Bowie’s gone. One of the best thinkpieces I’ve read in the past day (and they’ve all been good; testament to the thinking man and woman’s idol) is this one, from Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine. Not only is it a fun look at life pre-fame and in the grind of production, but also an artist’s sincere appreciation of the technical and creative mastery behind the songs now being sung through tears in Brixton, New York, and Wellington.
In 1999 Bret McKenzie and I were sitting with our guitars in our dingy flat in Wellington trying to learn David Bowie songs. They were catchy, which usually translates to being easy to play. Not David Bowie. He’d taken Paul McCartney’s style of making an epic medley song and made it more subtle, parts seamlessly changing without you even realising it, you’d just feel the change like a change in your own mood.
He’d taken rock’n’roll and added parts of black soul music which somehow he’d made white without making it uncool. We couldn’t play these songs, they were too tricky to learn, too many parts, all those tricky chords, all those tempo changes, the changes in vocal range, sometimes a deep masculine growl, sometimes a high falsetto of some third alien gender.
We sat around defeated by our hero’s chord book but admiring him more. He’d made pop songs into mini operas but without showing off about it.