David Bowie & Nine Inch Nails – Hurt

It’s my day off: I woke up to snooze the alarm for the third time, and saw a BBC breaking alert telling me that Bowie was died. Straight on to Twitter, “no no no, how?”.

Radio 2 to 6 Music; to Shaun Keaveney and Matt Everitt-from-Menswear’s excellent analysis of Bowie’s career, both audibly trying to hold it together and doing an incredible job; and then to Lauren Laverne and three hours of stories, anecdotes and tributes from listeners, all filled with those songs.

When Modern Love came on, I went in to where H was sitting at his computer, got him up, and we danced. Because of all the bathroom stuff in boxes we danced statically, like two nodding dogs, but we danced, and we kissed, and we celebrated the joy of that song and all the many things we felt, and would feel when the next song came on.

I remember singing Space Oddity in the car with my dad, who, like many kids my age, was the one who introduced my brother and I to Bowie, off one of the Sixties compilation CDs I was hooked on. In 1997 we got that amazing double sided Greatest Hits, and it was like a rainbow of bits and pieces.

At sixth form, my brother introduced me to the massively illegal and therefore incredibly useful download service, Kazaa, where bootlegs were there for the taking provided you could get the Hampshire dial-up to cling on for long enough. I don’t remember how I ended up getting hold of this version of Hurt, but it soon became a fixture on my driving CDs. There is one incredibly steep hill just before Selborne where the song always seemed to break into those gorgeous, ringing chords and without meaning to, I always cried. Really embarrassingly it was one single tear crying, no sobbing, just one tear.

Nine Inch Nails’ original version of Hurt is completely fine, and the Johnny Cash cover is very moving, but neither come close to the punch of this one. Trent Reznor’s howling, committed vocals ring out every bit of the chorus, while Bowie, statesmanlike, that unbelievably shimmering voice, is the glorious top layer that makes this song something other.

There were many songs I listened to as a teenager that said all the things I couldn’t express. It turns out that heroin addiction, and things far away from my cosy upbringing, rang truest of all; a massive opera of empathy and truth condensed into five minutes. Every time I listened to it it gave me an indescribable support, and every time I finished it I felt stronger, and less alone.

Thank you Bowie. Thanks for everything you gave to your friends, collaborators, and those who loved you and listened to you.


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