David Bowie: Five years – engrossing, nostalgic and wilfully self-indulgent

by Keith Watson / Metro

28th May 2013

Golden years revisited with David Bowie (Picture: Alamy)
Golden years revisited with David Bowie (Picture: Alamy)

‘Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere.’ With those words David Bowie, more than any teacher, parent or guru, convinced me that there was a way for life to take me. That there was a way out of my seaside backwater. That and the ‘Angel… wah, wah, wah’ that evokes Golden Years glister.

We define our lives by the rock stars we feel closest to. The iconic – for once, that overused word is deserved – Bowie and his beguiling, restless, inquisitive soul touched something in a provincial Essex boy I never knew was there.

Yes, there was the shiny surface: glitter, eye-shadow, green tights as the Jean Genie at a caravan park fancy dress party (my mum misheard the lyrics) but above all with Bowie there was possibility. There wasn’t just a world out there, there was a whole galaxy.

All of which made David Bowie: Five Years (BBC2) the most engrossing, nostalgic, wilfully self-indulgent 90 minutes I’ve spent living inside a television in the past year.

As Ziggy Stardust morphed through Young Americans, detoured into The Man Who Fell To Earth and tracked into Station To Station, it was like my own life flashing before my eyes, every moment tagged to a defining riff or lyric. Stay, that’s what I meant to say.

Director Francis Whately skilfully cut and pasted clips and talking heads, with guitarist Carlos Alomar – ‘this was the whitest man I’d ever seen’ – great value as he mixed tales of killer guitar licks with frank reminiscences. On first meeting Bowie, he said: ‘You look like s***, man, you need some food.’ Watching the late Luther Vandross work on the call-and-response crescendo of the song Right was mesmerising.

That was Bowie the soul man, just one of his many faces. ‘I seem to collect personalities,’ he noted at the outset in an early interview, and, for me, that’s the special magic. Why limit yourself to being who you want to be when you can be somebody new every day. Well, we can moonage daydream.

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