Hunky Dory

I bet there are loads of Bowie inspired blogs being shared already. I retweeted one myself this morning. As I have spent much of the last 2 days holed up in my office at home planning and thinking, I’ve had the luxury of listening to old Bowie albums quietly on Spotify, and rediscovered some greats. However, my favourite Bowie song always has been, and still is Kooks. It’s very sentimental, but I don’t care if maybe that makes me and the song uncool, I still love it. Maybe it’s not possible for ANYTHING by Bowie to be uncool? But I’ll leave that to the serious aficionados.

There’s been some negative media today about people ‘over-mourning’ his death. I find that staggering, but there again the media do tend to follow a pattern, which always includes a dip and some (often nasty and uncalled for) negativity before re balancing or moving to the next big thing. Anyway, I think that for many of us 50 somethings (and over) Bowie’s sudden death has stirred up a lot of nostalgia and memories from teenage years in particular, and with that a range of emotions. That, as well as respect for the loss of his rare and complex talent, is why so many of us have felt so very sad. Here’s my meagre contribution:

My favourite album is Hunky Dory and I always loved Kooks, as a kind of cute and sweet song with some funny but revealing lyrics. And it’s a story, with words that evoke strong visual images - always a winner for me. I knew it was dedicated to his son, but I’ve deliberately not looked up loads of information about the song because I wanted to write about what it means to me. And after I had my own children, the words became even more laden with meaning.

Will you stay in our Lovers' Story
If you stay you won't be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you'll grow so take a chance
With a couple of Kooks
Hung up on romancing

How wonderful that he is giving this tiny new human a choice about staying. He is speaking to him (or to his spirit) as an individual, who can think for himself right from the start. And the new son’s mum and dad love each other and already believe in the future of their son. Straightaway he acknowledges that he and the baby’s mum are a bit weird - not boring. Who wants to inflict a run of the mill, ordinary parent on a new little being?  I’m not sure if the word ‘kook’ was around before the song, but what a great word, and I’m not surprised that a band chose it as their name.

We bought a lot of things
to keep you warm and dry
And a funny old crib on which the paint won't dry
I bought you a pair of shoes
A trumpet you can blow
And a book of rules
On what to say to people
when they pick on you
'Cause if you stay with us you're gonna be pretty Kookie too

So the ‘kookie’ parents are practical where it matters. Was the crib a family hand-down? I like to think so. We had a swinging crib that my nephews had slept in too. I spent hours painting it and getting it ready for my new baby in 1994 – so this really resonates with me. The practicality and fun continues with the shoes and the trumpet. But a book of rules? Well, he is acknowledging straight way that this new son may not have an orthodox upbringing, and may be teased as a result. But again, he implies choice - ‘if you stay with us’. Maybe he’s saying from the outset you can take the traditional (and easier) route if you wish…

And if you ever have to go to school
Remember how they messed up this old fool
Don't pick fights with the bullies or the cads
'Cause I'm not much cop at punching other people's Dads
And if the homework brings you down
Then we'll throw it on the fire
And take the car downtown
Chorus ----

He is planning to talk to his son about his own experiences, but still gives him choice about forging his own path. He’s a fond dad already, laughing at himself as an ‘old fool’, as he imagines his son getting older. I can’t condone violence obviously, but this expresses his fierce protective parent instincts. Sadly, it also acknowledges the universal reality that there will be ‘bullies and cads’, whilst offering wise counsel about how to deal with them. Again he is self-depreciating - ‘I’m not much cop at punching other people’s Dads’. Yes, the other dads (and mums) probably are the reason those bullies became bullies, so they are the right target for his anger. But now onto homework. Presumably a criticism of how he was expected to study in his school days? He is certainly going to be empathetic when his son is not made happy by (traditional?) school work, and in 1971, what better treat than to ‘take the car downtown’? I think we also had more garden bonfires back then too…

So that was my individual take on Kooks. What are your favourite Bowie lyrics, and why?


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