7 – Blog 19 – Swimming with Bowie

With the telephone disabled, the furor subsides. With no Patisserie near Bowie Castle, David agrees to drive to the Casino for coffee (and croissants). He meets with Henri while Mike and I get our morning coffee wake-up fix.

“Still worried about dear old dad?” I ask Mike

“Just a sense of dread that he is nearby and ready to pounce.

“Have you heard something?”

“Just a feeling.”

“Ever since your whirling dervish trance you’ve become superstitious.”

“That old Black Magic?”

Mike and I jump up right in the middle of the coffee shop and sing our own version of Black Magic

The breakfast eaters give us a modest hand as we spin around the coffee shop. In mid-spin Mike abruptly stops and sits down quickly.

“Did you see him?” Mike gasps.

“Who? Where? When?”

“Just now, in the doorway, Dad,” he whispers.

“You be buggin,” I lamely joke.

Mike glares at me.

“I swear I saw him. We gotta go,” he rises and makes for the side door.

I drop a ten franc note on the table and quickly follow.  Before we get outside, I turn him around.

“We need to meet David at Henri’s,” I pull Mike toward the admin offices.

Maybe all the whirling has us spun out. First, I had crying jags over nothing other than someone I do not remember. Now, Mike thinks he sees his dad and overreacts.

“What’s wrong”?” David asks;

“Mike’s having premonitions about his dad showing up,” I explain.

“Well, he left a message on the machine this morning,” David confirms Mike’s suspicions.

“You can stay with me at Freddie’s,” I suggest.

“I need to be far away.” Mike is in panic mode.

“You need to deal with him. Running away only delays the confrontation,” Henri is right. “I’ll call Miami Beach.”

“I’m not going to Florida.” Mike reacts.

“No, no.” I pipe up. “That’s Jim Beach, Freddie’s new lawyer. We call him Miami Beach. He solved the Queen break-up problem. He’s cool.”

“First time I heard anyone say that about a lawyer,” Henri laughs.

Miami arrives shortly and takes Mike into a separate office. David and I sit with Henri.

“What did you think of the show in Lausanne?” I ask Henri.

“All these one-off performances. Is there some strategy here? It’s great that Queen is back together. Now they can headline the Music Festival. But what is in it for you, David?”

“World peace through dancing?” he jests. “I’ve wanted to perform ‘Yassassin’ since we wrote it in Berlin. I need RCA to put it on my next album. It is pro-immigration which reflects German political controversy.”

“Becoming a peacenik?”

“It’s more about human rights plus a sociological look at what it’s like to leave your country behind.”

“I’ll book the band here if you want. But not much political interest in immigration in Switzerland.”

“There’s talk of a tour. I’ll be sure to start it here.”

“This is the business side of the music. Why play small venues? You’re a major star.”

“I’m having so much fun,” David laughs. “Laz’s punk rock attitude makes him love playing for free. The publicity is a secondary benefit. It’s great to feel young again. He’s nineteen and carefree.”

“You’re not old at thirty-two.”

“If I don’t change and grow, I feel old. The Thin White Duke became a closet Nazi.”

“Don’t say that word in public.”

“Your fans will never see you as old,” I pipe up. “You still look like a teenager.”

“Well, my seven-year-old son now thinks I’m cool again.”

“You can’t beat a dad who acts like a teenager,” I concede.

“Maybe I need Miami Beach. Angela is all upset about Duncan being at a Muslim Mosque.”

“Get in line,” Henri orders. Looking at me, “You need a lawyer, too?”

“Naw. My problems are all emotional.”

“Well, that’s more normal. Can I ask why Michael Jackson is living with David Bowie?”

“Their problems have to do with celebrity. Mine are strictly personal. I don’t remember anything past three weeks ago.”

Bowie and Jackson come back together. Hopefully their legal issues are now the responsibility of Miami Beach. Henri is taking a call, so we chat outside his office.

“Miami says Angela has no hope of overturning the custody order. Going to a mosque and dancing is not illegal or immoral even in Switzerland. He will file a brief contesting her claims with the court. But Duncan must attend school. He’ll be crushed not to go on tour.”

“A weekend warrior,” I state. “He can join us when we play Saturdays and Sundays.”

Mike has not said anything about his legal issues. He looks downcast.

“Miami able to help you?” I ask.

“It’s way complicated. I may have to press charges against Dad.”

“That’s the worst-case scenario, Mike,” David tries to cheer him up. “Miami is going to help you like he did Freddie. You have to eventually face the business issues of leaving the Jackson Five. You can’t hide out forever.”

“I guess.” He remains downcast. “I’m not ready to speak about what Dad has been doing to me all these years.”

“All the more reason to get the lawyers to cancel your contracts with him and the record company.”

“What about my brothers. Do I have to throw them under the bus too?”

“You’re not hurting them. You’re an adult now. People go solo. That’s what Jim Reid wanted Freddie to do, but he refused to break up the band.’

“Well, we can’t be the Jackson Five no more.”

Henri has finished his phone calls and invites us back into his office. Miami immediately addresses the possible ‘Yassassin’ promotion tour.

“What is the status of your manager Tony Defreis? I understand he broke off your relationship over your drug issues several years ago, but still controls your career through MainMan.”

“He’s pissed about those years of me being wasted in London. I’m pissed that he takes 50% of my earnings. It’s extortion. I signed when I needed him to break into the American market.”

“I am currently unwinding Freddie’s legal obligations to Jim Reid. I can do the same for you. But who is going to manage your professional work? I’m just a lawyer.”

“Laz is doing a good job. He’s the boss,” David jokes (I hope).

“He’s just a kid. How can he deal with tours, taxes, and record companies, let alone control you creating new work in the studio?”

“We are doing fine in my home studio but we need to build a bigger one here in Switzerland with state-of-the-art equipment. If the only shows we do are free street pop-ups, Defreis can’t claim I owe him his 50% off the top.

“Then that thousand francs you got for Freddie’s Casino show needs to be refunded. “

“Here,” Bowie gives 10 100 CH franc notes to Henri. “It’s a donation for my son’s swim lessons.”

“Give me another one of those notes as a retainer,” Miami demands. “I’ll get my London office to break you out of Defreis’ strangle hold. No court is going to hold you to a predatory contract signed ten years ago when you were barely making any money.”

“Can you get me out of my contract with my dad? Here’s a 100 CH francs,” Mike needs his own deal. His thousand francs is all he has to his name.

“Fine but you have to make up with your dad on your own. I’m not a family counselor.”

Mike scowls and seems distressed.

“I’ll have my London office contact him, saying you want to perform with David. It will throw him off track for a while.

“I spoke with the NME (New Musical Express). They want to do a feature on your new life as a Muslim,” Henri changes the subject.

“That’s a stretch,” David answers. “Why not do a show here at the Casino. They can judge for themselves what I am advocating. We can announce further shows around Europe to raise awareness for immigrants.”

“Once your issues with Defreis are resolved, it can also be promotion for the record being released as a single.”

I am bored by all the complications of the music business. Young fans only care about seeing their favorite musicians perform. The stars need to be in touch with new fans, so their old fans think they are hip to youth trends. Young fans spend more of their limited income going to see live performances. Old fans spend more of their disposable income on records and tapes. The music industry’s only interest is to keep the public buying their product. Artists receive a small sliver of the total income. The cost of producing recorded product keeps going up. Concerts are headlined by older established acts who bring out the fans that have the most money to spend. New acts perform as opening bands that are paid significantly less than older ones; promotion is paying their ‘dues.’ Old bands that fail to produce exciting new albums still earn a sizeable income from their back catalog. Newly signed acts find their income severely reduced by the cost of producing and promoting their first few albums. Many worthy bands never get signed. Many signed acts, expecting an instant payday, are disappointed and break up.  Successful recording acts break up because they eventually cannot stand each other. The most successful acts gradually lose the creative impulses that made them original and fade into irrelevance. Sometime the most creative musician in a band goes solo (for a while) and the other musicians are consigned to the ash-heap of irrelevance. Some bands mount reunion tours that squeeze the last juice out of the income flow. That miserly juice confirms the futility of rock.

“The music business is not for kids,” I state

“Probably a good thing,” Henri adds. “It worries me that everyone you deal with suddenly needs to lawyer up. I recommend you remain innocent and consider the value of your freedom as a result of these free shows you seem to inspire.”

We laugh. Henri has handled all our problems. Time to hit the Lakefront. But first I sing my song about Freedom and ‘Bobby McGee.’ Henri is amused in a French/Swiss manner.

‘Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, it ain’t nothin’ honey, if it ain’t free
And feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
You know feelin’ good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee

From the Kentucky coal mines to the California sun
Yeah, Bobby shared the secrets of my soul
Through all kinds of weather, through everything we done
Yeah, Bobby baby kept me from the cold

One day up near Salinas, Lord, I let him slip away
He’s lookin’ for that home and I hope he finds it
Well, I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday
To be holdin’ Bobby’s body next to mine

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, and that’s all that Bobby left me
Well, feelin’ good was easy, Lord, when he sang the blues
And feelin’ good was good enough for me
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee.’

Songwriters: F. Foster / K. Kristofferson

Me and Bobby McGee lyrics © Combine Music Corp.

Country music always gets to me. I gulp and stifle the tears – progress, but I worry I am becoming a wimp.

We sit in the casino restaurant having brunch after the marathon meeting with Henri and Miami.

“Why so glum, Rocker boy?” David prompts me.

“The music business sucks,” I complain.

“Not ready to be my manager?”

“Get Miami Beach. He seems to be able handle anything.”

“MainMan acts as my agent, as well as for my friends, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Mick Ronson, Mott the Hopple’s Ian Hunter.”

“I love all those bands.”

“Well, they are mostly solo acts. Bands usually break up.”

“Not Queen.”

“Freddie is neurotically married to his bandmates. He’s a genius performer. They are riding his coattails, or more accurately, his cute ass.”

“We must keep having fun. This is the rock n roll life. It need never end.”

“Maybe you need to stop being too egotistical and find some purpose outside your own self-promotion.”

“Like sad Muslim immigrants?”

“There you go. But not just sad individuals. How about a real social problem, like how to treat  Germans after the Nazis were defeated.”

“How about Black American kids who believe they have no future and act like that youth is the only time they can have fun; they become burned out as adults,” Mike adds.

“Well, you know,” I sigh, “what do we do when we don’t have a plan? Put on a show.”

“Yeah,” Mike perks up. “Let’s play for the kids at the lakefront.”

“We’ve gone from planning to tour Europe to playing for your friends in their local park,” David complains.

“We can do both. In fact, we need to do both,” I argue.

“You and Mike just want to swim like dolphins again.”

“It gets everyone off,” I claim.

“You are perverts,” David laughs.

It is Saturday afternoon. We troop to the Lakefront. There are tons of kids there who cheer our arrival.

“How did they know we would show up?” David asks.

“Amar tells them,” Mike explains.

“How does he know?”

“Ye of little faith. Kids always hope for what they can’t have.

Bowie pulls an acoustic guitar and double bongos from the back of the Aston Martin. He knew all along we were playing in the park. He tells me to get the swim instructors ready to perform the dolphin act when he plays ‘Heroes.’

“Grab the bongos when everything is set. You’re my new Ringo.”

I laugh and go to advise the best swimmers that they are to be performing dolphins. They are ecstatic.

“Did Henri from the Casino pay you yesterday?” I check up on our money man.

Several flash me handfuls of five-franc notes and big smiles.

“Bowie’s going to perform. I have to play bongos. You guys have to be whirling dervish dancers. Be prepared to have fun.”

Several instructors are swim team kids. When they strip down to their Speedos, the girls snap to attention.

David sits beneath a willow tree and tunes his guitar.

About a hundred kids sit in a semi-circle around David. They gaze rapturously at the rock star. I remember an image of him from the 60’s with long hippie hair and a goofy grin. Mike sits with his swim lesson friends.

“No swim lessons this morning?” David asks.

“Not on Saturday or Sunday,” an instructor answers.

“Can we still do music today?”

“Yes,” several shout.

He continues to tune and speak with the kids.

“Thanks for welcoming my son for swim lessons,” he chats.

“That little kid?”

“He’s only seven.”

“He’s cool. He’s friends with Amar.”

The height of cool.

“His mum’s mad I took him to a show in Lausanne at a Muslim mosque. He danced with Amar and Mike.”

“Why’s his mum mad?”

“She thinks Muslims are evil.”

“Just when they grow up,” someone shouts from the back.

“Are they worse than regular dads?” Bowie asks.

“Pretty much the same.”

“So no one wants to grow up?”

“You gotta have fun when yer young,” is the prevailing wisdom.

“Any of my songs fun?”

“Space Oddity,”” someone shouts.

I sit next to Bowie and tap out a short rhythm on the bongos.

I back up on vocals,

‘Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom’

David sings solo,

‘Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom’

Many of the kids sing the countdown


‘(ten, nine, eight, seven, six)
Commencing countdown, engines on (five, four, three)
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (two, one, liftoff)’

Everyone is singing as we are

‘floating ’round my tin can
Far above the moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do’

I tap the ending on the bongos; everyone cheers how great they are.

David whispers in my ear ‘Heroes.’ I check to make sure the swimmers are ready to dolphin. They wave from the shore. I flash a ‘thumbs up. And they all enter the water, all twenty instructors ready to show off their butterfly stroke.

“Well, ‘Space Oddity’ seems a long time ago, the 60’s. How about this newer song everyone seems to like? I’ll sing it in German/Deutsch.”

Most Southern Swiss speak French but German is the other national language. The German kids are ecstatic and start dancing around waving their arms

 
‘Du

Könntest du schwimmen

Wie Delphine

Delphine es tun

Niemand gibt uns eine Chance

Doch können wir siegen

Für immer und immer

Und wir sind dann Helden

Für einen Tag”

The swimmers come into the background in waves of four, circling behind the willow tree as we pledge to be dolphins. Instead of pulling with their arms, they undulate with dolphin kicks, gliding on outstretched arms. David and I turn around as the kids run to the shore to cheer on their instructors. We play to Lake Geneva, my source of magic and protection; the cure to my death and the only home I know.

The swimmers come ashore, grab their towels, embraced by their students. As David and I sit in front of the willow tree, everyone huddles together. Some of the younger kids sit in their instructors’ laps.

“What will be our next trick to enthrall our fans?”

I whisper in Bowie’s ear “Rockin’ in the Free World,”

“Well, that was fun. How about an American song from Laz,” he motions to me? “He claims they discovered rock and roll. The English just made it better,”

I hit the bongos. David hits the chords as hard as the acoustic guitar can stand. He lets me sing,

I pull out a harmonica and blow the blues

‘The king is gone but he’s not forgotten
Is this the tale of Johnny Rotten?
It’s better to burn out than fade away
The king is gone but he’s not forgotten.

Hey hey, my my
Rock and roll can never die

My, my, hey, hey.

Bowie is singing back-up for me!

The Swiss fans are lukewarm to my American take on new music.

“Well, not so exciting as David Bowie,” I admit.

“How about French Punk?” Bowie suggests, whispering Plastic Bertrand in my ear. I jump up, as Bowie cranks acoustic leads.

Bowie knows the verses. My New English handles the chorus while Mike sings way up high the howling “whoo whoo whoo whoo. Ca plane pour moi.”

The kids know this song and thrash wildly about. They have learned the ‘Pogo.’ My friend le Gendarme looks concerned. We had promised no violence. Time for social justice.

“Settle down. We promised no riots at the Lake. Amar seems to be missing but here’s my new song that inspires his religious Dervish whirling.”

“I’m here,” a small voice comes from the back.

“Amar,” Bowie calls to him. “Get up here. This is your song. We need you to show everyone how to whirl.”

He makes his way through the crown. Many kids pat him on the back. His own popularity seems to surprise him.

“Okay. We’ve done English, German, French and American songs. This song, ‘Yassassin,’ I wrote in Berlin for all the immigrants who leave their home countries and families for a better life. The title is Turkish for Long Live.”

Once Amar is at the front, he and I stand behind Bowie and sing the call, “Yassassin.’ I blow my harmonica as Bowie makes the guitar sound like a violin and sings the verses.

‘Yassassin – I’m not a moody guy
Yassassin – I walk without a sound
Yassassin – Just a working man, no judge of men
Yassassin – But such a life I’ve never known

We came from the farmlands
To live in the city
We walked proud and lustful
In this resonant world

You want to fight
But I don’t want to leave
Or drift away’

At the next call and response, Amar takes off whirling. Even without robes he appears to fly.

Yassassin – I’m not a moody guy
Yassassin – I walk without a sound
Yassassin – Just a working man, no judge of men
Yassassin – But such a life I’ve never known

Look at this – no second glances
Look at this – no value of love
Look at this – just sun and steel
Look at this – then look at us’

If there’s someone in charge
Then listen to me
Don’t say nothing’s wrong
‘Cause I’ve got a love
And she’s afeared

You want to fight
But I don’t want to leave
Or drift away

Yassassin – I’m not a moody guy
Yassassin – I walk without a sound
Yassassin – Just a working man, no judge of men
Yassassin – But such a life I’ve never known’

The kids are on their feet. Amar spins and twirls toward his friends, bouncing off and back again. They respond with their own spinning. The contagion spreads quickly. Everyone is spinning and whirling. The many collisions set the spinners in a different direction. Some kids quickly pick up the flow around them and soon there are pockets of whirling dervish. We repeat the song. Groups of thrashers resist the call of entrancement, pushing and shoving. I quickly pogo through their space and draw them away from the true whirlers. Pogo is less combative and requires little space. David ends the song after its second repetition. The dervish fall to the ground. The pogoers just stop. The thrashers take a second to realize there is no music. Order is restored. The Gendarme calls off back-up.

We all sit under the tree and catch our breath.

“Quoi signifie?” David asks what they think.

“Les immigrants ont une vie difficile.”

“Its sont gens simples.’

“Amar est notre ami.”

“Can I play this song in France, Germany, England, USA? Est-ce possible?”

“Certainment. Mais oui.”

Etes-vous pret une autre concert au Casino.’

“Oui. Yes,” they all shout.

“C’est possible a bientout.”

Everyone is happy. Le Gendarme takes a note for his Intelligence staff. Mike runs off with 100 CH francs from Bowie for pizzas. It will be a while for the local pizzeria to complete our order. Bowie strips down to his bathing suit and everyone follows him into the Lake.

Rock and roll is sweaty business. A decent swimmer, David follows me far from the crowd of young teens and we float together several hundred meters from shore.

“I love singing with you, David,” I gush as we lay back in the water.

He comes up behind me and his body slides under mine, with his arms draped over my shoulders and hands joined on my stomach. I lay my head on his shoulder, barely kicking my feet to keep from sinking. I roll over and we are face to face, belly to belly, using our arms to stay afloat as we rotate to a vertical position.

“Look at all those fans, cavorting in the shallow water,” I point out.

“Here we are in a world of our own,” David remarks. “Are you feeling more yourself now that it has been several weeks since you came out of coma.”

“I feel torn between two worlds; the one with you, Freddie, Mike and the gang who know I have no memory; the other reality is when I fake it I know everything I need to be on this magical musical trip without having to think about it.”

“So, right now you are alone with me, and our intimacy is sharing how limited your real experience is. Over there is where you take charge and everyone unquestionably follows your lead. Little do they know how little you know.”

“I trust it always works out as it should.”

“Until it doesn’t.”

“That’s what it felt like with John and Debbie Landis. They expected I would love them because they love me. I felt nothing.”

“What do you feel about me? And Mike?”

“I’m incredibly in love with both of you. You must know that. I feel your love when we perform. I know how much Mike needs me all the time. It’s like he has never had a real friend.”

“You are too sensitive, but you are also a lot of fun. I stop doing drugs completely when I am around you.”

“Do you do drugs just for the fun of it or is there some cosmic connection when you’re high?”

“You really don’t know?”

“I don’t remember about myself. I know I have done it but cannot remember what it taught me, good or bad, transcendental or evil.”

He looks oddly at me. “I prefer the you who is learning for himself, not when others tell you who you are.”

“Fine. But if it makes you happy to not do drugs when we are together, I’ll stay with you as much as you want.”

“What about Freddie?”

“He is my Queen. I must answer his call.”

“He told me you are incredible in bed, like an animal with urgent needs.”

“That is not me,” I admit, hoping he does not demand details. I sense Max is already dog-paddling to reach us.

“Well, I feel reluctant to find out. I will treat you like a teen virgin since you do not even know what your sexual orientation is.”

I am so relieved that I passionately kiss him. We sink underwater and detach ourselves. No cheap sex with the Rock God. Max paddles back to shore. Casper tells me, ‘You’re so boring.’

Pizza arrives. My teen appetite kicks in. David has two slices to his own dismay. I keep an arm on his shoulder or around his waist. It seems right. The kids whisper among themselves about our behavior. They give us space, no fawning fans just wanting face time. Mike has a wry look as he observes this new bromance. He is comfortable hanging out with us. It seems he is unsure to whom he should attach himself. My mellow mood grabs him. He becomes the protein in our meat sandwich, with an arm around each of us. I look around for paparazzi, but so far, the media has yet to hear about our performances at the Lake.

That thought brings up Mike’s issues with his dad. Hiding out will not solve those. We need to talk. How do I give advice about family when I remember nothing about my own family? It feels pretty selfish to not let them know I am not dead. My recent experience with the Landises makes me hesitant to just jump back into my old life. So many questions. I’ll just bask in the glory of Bowie’s presence.

Amar takes one look at our huddled-up mass of homo-affinity and decides he will bask in the glow of his recent acceptance by his peers. He soon has a small coterie of protégées trying to learn proper Sufi dancing. He is the star of his own world. As David, Mike and I leave for Freddie’s, I slip over and compliment him on training more whirling dervish.

“Hopefully when we have the show on the weekend at the casino, they can show off what you are teaching them.”

He beams as the kids his age look at him with rapt attention. He does not seem gay.

Freddie and the Queen members are lounging by the pool. Brian May called and delayed his return in order to ‘bond’ with his newborn son. The poor kid will grow up believing bushy hair is butch. Jim fires up the grill. One or two slices of pizza do not make a meal.

David recounts our exploits at the Lake. Freddie is jealous that he missed a chance to perform.

“Well, get ready, Freddie. We have a show this weekend at the Casino.”

“Why are you getting shows? Queen is headlining this summer at the festival.:

“Our show is all about you, Fred. The poor mistreated immigrant.”

“Don’t expect me to show up. I hear your band is all Turkish potheads from Berlin.’

‘It’s to promote my reggae record, ‘Yassassin.”

“I saw your photo in the newspaper, praying with your asses in the air, all of you, Mike and Laz.”

David starts chasing Freddie around the pool.

“Did I hear someone say kabob?” Jim attempts to calm the waters.

Only Mike and I are takers. We walk our plates into the lounge.

“Are you in love with David now.”

“Yeah, totally.”

“Have you done anything?”

“Naw. He treats me like a teenage virgin.”

Mike is appeased and slides next to me. We hug while eating our kabob sandwiches.

“Are you going to call your dad?” I ask. “You are so obsessed with him that you started seeing him.”

“Jim Beach told me I have to make up with him in order to get out of my Jackson Five contract.”

“Some photographer is going to take your picture and he’ll find out where you are.”

“My dreadlocks arn’t a good enough disguise?”

“You still look way too cute even with a reggae gangsta look.”

“You think I’m cute?”

“Totally,” and we hug.

“Will you listen when I call him and stop him from yelling at me.”

“Let him yell for two minutes. You did run away, you naughty boy.”

“I’m a brat.”

“Totally. Too cute to deny you anything.”

“You told Bowie that you love him.”

“I also told him I love you.”

“Well, that’s fair. I love him too.”

“We are such sluts.”

“Did you have sex with Freddie?”

“Not really.”

“What’s that mean?”

“I disassociate myself from my body and watch me having sex with him.”

“What?”

I doubt he will believe it was Max. I’ll just play psycho boy.

“I was floating above the bed, watching us do it.”

“That counts.”

“It’s kinda the opposite of masturbation. Instead of imagining doing it with someone hot. You imagine you are not doing while you actually are. I dissociate from reality.”

“You are wacko.”

“Don’t tell anyone. Freddie said he really liked it. It will burst his bubble.”

Mike starts laughing and cannot stop. Kabob comes out his nose.

“Let me clean that up.”

Next: