As video-games work their way into the collective psyche, they're increasingly referenced in pop music. Characterized as deeply addictive and weirdly spiritual, the ragtag discography of video-game odes ranges from The Who's megafamous Pinball Wizard, to Lana del Rey's dreary Video Games, to wherever the heck DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist found this obscure nugget of Atari-addled country music, Hooked on Atari.

But nothing hits all the nostalgic notes of the now-bygone era of the quarter-hungry video-game arcade like Lemon Demon's Cabinet Man, a synth-driven ballad about a man who seems to have been biomechanically integrated into one such cabinet machine... with sinister results. 

Thank God for business, they let me take the floor
I stood so proudly, like I was going to war
Players soon appeared and I quickly was revered
This must be what love would have felt like
Such dedication, they came from miles away
With eyes so piercing, they’d wait their turn to play
In perfect patient lines because I was in their minds
I could do whatever I felt like


The Starman’s returned home.

Yes, this is Evade Gismo, but Bowie had a big impact on my life. I reached a little, and found one thread linking David Bowie to gaming -- back in my DS days, I S-Ranked “Let’s Dance” on Elite Beat Agents.

I’m known to wax stoic on celebrity deaths. I heard the guy who wrote “Ace of Spades” died last week, and I had no response. I like the song, but it didn’t exactly change my life, and wouldn’t it be a bit pretentious of me to suddenly care about a man in death when I ignored his entire life? Seems to me that an artist’s death should be the least tragic death we can hear about -- because artists live to the fullest for the rest of us, and share their findings. They’re more alive beyond the limits of their meat-body than most anyone else; once an artist becomes well-known, they’ve already immortalized themselves beyond death. So while I’m not mourning Bowie’s death - he lived more life in 25 years than most people do in 100 - I’m taking time today to reflect on his career, and that in itself is all kinds of profound.

People have been going DaVinci code on Bowie’s cryptic lyrical allusions for decades now, but you don’t have to dig too deep to recognize that Bowie could have died at nearly any point in his lifetime, and it would have felt poignant. Everywhere in his lyrics, he equates the singular isolation of his fame with death itself. Each persona, from Ziggy to the Thin White Duke, underwent a full life-cycle, from birth to death, and reincarnated as the next persona: Starman’s Rock & Roll Suicide; Aladdin Sane, for whom Time was always “waiting in the wings”; as the Man Who Fell to Earth, he was sure to remind us that he was only ever  “just visiting”; but nothing more explicitly pays the two coins to Chiron than “Lazarus”:

Oh, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird,
I’ll be free;
Ain’t that just like me?
— "Lazarus" (from Blackstar)
Bowie convulses behind Oedipal pinhole-eyes in the video for  Blackstar .

Bowie convulses behind Oedipal pinhole-eyes in the video for Blackstar.

Bowie lived his work, but never forgot to weigh its worth. His awareness of fame’s limits seemed to manifest through his constantly-changing performance identities -- and now he’s left them all behind, with us.

There’s something that sets him apart from his contemporaries, something more than boyish Beatles charm and Rolling Stones machismo. The further he flung himself into weirdo territory, the cooler he became, to the degree that maybe  we earthlings, too, could become proud of our weirdness - of suggestive androgyny, blatant sexuality, good-humoured extravagance, brooding self-obsession. Bowie colonized a crooked kind of glamour for music, in equal parts ravishing and ghastly, coining ironic genre jokes like “Plastic Soul” while charismatically advancing the boundaries of on- and off-stage sexuality. To date, no figure demonstrates masculine androgyny as proudly as Bowie. That influence changed my life as a white hetero-male -- I can only imagine how much he’s inspired his gay, genderqueer, and trans fans.

Intoxicated New Year’s Eves, long nights alone with my guitar, dancing with glowsticks under campfire sky, making out in the carriage-house loft -- the man’s been the texture of so many of my fondest memories, and will continue to keep us company long after he’s gone.

Stay freaky, friends.