Man at His Best

February 2016: The Good issue featuring David Bowie, Kurt Cobain and Mick Jagger

For the mind, heart, body and soul

BY ZUL ANDRA | Jan 27, 2016 | Culture

Cover from Esquire Singapore's February 2016 issue


David Bowie taught me the value of resonance, even when he slipped under my musical radar. I was more of the Oasis-Nirvana kind of restless youth—the bands, not Buddhism, and Enid Blyton. Try listening to Nirvana while reading The Talking Teapot and Other Tales. You’ll take away Anthony Burgess from it. Makes for a good laugh.

Anyways, it wasn’t until much later that I realised “Heroes” and “The Man Who Sold the World” were Bowie originals covered by Oasis and Nirvana. I was also clued in to this lot in the ’90s: Puff Daddy, Groove Armada, The Chemical Brothers and Nine Inch Nails—all have sampled a Bowie classic at some point or another.

Resonance: an intensification and prolongation of sound, especially of a musical tone, produced by sympathetic vibration. The dictionary got it spot on in this regard.

Bowie, arguably the last Renaissance man, resonated in a way that made greatness available to all.

In an interview with Esquire back in March 2004, Bowie said that fame can take interesting men and thrust mediocrity upon them. He had a quality that these modern times greatly lack: consciousness.

His awareness, his acceptance of self and his understanding of the world will be quoted in years to come, bandied about like some sort of proverbial scripture.

“I don’t expect the human race to progress in too many areas. However, having a child with an ear infection makes one hugely grateful for antibiotics,” he told Esquire.

Bowie handled fame like it was some sort of disease, and he treated it with caution and, in most cases, empathy.

Ask Mick Jagger; his whirling partner in what must be one of the most awkward music videos of all time, “Dancing in the Street”. Jagger was on the other end of the spectrum from Bowie in relation to fame. Jagger snorted it all up. Perhaps opposites attract in the era of glitter and spandex; both are fashion icons in their own right.

Another fella who didn’t give two hoots about fame—and was infamous for it—was Kurt Cobain. He explained it in angst-ridden screams and fashioned himself in pyjamas.

All three artists are featured in a special appreciation piece in the February issue.

So what’s “good” in a time when Bowie, Jagger and Cobain were considered misfits? What’s “good” today? Perhaps there isn’t such a thing as moral absolutes.

“All my big mistakes are when I try to second-guess or please an audience. My work is always stronger when I get very selfish about it,” Bowie said in an interview with The Word.

Constance Song may be able to relate to this mantra. In our Woman We Love profile, the 40-year-old actress shares deeply rooted challenges on pleasing an audience.

Her interviewer, Andre Frois, seems to be living vicariously through his subject as he attempts to transform himself physically, emotionally and spiritually. He is still alive today.

Further into our features, find out how not to die and how to knit your own lifestyle in the forest.

Collectively, the stories in this month’s issue are an eye-opening experience. All good and well, I’d say. Experiences, that’s all that ever matters really.

First published in Esquire Singapore's February 2016 issue. Download the digital edition and enjoy 50 percent off or subscribe to 12 issues at SGD67.