In 1986 I was a high school senior with dreams of becoming a writer. I had, no exaggeration, hundreds of stories, and envisioned getting into a creative writing program when I went to college in the Fall. That year, I was a member of the domestic student exchange, which sent me and about 25 fellow New York kids to George, Iowa. George had a population of roughly 600, and was in virtually every sense of the term, a farm town. It was during that week of culture shock and good times, going ditch-hopping and burying the needle at 125 MPH in the dead of night on a cornfield-crossing road, that I got the idea for a new story. I made some notes, but that was it. A week goes by pretty fast when you're 17.
I returned home, and dragged my ancient typewriter (20 pounds is being conservative), to my part time job, with my cassette Walkman. I spent an entire shift hidden away in the back office, pecking out a story based on those notes and that trip. And, I did it listening to songs that got my juices flowing. "Modern Love", by David Bowie. His version of "China Girl", and "Putting Out Fire (with Gasoline)", the theme from the film Cat People. Also on that cassette was Iggy Pop's "Bang Bang", which I didn't know at the time Bowie was planning to cover.
David Bowie isn't responsible for me being a pro writer. He isn't the reason I got into college. He isn't the reason I hit one out of the park with that tale. But god damn, he's a huge part of it.
So why do I bring all this up? Just a favorite Bowie moment from high school? Because I remember those tracks so vividly, and the hours spent sweating out that short story? Because Bowie tunes bring back fond memories? Yeah, sure. But that isn't it. That story? The one I scribbled notes for during a bonfire behind a slaughterhouse while "Let's Dance" was playing on someone's boom box? That story was taken by my writing mentor and put into a number of college application packages. Including—unbeknownst to me—one that got me a decent amount of scholarship money, and an honorable mention in a contest that got the top three entrants a free ride—anywhere.
David Bowie isn't responsible for me being a pro writer. He isn't the reason I got into college. He isn't the reason I hit one out of the park with that tale. But god damn, he's a huge part of it. And now, 30 years later, I have to say farewell. But I do so with a lot to thank him for. Lots of memories, lots of good times, had during a life whose soundtrack features dozens of Bowie songs. Rest well, David. Thanks so much.
-Joe Monks, Author, Torn to Pieces, Editor-Rawckus Magazine
Five lifetimes ago, in a crowded upstairs bar in Olongapo City, deep on Magsaysay Boulevard, cigarette smoke as dense as the night and utter foreignness of the situation. Filipina bar girls surround us like warm waves on the beach. The oily taste of cold San Miguel contrasts sharply against the tropical and humid Philippine air. Mojo Rum Punch and beer chasers bring the buzz and just when you think it can't get any more exotic; the band takes the stage like gladiators at the Coliseum. Marshall amps and Les Pauls ring out loud as air raid sirens, drums explode and the bass brings the thunder. “Stranglehold” by The Nuge, “Stealing” from Uriah Heep and Bowie, lots of Bowie. “Fame” “Ziggy” “Suffragette City” “Diamond Dogs,” “Young Americans” “Moonage Daydream.”
"I'm an alligator, I'm a mama-papa coming for you
I'm the space invader, I'll be a rock 'n' rollin' bitch for you
Keep your mouth shut, you're squawking like a pink monkey bird
And I'm busting up my brains for the words."
The Mick Ronson guitar parts coupled with the Bowie vocals form a knockout one-two punch from an intergalactic boxer. That’s how I spent those next few years. A million miles away from everything I’ve ever known, introduced to music I’d never heard. David Bowie was everywhere; he was played in all the clubs and on all the jukeboxes. The music was seared into my consciousness and it never failed to surprise and delight, each new piece, something unique and different, always different. It never sounded like anything else, which paralleled perfectly the rest of my adventures. Everything was new, foreign and exotic and the music was the perfect compliment. Peace out my friend.
Terry Pelayo, Editor, Rawckus Magazine
The first time I listened to Blackstar I was at work: it was night, on a Saturday, alone, no one in the office. There was an unreasonable quiet and solitude everywhere around me as the sun sank beneath grey clouds and a very black night fell on all. From my office window I could see half-melted snow and thick banks of ice. Inside, my screen and the auxiliary lights provided the only illumination. I was full on too much food from Panera, and tired from the weather and working overtime. When I put on the record, everything was black. I walked around my office, feeling the darkness wrap around me like a sweater – felt it warmly against me as a void. And I couldn’t work any longer. I turned off my equipment, and the album finished as I walked out into the chill night air. Two days later he died.
Eric Koenig, Review Writer-Rawckus Magazine