‘Gimme Your Hands’ #DavidBowie

I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post. I’m quite a private person, and I don’t like to use this blog to express my personal feelings or thoughts to any great extent (although I have made exceptions in the past). And my blog is also there for my business – and I like to be professional. Also, I feel as though in some way I’m intruding on someone else’s grief, selfishly indulging in feelings that aren’t really mine to have or to share. But I’ve had this post buzzing round my head, refusing to go away. So, here goes…

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I was a very strange teenager. Awkward, lanky, insecure, painfully shy of others and cripplingly terrified of their opinions of me. My family and the few friends I had at the time would probably be quite surprised to hear this, but what goes on on the surface isn’t always the same as the turmoil that’s raging beneath. I knew I was ugly, gawky, weird. I had strange thoughts and compulsions, strange fears (that I now know are OCD). I didn’t fit in, had very few close friends. School was an absolute torture. I was desperately unhappy, most of the time.

My tastes in music were quite pedestrian. I was a Duranie, in love with John Taylor and convinced one day I’d marry him and be taken away from all this misery. I liked their music, still do, but it wasn’t really about that. Then in 1985, I watched Live Aid. I was aware of David Bowie, liked some of his stuff, but we weren’t a very musical household, so other than my sister buying ‘Ashes to Ashes’ in 1980, he wasn’t really on my radar.

That changed that day in 1985. He blew me away. Those songs literally changed me – ‘TVC15’, ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Modern Love’ and, of course, ‘Heroes’. The following Monday I bought ‘Rebel Rebel’ and a few other singles – you could still buy singles then – and played them over and over. I remember one of the B-Sides was ‘Queen Bitch’. What a revelation of a song. I became obsessed.

Bowie became the focus of my life. I bought album after album whenever I could afford it. I watched his films (my poor mum sat through them all with me, even ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’ – rather awkward). I read everything I could (actual books – no Google back then!). There was so much to listen to, so much to learn. I felt as though a whole new world had been opened up to me.

And it had. The beauty of this new obsession was that it led me to so many other things. Directly to Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Pixies and, through Ryuichi Sakamoto via ‘Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence’ to Japan, the band, not the country! Discovering these bands led me further. I started reading the NME and Melody Maker, discovering the back catalogue of The Smiths, who I adore still, and bands like Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Sisters of Mercy, TheThe, Bauhaus. Band after band, song after song that seemed to speak directly to me, to understand me, to recognise how I felt. It was the beginning of a massive transformation.

As the eighties drew to a close, I began to change. I went to see Bowie in June 1987, the ‘Glass Spider’ tour. I was still a bit geeky, a bit unsure of myself, a bit frumpy and uncool. By the time I went to see him again on the ‘Sound and Vision’ tour in August 1990, I was about to leave home, having been accepted on a journalism course. I was a different person – black eyeliner, black lipstick, black fingernails, cut off Levi’s, Dr Martens, a Gene Loves Jezebel t-shirt. I was finding my way, gaining my confidence, accepting myself.

The following month I met the man who was to become my husband. He was obsessed with Bowie too. We discovered we’d been at the same two concerts. It felt like fate.

I’ve had my ups and downs over the years. As a family we’ve been through a lot – house moves, redundancies, the death of my mum from cancer. All the good things, all the good times, and all the bad things, the bad times spring to mind when I hear certain songs – more often than not a David Bowie song. At a family gathering on Boxing Day, my brother-in-law asked who we would meet, if we could meet anyone. Without a second’s hesitation, both Gary and I said ‘David Bowie’. And now that he’s gone, I can’t think of anyone else, anyone who has the same pull, the same aura, anyone who is anywhere near as interesting.

At 7 o’clock on Monday morning, Gary sent me a text saying simply ‘Bowie’s dead’. I didn’t know what to do except burst into tears. It felt surreal. It still does.

Yesterday, Gary and I went to the Bowie mural in Brixton (I’ve always been inordinately proud that I was born in Bromley in 1969 and so actually lived, for a few years, that close to the man himself!). This was weird for us. We don’t do that kind of thing. After all, we didn’t know him. It seems disrespectful to try and share in that grief. But we are grieving. He was a big part of our lives. It’s not an overstatement to say he changed music, he changed culture. He did. And it’s not an overstatement to say he changed my life. Because he really did. And reading some of the messages scrawled on the walls around the mural in Brixton, I wasn’t the only one. Those messages are some of the most touching, heartfelt and moving things I’ve ever read. Many people have quoted lyrics from his songs that meant something to them. For me, these are the words that really spoke to me at fifteen, and that remind me now that I don’t have to feel the way I did then:

Oh no love! You’re not alone
You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if I could only
Make you care
Oh no love! You’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

Just turn on with me and you’re not alone
Let’s turn on with me and you’re not alone (wonderful)
Let’s turn on and be not alone (wonderful)
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful (wonderful)
Oh gimme your hands.

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Photo Credit BrixtonBuzz

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26 comments

  1. I never really heard any of Bowie’s music until the last few days. He was a figure in the news when my children were young, but we have been astonished at the reaction to his death. Your post has helped me understand what it was all about and I loved the only song I heard and the one you posted above. So maybe I’ll be a late convert.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful thank you so much. I was lucky as my big brother`s girlfriend was a huge Bowie fan so I loved to listen to her records but then one day I went to a Bauhaus gig and it changed me forever too. Without the magic of David Bowie there would have been no Bauhaus and the words to Rock n Roll suicide, my ultimate fav Bowie song. I have cried to this, I have sung this out loud in moments of darkness and known that I was not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Absolutely brilliant blog Ali, so eloquent and touching. You really are an amazing writer, so thank you David Bowie for helping Ali to find herself and her voice 🙂 xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this moving blog, Alison – I’ve been a while getting round to reading it, but am glad I have. You’ve spoken for so many unhappy, not to say despairing teenagers who on the surface appear to be okay. Music is a great solace, and in the early ’70s, Bowie was ahead of the game, an innovator, yet at the same time his androgyny chimed with the concerns of so many at last beginning to see the chance of breaking free from society’s stereotypical role models. The Swinging Sixties were only swinging for a minority. I know I was there.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I thought long and hard about reading this post … I knew it would bring tears … so I saved it … different country, different journalism course, different kind of being different … not a very different story. I’ve lost the two most important male influences in my life in the last few months … David Bowie and my Dad … both totally amazing. Just gimme your hands, Alison. X

    Liked by 1 person

  6. THis is a terrific post, Alison – amazed I’ve only just seen it (via Jade’s blog). Just going to stick it on #wwwblogs!

    Now I’ve read this I am even more sure you will love Leaving The Beach by Mary Rowen. You MUST read it!!! I felt the same way about Station to Station, though didn’t get into Bowie until the 80s, when I subsequently listened to all his old stuff. S2S title track, Heroes and several tracks on Low (the next best album) remain my favourites

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Terry 🙂 Have downloaded a sample of Leaving the Beach. Pretty much agree with you about the Bowie tracks, but would add ‘Young Americans’ to my list of favourite albums (very hard to have a definitive list though)

      Like

  7. I began to hear about David in 1971. I first went to see him in 1972, met him in 1973. I feel as though my skin has been stripped off with his passing, so deep a part of me was he. Please feel free to read my Bowieblogs on here if you would like. We’re NOT alone. Love n Bowie

    Liked by 1 person

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