David Bowie was the genius who sprinkled some Stardust on the musical world
As the world mourns the loss of pop and cultural icon David Bowie, Kerry McKittrick talks to local personalities about what the man and his music meant to them
A piece of street art in David Bowie’s native Brixton has become a shrine to the star since his death. The wall mural, which depicts him in his Ziggy Stardust persona, is now covered in floral tributes and messages of love to the late, great idol. As tributes dominate social media and virtually every newspaper and news bulletin, we find out what part Bowie played in the lives of politicians and journalists here who were inspired by his music and philosophy.
Favourite Bowie song Sound and Vision
Danny Kinahan MP (57), lives in Templepatrick with his wife Anna and their children, Eliza (22), Tara (21), Hugo (19), and Mia (15). He says:
I had a good look through all my Bowie albums the day I heard that he died. All the original albums were on vinyl, then I had them on cassette, then on CD before I put them on to a music player.
I’m definitely a fan of that era of music and especially of David Bowie. I had known he was ill but it was still a shock when he passed away. My favourite song is Sound and Vision which was released as a single and came out during his collaboration with Brian Eno so it’s more of an electronic one. That’s been my mobile phone ring tone for a while now.
Life On Mars was my favourite song when I was at school and anything from the Pin Ups album.
When I was younger, having the most up to date album was almost a competition and it almost tied you to supporting a particular artist.
I would have music on all the time if I could and I still listen to Bowie — even at Westminster. Once I finish in Parliament, I sit and read in my room with the iPad on featuring Bowie, Genesis or Supertramp.
Bowie’s cross generation appeal was down to the different ways he did things. Instead of writing songs like a poem or a story, Bowie wrote ideas on scraps of paper then shuffled them around until they were in an order which he was satisfied with. He had a way of looking at things differently and he was a great example to all of us.”
Favourite Bowie song Drive In Saturday
Stuart Bailie (53) is a broadcaster, DJ and founder member of Belfast’s Oh Yeah Centre. He says:
One of my favourite songs was Drive In Saturday from the album Aladdin Sane which was a beautiful song. It’s like a cheesy Fifties song that he turned into a Bowie space romance along the way. Everything he did had his own magnificent spin on it.
The other song would be Young Americans. After the glam rock era he went into this plastic phase and out of nowhere he pulled this fantastic soul song that other people would spend their entire careers trying to create — it would make a stone dance.
When Bowie was at the height of his fame I used to rent records each week from Mike’s Record shop and I got one or two David Bowie records so I worked my way through the collection, which was a great education.
I never met him and it was a bit of a shock to discover that he had died. I was distraught because he was one of those people in the Seventies whose music was a lifeline to so many people. It was a time when things over here were so dark and David Bowie brought colour and glamour and peculiar wonderful things from outside of the darkness.
His songs were endlessly fascinating and there’s such a breadth there. He was like The Beatles — there has to be something of Bowie’s that everyone will like. It would be a very dull person that would hate David Bowie.
There is always a bit of mystery and intrigue about him — I think Bowie never told the whole story. There’s always been something about him that brings you back to his music.”
Favourite Bowie song Suffragette City
Jamie Delargy (61) is the business editor of UTV. He is married to Claire and they have three grown-up children. He says:
Suffragette City, a track off the Ziggy Stardust album, is my favourite. I even bought the album when it first came out — I didn’t come to it late. It’s a hard thing to do to pick one song on it. I could pick other songs on the album but that one stands out to me. The record sleeve and a bit of advice that the album should be played at maximum volume — which of course I did — appealed. I also really loved Jean Genie which came out as a single around about the same time; that was a super tune too.
If you take the decade between 1965-1975, you can really see rock music flowering and developing with new talents emerging and David Bowie was one of those talents. He appealed because he was so different in both his sound and look. We’re always looking for something novel and David Bowie supplied that.”
Favourite Bowie song Absolute Beginners
Kerry McLean (40) is a Radio Ulster broadcaster. She lives in Ballymoney with her husband Ralph and their children, Tara (9), Dan (7) and newborn daughter Eve. She says:
When I heard that David Bowie had died I was heartbroken. He was my absolute idol when I was young and his were the very first pictures I had up in my bedroom.
My friends reminded me just after he died that the posters were all covered in lipstick kisses — it was Rimmel’s Heather Mist and it was the only lipstick I was allowed to wear back then. They also reminded me that every time they came over to my house, I made them watch Labyrinth because it had David Bowie in it. I always felt that we had something in common because we both have different coloured eyes — I was born with one green and one brown.
But I managed to meet him when I was in my mid-20s and making education programmes for the BBC’s World Service.
We got lots of very good interviews because people were keen to do things for global education. I was at a press junket interviewing someone else and then they came to me and told me I could have two minutes with David Bowie.
I’ve been lucky to interview lots of very famous people, but Bowie had an aura about him that was something special.
I could see it when I was waiting outside to meet him because all of these big name journalists from music magazines were there too and they were just as nervous as I was.
When I got in he was lovely but I was so nervous. I started to talk but I got so flabbergasted that I literally forgot how to speak. He just said, ‘right, just take a deep breath and start again’. I had literally two minutes with him so I only managed to ask two questions and I can’t remember what they were. He was the world’s coolest man right up until he passed away — he didn’t have to try like the rest of us, he just had it.
He was so kind when I stumbled in that interview and wasn’t snarly at all.
He was clearly used to people just losing it in front of him. I think there’s only a very small handful of famous people who have the character to draw people to them as soon as they walk into a room — and he was certainly one. He was just magnetic.
I’m very pleased I got to meet him, although I wish I has been a little cooler when I did. David Bowie — as an artist — has endured because very few rock stars or musicians step outside the box that they create for themselves, but he did nothing but that.
He changed so much and I think he wasn’t famous for being a musician but famous for being an artist who just happened to be a musician.
My favourite Bowie song is probably Absolute Beginners. It reminds of the time when I first really got into Bowie and I remember putting that song on to play and realising that it was something different. That’s the one that made me fall in love with him.”
Favourite Bowie song Starman
Ian Paisley is DUP MP for North Antrim where he lives with his wife Fiona and their four children. He says:
I first remember listening to David Bowie’s music in the Eighties around about the time he released Let’s Dance.
But that wasn’t my favourite song, I preferred Starman because the music was so hypnotic and majestic. It has a nice, orchestrated feel about it and you can’t help but listen to it when it comes on the radio.
I can’t say I would have discovered David Bowie through my dad’s record collection.
I don’t even think I bought a David Bowie album but his songs would have been on all the compilation albums I used to buy. It was always there and I always used to listen to it and appreciate the music because it was always something different. His death has come as a shock because so few people knew he was seriously ill. He seems to have been very clever, like Freddie Mercury, and created his own requiem in his last album which was released just days before he died.”
Favourite Bowie song China Girl
Writer and broadcaster Ivan Little. He says:
The first time I heard my all-time stand-out David Bowie song China Girl in the late Seventies, it wasn’t him singing — it was his co-writer Iggy Pop and its raw power transfixed me. But in the Eighties I saw Bowie’s video for the song which he’d recorded for his album Let’s Dance produced by the incomparable Niles Rodgers. And that was that.
Bowie looked and sounded like the king of cool and the spicy ending with his lover in the surf on an Australian beach — which was censored in some countries — made a similar entanglement in From Here to Eternity look like Snow White.
I’ve heard all sorts of speculation about the song’s racism messages and the lyrics’ apparent references to heroin but the only thing that’s certain for me is that China Girl was pure genius from the erstwhile Jean Genie creator.”
Favourite Bowie song Let's Dance
Eamonn McCann is a broadcaster and writer. He says:
One of the best phrases ever to ornament a song is “in this serious moonlight”. Ominous, original, intriguing, entrancing. It’s repeated twice in Let's Dance, a pop song with ideas above its station that it carries off with aplomb. Bowie in majestic voice, shrill unsettling flourishes in the music, a stance that’s both arrogant and vulnerably aching for love. Intonations of performance art … ‘dance the blues’. It’s not that nobody did it better, but that nobody else did it at all.”