White Hot

June 30, 2012

So I managed to find the time to watch all the David Bowie Ziggy Is 40-related stuff that was shown last weekend on BBC4. It’s almost taken for granted nowadays, but it does need re-stating: Bowie is terrific. Not was terrific. Is terrific. He’s slowed down a bit in the past few years (illness, so they say) but how I’d love to have been old enough to have been there at the start and grown with him throughout the years. New album. New direction. New image. Every year. Bands nowadays just wouldn’t (couldn’t?) get away with that. Every last drop of product is marketed to hell and presented as the greatest thing since last week’s next big thing. Bowie ploughs his own furrow, effortlessly going from mime artist to glam star to Euro-influenced electro pioneer to plastic soulboy to art rocker and whatever else takes his fancy along the way. But you knew all that already. Is terrific. Let’s get that clear.

Anyway, Mrs Pan began to get a bit fed up of the non-stop Bowie fest taking place in our living room (and she had a point – if I wasn’t watching the Euros and England being humiliated by the Azzurri or taking in the tennis at Wimbledon, I’d somewhat commandered the big telly for a few good nights), so for light relief she had me watch an old Top Of The Pops 2. The Shamen were on and she asks, “Who does that remind you of?” We both laughed. “Sweenie!”  Her pal went out with this guy who, on the first night we met him, was wearing a baggy Shamen t-shirt and one of those daft wee ethnic beaded hats atop his head. He looked a bit like Student Grant from the Viz comic (above.) Despite this, they’re now happily married, kids, etc blah blah blah. “I’m gonnae text him and ask if he’s still got that hat!” and what followed was a good-humoured to-ing and fro-ing slagging match relating to how we dressed and acted 20-odd years ago. Bemoaning the fact that Saturday nights had changed forever for both of us, he mentioned that he was currently watching Jack White Live via the red button. “You’ll like it,” he said. “Stick it on,” demanded the boss. “I’m fed up watching all this music stuff.”

I smiled smugly to myself as the programme kicked in and she realised that the demented whoopin’ and hollerin’ blooos guitar player Jack White that filled the screen was not in fact Jack Whitehall, the big-haired, well-groomed skinny posh boy in shiny suit that tells sweary jokes, so she retired to bed. I watched ol’ Jack for a wee while, amazed at his intensity and ability to re-invent his back catalogue in any old style. A bit like Bowie, if you stop to think about it. The next morning I dug out an old Raconteurs BBC session and listened again, not in the least surprised it had lost none of it’s potency and power. The White Stripes were pretty special, but when Jack is backed with musicians as talented as himself, the results are pretty spectacular. See the new album, Blunderbuss,  for details. Or The Dead Weather stuff. Or, going a wee bit further back, The Raconteurs. Taken from a BBC session in 2006 (25th March, if you’re a trainspotter), there’s a fantastic take on The Raconteurs‘ first single, Steady, As She Goes, re-imagined as a Kinksy shuffle, all beat group harmonies and garage band looseness. If Lee Mavers could get his finger out, The La’s might begin to sound a bit like this. Though Bowie’s more likely to turn up unannounced in my living room and play all of Hunky Dory track-by-track than that happening. Which reminds me. Also on this BBC session there’s a faithful take of It Ain’t Easy, made famous by David Bowie on the Ziggy Stardust LP. I wrote about it many moons ago, but it’s more than worth drawing your attention to once more.

*Extra Track!

Gazillion-selling trend-bucker Adele duetted with Jack on a version of Many Shades Of Black, from the Raconteurs 2nd LP. Like some long-forgotten southern soul Stax belter, it‘s a cracker.


  1. Thanks for a great post.

    I saw David Bowie in 1971 (Hunky Dory tour) & 1972 ( Ziggy) and even now, after many years of watching bands, he was the best. Just as you mention in your post that you would have loved to have been there at the start, I was 15 in 1971 & felt like I was discovering the most amazing thing. The Ziggy concert was almost life changing for me at 16, & influenced my thinking, music and literature choices for years.
    Bowie & Ronson set the benchmark by which I have judged other bands for years.
    Anyway…think I’ll listen to your Jack White suggestions now.


  2. Thanks Annie! I like hearing wee stories like that. Hunky Dory remains my favourite Bowie album. Indeed, it’s one of my Top 5 albums ever, easily. To have seen Bowie in the 70s…….oh man…….until they invent the time machine, I can only imagine what it was like.

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