Tag Archives: Fate

Starman – A review and homage to a unique artist.

On one of my many walks through Soho last week, I stumbled upon a bookshop and went in. I was seeking something, though exactly what, I wasn’t sure until I saw the cover and the book’s title, named after a song I remember hearing as a kid so many times.  Starman by Paul Trynka is not the first Bowie biography, and I doubt it will be the last, but it’s the first one I’ve ever read about him.

Personally speaking, I knew I was on the right track the day I realised one of Bowie’s iconic songs included the surname of the persona Julian adopts. On a novel footnote, Julian’s persona is a conglomerate of many rockstars,  but of course, one is unable to write a novel set in the world of rock music without being inspired by Bowie, the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll shape-shifter.

The biography is a gripping read, from start to finish. To someone like me, who only knew bits here and there, it paints a much larger picture, giving you insight as to how and why he became an icon but it also showed me another side. His many failures before Ziggy.

I had no idea how many times Bowie failed to achieve what he had set out to do. Each time,  he started again. He had an almost otherworldly sense of his destiny or maybe,  he was more confident that most. Whatever the reason, the man never gave up. He also became a sponge, absorbing many different influences. Varied genres of music. Art. Theatre. Dancing.  He was not one-dimensional and I think that is key to his success.

There’s also  mention of the moment his features were transformed, during a fight with his best friend George Underwood, who punched him over a girl. Whilst the experience was a harrowing one (he needed several operations), the unfortunate event gave his already unconventional looks an additional quirk.

Striking, described as ‘this fey, elfin creature’ by his then girlfriend Hermione. Bowie tried several looks, until he finally came up with something nobody had seen before. The iconic moment when he and his band performed in a Top of The Pops 1972  show is wonderful to read, and makes one long for being one of the lucky ones who were there to witness it.  Like Beatlemania, this was the moment where rock history changed forever.

For someone like me, who was called names by other kids in my neighbourhood for riding my bicycle dressed all in black, in 1976,  (in a Catholic country where black was only worn at funerals)  Ziggy and others, like Freddie Mercury, with their electric flamboyance, made us feel like it was okay to be different.

Ziggy continues to be a great inspiration to me, even to this day, and thus, when doing research for my novel, I find no better artist to research than the amazing, iconic, ever-changing Bowie.

Here to those who may have never seen it, it the 1972 Top of the Pops perfomance, I speak of.

Regrets

He’s been my friend for many years…

Regrets, I’ve had a few – Frank Sinatra – My Way

They say one should not have regrets, but I think they are unavoidable in life. Giving up as a musician is my one regret. At the time, when it happened, I was in a very bad place mentally, and I was no longer enjoying playing or even listening to music. I know that’s hard to believe but poor Kurt Cobain wrote about that on his suicide note, need I say more?

Why am I writing this? I am writing this for all those musicians out there right now, struggling, doubting themselves. They will go from one band to the next, wondering if this is what they’re meant to do. They will doubt themselves, their families may give them grief about their choice in life or maybe not. I was lucky, my father always supported me, but I was my worst enemy…

You may have a shitty day job you hate, but it pays the bills. Maybe you’re lucky, and you’ve been able to make some money with your music, but not enough. Keep at it.

How do you know if music is your true passion? Easy. If you play because you love it, even if you do not make a penny from it, then it is your passion.  Will it always be wonderful? No, you will have bad days, bad weeks, maybe even bad months. The trick is to ride through them, and not lose sight of your goal.

I am determined to get back into music, though I no longer desire to be a playing musician in a band. That doesn’t mean I don’t play. I have a bass still, but like an actor, who eventually decides to try directing,  I think my role now would be behind the scenes in some way. It is something I’m trying to figure out..

In a way, I suppose a regret can be useful, if it makes you aware of what’s truly meaningful to you, and perhaps, there are ways to ease that pain.  As the Rolling Stones once sang:

You can’t always get what you want
And if you try sometime you find
You get what you need

***

Thank you for reading. If you think this post would help someone out there,  please share or re-tweet. If it makes one musician change their mind about giving up, then the pain I felt when having to write this, will be lessened.

Everlasting Beauty – The Picture of Dorian Gray

There are classics we have all heard of, but have never read.  Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray was one of those. In spite of being familiar with the story of the beautiful young man who never ages, I’d never read the actual novel. I think deep down, I always knew I would read it one day, it was as if it was just simply a matter of time…

Time made itself known, not too long ago, when I walked past a stall selling used books. A small paperback caught my eye, the cover captured the essence of the story, there was something about the expression on the face of that young man that drew me, so I bought the paperback, for only £1.70. Money well spent considering the fact it’s deeply affected me as a writer.

In the novel, Basil Hallward, a painter, shows his friend Lord Henry, a painting he’s working on. The extraordinary beauty of the model, makes an impression on Lord Henry. Basil, tells him the young man’s name is Dorian Gray and speaks very highly of him, even to the point of telling Lord Henry that  ‘He (Dorian) is all my art to me now.’

Whilst the men are gathered in Basil’s studio, Dorian stops by, to sit for Basil. Lord Henry wants to meet him, but Basil begs him not to: ‘Don’t spoil him’, ‘Don’t try to influence him’ but it is too late. One gets the feeling Basil somehow senses how bad this meeting will be for Dorian, little does he know, Dorian won’t be the only one affected. Even Dorian himself, appears to sense something when meeting Lord Henry as he replies ‘Yes, I am glad now, I wonder shall I always be glad?’ (in response to Lord Henry’s comment of: ‘You are glad to have met me.’)

It is during this fateful meeting, that Lord Henry begins to do exactly what Basil has begged him not to. Henry’s thoughts about ageing, and the power of youth, have a powerful effect on Dorian. We the readers, are witness to an inner change in him, and it is a disturbing one. What Dorian feels when looking at the finished painting, is not awe or happiness but pure horror as he is struck by the profound realisation his beauty will not only fade away but will also be forever captured in Basil’s painting to mock him in later years. It is during this moment of truth, that he utters words that change his destiny and that of others.

As the novel progresses, Dorian is further corrupted by a book Lord Henry lends him.  Later in the story,  Dorian says to him:  ‘You poisoned me with a book once.  I should not forgive that Harry, promise me that you will never lend that book to anyone. It does harm.’

Can a novel poison? Maybe, but the one thing I am certain of, is that a book can have a profound effect on a reader affecting them deeply. The Picture of Dorian Gray has done that. After just one reading, it became my favourite novel of all time, surpassing even Dracula. I’ve always been fascinated by duality, and inner conflict, something that is deeply embedded in my own novel. Dorian Gray is the perfect embodiment of that inner conflict. I have a soft spot for beautiful bad boys, there’s just something about them. As charming as Count Dracula can be is, pretty to look at he sure isn’t.  However, it’s not only Dorian’s beauty that captivates me, it is his inner struggle and the realisation he’s gone too far. You feel for him, in spite of it all.

Oscar Wilde’s only novel is filled with great images, actually, it is one of the most visual novels I’ve ever read. Wilde describes a London that no longer exists, and through his words, that London comes alive in paragraphs like these:

Where he went to he hardly knew. He remembered wandering through dimly lit streets, past gaunt, black-shadowed archways and evil-looking houses. Women with hoarse voices and harsh laughter had called after him. Drunkards had reeled by, cursing and chattering to themselves like monstrous apes. He had seen grotesque children huddled upon door-steps, and heard shrieks and oaths from gloomy courts.

As the dawn was just breaking, he found himself close to Covent Garden. The darkness lifted, and, flushed with faint fires, the sky hollowed itself into a perfect pearl. Huge carts filled with nodding lilies rumbled slowly down the polished empty street.

Wilde said of the novel: ‘Basil Hallward is what I think I am; Lord Henry what the world thinks of me; Dorian what I would like to be – in other ages, perhaps.’ (Oscar Wilde to Ralph Payne, 12 February 1894)

I recently made a wonderful discovery when I realised Wilde was the author of the one and only children’s story to make an impression on me as a child:  The Selfish Giant, so it is rather fitting that a story of his, was the first one to make an impression and that his one and only novel, changed me as a writer.  Me thinks I need to drink up a Guinness or two to toast his name.

What about you? Are there any novels that have made a huge impression on you, either as a reader or writer?