The Big Issue : Edition 488
THE BIG ISSUE 10 – 23 JULY 2015 19 I CAN PINPOINT the precise moment my music tastes evolved, and my mixtapes went from featuring Santana’s ‘Smooth’ to The White Stripes’ ‘Hotel Yorba’. In 2002, my sister’s subscription to Rolling Stone afforded her one free CD, and she selected, maybe casually, Best of Bowie, not realising the seismic shift it would cause in my tectonic plates. Itwasahabitofmine,asitisfor any kid with older siblings, to listen to my sisters’ albums. They were 20-somethings with money to spend on music; I was a 13-year-old who had to request his favourite Jamiroquai songs on the radio. Both sisters had unique tastes: from one, I discovered alt-Aussies Sidewinder; from the other I enjoyed, with greater relish than I’d care to admit, the music of Matchbox 20 and the soundtrack to My Best Friend’s Wedding. But Best of Bowie was different. It was “cool”. And nothing prior to Best of Bowie had been successful in transforming me from an ‘anything goes’ fan to a full-on music aficionado. And snob. A big, big music snob. The Best of Bowie track-listing was hardly revolutionary, delivering hits in chronological order. But it just might be the strongest collection of singles in recorded history, beginning with the spectral dreamscape of ‘Space Oddity’. Hearing it for the first time was like having life go from black-and-white to technicolor. It was followed by ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ (which Nirvana covered) and Hunky Dory singalongs ‘Changes’ and ‘Life on Mars’. I can recall sitting cross-legged before the CD player, unable to comprehend how so much transcendent music could come from one artist (whose origin and gender I hadn’t begun to wrap my head around). And the Ziggy Stardust tracks were still to come... When I’d spun the disc dry, I graduated to complete albums: Diamond Dogs, Low, Young Americans, Station to Station. Inspired by the Berlin-era ‘Sound and Vision’ lyric: blue, blue, electric blue/ that’s the colour of my room, I demanded a change in decor. I complemented the new paint job by changing my email address to electric_blue. During that year, armed with my new sense of superiority, I attended a dress- up party with the theme, ‘Come As What You Hate’. I took the opportunity to play a member of the band Good Charlotte, complete with eyeliner and straightened hair (which my steel wool Sicilian hair fought against). There was an element to the look I found weirdly beguiling. I sort of enjoyed dressing this way, looking less mid-2000s’ emo and more like a Spider from Mars. In 2004, I got to see Bowie live in Perth, and though the-then 57-year- old couldn’t quite hit the high notes in ‘Life on Mars’, the experience of seeing someone I revered so deeply was profound. My adoration of this man knew no bounds. I had bought a guitar; I learned to play it so I could strum the opening of ‘Moonage Daydream’. A girl later asked me out by emailing the lyrics to ‘Soul Love’ (also from the Ziggy album), knowing precisely what that would do to me. And I don’t think it was a coincidence that the one time I kissed a stranger at a party I was wearing my treasured Aladdin Sane T-shirt. Bowie truly was the gift that kept on giving. Music snobbery, like almost everything that inspires teenage passion, fades with age. Now, I just can’t work up outrage at those choosing their music foolishly. In 2013, I bought Bowie’s surprise comeback album, The Next Day, and relished the reminder of his talent, though I didn’t absorb every track à la Best of Bowie. But my email address is still electric_blue. And that’s got to count for something. » Simon Miraudo is a writer and critic. He edits Student Edge and is a regular contributor to Junkee, ABC Radio and RTRFM. GOLDEN YEARS SIMON MIRAUDO CAME LATE TO BOWIE... AND FELL HARD.