, really overheating in the Bowie blanket (death casket) of commercial sell-sell-sell that was going on all around me.

 

 

 

 

 

I had to get out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

17 Comments

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17 responses to “I AM NOT YET READY TO TOUCH DEATH

  1. Amazing how death has that effect on us. It is just too much to bear.

    • And not even someone I know! Please talk some more Brielle. Today really affected me deeply. Talk about mortality. Of course I am aware of it, constantly (perfume is a buffer). But today I had it in the raw.

      Why would Bowie’s death produce this reaction?

      • I think it affected you so deeply because he was larger than life. But, at the same time, he knew his end was coming and wanted to leave something behind. Something special at that final moment. Almost as if he were reaching out to all of us from beyond the grave. This album is truly a momento mori. Just know that you are not alone. Even though I have his songs going through my head, in bits and pieces, I just can’t bring myself to listen to any of them on the player. It just seems too raw.
        Hopefully I will be able to post more, but one never knows. So if I do not respond again here, it means something went amiss…as it always does and I will just email.

      • Glad you know exactly what I am talking about. But I am not even a die-hard fan…. that is the thing. Unless I was, on a subcutaneous, level, even more than I realized myself.

  2. But it is exactly that. ‘Reaching out from beyond the grave’. On an intellectual and artistic level, as I have said, I think it is brilliant. We are invited to literally have him sing his final thoughts to us, set to music, to really sink into his hideous thoughts on, and acceptance of, probably, of his mortality, impending. In a way it is….I was going to say exciting, but it really isn’t that (except on one level it kind of is). But on a HUMAN level, me still being on this side, and not that, whatever that is, at least for the time being, it struck me, at the moment, as quite horrific. I literally had to just get out of there.

    • It was a brilliant move on his part. But, at the same time it is terribly morbid. It truly is as if he is reaching out, with his voice, from beyond the grave. It is a bit much. It is one thing to release a retrospective of an artist, after they pass on. It is entirely another thing for the artist to share a “parting gift” if you will. I hope one day I can bring myself to listen to this final work, but for the moment I feel like you; it is too much to handle emotionally. I never considered myself a diehard fan of his either, yet I cannot deny his music was the soundtrack to my whole life. Maybe that is the same for you and why it having that effect on you with the final release. The finality of it all. It mirrors our own fears of mortality. Just try to stay calm and have a spot of tea when you need it.

  3. Stephen

    I downloaded the album over the weekend, but hadn’t had a chance to play it due to work commitments…..then the news! As I wrote to you before, I was in tears. I have never been affected by the death of someone I didn’t personally know before. To be honest, I’m old enough at 53 to not be surprised at people dying, but I never expected this welling of sadness I have experienced since Monday. I have been in a state of grief ever since. I have been revisiting most of his music, and in particular, my personal favourite, Hunky Dory (listen to Quicksand, it’s particularly poignant).
    On Wednesday I was reading through the various memorial articles in the Guardian online and I came across the video for the song Lazarus off the Blackstar album. I was shocked to see him singing as a corpse, but the real kicker was the bandages with rivets where his eyes should have been. In my family, traditional Northern Irish stock, we have a tradition of placing old pennies on the eyes of our dead, to pay the rather pagan ferryman’s fee, as we tell each other, or more likely to prevent the eyelids opening during rigorous Morris in pre-embalming days.The eldest son of the family has the honour of doing it, my father for his parents, and I for my own father 6 years ago. It was with recognition that this, my teenage idol, had researched and adapted, what I thought was an obscure and slightly odd funeral custom, so thoroughly and, the connection with my own family’s grieving practises, that I was in absolute bits by the end of the video. It brought me right back to minute I was placing the old pre decimal coins on my own father.
    I have not yet been able, like yourself, to bring myself to listen to Blackstar yet. I need some time distance to be able to process this. Now it feels too raw. The man was a magician.

  4. David

    David Bowie was my first concert. I think I was 15. It was the Serious Moonlight tour. When I was really young in the ’70s, I used to see him on TV and at that age, I thought he was from another world, so pale and just so strange! I particularly remember him appearing on “Soul Train,” singing “Young Americans.” Then, in the really early 80’s , I was fascinated by his “Fashion” video and the whole idea a MAN was doing all of these artistic things. I learned the word “androgynous” around this time and it set me free! David Bowie was just so artistic and so much fun! I always imagined him creating, coming up with ideas, reading ( he was known to be a voracious reader), experimenting. I think his last album and video are the results of his trying to stay busy and creative when he was diagnosed with cancer and I like to think the work helped ease the physical pain and also the sadness of having to say good-bye to his family. So that’s why I’m not so sad to listen to “Black Star” or watch the video “Lazarus.” Instead, I feel inspired. Inspired to just keep busy and active and try new things and expose myself to new ideas while I am here. David inspired me like that when I was 12, and it’s exactly the same at 48. Yes, it’s sad he couldn’t keep creating in his 70s or 80s. But we’ve got a lot already.

    • Brilliantly written and expressed (and I also LOVE that Young Americans appearance – he was RIDICULOUSLY, LUDICROUSLY cool: no one could ever compete, ever).

      Yesterday, though, I just couldn’t take it.

  5. Zübeyde Erdem

    Any Soul That Drank The Nectar
    Any soul that drank the nectar of your passion was lifted.
    From that water of life he is in a state of elation.
    Death came, smelled me, and sensed your fragrance instead.
    From then on, death lost all hope of me.

    by Mewlana Jalaluddin Rumi

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