Memories- Chatting to David Bowie

Where are we now? Yes he was an icon but that’s not how I remember David Bowie.

Weirdly I found myself writing this as if we had met in the street after so many years and were having a catch-up chat. Thinking back to the old days, as Elvis would have said “Memories.” By the way David, did you ever meet him? Happy Birthday to you both. 

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Remember The Jade Room? which stayed a Chinese as The Lucky 8 but then turned into a Lebanese, Turkish, and every other persona, but it’s still a restaurant and hasn’t actually changed that much.

By coincidence, some few years ago I had a friend from abroad come over to London for the first time. We ate at Dizzy’s, then went over to the old ‘Three Tuns’ which I haven’t been to in ages. Would you believe Mr Mann, one of the previous owners of the Jade Room (there were two but I always got them mixed up,) who had then been living in Hong Kong and hadn’t been back to the UK for years, happened to be in there at the same time, passing through.

The 3 Tuns is now a Zizzi’s Italian, dedicated to you, posters, song titles etc. on the tables, with a posh housing estate in what used to be the car park, but apart from that and being spruced up a bit hasn’t changed that much.  I think the plaque “David Bowie was ‘ere” is still outside. When your death was announced it was surrounded with flowers paying tribute.

I probably first saw you at school, Raglan, Bromley, although you were with the big boys. Later at Lloyds Bank and trying to explain to the traditional bank manager what Space Oddity was all about, while staid Beckenham people tut-tutted at this apparition in a blue ‘dressing gown’ with no short back and sides! What is the world coming to?

In the early days when you were just getting known I couldn’t resist teasing to ask for your ‘autograph.’ In those days you had to sign a slip to get a new cheque book and pay for the cheques! It never occurred to me that the friendly, local guy would one day become world famous. Maybe I should have kept that receipt to sell on e-bay.

Although I did come to some of your early gigs I was more interested in Rock and Roll at the time. I remember you playing with your band at Bromley technical college, which according to Google was the Lower third although for some reason I remembered the band as the Upper sixth, but it was a long while ago. Maybe old age setting in but I’m sure I remember another gig at Chislehurst caves, where in the early days the Rolling Stones also played. Completing the circle didn’t you use to practice with Bill Wyman at the Three Tuns before coming next door for a Chinese?

I think you also played at the pub in St. Mary Cary where Long John Baldy started getting well known on the circuit? Sadly, neither of you are around to confirm my memories.

When you moved to Switzerland I would still see your Mum and ask her ‘How’s David?’ The conversation was never about the famous pop star, always just a Mother excited to be going on a visit to see her son and grandson.

It feels surreal to be thinking of ‘Do you remember that local guy’ when talking about a world-wide phenomenon. I’ll have to check with some of the Beckenham/Lloyds girls from all those years ago who I’m still in contact with, thanks to the technology of social media.

Medhursts in Bromley, the girl serving on the record counter. I was never sure whether she was a girlfriend or you were just checking if you had sold any records that week.

I was pleased but not surprised to learn that having been given the  ‘Time is running out’ news, you returned to your roots and even had your daughter take a photo of your old home in Beckenham. She must have found it fascinating and I guess you were happy to cross it off your bucket list. That area has changed little over the years and even now, when I pass Copers Cope Road and the High street I can still imagine it as it was when we were young.

Despite all your alter egos I always found you to be a lovely ‘Sarf London’ gentleman.

It’s only in later years that I’ve actually appreciated your music although I have a fondness for ‘Space Oddity’ which in some ways represented to me the local boy made good.

Although my book ‘Changes’ was in no way connected to you, it was in desperation that I played your record to my elderly Mother who always thought it was called ‘Chances.’  To my surprise she not only recognised your song but said ‘Changes- David Bowie. Why didn’t you say so?’

You weren’t my type but the name ‘Georgie Underwood’ still gave me goose bumps years later. At least it proved I wasn’t totally ga-ga when I happened to catch a documentary, and found out not only was he real but he had produced and designed some of your record covers.

Hearing of your 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 will miss you not as the super star, but as part of my memories now I know I won’t bump into you by chance and be able to say ‘Hi, How are you? I haven’t seen you for ages. Do you remember when… ‘

R.I.P.

© Voinks January 2017

 

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