What a difference three days make. On Friday, January 8th the world finally got to taste what David Bowie had been brewing up so deliciously for us since 2013’s ‘The Next Day’. The following Monday morning, the world woke up to the news that he was dead.
Surreal, incongruous, awful words.
He died in New York but was very much a son of Brixton, south London. And it was on the streets of Brixton where a spontaneous street party, organised through the power of the internet (never so apt considering the prescient ‘Bowie talks internet‘ 1999 Newsnight clip currently slogging around), sprung up that Monday night to celebrate, to mourn, to do whatever one feels like doing to remember this inimitable man together.
7:30pm outside Brixton’s Ritzy cinema and it is cold enough to not want to be hanging around there drinking still colder cans of beer. Natural instincts though, like fingertips, are numbed and the only want on the layers of faces – some Ziggyfied by a slash of lightning – swarming over the open concrete, standing on walls, hanging out of windows have is to hear David Bowie‘s music. And hear it loud.
Fifteen minutes later and rigged-up speakers off somewhere to the side start booming the first notes of ‘Starman‘. The hitherto headless congregation suddenly has a head and sways towards the music. Voices that have never been this close before, nor will again, mix together as cohorts, singing songs that now feel more precious than ever before. Thick echoes of Bowie in an otherwise indifferent black sky.
Across the road on a corner, a large speaker fills up a top-floor window and ‘Let’s Dance‘s tenacious beat is pumped on to the street. A smaller group than the several hundred and counting by the cinema are grooving underneath. Some are on the road, forcing cars to drive around them until yellowed reflecting policemen appear with arms stretched wide attempting to move them back on the pavement. Half-listening, they slowly follow orders as one man yells ,”But Bowie’s dead!”.
Further down, a pub scant of drinkers on any other Monday is ballooning with bodies, ‘Modern Love‘ spraying out. Bouncers on the door. Queues being made. Opposite, another pub is experiencing the same unforeseen, the same unwanted, in spite of the carousing tremors.
No serious moonlight to sway underneath is hanging tonight, just a hidden new moon. But there is a serious, gasping sense of loss in Brixton.
One that only its boy, ‘Our Brixton Boy’ as a Ritzy’s sign reads, could move this many people to crowd here for hours on end, to love him goodbye.