…Suddenly a door blows open.Â Framed in silouette in the doorframe is a tall slim figure standing against the wintery elements.
The figure steps forward slowly into the room. Â The shadows cast across his face gradually diminish as the light trickles across his face. Â The tips of his mouth form into a smile.
Don’t pretend you didn’t notice that I’ve been away because you did.Â For various reasons not worth exploring I hadn’t been able to do a show for several weeks at the end of 2011, and I’ve been missing from this blog for a disgracefully long period.Â Sadly technical problems meant that the annual Christmas Selection Box had to be abandoned half way through recording (I actually had our Broadcast Manager standing over me ringing the helpdesk between tracks), so bat-eared listeners may have spotted that the festive show that was jizzed out onto the airwaves on Boxing Day was a repeat of the Christmas show from 2009. Â Big thanks to BCB’s shaggy-haired mound of 70s coat attired loveliness Dan Carroll for his sterling work in crowbarring this old show into the schedules with little help from your truly. Â I kiss his face.
Anyone wanting to read a playlist of the all the shows that are missing from this blog since my last entry will, I’m afraid, have to go and whistle.Â Or at the very least send an e-mail into the show requesting a playlist for a specific show.Â Any chance of me catching up are around the same as The Goodies’ trandem getting onto the back wheel of Mark Cavendish. Â The only excuse I can give is that David Bowie ate my homework.
Ah yes, Mr Bowie. Â The Iguana of The Aleatory as he is known, due to his many changing faces and sounds. Â Who could forget his alters ego porcine pop star Piggy Starthrust, French chanteur A Lad In The Seine, the robotic tennis player unfailingly knocked out in the semi finals every year Tim Machine and possibly my favourite moniker, The Thin White Duck which saw our hero covered in down and pretending to be a neo-Nazi Anatidae.
Selection Box Show 207 was an unashamed cranial tilt to the birthday boy David Robert Jones who turned 65 years of age on 8 January andÂ turned into David Bowie a significant period before that.
Four Bowie tracks were scattered about the show like genius seeds, and were picked for no particular reason other thanÂ because these were the ones I fancied hearing this time around. Â Itâ€™s myÂ show I can do what I like and to hell with what you think you might want to listenÂ to. Â You’d probably choose the gurning Mick Jagger duet, wouldn’t you. Â Youâ€™ll like what youâ€™re told to by me and thatâ€™s an end to it.
So it might be a meaningless numerical milestone, but it’s nice now and again to celebrate the life of an artist and Iâ€™d put forwardÂ the argument that Bowie could arguably be labeled as greatest artist of the 20thÂ Century â€“ and when I say artist I donâ€™t just mean as a musician but across all ofÂ the arts. Â So shove that in your misogynist pipe and smoke it, Mr Picasso.
I would argue that music is the most important art form there is in spite of, or indeed because it is so easily dispensable.Â The advent of portable music players and latterly file sharing, You Tube, Spotify and their ilk has meant that music is an artform we indulge in lazily and is a part of of our everyday lives.Â We metaphorically have music on tap and thus take it for granted, just as we literally have water on tap yet we’re blase about the resource which is most crucial to our survival.Â Even the people who claim not to be particularly interested in music and steadfastly resist the onslaught of Ian Apple and his Pod revolution will hear music on the radio – free at point of access remember – and piped into shopping centres, sports grounds and at the dentists (dentists, regardless of age, colour or creed always listen to Radio 2 whilst they work. Â It’s a law of nature or something [there's also a high rate of suicide among dentists, which is certainly something I'd consider if I listened to Steve Wright five days a week]).
Music is therefore not only accessible in terms of its ease of supply – you can get it with ludicrous ease – it is also more accessible than any other artform in the cerebral sense as well (and I say this with all due deference to the deaf) in that music bypasses our intellectual barriers or indeed lack of them. Â Our reactions to music are largely arbitrary, reactive and perhaps most importantly are formed largely without the need for learned or knowing discourse on the form. Â We do not even need to understand the language that its performers are communicating to us in – I don’t need to speak French to know that I love the songs of Jacques Brel, Francoise Hardy, Serge Gainsbourg and artists such Sigur Ros and the glorious Cocteau Twins have recorded songs in invented languages which are understood only by them.
And Bowie has produced some of the most significant andÂ influential works of art within that field. Â It’d be naive to suggest that he has not borrowed from other artists’ ideas and influences, but this is precisely what a truly great artist should seek to do – to be open and recognise new ideas and challenge themselves to find expression in new directions – and there’s barely a major musical genre which Bowie has not dabbled in with some gusto (although we’re overdue a rockabilly period, which would be rather intriguing). Â His commitment to alter egos, differing musical styles, cut & paste writing techniques and painted faces & changing haircuts have served to form our understanding and power of the combined forces of sound & vision as the metaphorical brush strokes of the rock star idiom. Â The bredth and scope of his output from around 1969 – 1980 in particular demonstrates a creative and inventive force stronger than pretty much any other artist you care to name. Â What’s more, following this he even had the good grace to dip his toe in the genre of Shit Music, which he splashed about in for pretty much entire decade. Â How thoroughly decent of him.
As a postscript, which further bludgeons the point about the disposable nature of music, I recall only too clearly watching Bowie’s headline set at Glastonbury 2000 (from the confines of my front room rather than in a field in Somerset – although considering where I lived at the time being knee-deep in cow shit was probably significantly less hazardous to a person’s health than curling up on our sofa) and being incensed at the manner in which the television coverage continually flicked away to show us, well, something else. Â As the century had changed, here was the greatest artist of the previous 100 years finally showing off “the hits” – some of his finest works that he had kept under the sheets in live terms for many many years – and yet apparently it was appropriate to only dip into this in dispatches because it was vital that we got to see a bit of Basement Jaxx. Â I have nothing against Basement Jaxx in particular, but I recall thinking that we would never visit a Salvador Dali exhibition only to be ushered into a side room after a couple of paintings in order to look at a Rolf Harris kangaroo drawing.
Selection Box Show 207 (listen here)
1. David Bowie â€“ 5.15 The Angels Have Gone
2. The Bo-Keys featuring Harvey Scales â€“ Work That Skirt
from: Aquarium Drunkard Presents Clifton’s Corner Volume 2 (various artists)
3. Erskine Hawkins & His Orchestra â€“ After Hours
from: Bands That Can Boogie Woogie (various artists)
4. David Krakauer â€“ Moskovitz & Loops Of It
from: Bubbemeises: Lies My Grandma Told Me
5. David Bowie â€“ Â In The Heat Of The Morning
from: Bowie At The Beeb
6. Vashti Bunyan â€“ Timothy Grub
from: Just Another Diamond Day
7. The Sapphires â€“ Oh So Soon
from: Mondo Boys Desert Island (various artists)
8. David Bowie â€“ Cygnet Committee
from: Space Oddity
9. Ex Lion Tamer â€“ Life Support Machine
from: Neon Hearts
10. Bill Justis â€“ Rebel Rouser
from: Rock & Roll Revival Vol 3 (various artists)
11. David Bowie â€“ Five Years
from: The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Patrick Thornton presents Selection Box every Monday at Midnight.