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September 25th, 2006 - click opera
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September 25th, 2006
Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 12:00 am

For boomers of a certain vintage -- people who were teenagers in the 1970s -- David Bowie has so infiltrated our idea of what it means to be a successful human being that we look into the mirror every morning only to feel a surge of disappointment that it isn't his extra-terrestrially intelligent and beautiful face staring back at us. (Some of us wouldn't mind his back catalogue, his gorgeous wife, or his heaps of money either.)



For those of us who feel this way, Bowie's cameo appearance last week on Ricky Gervais' UK comedy series Extras was particularly poignant. We've already noted on Click Opera how the young Gervais tweaked his eyebrows into suspiciously Bowiesque shapes as the singer in big-in-Manilla 80s pop sensation Seona Dancing. Like everyone from my own peer group of Scottish musicians (Paul Haig, Paul Quinn, Edwyn Collins, Roddy Frame, Billy McKenzie), Gervais was part of Generation Bowie. And one thing I'm sure we all share is a recurrent dream in which we meet our idol.

Bowie's appearance in Extras unfolds like a dream sequence. He's sitting in a London pub (as if!) chatting up a somewhat gormless girl with anecdotes about surgery and Decca Records. Gervais has to bribe his way in, but it takes his brash girlfriend to drag him over to Bowie's table. The conversation that follows is predictably buttock-clenching, as Gervais proceeds, with typical English self-deprecation, to give a dismal account of himself as a sadly compromised comedian.

We expect Bowie to be generous, positive, encouraging and enabling -- he'll send Gervais away re-inspired. That's how he always appears in my dreams, anyway: like the most supportive parent you could imagine. Instead, the dream turns to nightmare. Grim-faced, as though incarnating Gervais' highest and most dashed aspirations for his own career, Bowie starts improvising a song. "Little fat man who sold his soul," it begins, for all the world like one of my more vicious songs from Stars Forever ("butcher, philanderer, murderer, coprophile", went poor Maf's song -- and he paid for this, just as Gervais is paying Bowie).

As the whole room joins in with ever-more-cruel suggestions, it only gets worse for Gervais:

Chubby little loser, national joke
Pathetic little fat man
The clown that no-one laughs at
They all just wish he'd die
He's so depressed at being hated
Fatso takes his own life
He blows his bloated face off...

Like an out-take from Hunky Dory, the song ends in a cathartic singalong of "See his pug-nosed face, pug pug, pug pug..." as Gervais sits, suitably ruddy and pug-nosed, strung out somewhere between utter humiliation and chuffed amazement that his hero is actually singing a song about him, no matter how crushing.

I tried to imagine what Bowie would sing about me in a similar nightmare. Out of sheer humiliation, I've put it under the cut. Sing along if you must. Bastards.

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