For years now Jackson Publick and I have had a character on our show, The Venture Bros., pretend to be David Bowie. The Sovereign of The Guild of Calamitous Intent (our Legion of Doom kinda thing, pictured above) lived as Bowie, looked like a mid ‘70s Bowie… he was just full-on, 24/7 Bowie. It made sense because, I mean, doesn’t everybody at least once in their lives pretend to be David Bowie? At least everyone who gets it does… right?
David Bowie never felt like the voice of a generation. He didn’t sing songs from which I could pluck out a lyric and neatly sum up what he was about — and this is why I love him. He wasn’t a man of his time, he was an alien of no-time. He was the living embodiment of A Truth that I alone understand. I hope that made you bristle, because you alone understand him. Everyone that loves Bowie is the only person that truly understands what he’s saying. Everyone not only has a different understanding, but those interpretations are all correct.
My Bowie was beautiful. He was more than beautiful. He was — nay, is — beauty itself. He was eternal, even in life. Look, I didn’t find out about My Bowie until decades after the actual David Bowie had moved on. He become another person’s Bowie. He is eternal because he is never-always.
I’ll give you an example.
My Bowie never put on a goofy wig and sang with Muppets and babies. My Bowie sat in a frail heap in the back of a limo, dressed for his alien world — one that craved style and treated gender as an afterthought — while all around him the great unwashed confused him with the petty and the meaningless, never knowing that My Bowie could at any moment burst his wings through that tight leather jacket and just fly the fuck away. That’s not David Bowie, that’s My Bowie. Maybe yours is Jareth, the romantic Goblin King, and you have never understood why Sarah didn’t make the obvious choice of taking her dream-packed crystal from Bowie and loving him forever. Maybe your Bowie has orange hair, or even a mullet, or slicked-back blond hair, or a perfect little quiff. Hey, it’s your Bowie, and only you get it.
There is a version of Bowie for every one of us that felt like “nobody gets it.” Bowie got it, and he did “our Bowie” perfectly.
Bowie wasn’t a facile chameleon changing with the times, he was an elegant chimera made of parts from every beautiful creature. (I say “was,” but “is” seems more appropriate.) All who “get it,” and see that Bowie is it, are not bound to him by time — they are bound by truth. Right now some kid, seeking something better than the shitty mundanity piled on their life’s plate, is listening to “Look Back In Anger” and falling in love. Just imagine that sweet, brain-exploding crazy that’s gonna happen when that kid sees the beautiful thing that created that song. “I can be this? I can love this? I can reach for this? Maybe higher?” And so: One more “My Bowie” is born.
I promise, this will never end. Just as an art student today stands before a 400-year-old Caravaggio and dreams of changing everything, later generations will stand before Bowie and make them their My Bowie.
Doc Hammer is the co-creator, co-writer and co-editor of the long-running Adult Swim series The Venture Bros.