Fast forward to high school and the kid who fell in love with the Smiths and Joy Division followed the influence and was soon immersing himself in both Bowie and Iggy Pop. Needless to say this put me at odds with most of my working class suburban classmates but i was the type to say fuck them. All the really good looking girls, the ones i found attractive, were into more than Zeppelin and hair metal, i was chasing the John Hughes dream and between the mortician's daughter and a petite blonde i had all the crushes i could handle.
Fast forward again to the summer after my second year of college, it would be the last time i ever really lived at home, i was working as a cashier at a now defunct department store called Hills and spent most of my work day trying desperately to bed the girl who worked in the fabric/sewing department. It was mid June of 1990 and being the silly fool that i was i had just blown all of my money to go see UB40 and the Smithereens. A shit show if ever there was one and something i am usually loathe to admit in public. Of course it was the same week that Bowie was in Cleveland doing two shows at the Richfield Coliseum, the second of which was on June 20th. Pre-internet if you weren't paying attention you could completely miss things, i spent a good deal of time in record stores back then but somehow the fact Bowie was playing completely eluded me. My sis had seen him on the Serious Moonlight tour and we were standing in the kitchen when she asked if i knew Bowie was in town. No i said i didn't but i was broke anyway so it didn't matter. She stopped for a moment then said, call the ticket office at the mall and see if there's any tickets left, if there are she said, i'll give you the money, call it your birthday present, you need to see Bowie. I called, there were, called a friend/co-worker to see if he could swing it, he could, then a mad dash to the basement of the May Co. dept store in Parmatown mall to snap up one of the last remaining tickets in nosebleed land. I was broke... but i was gonna see Bowie, thanks in large part to a cool as fuck big sis.
I picked up my friend One-eyed Bobby in my 78 Olds Cutlass Supreme, we pulled together what little weed and money we had, scored a case of Little Kings Cream Ale, (a case of pony bottles that is), rolled up two joints and headed off to see a hero of my teenage years. We drove out to Richfield, parked and proceeded to sit in my car and drink and smoke the joints while listening to a bevy of Bowie on the cassette player. Once properly fucked up we went in and found our seats in the second to last row completely opposite the stage. Didn't fucking matter. We were gonna see Bowie. We sat and waited. It was the Sound and Vision Tour. The houselights went down and out strolled Dave strumming an acoustic guitar and the beginning of Space Oddity, a translucent giant screen projecting a Giant Dave which the real Dave was interacting with, if was fucking mental back then, the couple a few seats over, the last two rows being rather sparsely populated in an otherwise packed arena, sparked up a joint and smiled at us and then passed it our way, we'd really made the grade...
The show blew my fucking doors off. At the end of the night he brought out Bono to cover Gloria by saying, "this song was written by an Irishman, figure it's best sung by one as well." Apparently Bono had flown in to see the stage show because it was the cutting edge stuff that they wanted to incorporate into the next U2 tour. Didn't matter to a fucked-up 19yr old though, i was sailing on the clouds and singing along as if it was the best night of my life... and to my 19yr old self it probably was. It may be a cliche to say something like this night changed my life but after that night my life had changed. Art, the making and learning and devouring of, had usurped my athletic youth. I didn't want to be like Larry Bird anymore i wanted to be like David Bowie.
When my big sis turned 50 i went out and bought the Nothing Has Changed 3CD set and sent it to her. My big sis and i have always had a strange and sometimes strained relationship, the age and gender gap being part of it i'm sure but i've told her how much some of the stuff she turned me on to has influenced my life, for better or worse i say with a laugh before adding it's her fault i'm the way i am. When my phone rang a few days after i sent it i grinned when i saw who it was, she was giddy with excitement, couldn't believe i had sent her that and she told me it was the best thing she had gotten in years, something she wouldn't have bought herself but was absolutely blown away to get. I in turn told her that ticket was one of the most important things i ever got, that the CD was the least i could do and probably paled in comparison to what she had given me. Needless to say our common bond over Bowie has gotten us through the last few years as well as bringing us a bit closer. That night changed my life. I got my big sister to thank for it.
David Jones would have been 73 today. I consider him one of the most important artists of my lifetime. He goes beyond music and the more i've read about him the more i like the man. He had his flaws but he was a beautiful human being... and these days the world could use more of those. Happy Birthday Dave.