John Creedon played David Bowie’s Kooks. It seemed unsettling.
David Bowie belonged to a different world, a world that seemed strange and threatening. It is odd that someone who was the antithesis of violence seemed to have such a capacity to disturb.
Kooks came from a 1971 album called Hunky Dory. I would have been ten years old when the album was released. It was an album that would have been among the collections of some of the boys at school, some of whom would have had listening tastes beyond their years to be buying such records.
The most troubling aspect of Bowie was the next album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The album cover, a street scene at night, had about it an ominous air, it seemed menacing.
It was incomprehensible to a twelve year old boy. Why could he not sing songs about things that were ordinary, things that were within the ken of someone who had grown up in a small village deep within rural England?
Of course, there was the absurd an unspoken fear that creatures from Mars had a more corporeal reality, that they were not just something within the lyrics of a song. Warminster, in our neighbouring county of Wiltshire, was said to be the UFO capital of the country. The prospect of an encounter with aliens caused a deep sense of fear that could not be articulated if I were not to be thought mad by those around me.
And there was something more about Bowie. His hair and mode of dress were altogether other from the traditional and the conservative with which I was familiar. Of course, there was no threat implicit in the garish outfits and the extravagant colours of the make up and the hairstyles, it was just that they were different.
If the child is the father of the man, then the fears and anxieties of those times become internalized, they become lodged deep within the memory, lingering there unremembered until there is some catalyst that brings a sudden shiver-inducing recollection.
There was a moment’s inclination to turn off the radio and to drive on in silence, but thoughts that arise cannot be unthought.
The song passed and John Creedon continued with his programme.
The likelihood of encountering Kooks again is slim. If there were to be a next time, the song’s capacity to prompt an irrational sense of apprehension would be much reduced.
It seems a strange song to provoke such feelings. Kooks seems light hearted and optimistic for Bowie of the time. The Bewlay Brothers on the same album I could understand causing issues.
I had never heard The Bewlay Brothers before, definitely a creepy song!
Always skipped that one anyway. Don’t listen to side 2 of the Heroes album if I were you!!
I don’t have anything by Bowie. There are too many irrational reactions!
Lets Dance was the final straw for me. Didn’t bother much after that. The Young Americans album would be more to your taste I think.
“Reinvention” was supposed to be a mark of his “genius.”