I know I know, it's taken me forever to write this, and there are a hundred other posts I keep meaning to make (mostly I really want to keep track of all the funny things that Callum says, because he is growing up so fast, but, that kind of ties in with this?)
It's almost a month already, but I really need to write this whole thing down about the passing of David Bowie and Alan Rickman, particularly so close together. For some reason I really, really need to unpack this right now.
And it's so strange that I need to write all this down because, in my 20s, I had the most out of control crush on Layne Staley. We used to email, I'd send him little gifts and he would thank me, keep them in his room or hang them from the rearview mirror of his car. He was so nice to me. I worked for his landlady back in the 90s. We actually chatted and I crushed on him so hard
. But when he died, I guess I expected it. I felt so sad for him, his whole life a tragedy, and I was gutted for his poor Mom and sisters and little nephew. But I didn't dwell on it like I am with this. It's just weird, and it's making me feel really stupid and awkward.
When David Bowie died, I addressed it on Twitter with a kind of short version of how huge he was to teenage!me. Same goes with Alan Rickman. I don't even know where to start with the whole thing.
But I guess I can start around 1989, which is when I met my friends Rachel and Jolyn. I went to high school with Rachel from 11th grade on. We met in Chemistry class, trying to cheat off each other's papers. Rachel was married at the time. She'd gotten married at 16, because she wanted to. And she introduced me to Jolyn. I introduced her to my other best friend Jeremy, and my cousin Celia. Soon, the five of us were always together, and nearly all of our time revolved around David Bowie. If we weren't listening to him, we were talking about him.
I never went anywhere without a cassette player and walkman, so, during all of our family trips, everyone had to listen to David Bowie. In the summer of 90, right before I started college, we used to get together a few times a week and go swimming. We'd swim all day and into the night, listening to Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs, mostly. But all of us, we had all of his music. All
of it. The obscure, non-released stuff, and let me tell you, that was really hard to find back then before there was an internet. We had to drive to record stores, and some of them were like, an hour away.
We even had a recording of Baal ffs, do you know how hard it was to find that back then?
There was a period of about three months when his cover of “Wild Is The Wind” was my favorite song to the point where I would get to the end of it, rewind, and play it from the beginning. Over. And over. And again. For hours, while I was cleaning, or writing, or whatever the hell I did back then before the internet. That song, the way he sang it I guess, was my idea of perfect romance. I loved them all, but there was something about that one song. I had a boyfriend at the time, actually, my first real boyfriend, you could say. I never felt “Wild Is The Wind” about him, though he was a really good person. So good-looking I'm still not sure how I landed him, very kind, but we totally weren't creatures of the wind, LOL. We're still friends, though.
Oh, jeez, and I was also obsessed with Cygnet Committee. Late at night, after everyone was in bed (Celia lived with us back then,) I'd drag out the video camera and set it up on the tripod. This was 1990, okay, video cameras were HUGE back then, and it was a big deal to load up that tape and all. But I'd set the camera on a tripod, I'd play Cygnet Committee, and I would act the whole thing out on video. Just, like, flailing, dancing, acting out every nuance with the kind of drama you can only manage when you're 17.
But, the biggest thing: Rachel, Jolyn and I were writing a book about David Bowie.
Okay, so, we were kids, here. I was 16-18 when this was all going on, Rachel 17-19, Jolyn 19-21 during these years. And we were basically writing a real person fanfic. Thank god there was no internet back then. I mean, honestly, I am so thankful every day that there was no internet when I was a teenager. This David Bowie story was an epic, three-book series, written by hand and on a word-processor. Each week, Rachel, Jolyn and I would get together, having brought different parts of the story, and tie them together.
The fic (for that's what it was,) was a David Bowie/You fic, and “You” was a Mary Sue. There were also two other named women, and all of them had the best aspects of ourselves, plus all the SUPER POWERS that come with being a group of Mary Sues.
The plot was that David Bowie was a vampire, about two hundred years old, and we were the three teenage upstarts in the vampire world. Of course, David Bowie could not help being completely impressed with us, and we all lived with him in his Vampire mansion in England.
There were other famous vampires too, of course. Basically anyone we were really into. For instance, the head vampire, the king of the entire vampire world, was David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. And like, of course they were going to have to “get old” and “die” one day, so that they could go back to living in obscurity for a few hundred years, before resurfacing as an artist in a different medium, and getting famous all over again. (Vampires could use a Glamour to appear old.) Oh yes, and David Gilmour was 2000 years old, and was David Bowie's secret father. And David Bowie's secret Brother was Phil Lewis of LA Guns. (Celia really liked him, so he made it into the fic, too.) (Imagine how we all dropped dead when LA Guns made an album called “Hollywood Vampires” lololol.)
In 1991, “Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves” came out. And holy shit, we all went insane for Alan Rickman. I mean, for Christian Slater, obviously, but hugely for Alan Rickman. The five of us went to see that movie in the theater nine times.
That was more than we'd gone to see Bill And Ted (seven times.)
Naturally, Alan Rickman got written into the story. He was so charismatic, so much fun, and so hot
, our allegiance even shifted a little. Our Mary Sues started spending more page-time with Vampire!Alan Rickman than with Vampire!Bowie. I think one of our Mary Sues even moved in with him.
And, naturally, we all hunted down every last one of his movies. Truly madly Deeply. Closet Land. Quigley Down Under. We would have watching parties, and then go and write some more.
By 1993 I was sort of more into T Rex, Syd Barrett, that kind of thing, and I was buying things on CD by then but could not afford to replace all of my Bowie stuff with CDs, so it remained (and still remains) on cassette, sadly. Over the years, I downloaded the odd Bowie song when I could find it. Just the faves, mostly, figuring, you know, if I ever really, really
felt like listening to Please Mr Gravedigger, I'd break out that old cassette player. It's not like the music was going anywhere.
(Except it did. I sold or donated most of my cassettes before I left for Seattle in '94. Because by then it was Pearl Jam and NIN and Soundgarden and all of that.)
(And honestly? I'm writing about David Bowie because he died - if I'm being completely straight here, I've always actually loved David Gilmour pretty much more than god. My world is going to come crashing down when he dies; god I don't even want to write those words; I can't bear thinking of it. To this day he is my biggest rock-star crush, I think he's absolutely beautiful.)
So anyway. The five of us as teens, we were really serious about David Bowie and Alan Rickman, and by “serious” I mean “obsessed with,” and don't think for a moment that we didn't sometimes believe our own bullshit. Like...that maybe we were onto something. Maybe we would meet David Bowie and Alan Rickman. Maybe they would never get old and die.
Here's where I could talk about all the “years go by, Celie has four kids, Rachel lives in Washington, blah blah” all the things that have changed for all of us, or do the ole' Stephen King “We never again felt the way we did for those few years, like anything was possible” and such. I don't think that's true, at least for me, because I still think that great things are possible. Like, truly, our big dream for that book? Was to get it published. Which, looking back is so cringingly hilarious and awful, and thank god, thank GOD there was no internet for us to put it on. But we did want to publish that stupid book (which, oh, by the way, it was called Sandcastles
, because it was a book about vampires so why not call it ~~Sandcastles~~ because isn't that so special?) and we knew nothing about how to get anything published. Query letter? Editors? Agents? WTF, it's 1990, we are in high school / off to college ffs. Besides, no one would ever have to edit our work of genius; it was obvs so perf as it stood.
But anyway, none of that, I guess. Right around this past Christmas, I had my iPod on shuffle and Cygnet Committee came on. I was cooking dinner for Meghan (23 year old cousin, lives with us while going to college,) and Callum. And I found myself telling Meghan about how I used to record myself acting that song out. Like, I thought it was so deep, and I
was so deep, because I got it
okay, and other people just couldn't understand all of his references, and man, if David Bowie ever saw my interpretive dance of that song, he would obviously hire me on the spot to be in all of his videos. And we just had such a huge laugh over it, over how dramatic you can feel about a song when you're seventeen.
(Although, let's not lie—and I said this to Meghan, too—I really never lost that overwhelming emotion I can feel over certain songs. I still get the music frisson, I still want to act that shit out. Although these days “act it out” means more like, use it as character inspiration, and like that.)
So then David Bowie died and Alan Rickman died, what, four days apart? And of course the bunch of us were on Facebook with each other just reeling over it. Like, why them, why both, why so close together? That kind of thing.
It was always weird to me to see Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter movies. I was happy, really, that the next generation was as enamored of him as we were. He deserved it; he was such a king.
So the day after Alan Rickman died, we were all still all over Facebook, posting our thoughts, movie clips, music videos, just like everyone else, you know. And then Celia posted “Wild Is The Wind.”
IDK, for some reason, that was kind of it for me. I had completely forgotten that song existed. And like, how could I forget the song that got me through being 17 and starting college? That one song that defined how I felt about things like love, and romance, and which I used to listen to on repeat to the point where the ending of the song sounded like the beginning of it, you know what I mean? Callum was napping when she posted it and I listened to it over and over again like when I was a kid, and I was just crying like an idiot.
Then, when I went to wake Callum from his nap I was still crying because it was so weird for me, suddenly, to have a kid. I mean, it's 2016, I have a child, I forgot that song existed, and David Bowie and Alan Rickman have both died. It was such a weird emotion, it was part, “That poor little 17 year old girl and her friends, nightswimming in the summer, biggest worry in the world is 'will it rain tomorrow' and 'is there enough cheese for pizza muffins?' How would she feel about this, she would be so crushed.”
And the other, really weird and kind of unexplainable part had to do with Callum. I can't figure out what it was or why that was making me cry so much. Something to do with that song in particular, how strongly I felt about it, I guess, and maybe wondering what sort of 17 year old he would be, and which of his childhood idols would die someday when he's an adult with a kid of his own (if he decides to, of course.) “You're Spring to me, all things to me.” He's so innocent.
And then also, David Bowie's daughter is around the age I was when I was so into him, and she just lost her Dad. I mean, I lost my Dad at 36, there's never a good time for it to happen, but 16? That's awful.
But that's not even really it. I can't actually explain it. I actually feel really stupid even posting this, like that overly dramatic 17 year old who takes everything way too seriously. But like I said, I had to unpack all this nonsense.
The weird thing was, David Bowie's death was easier for me than Alan Rickman's, maybe because he remained such a beloved part of modern culture, with Harry Potter and all of that. In some oddball way, his death seems way less real to me, more of a shock, and harder to understand.
(Then, let's not get into the spiral of panic that came after it. Them both being 69, and my Mom is going to be 70 in a few weeks and you get the whole “But they were so successful and had access to the best tests and the best care, and if it happened to them...” You know how anxiety starts to talk to you.)
So I needed to write about this, but I also kind of don't want to dwell on it? My other favorite Bowie song was Lady Grinning Soul: another one I forgot, played again after he died, felt sad for a bit, and then remembered that we thought at first he was saying “She'll lay the beef on you,” and cracked up laughing.
And then I remembered me and Celie sharing a hotel room in Florida, her trying to fall asleep, me listening to my walkman and singing out loud: “You're face... to face... with the man who sold the world” and her yelling “NO, YOUR FACE! Now shut up and go to sleep!” For years after, we'd greet each other with the call and reply “you're face” “to face...”
And how in Diamond Dogs, Rachel and I both thought he was saying “Come out of the garden, baby, you'll catch your dick in the phone,” and each time we had to talk on the phone, we'd warn each other of this potential danger.
But, okay, I wrote it all out and even though I feel like an idiot, I'm glad I put it into words. Wild Is The WindCygnet Committee Lady Grinning Soul