on life, music etc beyond mainstream

2016 10 Jan

26 years later …

von: Michael Engelbrecht Filed under: Blog | TB | Tags:  | 2 Comments

Short interruption of my one-month break. I’m a looper. And I’m looping in. Two days ago something happened. And that cannot wait to be told. Though it’s personal. Some Bowie albums were great company for me, and had their great days and weeks – and hours of return. All the first encounters happened in the golden era of vinyl between 1977 and 1980. In an old Germany. For reasons I don’t know Ziggy Stardust never crossed my way deep enough to say anything about it. Heathen (high expectations I had, David Torn was part of the play) disappeared (dunno why) within one week from my ears. So it happened with Diamond Dogs. Pale memories.

There were only a few Bowie albums that really soundtracked passages of my life. Low has been the first one, Heroes the second. Bowie with Tony Visconti, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp – and an awesome melange of masterfully executed songs and „Berlin ambient noir“ (Loop 1). The music was part of my life with my fiancee Christiana in Würzburg. Then I listened for the first time to Station To Station, an album of earlier times in his career. Brilliant. In fact I was a single then and saw Bowie playing „Warszawa“ in the Gruga-Halle, Essen. There he also performed the best version I ever heared from that „Alabama/Whisky Bar Song“-evergreen. There I saw an attractive woman and thought of sex as a cure for lost love. I got her adress. And was beaten up by her boyfriend. Then, some years later, the year of wine, roses and no happy ending – Scary Monsters, another stunner, great riffage. The songs all soundtracked love and sex with Hannah in the Bavarian Woods (Loop 2).

Decades later. No Bowie album after 1980 could stand the test of my merciless, treasure-hunting, deceivable ears. Good songs here and there, but nothing that stayed with me as something complete. Konrad Heidkamp (have always loved his writing in „Die Zeit“) was singing his praise about Thursday Child – I only discovered one good song there. And someone more lasting on the island of Borkum by the time it saw the light of day. December Days. Outside (again with Eno) was nearly pure disappointment (minus two wonderful songs that weren’t killed by the mix). Got bored with Bowie, only took mild notice of his unexpected return after years of silence, in 2013. God, only one good song there – over.

I thought I could close the case with my handful of ancient gems, and then, without any warning, I got an email from a friend: LISTEN, he wrote, LISTEN! And I answered – yep, I owe you at least one favor, but then, dude, you’ll get an opinion (adding a smile). I didn’t read anything about this new work except some short lines of Jan here on the blog. Didn’t even have a look at the video. Started listening to Blackstar in my Toyota Yaris Cool Plus, and was immediately hooked, spellbound, transported, floored, overwhelmed, sucked in – from the first note till the last.

There it was, a new record for my „shelfie“, the best Bowie since 1980. I said, it’s personal. Scary, isn’t it! And what a monster. So dark, so full of joy. „Into the impossible“ (B. E., Oblique Strategies). Two small observations: 1) When I heared track no. 5, I was reminded of the wonderful ways Ian Dury had been bending words and sometimes spitting them out. Bleak and funny. 2) The mixing and layering of saxophones inside some of the songs immediately rang a beautiful bell: Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom (Loop 3). In many ways, and in spite of several unique elements of Blackstar, the music is crossing decades.

Well, well, well. Imagine Norwegian jazz legend Jan Garbarek would do one other five-star-album in his lifetime (instead of never leaving the train of nostalgia, the formula of old days‘ glory), after All Those Born With Wings (1986) and Officium (1993, already a collaborative effort): that would be a similar surprise out of nowhere! This year will be exciting. Radiohead and Brian Eno are preparing their next releases. And Scott Walker? He is is still a restless and hungry mind, and will hold Blackstar in high regard, I’d bet on it.

(Days later: purely by accident, I wrote this on the day he died. I wouldn’t have written it this way if I had heared about it. News came the other day.)  

This entry was posted on Sonntag, 10. Januar 2016 and is filed under "Blog". You can follow any responses to this entry with RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. Jan Reetze:

    OK, convinced.

  2. Ian M:

    Officium is a continual amazement. I can never work out how he managed to augment (almost infinitely) the Parce Mihi Domine vox without ever encroaching on them. It’s like Banksy with a saxophone.

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