Esquires’ annual BowieJam aims to raise the roof and funds for Bedford Daycare Hospice

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Image: BowieJam Facebook page
The seventh annual ‘BowieJam’ at Bedford Esquires takes place on Sunday 8 January and this year they are celebrating the life of David Bowie while also raising funds for Bedford Daycare Hospice.
We asked this year’s hostess and bass guitarist, Charlie White, what David Bowie means to her, what happens at a BowieJam and why, if you want to bring along a harpsichord, they’ll make room for it.
Over to you, Charlie…

My love of Bowie

I found David Bowie after seeing the film Velvet Goldmine aged 17. Because of this, I never judge how or when anyone comes to find Bowie.
The film had precious little Bowie in it but was a glam rock fairytale made in the late 90s. There was a moment of ‘hey, if you liked that, you might like this’ and I picked up a Greatest Hits and never looked back. This would have been 1999 and I have consumed everything of David Bowie that I could since then.
I taught myself to play Bowie basslines in my bedroom and bought every album I could find – at the time, second-hand vinyl was cheap so I have a very respectable collection built up over a fiver here and there.
Absolutely perfect: Bowie lyrics biscuits (photo: Charlie White)
I identify as a Bowie fan, which is a great shorthand for finding like-minded creative souls. There are more of us in Bedford than you think.

What was it about him?

He never stayed still in the same place for too long. He could have played Ziggy Stardust, in a bright red wig and makeup for 40yrs but he didn’t want to do that. He experimented with different musical styles and challenged his fans to grow and change with him. It’s never boring being a Bowie fan.

What is BowieJam like?

The BowieJam is much like any other jam night event at Esquires, in that you can show up with your guitar, bass, drumsticks, voice and make some music.
Where it is different is that it has a theme and a little more structure to it. David Bowie released 26 studio albums between 1967 – 2016 but, without a guiding hand, we could end up with Ziggy Stardust twenty times.
We have a house band called Weird & Gilly who are on hand to support anyone who needs us. If you want to play guitar but need backing, we are there to help. I ask that anyone wanting to come and play a specific song email me at porcelainwhite@gmail.com so that we can get you on the list and make sure we have your tune rehearsed.
There will be local bands coming along to do their versions of David Bowie hits – some will be faithful covers, others personal renditions.
BowieJam at Danny’s Bar (photo: Charlie White)
You don’t have to be a musician to come along. It’s a fun event, and the talent on stage is well worth coming along to see. We get the occasional magic moment, like the time we just went into a version of Under Pressure which brought the house down!
We always close on a huge singalong of Heroes with more people on the stage in Danny’s Bar than should really be physically possible.
I would ask everyone coming along to bring whatever coins they are able to spare (and I know that times are tough) because we will be raising money for Bedford Daycare Hospice. If you enjoy a song, perhaps you will be moved to put a little into the collection tins.

The most obscure songs…

The most obscure songs chosen are normally by me! Because I am such a fan, I want to showcase songs that people may not know too well.
A couple of years ago, we did As The World Falls Down from the film Labyrinth – much to the delight of my fellow 1980s kids! I was very impressed to hear Amsterdam, which is a cover that Bowie made his own.
Bass player, Charlie White is hosting this year’s BowieJam at Bedford Esquires

Five songs you will always hear at a BowieJam

1. Starman (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972)
With all those la-la-las, this is to Bowie what Hey Jude is to The Beatles; a great song to warm up the vocal chords and sing together.
2. Moonage Daydream (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972)
When Steve Woodward lets rip on guitar, the spirit of Mick Ronson is well and truly in the room.
3. Life on Mars (Hunky Dory, 1971)
When you have talent like Jem Davis on keyboards in the house band, it would be a crime not to play this song. He is our very own Rick Wakeman.
4. China Girl (Let’s Dance, 1983)
Fun fact about this song; Bowie wrote it with Iggy Pop for his album The Idiot (1977). When Iggy fell on hard times, Bowie recorded a version for his own album to give Iggy an income in royalties from it. The song may or may not actually be about drugs…
5. Heroes (Heroes, 1977)
There is something truly magical about this song. We play it in memory of our friend Chris Robinson, who always took the lead on this one. We want everyone singing along with us to end the evening.

Five songs I’ll pay a fiver for Bedford Daycare Hospice to hear at a BowieJam

1. Thursday’s Child (Hours, 1999)
This song is really special to me. It was on the first new album that Bowie released after I became a fan and I was convinced he was singing to me, about me. Turns out lots of oddball teens felt the same way!
2. John, I’m Only Dancing (Released as a single, 1972)
If you want to see me really tear up a dancefloor, play this one.
3. I’d Rather Be High (The Next Day, 2013)
There’s a really cool version of this called the Venetian Mix, which is all harpsichords and baroque over-the-top-ness. If anyone wants to bring a harpsichord, we will make room for it.
4. Never Get Old (Reality, 2003)
I turned 40 this year so, yeah.
5. Slip Away (Heathen, 2002)
No one could write these tunes like David Bowie. This whole album is gorgeous, and Slip Away is vintage Bowie – lyrics, delivery, everything is perfection.
Esquires BowieJam takes place in Danny’s Bar on Sunday 8 January from 5pm – 8pm. Entry is free but collections will be made in aid of Bedford Daycare Hospice.