For me, David Bowie’s death never really hit home until I attended the Tilda Swinton hosted memorial at this year’s Berlinale and watched Nicolas Roeg’s bizarrely brilliant The Man Who Fell to Earth unspool in all its 35mm glory. Bowie and Roeg premiered The Man Who Fell to Earth at the 1976 Berlinale, and shortly afterward Bowie moved to Berlin. As the last reel of film flickered into darkness, I sat alone for a few minutes, letting the theater empty, then decided to go for a walk. It was cold, but I had a coat and I felt like seeing a few of Bowie’s old hangouts.
First, I headed to Hauptstrasse 155 — where Bowie and Iggy Pop lived. As I walked down the Hauptstrasse, I passed a construction site. The smell of burning metal took me back to my dad’s workshop in Port Townsend, Washington. This is where I first heard Bowie, in the ’80s.
One day, on a trip to the library, I’d checked out a cassette tape of Peter and the Wolf as narrated by that dude in that funny pose on one of my old man’s vinyls. As my dad sharpened a chainsaw — the smell of oil and steel wafting towards me with every swish of the file against the chain — we listened to David Bowie talk about a kid capturing a wolf. That voice. So British. So entrancing. I was spellbound. From there we’d listen to Heroes, Aladdin Sane, Man Who Sold the World, and so on. That first tape in the workshop started something — me and my dad, listening to Bowie together.
As I grew up, I didn’t really think about Bowie too much again. He was just another powerful musician my dad introduced me to (along with Freddie Mercury, Jimmy Page, Roger Waters, Lemmy Kilmister, and so, so many others), that is, until I moved to Berlin. In Berlin, Bowie and I were fellow expatriates and I felt connected in some odd way.