‘What do you want for your birthday ?’ she asked.
‘The Ziggy Stardust; the Motion Picture LP,’ I rather patronisingly replied, as if the answer was THE most obvious thing in the world.
God girlfriends could be dense sometimes. I’d seen the trailer for the album and was convinced it would be good just because ‘Space Oddity’ was on it. As a young child I had been transfixed by that song. But when birthday time came along I found out that she had bought the wrong record: not the gorgeous live double-album but rather a single disc, with an odd cover, which didn’t look anything like as impressive as the one I’d asked for. It was called The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The cover art looked old-fashioned, the guy on the front almost unfeasibly camp, and so I sulked for a few days and refused to listen to it.
I was wrong on so many levels. Not just because of my ingratitude, my spoilt tantrum, my insensitivity, my taking-for-granted of that sweet girl who was only trying to do her best on a meagre pocket-money income. But because the album that she had actually bought me is one of the most extraordinary records ever produced. It is from a melodramatic, inspired imaginative place where only Bowie lived. Bowie, a man so creative that if you look in the OED under that term you can see (if you look hard enough) a thumbnail picture of him. Belting out songs about the end of the world and the coming of little spacemen, and rampant other-worldly encounters with the world unknown. From the emotionally-wrought ‘Five Years,’ the communal loss of ‘Lady Stardust,’ to the melancholy final track, ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll suicide,’ it is an album of remarkable proportions, of extraordinary delights, of deep and lasting joy.
From the bottom of my heart, I thank you Helen.