When I left home at 15 I took some clothes and two David Bowie albums

by Tracey Emin / The Sun

27th February 2013

DAVID BOWIE is just two weeks away from releasing his first album in a decade, The Next Day.

One of his biggest fans is the artist Tracey Emin, 49 – famous for her controversial work My Bed. Now a Professor at the Royal Academy and a CBE, she credits a love of Bowie with getting her into art.

Tracey Emin

Fan … artist Tracey Emin

The pair became close friends when Tracey was associated with the 1990s Britart scene and Bowie contacted her by email and invited her to a gig in Dublin in 1997 – this picture was taken outside the city’s Clarence Hotel soon after their first meeting.

Here Tracey reviews the new album exclusively for The Sun.

I HONESTLY can’t say when I first heard David Bowie’s music as it’s always been something that has existed in my conscious and subconscious from childhood.

It’s more that I remember the first time I came across David Bowie as a presence. I remember seeing this angular, bird-like figure and thinking, “I like him”.

I’ve liked David Bowie’s music since I was about 11 or 12. I liked his lyrics. I liked his look. But most of all I liked the way he had an arty connection.

Anyone who was out of the loop, who didn’t fit in, loved David Bowie.

There was a second-hand record shop on Margate high street and on Saturday morning I’d go and flick through all the vinyl. And sometimes, occasionally, you’d find an album you really wanted that was cheap. It might have a minor scratch or the cover may have been damaged.

David Bowie

Comeback … David Bowie in snap from The Stars (Are Out Tonight) video

I managed to lay my hands on a copy of Hunky Dory. I think that album did more for me than any lesson I ever had at school.

I was 12, and shouting at the top of my voice in quite a tuneless way, “Andy Warhol looks a scream / Hang him on my wall”. Who was this Andy Warhol? It wasn’t long before I found out.

I then proceeded to collect every Bowie album I could.

Young Americans was the one that resonated with me the most — “She took his ring, took his babies / It took him minutes, took her nowhere” (Young Americans, 1975).

Young American (1975)

Young American (1975) … Bowie’s soul album, heavily influenced by American R&B and funk.
This brought his glam-rock phase to an end. It was recorded live as much as possible

These lyrics, along with Candi Staton’s Young Hearts Run Free, almost kept me on the straight and narrow.

Everything to me that David Bowie wrote was poetic, meaningful, a message.

The next big message was the front cover of “Heroes” in 1977. The photograph of Bowie on the front was a homage to Egon Schiele, the 20th-century Austrian artist.

'HEROES' (1977)

‘Heroes’ (1977) … the second instalment of Bowie’s Berlin phase, known for the title track about two lovers who meet at the Berlin Wall

Once being told this stunning bit of information, I rushed to Cliftonville’s one and only bookshop and looked up the name Egon Schiele. There, in a book on German Expressionism, was one tiny image — seeing this image was going to determine the rest of my life.

When I left home at 15 I took one bag with some clothes and two albums — Ziggy Stardust and Pin Ups.

Now if I left home, I’d never have a bag big enough to put all of Bowie’s back catalogue in there.

I absolutely love the fact that David Bowie, after ten years of keeping an extremely low profile, has re-emerged with just his music.

Pin Ups (1973)

Pin Ups (1973) … his seventh album and made up of nostalgic cover versions of songs by bands including The Kinks and Pink Floyd

David Bowie as a musician was born with an awareness of fame but he’s only ever responded to it when he’s had absolute control. Almost like a mercurial game with different identities — Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke. And even right up to the latter day he now emerges into our psyche like a ghost we are really happy to see.

His new album is haunting and anthemic at the same time. It is the epitome of Bowie. I listened with my ears strung, hearing beats from my own past as well as Bowie’s. But at the same time, typically Bowie, hearing something that I’ve never heard before.

Some of the tracks I actually found painful to listen to but knowing in the future they would become my favourite.

David Bowie, The Next Day

‘Rite of passage’ … David Bowie’s first album in ten years, The Next Day

Still, he has the power to make the listener feel like the song is about them, to still make it possible for them to respond to the elongated roly-poly Bowie sound. He manages to pull a word as far as possible and it becomes trapped in your mind.

Almost every song mentions death. This album really is about a rite of passage. David Bowie has quite obviously really experienced something deep in his life over the past ten years.

This album is full of memories and nostalgia, with many references to Berlin. Dirty Boys is reminiscent of a 1930s cabaret burlesque, but at the same time you’re reminded of the street gangs of the 21st Century — something strangely futuristic coming from the past.

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972)

The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972) … Bowie’s glam-rock concept album about his character Ziggy Stardust – an alien rock star who visits Earth

But that is how Bowie is — whether he’s starring in The Man Who Fell To Earth, or someone who responds elegantly and aptly to all the changes in their own life, everything I say more or less responds to something Bowie had already said: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the strain) / Ch-ch-changes Just gonna have to be a different man / Time may change me But I can’t trace time” (Changes, 1972).

The Next Day is a dark, deep, meaningful album. There is nothing pulpy or commercial. At times, even if the beat is poppy, the lyrics never are. The use of the baritone saxophone is sexy, the strings are romantic and David Bowie’s voice is as David Bowie as it could ever be.

Tracey is donating her fee for this article to the Terrence Higgins Trust. Tracey is a long-time supporter of this HIV and sexual health charity. This year she has donated an artwork to the charity’s 30th Anniversary Auction, which takes place at Christie’s on March 21. For more details, visit tht.org.uk/auction.


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