I was saddened, but somehow not surprised to hear of the death of David Bowie.
My quandary was whether posting a blog was ‘jumping on the band-wagon’ which I hate, or sharing memories from a guy I knew in my teens/early twenties.
I worked in the local branch of a national bank when he was first starting to build his career. It was a ‘nice’ area, with the majority of our customers being respectable middle class.
Standing in the queue waiting to be served was David, wearing a blue ‘dressing gown’ type coat (I don’t think he actually wore make-up at that time, but maybe just a dash) ignoring the tuts and horrified ‘What is the world coming to?’ sideways glances of the ‘ladies wot lunch,’ and their very proper husbands.
Our usual conversation tended to be more about ‘How’s your Mum?’ and the fact that his bank manager, my boss, was actually a decent guy, just very much old-school, and finding it hard to relate to this weird phenomenon.
On one occasion I couldn’t resist teasing him to ask for his ‘autograph.’ In those days you had to sign a cheque book request and pay for your cheques! It never occurred to me that the pleasant, local guy would one day become world famous. Maybe I should have kept that receipt to sell on e-bay.
Apart from being work colleagues the staff at the bank were also friends. Even now, ‘bleep bleep’ years later it’s amazing that Jacquie and Sue are amongst my Facebook friends.
Most die-hard fans would have heard of the Three Tuns, the pub where he used to practice with Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones. It’s now a restaurant but acknowledges David by being themed to his career.
What is less well known is the Chinese restaurant next door, where we would most often bump into him ‘The Jade Room.’ Since then it has changed hands several times but originally one of the owners was Mr Mann.
Many, many years later a friend was over from Malta who had never visited London before. After having a meal we popped over to the pub opposite which had been renamed, and which I hadn’t visited in aeons. Our Maltese friend wandered off to chat to someone he had recognised from home, who just happened to be in the pub, although he had never been there before. Turning round I bumped into and recognised Mr Mann who now lived in Hong Kong, but was on a flying visit and had called into the pub for the first time in maybe 20 years.
A weird night of memories and co-incidences.
Despite all his alter egos I always found David to be a lovely ‘Sarf London’ gentleman.
It’s only in later years that I’ve actually appreciated his music although I did like ‘Space Oddity’ which in some ways represented to me the local boy made good.
At the time I was (and still am) into Rock and Roll, and if it came to a choice of going to one of his gigs or seeing the other local group ‘The Wild Angels’ he lost out.
Nevertheless, I did support him occasionally, at Bromley Technical College, or a pub in St. Mary’s Cray (whose name I have forgotten) but where Long John Baldry was also a regular in the early days.
When my first book ‘Changes’ (sub title ch-ch-changes) was first published I had a hard job getting my elderly Mother to remember the name; when questioned she would always suggest ‘er, Choices?’ One day in desperation I played David’s record via the laptop, not expecting for a moment that she would know it. Having listened she responded ‘Oh, Changes! Why didn’t you say so,’ and after that it was never a problem for her to remember the title.
Hearing of David’s passing it felt more like losing a friend from childhood with whom you have lost contact, than the media circus of the famous pop star.
I have the feeling that if we had chatted recently and I had told him about posting this it wouldn’t have been a problem, (even if I did always fancy his friend Georgie Underwood.)
As David would have said ‘Where are we now?’
R.I.P. David Bowie.