Paint Your Pony
This past Monday, after a busy weekend at work, I signed-in to this page. My inclination was to write a brief post about my thoughts over the newest David Bowie album which came out last Friday (January 8th.) If you’re a loyal reader, you may remember a post from back in November about listening to his song ‘Blackstar’ for the first time. Back then, the one component of this track which stuck out instantly was its length (around 10 minutes) and how this reminded me of his classic track ‘Station to Station,’ which runs around the same length. Listening to the album, I found a couple other similarities. For one, the two long tracks also served as the title tracks, and two, each album has seven or less tracks, shorter tracklists in comparison to his other albums. Add this with the fact that ‘Station to Station’ is my personal favorite David Bowie studio album and it’s pretty easy to make the assumption that ‘Blackstar’ would be right up there, or at least in the Top 10, which in his catalog is pretty significant. There was something special about this new album. It signified a sort of transition that you can hear in ‘Station to Station’ which (if you’re a Bowie fan) signals the transition from some of his more soulful post-Spiders albums of the mid-Seventies to the more innovative, new-wave-ushering Berlin Trilogy albums from the end of that decade. My hopes was that Bowie was going to come out of retirement and tour the world for the first time in over ten years. It got me thinking about Phil Collins recent announcement about coming out of retirement and thinking that Bowie, who in my opinion is a thousand times more legendary than Phil Collins, would follow suit.
I must admit, I began to get a little excited about these impending tour dates. In my head I dreamt about him playing the Linc or Citizen’s Bank and going to the shows with my cousin Larry. Or getting the opportunity to see him at a more intimate venue, say the Tower Theatre for instance, screaming like a teenage girl as he takes the stage or at least using that kind of imagery as I eagerly blog about his performance the next day. There was something about this album that just seemed so different from even his previous effort, the wonderful 2013 release, The Next Day, which is also worth checking out. I woke up Monday morning and the first thing I did was open the laptop on my bed. I titled the post “Pretty Thing” and it was going to be about seeing David Bowie perform live and no matter how poor I was or how hard my life has been I’d be there to see him put on what presumably would be his final bow before ultimately retiring. I was thinking about the exchange I’d have on pm or comments with a couple friends and family over the music, possibly even coming up with a gameplan on how to score tickets. I get online and the first thing I see is that David Bowie is trending. Immediately I think to myself that his album has gotten the praise it deserved and I missed out for waiting until Monday to post. In fact, the line “Monday I have Friday on my mind” (a line from the song ‘Friday on My Mind’ which Bowie covers on his covers album ‘PinUps’) was in my head as I woke up.
Thankfully I knew (thanks to artists like Bowie) that I could make light of my procrastination by using a little bit of creativity. When I scrolled down on social media, the first inclination was that I’d read a couple reviews about his new album and think about how I could maneuver my thoughts a little differently from other posted reviews. I credit artists like David Bowie with encouraging me to challenge myself by thinking differently. Any time I approach a topic it is important to look at it in my own way while not sacrificing my voice in the process. Another lesson which, I may add, should be credited to the influences of artists like David Bowie for teaching me. That artistic voice. We all have one. For some of us it hides deeper inside than others. Some of us never find it. Others find more conventional ways, like manual labor, in expressing their inner artist. I find mine in how this blog provides a sense of balance toward my life, preventing it from falling completely off the ledge. You may infer that it keeps me rather civilized, especially during those times where I appear to be the most down. Monday morning would pose no different of a challenge. It was nothing more than another day and another opportunity to write. With a heightened sense of anticipation to post, I scrolled hoping to read that first review.
Unfortunately, there was no review to be found. Nothing but tribute after tribute after tribute. People posting pictures and old videos, a surreal moment to be online or as surreal a moment as I ever imagined. It was at this moment that I was realizing while lying on my bed, lap top on my pillow, half-naked on a Monday morning…David Bowie had died.
I’d like to say it was a strange January day but it was rather ordinary except for the fact that it seemed everybody around the world had all of a sudden become a big David Bowie fan. I had no problem with this. In my mind, I always thought the world would be a better place if everybody was a fan of his music. My local station, 88.5 WXPN, played David Bowie’s music all day long. Particular highlights were hearing a couple of his deeper cuts throughout the day such as ‘Prettiest Star’ from Aladdin Sane or the acoustic version of ‘Always Crashing in the Same Car’ that aired on a late 90’s telecast of VH-1 Storytellers. David Bowie’s first live album which was recorded at the Tower Theatre was played in its entirety and people were showing clips of kids with painted faces in the late 70’s and early 80’s going crazy for David Bowie’s local Philly shows. Even Kidz Korner, the daily kids show on XPN that I despise with all its cheesiness, got in on the mix by airing a 1978 recording of David Bowie reading Peter and the Wolf in conjunction with the Philly Pops. You would think that after this day I’d find something to use as a tribute to the artist’s life. However it seemed every single person online had beaten me to the punch. It wasn’t until Echoes with John Diliberto came on, just before midnight, that a light slowly began to shine.
That light was in the form of the song ‘Hanged Man’ by the Mynabirds. You would think on the day Bowie died I’d have something better to write about. Like how the final song on his final album (I Can’t Give Everything Away) brought tears to my eyes the first time I heard it post news of his death or a story from the 80’s about the song Modern Love coming on the radio while driving home from Church with my dad and having him turn it up and tell me it’s his favorite song. Maybe even use this as an opportunity to write how David Bowie was a big fan of Kendrick Lamar’s last album or how he was not only a fan of black music but very vocal in the early days of MTV about the lack of airtime for black artists. Instead I’ve decided to focus my first post about great songs from 2016 on a song which was released late last year by a group whose music probably never reached the legend’s ears. And for some strange reason, I feel like David Bowie wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
When I’m driving around late at night and a song hits me, the first thing I usually do is pull over and try to find it online. ‘Hanged Man’ by the Mynabirds is one of these songs. Usually this is an indicator that the song is worth sharing. Once locating the song, I’ll listen to it a bunch of times and dive into the lyrics or look for any videos associated with it. The hanged man is a powerful symbol in the world of tarot cards. Many apply it to the world of love, considering the stereotype that a lonely person would be the type of person to participate in a tarot reading, and if you draw this card it’s a sign telling you to start looking in another place. This song to me has a bit of a different meaning, one that perfectly complements David Bowie’s death. If you apply the meaning to the world of art, you can find great works by looking in different places. An artist’s greatness is shown when they can maintain their voice while aways trying to be a little different. On a day where the world honored Bowie, it was the moment when this song came onto a late night radio program where I truly felt his true intentions shine the brightest. Besides being a great artist, David Bowie was a huge ambassador to the arts. On the day of his death, when the whole world including myself honored him by listening to his catalog, I happened to discover a new artist. It was very comforting hearing a brand new voice considering the world was putting a great one to rest. If you ask me, I can’t think of any better way to honor his legacy than by being an open-minded and loyal patron to the arts. As we begin to 2016, my biggest hope is that more lesser known artists get much deserved recognition.
Check out a video for the song below…
Hanged Man—The Mynabirds