It’s a far duller world today

There exists an inspirational and very personal narrative to my entire life. Not a reproduction of it, but a description and enhancement of it through one man’s artistic performance. Like it or not we are a product of our surroundings. We see something that excites and interests us and incorporate it into the way we see the world and the way we feel about it. Age 17, I was on the balcony at Earl's Court looking straight down at an ambiguous man dressed in a one-legged multi-coloured leotard singing songs about an alien rockstar burning out and seemingly doing it in real time, right in front of my eyes.
I don't suppose anybody born after the 1970s or maybe even before the sixties, could have any idea how exciting that moment was. The music was fantastic, loud and exciting but there was more, something I had never seen before. A new, totally unrestrained way of looking at the world and as he climbed a stack of speakers towards me, the words of his songs filled me with an awful, urge to be artistic. An urge that still exists but that I have sadly failed to express adequately.

A few years slipped by and my record (a large round plastic disc that created a sound when scraped by a needle) collection had gathered more mysterious, interesting and classy additions. Every one was different to the one before, but each gripped my imagination like nothing else ever had. With every one came new sounds, new images, new fashions and new inspirations. Every track on every album, no matter how good or not, generating feelings deep within at every listening. No music or musician that I had ever heard of, had ever done that before and ever has since. It was, believe me, very inspirational to somebody brought up against a musical backdrop of fifties crooners, Elvis Presley and the Beatles. I am old enough to appreciate the worth of them all in the grand scheme of things, but at the end of the day they were all just nice boys in suits singing about love and none of them filled me with the same sort of all-consuming excitement.

I saw him again three or four years later performing at Wembley, dressed in a sharp, black, baggy trousered suit and bathed in nothing but white light with one occasional yellow spot. The concert was introduced visually with a gruesome, surrealist silent film, 'un chien andalou' by  Luis Buñuel and aurally by beethovens ninth. A remarkable combination of weirdness and normality , neither aspect of which had crossed my path before; proof that despite my hitherto conservative upbringing, there was no strata of artistic endeavour that could not be mined for ideas or material. Proof that there are no limits we need fear as we seek our own path through life. I am not very original, but now I knew that there was nothing stopping me from being so if I could just harness the drive and look around me with fresh eyes.   

At one point a curtain of light hid the entire stage and to the strains of a lengthy, train-derived intro (to station to station) he walked through the glow appearing as if by magic. I think it was then that I understood completely that it wasn't just about the music. It was about the art, the style, the fashion, the performance and above all, the creative process. Virtually everybody of my age will have a favourite track or album from his vast catalogue. Many say his 1970s work was this best and he has never reached those heights again, but they miss the point. Others became aware of his music in the eighties when it became more populist.  He taught me that artistically you can do anything, be anything, try anything. If it works it works, if it doesn't then at least you have tried and that even the failures can and do contribute to you as a human being, and will be of use to you in the future.

I cannot believe that I will never again wake up one morning to another ground breaking, unexpected, interesting David Bowie album. There will be other important cultural icons in the future, but the true sign that a genius has passed this way is that the next one couldn’t exist without the canvas that has already been prepared. Most of the colour just drained out of my world.

My nature