My first encounter with David Bowie was not Ziggy Stardust or the Thin White Duke but was Jareth the Goblin King in the Jim Henson film ‘Labyrinth’. The shock hit of 1986 and a time that saw the late master of reinvention reinvent himself for the 80s and beyond.
Bowie of course was a huge star, and had already achieved legendary status. But as a youngster I didn’t really know that. I had no real sense of who he was other than being the guy in the film and who sang the songs from the film.
‘Labyrinth’ opened in the UK six months after it was released in the US. That was a common time lag back then, and it meant that by the time it opened it already had a lot of publicity. The soundtrack had topped the album charts and the two music videos had been played on ‘Top of the Pops’ plus there were special features on kids TV with the puppets. It was going to be big.
The film also got a Royal Premier in London with Prince Charles and Diana. Who were greeted by Ludo the large puppet from the film.
Bowie did not attend the premier. Bowie didn’t really need to get his hands dirty doing publicity for the film in a secondary market, surely he was too big for that?
Well he wasn’t. Bowie appeared as Jareth in a pre recorded segment for ‘Blue Peter’. He then appeared on various family viewing shows to talk about the film and inevitably to answer questions about himself, either live, via video link or phone.
This David Bowie wasn’t a distant superstar he was a charming, witty man who was able to engage with the viewers, even via a time delay. He came across as the sort of person you could speak to and have a laugh with. A million miles away from the cold and distant stars of the 80s. Bowie had been there and done that.
In the 80s Bowie did the opposite. By engaging and opening up he became more than just ‘the arty bloke students like’ to be truly valued as an artist. Over the next thirty years his popularity grew and people were always eager for more from him, and always excited by the directions he took.
It may have been as Jareth that I first encountered Bowie. But over the years I was able to connect with his music and find a deep admiration for him as a person. ‘Outside’ and ‘Earthling’ two albums he released in the 90s are personal favourites. This was Bowie again bucking the trend. While others looked back he looked to the future. Even incorporating Dance and Techno into him music.
Everyone will miss David Bowie for different reasons. His career was so wide ranging and his influence go great. But on hearing the news of his passing my mind went back to 1986 when I first encountered David Bowie.