Slow, old fashioned, poignant and quite haunting, the monotonous beat of the drums and the sleepy guitar strumming punctuated by soft, hushed cymbals could either make a casual listener drift off to sleep or take a long and thoughtful journey to a familiar place of bygone days.
David Bowie, the enduring rock icon and musical genius of the 70’s, released his latest single on his 66th birthday, giving his fans another brilliant musical creation to have the pleasure to listen to and ponder on.
“Where Are We Now?”, the first single from Bowie’s 27th studio album titled “The Next Day” was released on iTunes on January 8. An equally haunting video for the new single, created by video artist Tony Oursler was posted on the singer’s website.
In the song, Bowie’s deep, evocative vocals narrated what seemed to be an aging man’s reflections of his life including his past, present and what remains.
There were references in the song pertaining to crowded European landmarks such as a department store called KaDeWe and a town square called Potsdamer Platz, setting the main backdrop in the fictional man’s reflective journey while “just walking the dead”.
A much older man now, rock legend David Bowie seemed to be singing to and addressing the issue of aging and looking back in the past with his own generation, the once young, largely rebellious, colorful, vocal and vibrant Baby Boomers. The oldest members of this generation including Bowie himself have already crossed the so-called retirement age, aptly represented by the reflective old man in Bowie’s song.
Reflections of a Gen Xer
When I saw David Bowie’s promotional video on You Tube and got a good earful of his pounding vocals and emotive lyrics, I was not the casual listener who drifted off to sleep. Quite the opposite, the more sensitive part of my being was roused from sleep as portions of my life flashed by simultaneously, playing like brief MTV spiels in my subconscious.
I do not belong to Bowie’s generation but to the so-called “slackers” who tried to raise ourselves, seemingly indifferent and unperturbed, in our own terms without meaning to be detached from the shadows of those who preceded us.
I belong to the younger generation dubbed Generation X, that bunch of kids who absorbed the legacy of the older generation through the limited information that were then accessible.
We grew up and blossomed during the much celebrated eras of the 80’s and the 90’s, back when today’s amazing technology was still on “training pants”, rocking to our revolutionary MTV and basking in the make-believe world of Marty McFly whose mind-boggling future interestingly fell on our present calendar - more than two months ago on January 4, 2013.
A few decades later, our generation now enters that almost inescapable “Twilight Zone”, the so-called rite of passage for those of us who joined the rat race and must now pause, assess and evaluate where we are in the competition.
Some call it mid-life crisis, one’s own personal moment of confusion: of doubt or drive, make it or break it, turbulence or stillness, acceptance or resistance, close or far, now or never.
“Where Are We Now?”, David Bowie’s narration of an old man’s reflections may be a fitting question for our own generation - to most of us who have generally stumbled in life and are now in the process of getting caught in the middle of our more complex being.
Unlike Bowie’s old man, however, fleeting youth and enriching opportunities - not regrets or death - may be our biggest fear factors at the moment as most of us are not yet ready to concede to our constant battles in life because, blame it on our clinging grasp on the power of youth, life is far from over.
David Bowie’s song should be a challenge for us, a reinforcement that would help us get past our doubts and questions in life so we can easily glide through our chosen destinations.
Hopefully, when it’s time for us to finally reflect in the crowded streets of life, “walking the dead” or riding the trains - asking “Where Are We Now?” - there will be less regrets for wasted time and opportunities.
Instead, there will be more contentment and acceptance over significant - even foolish - memories from musing over our “roller coaster ride”.
“The Next Day”, David Bowie’s latest studio album, released on March 8 reached the number one spot on the UK album charts this week and has been hailed as the fastest-selling album of the year.
Cited by the New York Times as “Bowie’s twilight masterpiece”, the album has already sold 94,000 copies on its first week of release.
The above article was published by the author on the SF Fil-Am Post in January 2013.