Trying To Get To You

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Little Moments

I think we as people sometimes like to attach grandiose reasons to justify our love of a musician or band, when instead, our love is often kindled by smaller, more private and inscrutable moments of reverie. They're little moments of falling in love with the way a singer phrase a certain line, or a great guitar, piano or sax solo, or the way the horns swell in a very specific point in a song, and because they are so private, so unique to each individual, the importance of such moments to a music listener are unfortunately unheralded.

I've been going through something exactly like that over the past couple of days with David Bowie's "Ashes To Ashes." I'm a Bowie fan, but I'm not a fanatic like a lot of people. You could give me three or four Bowie albums to listen to (Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Station To Station, Scary Monsters) for the rest of my life, and that would probably be enough Bowie for me. I get his vast influence and I have an inordinate amount of respect for him - but for whatever reason, he's not an essential artist for me. (And given that he's the defacto artist for every bar in the E. Village and Lower East Side, I've heard him enough for a lifetime.)

But I've had "Ashes To Ashes" on repeat, just because of the way Bowie phrases the line, "I've never done good things/I've never done bad things/I never did anything out of the blue" at 1:56 in the song. It's a sublime piece of phrasing; it's very Lennon-esque, and the regret that permeates the line floors me every single time I hear it. It's the sound of a man who knows his time is coming to an end, is seeing the whole of his life flash before him and realizes his own foolishness in not living the way he truly wanted. It's an immensely soulful line - perhaps the most soulful line of his entire career, a career where Bowie has sometimes labored to find soulful moments.

I've listened to the whole song a dozen times or so over the past 72 hours, waiting excitedly for that line to emerge. I've also fast-forwarded through the song just to get to that line and sing it as loud as possible. And it's had me listen to a lot of Bowie for the first time in years, as I try to find similar moments of musical ecstasy.


Keith said...

That's always been one of my favorite Bowie songs.

Anonymous said...

Scary Monsters, throughout, summed up his career, a look back through the 70s. "Teenage Wildlife" is almost a dialogue with his fans--a very unusual song for any artist, let alone a megastar. The line you refer to is totally about one thing: Bowie. There's plenty like that. But if you're looking for something like that, more recent, and overlooked, try the post-9/11 woman mulling the end of her life, driving along the Hudson, in "She'll Drive a Big Car." From his last (and perhaps last ever) album, Reality. One of his most vivid characters ever, and a far more interesting subject than himself.