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A collage of performers for Liner Notes, including Hannah Gadsby, Sean M Wheelan, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Angie Hart, Emilie Zoey Baker Hannah Gadsby, Sean M Wheelan, Maxine Beneba Clarke, Angie Hart, Emilie Zoey Baker
  • Melbourne Artists on David Bowie


    Posted on: 13/10/2015

    In celebration of David Bowie is and Liner Notes, our spoken word tribute to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, we invited the literary superstars, musicians, comedians and poets to tell us what Bowie means to them.


    Angie Hart, on when she heard Bowie for the first time.

    At maybe seven years of age, it was a slow and halting beginning when Bowie first entered my consciousness. The compilation album, Images 1966-1967, with its comic book artwork on the cover, looked like my kind of fun. Unfortunately, upon first play it did not match my idea of some anthemic comic book character fun time songs. I had no comprehension of the sideways and weird world he inhabited. It was well beyond my need for symmetry and order at that time in my life. I loved "Space Oddity"'s Major Tom like any other fairy tale loving kid, but his plight disturbed me. The loneliness and loss that it suggested made me want things to turn out alright for our Starman and I hedged my bets to protect myself in case he didn't make it. I confess that it wasn't until the more sensible and cheery "Absolute Beginners" that I felt I could relax and feel safe, knowing that if I fell for David Bowie, I wouldn't lose him to forces beyond my (or his) control. This is what I remember, though my favourite song would have to be "Sound and Vision".


    An ode to Bowie by Emilie Zoey Baker

    David Bowie is a permanent shiver down my spine.

    He's the electric in blue, the pulse in pulsating.

    He's the reason I know what music tastes like.

    He enchants my world,

    a wish in sequinned pants.

    When I listen with my eyes closed he

    re-arranges all the blood in my heart.

    Delivers me the sun on his tongue,

    makes me glitter like a circus.


    Maxine Beneba Clarke, on her first Bowie experience.

    Just imagine a brown girl from the white picket fence suburbs of eighties Australia is mysteriously drawn into a labyrinthine goblin maze. Just disappears from the face of the earth. She's gone for days. They search and search, and one day, when they have finally given up all hope, she re-emerges. Sweaty. Stammering. Wearing lycra and spandex and glitter and feathers. Green sequins spilling from her ear. And on her right cheek is a single silver lightening bolt. The girl won't talk about where she's been, or what she's seen, but some nights they hear her babbling in her sleep. Saying something about a bisexual glamrock alien superstar from outer space. She says "I like to call him Ziggy Stardust, but his real name is David"...


    Sean M. Whelan

    I came to David Bowie kind of late. Although saying that it was over 30 years ago now, which seems utterly preposterous. The year was 1983 and it was the film clip for "Let’s Dance" which first drew me to the flame.

    Before seeing this clip I was aware of who he was of course, I mean we’re all born with the knowledge of the Starman implanted within us somewhere. It just takes a certain experience to activate this cosmic chip. And my experience was "Let’s Dance".

    Previous to this I had just never taken the time to listen to him. It certainly wasn’t an influence I drew from my dad’s record collection. It took Molly Meldrum and Countdown to open that particular doorway in my mind.

    The clip was confoundingly set in Australia. This seemed very confusing at the time. Shot in the tiny town of Carinda in Northern NSW it followed a young indigenous couple both in the outback and in metropolitan Sydney. I didn’t understand what the hell the clip was about, there were nuclear explosions, chicken dancing locals in a dinky-di Aussie pub, red shoes claimed and then rejected and a seriously tanned David Bowie playing the guitar while wearing white gloves, which I imagine would be quite difficult. It was much later I realized the video tackled subject matter such as domestic slavery, the Stolen Generation and nuclear testing in the outback in the '50s.

    And then there was the song.  From its huge bombastic intro to the heart-soaring chorus it took a serious hold on me IMMEDIATELY.

    “Because my love for you/would break my heart in two/if you should fall into my arms/and tremble like a flowwwwwwwer.”

    Oh god. The Bowie switch was flicked into the on position in my brain and it remains there to this day.

    Not long after I backtracked to the (far superior) 70’s Bowie and my love intensified and grew exponentially.


    Hannah Gadsby, on what Bowie means to her

    I am not fabulous. I am not outrageous. I am not glam. I bend, but not to starlight. I bend to corduroy. I don’t move through this world like a true Bowie fan. In fact, I will never be able to call myself a true David Bowie fan. I won’t even try. It is for the same reason that I won’t ever keep a diary. Once you read Anne Frank’s effort, you appreciate that the genre is done.

    I’ve met true fans of David Bowie and they are frighteningly brilliant at the job. Their devotion is intimidating. I would only embarrass myself if I attempted true fandom. Don’t get me wrong. I love David Bowie. He is responsible for two very important tracks in the soundtrack of my life. But I don’t have what it takes to be a true fan, so I will not call myself such, because I have too much respect for the crazy, mad, obsessive fuckers that are.


    What was your first introduction to David Bowie? Tell us in the comments below!

    Liner Notes takes place on 17 October.

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