Sunday, 24 June 2012

Football, Bowie And The Bootboy Era

Drove the middle toe on my right foot into a base leg of the desk chair last night - I want your sympathy, but don't suppose I'll get it - now it's an ugly purple swollen thing, but Franck Ribéry's got a B-movie horror scar from far worse car crash injury, so you have to count your blessings, eh? Then again, he's a world-class player with all the rewards that brings, and I'm a nobody. I watched him applying his brute strength and skill against the Spanish at football, to no avail. 

I love to see the TV screen filled with green, and small shapes moving to and fro on the quest to put that little round white thing where it belongs. A football pitch, specifically Chelsea's pitch circa 1972, remains a magical vision to me since I can still recall the moment I walked up the steps from the bowels of Stamford Bridge to a world of light and brilliant blazing green, the like of which I had never seen before. The early-70s were golden years for the club, back when Charlie Cooke was the only  foreign player we knew of, being Scottish. Years when hooligan style on the terraces was rife...The Shed, skin'eads and all that. 

Yet into my ordinary council house world at that time came the Ziggy Stardust album, as mysterious and magical to me as the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Bowie's mismatched eye-colouring always appeared to me (and many others, I'm sure) as evidence of his other-worldliness (or cosmetic enhancement, being a crazy Rock star). The truth is more prosaic, as you probably know. Watching former Spiders talk on BBC4's documentary  the other night, I'm surprised they didn't give him another eye colour, namely black. His treatment of them seems less than generous, to say the least.

That album's a defining one for my generation - what it defines I've no idea. I learnt every word of the lyrics, took it to the youth club, and became fixated by fantastical phrases penned by the Thin White Duke. More so because I was writing sci-fi stories at the time - a match made on Mars: space-age Rock glamour and futuristic poetry. 

Whilst the documentary was good, the following clips show served to remind us that he has not maintained a perfect career trajectory (who does?). His re-emergence with a band playing the hits did nothing to excite, and for me, neither did many of the albums that followed the golden age. My fan friend swears later works are worthwhile, but I'm devoted solely to the 70s material. The Man Who Sold The World remains, in my view, a neglected masterpiece and the true roots of his space-age era. 

If terrace bootboys and Glam Rock seem worlds apart retrospectively, you probably had to be there. Something in the air caused a strange fusion of men in make-up and their music with tribal loyalty, aggro and street style. No surprise, then, that Bowie took band members to see A Clockwork Orange, the ultimate cinematic example of horrorshow violence, futurist vision and style. Braces, bowlers, boots and boys were swinging in a most bizarre fashion. 

It was all ch-ch-changes, of course, as is the way of fashion. Bowie changed, having recovered, eventually, from alter-ego psychosis. I've changed of course, although every time I play Ziggy it's as if the youthful me re-emerges, such is the way of important records in our past. It's fitting, I suppose, that one who took me into the future when I was a teenager can also provide a time travel experience today.


  1. I agree with you on Man Who Sold The World - Width of a Circle blew my mind. There are some overlooked gems in his later career tho' namely Black Tie, White Noise and Earthling - give them some time :)


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