It All Makes Sense Now …Dean Cavanagh on the Death of Bowie

Written by Dean Cavanagh
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It’s December 2015 and I’m in Edinburgh with my screenwriting partner Irvine Welsh.
We’re working on notes for a screenplay we’ve got in development but I’m really keen to tell him about an e-mail I’d received from David Bowie agreeing to play himself in a script I had written called “Band On The Run”. Irvine is on fine form having just done the deal for the as yet untitled Trainspotting 2 film and Danny Boyle, the director, is in the city scouting locations. Me and Irvine agree that, whatever happens, 2016 is going to be an interesting year.

Irvine and I had bonded over a shared love of David Bowie nearly twenty years back and I couldn’t wait to tell him about the e-mail. As anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not the starstruck type. But this was Bowie. This was different. Irvine has had his own interactions with our hero over the years and he’ll probably want to recall them at some point so I’ll leave it at that.

Coincidentally Bowie had recently refused Danny Boyle permission to use his music for a biopic. I didn’t think this strange as Bowie is notoriously selective and protective of his art, and I felt honored and proud that he had chosen to be a part of our film. Me and Irvine spoke about going out to New York to see Bowie’s musical and meet with the man. 2016 was definitely going to be an interesting year.

Bowie had been introduced to my script by his long term collaborator Tony Visconti. Visconti had been given the script by Mike Peden - who wrote the novel the script is adapted from. Mike Peden is better known as a music producer and has worked with Bowie in the past. During the writing of the script we decided to write a part for Bowie. It was total speculation on our part but Tony Visconti showed Bowie the finished script and he agreed to play the part. The letter of intent came through.

Myself, Mike Peden and the director Phil John were so excited. Having Bowie on board not only justified our belief in the project but made it more attractive to investors. I immediately set about rewriting the script with Bowie now committed. I was in somewhat of a daze. I was being paid to write dialogue that Bowie would speak in our film. Bowie would speak my words. Bowie was the man who turned me on to everything and inspired me to strive to be creative in all kinds of forms. For a moment this felt like everything made sense in a synchromystic fashion . This is what all my creative endeavors had been leading up to.

We decided that Bowie would drift in and out of the narrative as a shaman type character imparting words of wisdom to our protagonist. He would pop up at regular intervals in increasingly more outlandish scenarios and inspire our lead to action. Reading them back this morning sent a shiver down my spine in how prophetic the scenes are, but this soon turned into a feeling of strange comfort and lucidity.

The script is about a young Scottish band who get mixed up in criminal enterprise whilst touring The States. It’s a violent, bruise black comedy about ambition, fame, friendship and ultimately loyalty winning through against all odds. I had always considered David Bowie a friend even though we never met in the physical realm. In the script I would explain this relationship through hallucinatory vignettes that progress the narrative of the main character.

Mike Peden and Phil John signed off on the script and set about the arduous task of raising the finance. We’ve been fortunate in finding solid financiers and have attracted other major talents, but no matter what happens now I’ll still feel empty and the script will feel unfinished.

There will be thousands of obituaries and reminisces about Bowie. People who knew him well will be able to elaborate on what made him personally so special. Like millions of others I’m just a fan who obsessed over him in the mid 1970’s to the mid 1980’s. I wasn’t a slave to his art and found some of it cringe worthy, but what kept me interested was Bowie as a concept. A man who created, destroyed and re-created himself whenever he felt like it. Bowie was style and imagination over fashion and popularity.

Bowie was an agent for change and he wore his influences and his heart on his sleeve. For me he epitomized the artist as one who could never be boring even if they tried. Bowie was authentic and there was never a whiff of bad faith about him. Never shy to cite and pay homage to his influences he was the ultimate post-modern artist who rode the zeitgeist like some mercury surfer on waves of alien electricity.

I grew up on Bowie’s seven inch vinyls and my kids grew up on his CD’s. He was the one I never had to indoctrinate them into listening to. The first song my daughter Georgina sang along to was “Starman”. That was a proud moment for me and very Proustian. It took me back to when I first heard it on TOTP. We had a black & white TV but Bowie was technicolor. From that moment on I was hooked and spent every penny I could get my hands on collecting Bowie. My loneliest hours were spent with Bowie and his music turned me on to everyone from Lou Reed and Aleister Crowley to Luther Vandross and Mott The Hoople.

The many roads of discovery Bowie sent me down now make sense. He was my guiding light.

Dean Cavanagh 11/1/2016

Check Out Dean Cavanagh's Debut Novel Here - The Secret Life of The Novel 

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Dean Cavanagh

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