I associate Scary Monsters, Bowie's last studio album for RCA (1980), with a very tall, dark-eyed, good looking son of a judge - that and Talking Heads' Remain In Light (also 1980) will forever be intertwined with a memory of an impossibly unattainable boy and his friends, hanging out on a sunny afternoon in a spacious Edinburgh flat with tall doors and light glancing in through the windows and the smell of fresh paint and tea, in the part of town where all the embassies are, listening to music, with me on the fringes – intruding by accident on the sounds coming from the living room – of what I understood even at the time (I was 12) to be incredibly cool.
Listening to Scary Monsters now it's readily apparent what an incredible record it is: pushing all sorts of boundaries, full of fascination. The title track is otherwordly: electronic dogs are barking, Bowie's cod-Cockney accent is strong, the lyrics are knowing but obtuse ("waiting at the lights, know what I mean"), and it's all delivered with a chilly dignity. Bowie has a knack of making the most risible lyric sound meaningful, even essential, and of somehow effortlessly tapping into the zeitgeist.
Although I love the title track, "Up the Hill Backwards" ("the vacuum created by the arrival of freedom/and the possibilities it seems to offer"), "It's No Game (Part 2)", and "Fashion", the most wonderful song of all is "Ashes to Ashes". The video is extraordinary - now he's in a clown outfit, pacing solemnly with other outlandish characters in front of an advancing JCB; now he's in a 1950s dream home; now he's in a padded cell - best not to ask, just accept it as it is. It still looks like the future.
The tall, good looking son of a judge became a monk; I last saw him walking down a country road in the place where I grew up, heading for the bus stop in the village. I suppose he left me with the indelible connection with this record, but not much else (I can't even remember his name): perhaps just a sense of longing and not belonging, and something just out of reach.