He Sailed Over

“He sailed over, he wouldn’t fly.” Cleveland Plain Dealer journalist Jane Scott, quoting David Bowie’s wife.

David Bowie’s American debut took place at Cleveland Music Hall on September 22, 1972. I had graduated from high school on the far east side of Cleveland four months earlier. I don’t recall why there were so many of us still around, but, nevertheless, Jamie Cohen had supplied a group of us with passes to attend the after party at the, I believe, downtown Sheraton.

None of us were in anyway fans of Bowie’s music. That said, I managed a record store, Music Madness, on Lee Road in Cleveland Heights, and the owner, Marc Epstein played the shit out of Bowie’s new record, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. By that September, I had heard it tens of times.

My own tastes echoed the folk-rock foundations laid in by my musically worldly friend Jamie, whose father started and owned the Disc Record Chain. 1972 was a good year too: Little Feat (Sailin’ Shoes,) The Band (Rock of Ages,) Ry Cooder (Into the Purple Valley,) Grateful Dead (Europe ’72,) Bonnie Raitt (Give It Up,) Brinsley Schwarz (Silver Pistols,) Manassas, Richard Thompson (Henry the Human fly) were just a few highlights. Still, we were hardly hipsters. My social group was full on into the cosmic cowboy artifice etched for us by the cover of The Flying Burrito Brothers’s The Guilded Palace of Sin.

And that was the sensibility we marched into the Sheraton with, on a chilly September night. The bouncers did throw one of our own down the stairs. Other stories unfolded.

Nobody caught a glimpse of Bowie.

Over the years I heard a lot of Bowie. The Man Who Fell to Earth is one of my top twenty favorite movies. Bowie is probably the best example of a musical giant who is not in my own subjective pantheon.

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David Bowie and Michael Jackson and Prince are the great auteurs of post-hippie era pop. RIP Mr. Bowie.


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