It’s 2016, a new year! Brenda Margriet wants us to talk about Firsts. “Everyone can choose their top three first memories and write about those (they don’t have to be on the list here). Some suggestions are: First book you remember reading (or being read to you). First romance novel you fell in love with. First “big” trip (eg. out of country, out of state/province, without parents). First love/kiss. First pet. First Christmas/other holiday (eg. when you were a child, after you were married, after your first child.)”
Hopefully, you’ve hopped over here from the lovely and oh-so-talented Victoria Barbour, author of the wonderful Heart’s Ease series. I bet she had some fabulous firsts.
Since the ache of loss is still so fresh, I’ll tell you about the first time I saw David Bowie in concert – well, the first and second times – my first studio recording, and my first lyrical obsession.
Bowie had a very special relationship with my hometown, Philadelphia, PA. Back in 1974, Bowie came here to record at our famous Sigma Sound Studios. (If you’ve ever heard any of the “sound of Philadelphia” soul powerhouses of the 1970s, you’ve heard music recorded at Sigma Sound. Not to mention the fact that everyone from Aretha Franklin to Billy Joel, to Springsteen to ZZ Top recorded there.)
First #1: my professional debut was recorded there too. I was five. 😉
While at Sigma, Bowie attracted some of his die-hard fans. They gathered outside to try and catch a glimpse of their hero and basically camped out while he recorded Young Americans and other tunes. They were nicknamed the “Sigma Kids” and Bowie never forgot them over the years.
On news of Bowie’s passing, my dad mentioned that he was also recording at Sigma while Bowie was there. He said security was crazy, and that he only caught a glimpse of the man himself. But said that he could hear the music from outside Studio B, and it “sounded good.”
But back to the concerts.
Every time Bowie performed here in Philly, it was next to impossible to get tickets. He came through in the summer of 2002 with the Area One festival, a fun, eclectic mix of acts which culminated with Bowie and organizer Moby’s performances. Since it was a long day and evening of changing artists, Bowie only performed for a short time. But it was enough to whet my appetite. I’d always been a huge fan, but it became my mission to see him properly. He was mesmerizing. Magnificent.
When they announced that he was coming back in the fall, on his own, I added the on-sale date to my calendar. I didn’t want to miss getting the full, Bowie experience.
He returned to Philly in October that year and performed at the Tower Theater, which holds about 3,000 people. A tiny stage for a legend so large, but one that he’d frequented often throughout his career. People had come from all over the world to see the show. My friend and I were probably the only Americans in our row. One woman had flown from Italy and was dressed like Ziggy Stardust.
He opened the show by strolling out on stage with an acoustic guitar and a music stand. He said something like ‘I haven’t performed this song since 1968′ and proceeded to blow my mind. I think it affected every one of us that night, but none more than the front row of the theater. That’s where the Sigma Kids sat.
Their relationship with the Thin White Duke was clear. He adored them, and they loved him right back. He often sang to them, spoke to them, and shared inside jokes with them.
Talk about being jealous, lol. I wanted to travel back in time and be one of them, just for one day. But I reveled in their joy. They were so happy and so was he. The rest of us, all 2980 of us, were witnessing a private house concert. It was so freakin’ cool.
Here’s my final “first”. When I was thirteen years old, I had a crush on a sixteen-year-old demigod named David Saldo. David introduced me to the music of David Bowie. He was obsessed with him. (And Pink Floyd.) I remember sitting in his den with a bunch of our other friends when he put on the Aladdin Sane CD. I’d never heard anything like that before. It was the first time I became obsessed with a set of lyrics, specifically those of the song “Time“. I don’t know why that particular song struck a chord in me, but it has stuck with me to this day. It speaks about Quaaludes (I had no idea what they were), red wine, whores, and acting…of sorts. It was way above my comprehension, but I memorized the song. Every note, every intonation. I wrote the words down and kept them in my room, often reading them aloud like a poem. I don’t know what I saw in them at that age.
Listening to it as I type this, I can’t help but smile at the irony of the opening line.
Time, he’s waiting in the wings…
Head on over to see what firsts the delightful S. C. Mitchell, author of the incredible Hearts In Orbit series, decided to share. See you next time!