A Seventh Grader Tells Us What It’s Like to Discover David Bowie

A very young American.

It was Ruby Sullivan’s dad who introduced her to the music of David Bowie. Months before the artist’s universally mourned death, he learned that the West Seattle School of Rock where Ruby was taking bass lessons was planning a tribute to the pop icon. He asked her if she would like to play, and then he showed her the video for “Space Oddity,” the 1969 hit that started it all.

“It was weird,” Ruby says now. “It looked old and the music sounded different. But I liked it.” On Saturday at Chop Suey, she will be playing bass on a number of songs and singing lead on “Pressure” and backup on “Changes.” I spoke with her about the show and what it is like to discover Bowie.

SW: What are your favorite David Bowie songs?
Sullivan: “Sound + Vision,” “Queen Bitch,” and “Changes.”

And which song are you most nervous about performing?
I’m nervous about “Sound + Vision,” because the bass line is pretty tough. But I really like playing things that are difficult.

What do you think of the Bowie songs you’ve heard?
I like that they are all so different. In “Queen Bitch” he is just, like, screaming through that entire song, and then on “Sound + Vision” it’s more of this kind of groovy thing that he is doing. But it’s still coming from the same artist.

Was that something that you didn’t think an artist could do?
I didn’t think it was impossible, but I haven’t seen it. There weren’t a ton of artists I knew who did that.

Are you going to continue to be a Bowie fan after the show?
Yeah. I think I’m going to have a lot more appreciation for the music after taking the time to learn the pieces on bass, and it’s going to give me a lot more appreciation to be able to hear the individual bass parts. I think I will listen to him a lot.

Have you introduced Bowie to any friends?
I have, and there are some people who know who he is and some who don’t. With his recent death we were doing a listening at our music class to some good David Bowie music. Our music teacher told us that he listened to Bowie when he was younger and he played “Under Pressure,” Young Americans,” “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” and “Moonage Daydream.”

What did your teacher tell you about Bowie?
One thing he said was that David Bowie was more of an artist than a lot of people who were considered artists, and I thought that was cool and that that was true.

Are you going to dress up for the show?
Oh, yeah.

And are you choosing a particular era of Bowie as inspiration?
Well, we have the poster, and I might try to go by that. We probably have to go to Goodwill to find a good costume. I think I’m going to try and go crazy. I just think it’s a lot more fun when people put themselves out there like that.

Mark Baumgarten is Editor in Chief of Seattle Weekly. He can be reached at mbaumgarten@seattleweekly.com or 206-467-4374. Follow him on Twitter.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

 
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