The Bewlay Brother

David Bowie

On the 22nd of January 1972 my whole world turned upside down. Melody Maker ran a front-page article by Mick Watts on a little-known singer called David Bowie, which I read over and over again.

“He’s gay, he says. Mmmmmmmm. The paradox is that he still has what he describes as ‘a good relationship’ with his wife. And his baby son, Zowie. He supposes he’s what people call bisexual.”

Most LGBT kids grow up with heterosexual parents, siblings, relatives and teachers. Boy-meets-girl stories are with us from the cradle – in fairy tales, comics and cartoons. It’s small wonder that selfacceptance is hard for queer youngsters.

Of course when I had been an avid teenage music fan in the sixties there’d been gay stars galore, but since male homosexuality was still punishable by law, there wasn’t role model one to tell me I could be attracted to men and still have a happy life. Every pop lyric told the story of someone else’s life and never mine.

And then, after reading the Melody Maker piece, I heard Bowie’s album Hunky Dory, which was not only mindblowing musically – but here at last was lyric after lyric about me: about the lives of us. As Bowie sang later that year: “you’re not alone”. He was soon all over the charts and for the first time ever in the history of youth culture you could be queer and one of the good guys. It was a life transforming moment, that even the great man’s later retractions would never take away.

The most astonishing song on that astonishing album was its closer The Bewlay Brothers. I can’t think of a better way to mark him leaving our lives than this moment from when he first entered mine.

“I might just slip away… hey”

The Bewlay Brothers
And so the story goes they wore the clothes
They said the things to make it seem improbable
The whale of a lie like they hope it was
And the Goodmen of Tomorrow
Had their feet in the wallow
And their heads of Brawn were nicer shorn
And how they bought their positions with saccharin and trust
And the world was asleep to our latent fuss
Sighing, the swirl through the streets
Like the crust of the sun
The Bewlay Brothers
In our Wings that Bark
Flashing teeth of Brass
Standing tall in the dark
Oh, And we were Gone
Hanging out with your Dwarf Men
We were so turned on
By your lack of conclusions

I was Stone and he was Wax
So he could scream, and still relax, unbelievable
And we frightened the small children away
And our talk was old and dust would flow
Thru our veins and Lo! it was midnight
Back o’ the kitchen door
Like the grim face on the Cathedral floor
And the solid book we wrote
Cannot be found today

And it was Stalking time for the Moonboys
The Bewlay Brothers
With our backs on the arch
In the Devil-may-be-here
But He can’t sing about that
Oh, And we were Gone
Real Cool Traders
We were so Turned On
You thought we were Fakers

Now the dress is hung, the ticket pawned
The Factor Max that proved the fact
Is melted down
And woven on the edging of my pillow
Now my Brother lays upon the Rocks
He could be dead, He could be not
He could be You
He’s Camelian, Comedian, Corinthian and Caricature
“Shooting-up Pie-in-the-Sky”
The Bewlay Brothers
In the feeble and the Bad
The Bewlay Brothers
In the Blessed and Cold
In the Crutch-hungry Dark
Was where we flayed our Mark
Oh, and we were Gone
Kings of Oblivion
We were so Turned On
In the Mind-Warp Pavilion

Lay me place and bake me Pie
I’m starving for me Gravy
Leave my shoes, and door unlocked
I might just slip away
Just for the Day, Hey!
Please come Away, Hey!

David Bowie, 1971

Rest in peace, David.
As Hadley Freeman put it this morning: the stars look very different today.

Tom Robinson

London-based broadcaster & songwriter, born 1950. His best known songs are 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Glad To Be Gay and War Baby; he has also co-written songs with Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Dan Hartman and Manu Katché. Read More…

4 Comments

  1. Derv

    Well said Tom! What a fitting piece. Bowie was never a man of “fear” and should be lauded for his determination and courage as much as his musical genius and astonishing vision, Derv

  2. Chris Selman

    Lovely piece, Tom. x

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