Music Matters: Starman, Queen Bitch, and Me.

(David Bowie, “Life on Mars.” My favorite music video ever, directed by Mick Rock. Lyrics here.)

Dear Bitch readers, it’s time for me to leave you.

Thanks for indulging me in all manner of things, from my teenage crushes on Axl Rose and Trent Reznor to my all-consuming current Robyn obsession.

But I did save the best for last. And I’m not even equivocating on that one.

David Bowie is the root of my music obsession. He’s not the first rock star I fell in love with and he won’t be the last, and indeed “falling in love” isn’t even the right way to describe it. He’s an alien father figure from some gorgeous future in which you reproduce in beautiful glittery dreams, and he’s never let me down.


There have been years where I’ve basically given up music. Haven’t bought anything new or discovered a new band. Where the boy I lived with didn’t like Bowie and I didn’t care.

I remember a few years ago, during that relationship, the first new band I fell in love with. It was TV on the Radio, and a friend bought me the CD for my birthday. “If you love Bowie, you’ll love this,” he told me, and he was right (he’s been right about most of his judgments on my life). It wasn’t quite the end of the relationship, but it wound up being one of the signs it was over, that someone else got something important about me and the one I was with did not.

It’s not that you’re required to love Bowie to the depths that I do for me to care about you. It’s really not. After all, I freely admit I’m obsessed.

But it’s the things I love about Bowie that finally showed me what mattered. Because it’s not just the music. It’s the flexing, protean character that he represents. The person who can be entirely different on each record and yet maintain this deep, silvery core of himself, this person who’s never seemed quite “man” even in what appears to be very conventional heterosexual middle-age-to-aging.

Bowie was never a model for masculinity, like Johnny Cash or Bruce Springsteen, really (maybe now). Instead he was a perfect monster, beyond all ideas of man or woman, equally beautiful and frightening to all. Or maybe he’s exactly what “man” should be—as in, whatever the hell he wants.

Even the coldest, cocaine Bowie like Susan Bordo’s idea of an anorexic preteen, burning away all gender and sexuality entirely and leaving only cheekbones and loneliness.

So much that I love in rock’n’roll seems to have come through a prism of Bowie. Of glitter and heels and storytelling, of character and of taking personal tragedies and making them into entire worlds for the rest of us to visit.

When I was a kid I discovered Bowie in Labyrinth and I was half-jokingly afraid of him for years, the Goblin King whispering MY name in a predatory fashion but, even with that bulge in his spandex not sexual, really.

And my favorite Bowie song has always been “Rebel, Rebel,” a perfect rock’n’roll song about a perfect rock’n’roll girl—and his perfect rock’n’roll love is slipping between genders herself, “not sure if you’re a boy or a girl,” torn dress, her face is a mess but he loves her so, it’s true.

“Queen Bitch” is a title I’ve jokingly adopted before, and “Season of the bitch” is a line from “Diamond Dogs” that I stole for my blog title way back when—well, I don’t have to explain to Bitch readers that the word has a lot of connotations and in Bowie’s mouth it’s more envious than hateful—after all, what is “Queen Bitch” but a love song to Lou Reed that never tells you just who the queen of the title is—Reed, or the girl, or Bowie himself?

I’ve written before about Bowie and feminism, and my long love affair with the man and the music. I wrote for you about the many version of “Five Years” that I’ve collected, and I could write you another 1500 words about the live versions of “Life on Mars” and “Five Years” on the “Live at Nassau Coliseum” record re-released with Station to Station, the way Bowie blurs two of his best songs together in a couple of beats that set my heart pounding.

No doubt I’ll keep writing about Bowie until I die; there’s infinite material in his work. I suppose, though, for me to wrap everything up and put a common theme on my Bowie thoughts now, the thing I love about Bowie the most is that boundaries don’t contain him, rules don’t apply to him, the past doesn’t drag him down, and he’s always got one hyperdilated eye on the future.

And so, goodbye, Bitch crew. I’ve had so much fun with you, I hate to leave. You can keep up with me on and Twitter and I do attempt to keep my portfolio page on my site up-to-date with freelance work I’m doing.

And this one, another song from which I stole the title, is for you.

by Sarah Jaffe
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4 Comments Have Been Posted

dance magic dance

Love this post, and how you write about music in general. I can't even begin to tell you the Bowie obsession, and you put words to so much of it, so well. "He's an alien father figure from some gorgeous future in which you reproduce in beautiful glittery dreams, and he's never let me down." Swoon. Thanks for this!

I second this, thank you.

I second this, thank you. thank you for articulating into words my feelings on Bowie. Unfortunately my partner doesn't share my love for him, but that's fine. It's my personal thing, where i can go when I'm feeling sad. I hope he makes another album and goes on tour again so i can have the opportunity to see him.

Echoing the other commenters,

Echoing the other commenters, thank you. I've really enjoyed your series of posts for Bitch. As for Bowie, I really wish I'd gotten into his music earlier, though I've been a fan most of my adult life. Growing up in a working-class environment, I was taught to disdain anything "too smart," and Bowie's brand screamed "painfully intellectual" to me. I've broken though that barrier, but it kind of put me at a disadvantage where a lot of artists whose music fell outside whatever was playing on top forty radio were concerned. The weird thing is, I've always like glitter and glam and spent a lot of time listening to Bowie-inspired (sartorially, if nothing else) artists.

Aw, farewell! A glorious

Aw, farewell! A glorious final post! I can't think of a better way to end than on Bowie. It's just really been the past two years that I've gotten into Bowie but my god, it couldn't have come at a better time. "Sound and vision" is my jam right now!

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