It’s About Time

Crash Course for the Ravers
Album: ‘hours…’ (1999)
Prior Level of Acquaintance: Moderate
Three-Word Review: soaring, wistful, pleasant

hours-coverSo according to my constant source Nicholas Pegg, some commentators think of ‘hours…’ as a sort of sequel to Hunky Dory. Talk about your projects that weren’t begging for a part II, but that would explain why I like ‘hours…’ so much.  At any rate, ‘hours…,’ like Hunky Dory, is accessible on a first hearing yet still throws some curveballs; it’s got the voice high in the mix; it’s often sweet and tuneful. And the comparison does speak to the quality of ‘hours…’ that Bowie called a feeble pun: the project plays with conversation between two versions of the same bloke, as visualized on the cover.

Not too long before Bowie and Reeve Gabrels started work on the ‘hours…’ songs, Bowie revisited his youth and Hunky Dory in another indirect way, when he stole scenes from the impeccable Jeffrey Wright as Andy Warhol in the film Basquiat. 

Bowie’s mannered falseness, betraying a layer of genuine interest in Wright’s upstart painter, affectionately captures the aged Warhol. It’s a fine performance in a heck of a good film. And Bowie had unabashedly wanted to be Andy Warhol since the last time he had shoulder-length hair.


Behold the Best Bowie Hair – wresting the prize from a crowded field

Bowie also looks back in the 1999 VH1 Storytellers, where he delivers several excellent performances, including a heartbreaking rendition of my beloved ‘Word on a Wing,’ and offers hilarious impressions of Marc Bolan, Steve Marriott, and himself in Ziggy Stardom mode. The looking back comes with a show of reluctance, though: just when the audience starts bouncing to the opening of ‘Rebel, Rebel,’ Bowie gives the traditional tacky-thing wrist-wave, then stops the song. Maybe old is in conversation with young here, but darned if he’s going to be his own jukebox.

Of course, ‘hours…’ began creation in the wake of Bowie’s 50th birthday concert, which I could have attended if only I’d known that twenty years later I’d be his biggest fan. But no regrets; I probably would have found it loud and difficult, which is how I find its live album, aside from lovely takes on, yes, ‘Quicksand,’ and a few others.

This delightful 1999 Rolling Stone interview told me a fact I didn’t know about Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and I didn’t think there were any of those left. Obviously there would be no Hedwig without Bowie, both within the character’s reality and her creators’ – but apparently he played a role in shoring up the actual show as well. Man had taste, I tell you.

Hey, Rolling Stone, why don’t you fill in the blank there with “When you were a kid, did you know you had Elvis’ birthday?” Also shout-outs to fellow January 8er Stephen Hawking, and my New Age guru Alan Watts. Alan Watts titled his autobiography In My Own Way, a complicated in-joke that I hope Bowie enjoyed as much as I do.hours-circles

No competition for my favorite ‘hours…’ song: it’s ‘Survive,’ which I first heard in a YouTube clip that seems to have been removed from the site but that featured the special effect of a stunning turquoise shirt against that gorgeous hair. But seriously, the song combines so many of the classics: soaring melody, rue, poetry, simplicity, Mockney, drama.

Who said time is on my side?

I’ll survive: But I’d say, knowing what I know now, that ‘hours…’ and its many passages of time is the start of Bowie teaching us how to die.

Next: The greatest thing you’ll ever learn…

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