Kingston After Dark: Golden years

Tony Visconti with David Bowie at Allaire Studios, courtesy of Mark McKenna

Tony Visconti with David Bowie at Allaire Studios, courtesy of Mark McKenna

If anything, David Bowie revealed himself in his final days before his death and/or birthing into the next realm of existence as one of the greatest cultural conductors in human history. He might have sung about a solitary candle on his final masterpiece and moving farewell album, Blackstar, yet Bowie was a master of both setting the trend and searching the soul. Above all, he could bring the talent out in other fairy people and would-be magicians that he cultivated to his orbit, from Robert Fripp’s searing solo on “Teenage Wildlife,” to bringing Stevie Ray Vaughn to our attention to helping lift Iggy Pop to fellow legend status. Bowie was the devilishly grinning yet benign goblin king at the center of all of that and so much more.

Local great guy and music industry veteran Mark McKenna reflected on Bowie’s sessions during his time at former Shokan hidden sound-fortress Allaire Studios during the making of the brilliantly dark Heathen album.


“I guess I would say if there was one performer best suited to recording in an isolated mountaintop recording studio it would be David Bowie,” Mark said. “The very fact that he decided to work there validated the studio’s existence.”

I can remember when news gently rippled through the local arts community that Bowie and Iman had been spotted around Woodstock and rumors started that they had bought a mountain or were building an underground golden kingdom somewhere close by. People were so excited the Thin White Duke’s feet were planting themselves in the Catskills. During a period of intense depression after moving back from New York City, temporarily back at my parents’ old, story-filled and lovingly haunted farmhouse, it was inspiring to know Bowie had come to settle in a region I had felt I’d been outgrowing. It helped me re-access some of the magic of our region with fresh eyes.

Nowadays we have other awakened, illuminati true rock ’n’ roll peacocks like Amanda Palmer or Melissa Auf der Maur in our midst, with more artists than ever making a personal connection to these purple mountains’ majesty. Teenagers all have the “get out and escape to see the world” bug bite, but it’s good to remember it’s all a matter of perspective and it’s a plus to — while always being able to look for more possibilities — be able to value the gifts you already have in your life, your own skin and immediate surroundings.

My closest friend Darla Downing said it best on her Sorora Mystica WordPress blog:

“[Bowie] cultivated the personal grace to be able to walk the line of weird without falling, but rising to the self-evolving elegant occasion, decade after decade.”

Bowie’s presence soars across generations of rockers. Entertainer Yasmine Kittles told me recently how timelessly validating it was to hear through the grapevine that David liked her band Tearist’s left-field rendition of his abusive relationship-examining deep cut “Repetition” the best on a recent covers compilation.

Bridget Barkan has one of the most soulful voices in all of music; she’s just released a very LGBTQ-friendly anthem, “Danger Heart.” She has toured with Scissor Sisters and opened for Lady Gaga as well as been a staple in the New York City scene.

“Despite being Labyrinth -obsessed as a kid, my brother first played Ziggy Stardust for me on a drive upstate to go horseback riding. He bought me all of his records from that point on. I would listen to him when other 13-year-olds were bopping to bullshit,” Barkan reveals. “I was turning to face the strange — sentimental connection to my bro for that reason. As I got older and grew as a woman and artist I struggled with my identity, what is feminine or masculine, blah blah … but he gave me permission to be what I feel, always a little of both. He was the divine union of the two. Purely honoring his whole self, he lived in the realm of angelic transgendered aliens with tears made of stardust and music like the undercurrent sound of mystic blood in your veins.”

Acey Slade is one of hard rock’s brightest talents, having performed as a member of Slipknot alumni-infused glam death band Murderdolls to being a sideman for Joan Jett and so much more. He also is a photographer with a fine art for beauty that perhaps wouldn’t be so prevalent without someone like Bowie to insist that it is more masculine to show sensitivity as well.

“Lemmy Kilmister’s passing was the passing of someone who represented a lifestyle. David Bowie’s passing was the passing of someone who represented life,” Slade said. “When someone passes we often say, ‘I can’t imagine what the world would be like without this person.’ With Bowie I honestly feel that there would be no world without David Bowie.”

Renaissance man and area king of the cool kids Frank McGinnis shared this: “Much like films should be considered for the sum of their parts — cinematography, acting performances, dialogue, plot — Bowie showed us that being an artist with music included everything you did and every way you presented yourself. Then as soon as you ‘got it,’ he would change.”

I’d like to close with a passage from Rudolf Steiner’s Calendar of the Soul. This was the weekly reading when Bowie passed which a former girlfriend of mine who is close friends with Bowie’s wonderfully eccentric guitarist Gerry Leonard and his kind wife and fellow performer Pamela Sue Mann shared. She was with them but sent the reading to me and said everyone was holding Bowie in their hearts with so much love and reflecting.

Steiner writes: “The soul’s creative might strives outward from the heart’s own core. To kindle and inflame God-given powers. In human life to right activity; the soul thus shapes itself in human loving and human working.”

I’d say this certainly applies to our dearly departed starman/alien. Thank you for selling us your world. Thank you for everything.