Guest Post: Hugo Burnham on David Bowie

[this guest post comes from our good friend and Gloucester resident, original Gang of Four drummer Hugo Burnham.]

My brother called me from England at 2:15 this morning. “Bowie’s dead.”

I was not taken wholly by surprise, but I was bit sad, thinking as I tried to fall back asleep, that I should listen to the new album I had downloaded on Friday. I reached for my phone and posted “Ah. Good grief.” on Facebook. And then turned the light out again.

When I pulled in to my parking space at 6:25am by the campus in Brookline – I had to just sit there, listening to his voice. A replay of an old NPR Fresh Air interview. Then I sort of lost it. It was a good 10 minutes before I swiped my card through the meter and walked to work. I told myself not to spend much time today online. I ignored myself. People are shattered. I am shattered too, honestly.

I could write such a lot about his part in my life. I was just at that age when he appeared on Top Of The Pops, playing ‘Starman’. It turned everything on its head for me. Fucking everything. And it changed it all for just about every person I know of my generation who became punks, post-punks, electronica-types, whatever. We have all talked about it in the 46 years since. 46 Years. My Brain Hurts a Lot. NOBODY wasn’t changed or moved.

And he kept doing it – even with a less-than-moving period in the ‘80s – always coming back with music (and writing, and acting….damn it, I saw him play The Elephant Man on Broadway). Because of him, we heard and listened to so many new and different artists who would never likely have crossed our lines of vision. I still go very quiet whenever I listen to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Avec Piano’. And I love Jacques Brel.

Many friends have know him, worked for him, played with him; he sent me and my best friend from high school flowers because he heard we’d got a rather severe kicking from some skinheads on the Tube coming back from The Rainbow one night after a Mike Garson/Woody Woodmansey concert…where we’d hung out in the lobby most of the night with (Spider) Trevor Bolder and Anya Wilson from Mainman. I hung out with Rhoda Dakar (The Bodysnatchers, Special AKA) at these gigs and in exotic, slightly scary Brixton at parties when I was 17 – and neither of us really knew we’d become who we had until years later (on bloody Facebook, of course). Still a good friend. But I never actually got to meet him. Damn it. “Oh, he loves Gang of Four!” we’d hear from those who had actually touched the hem. Another high school friend was his Tour Manager for years – sat in the same bar after a show…but I didn’t want to be rude, because I was talking to my friend, and DB was talking to the promoter. I’m such an idiot. Been so close…and always just too far.


It doesn’t matter who or what or how old you are – but, let me tell you; there are a number of us who really, really were a part of something quite small at first (but that grew like a bastard before long), who wore the clothes, who hobbled around on the shoes, who put on the slap, who went to The Saturday Gigs. That very early Ziggy show at The Rainbow – before it all took off… Lindsay Kemp’s troupe dancing, Roxy Music and/or Fumble opening. Everyone knowing to do the clap thing in ‘Space Oddity’, him coming out after the encore in a silk kimono to say he loved us, but hadn’t rehearsed any more songs he could play. Oh, David. Thank you.


We age, we die.  But this one has really, really hit hard today.

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  1. Beautiful memories, great stories, thanks for sharing. Sorry for your (and our) loss.

  2. Ah Hugo. Beautiful.

  3. Thanks Hugo!!! Love that! X

  4. David Livingstone

    Damn nice piece, Hugo.

  5. Jon King Gang of Four

    Fine words, Hugo. I, too, loved Bowie. Space oddity was the first 45 I ever bought &, along with Hendrix & Dylan Amy inspiration. I doubt there’d have been Gang of Four without him. When I shared a flat in Leeds with Mark White & Andy Corrigan, later of the Mekons, we played Station to Station on maximum rotation for hours. The greatest rock solo act ever. Only Sinatra and Elvis have the right to be mentioned in the same breath. So sad.

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