Thursday, 20 January 2011
When the TV series “Life on Mars” appeared a few years ago, Mrs PM said “I really like the theme tune. Who is it?”
“Who is it? WHO IS IT?” I screamed almost choking on my cup of tea. “You really are a musical heathen, aren’t you? It’s the legendary David Bowie.”
“Oh,” she replied. “I’ve heard of him. I love Let’s Dance.”
“This is before Let’s Dance,” I said.
“I didn’t know he’d done anything before Let’s Dance,” she replied causing me to splutter yet more tea onto my lap.
I then lectured her on the finer points of early David Bowie music and urged her to listen to it because, in my humble opinion, Bowie was at his peak in the 1970’s and the album Let’s Dance was a disappointment for me. Don’t get me wrong; I quite like the album but it proved to be the beginning of the end of my love of his music.
I have caught some of his material since then but with the odd exception, I have lost interest.
Nevertheless, the purpose of this post is to resurrect some of his legendary music as I offer you, dear reader, my favourite ten songs by David Bowie. You may have heard some of them; some may be familiar to you, others may not. Either way, they are worth hearing.
To be honest I really struggled to get the list down to ten because bubbling under are a whole bunch of other brilliant songs. If your favourite isn’t in the list, you can be sure that it is just below.
And to my sweet Mrs PM – when you read this post, please click on the YouTube links and listen because if you like Life On Mars you will love them.
10. I’m Afraid of Americans
This is (relatively speaking) a recent song from 1997. I stumbled across the song while searching for some information about Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails fame and was absolutely astounded to find a collaboration between him and David Bowie. I love Trent Reznor and the fact that he was involved with Bowie is something so delicious I had to have a look. The result is a superb song with a fabulous video, featuring Trent Reznor himself as a menacing stalker. These guys should definitely work together again.
9. Ashes To Ashes
The album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is David Bowie’s last great album and my favourite (with Aladdin Sane coming a close second). Just about every song is a masterpiece and Ashes to Ashes is a timeless classic. It brings back vivid memories of my time at university and that is one of the many appealing factors. And of course, the video itself is a bit of a landmark. We all wondered what happened to Major Tom, didn’t we?
8. Life On Mars
This one is especially for Mrs PM and, thankfully, it also makes my top ten. It is a truly great song that has an epic quality that never fails to move me. It must be good if both me and Mrs PM like it, particularly given our totally dissimilar musical tastes. Check out the blue eye make-up in the video.
7. John, I’m Only Dancing
Now this is a strange song to make the top ten. For some reason the tune appeals to me. I don’t know whether I’m alone here but I think it is a catchy song with an infectious chorus that really makes me want to sing along with it. Or am I just weird? Don't answer that question.
6. Panic In Detroit
The very first David Bowie record I bought was Aladdin Sane and it is still one of my favourites. The album features Panic In Detroit, which is a fabulous song with a magnificent beat and amazing guitar work. It is almost worthy of an air guitar session.
5. Loving The Alien
This a bizarre song but one that I love. It was released in 1985 and I first spotted it on a late night music show. As strange as the song and the video are, again it has an epic quality that appeals to me. Essentially it is a pop song with a twist and I like that.
4. Shapes of Things
The second Bowie album I bought was Pin Ups which features covers of various songs from the late 1960’s. The song was originally recorded by The Yardbirds. In fact, I also have a version of the song recorded recently by Rush, my favourite band. Nevertheless, this version by Bowie is the best of the three – and that is massive praise considering how much I love Rush.
3. The Jean Genie
At the age of ten I was just beginning to take notice of music. I distinctly remember hearing The Jean Genie for the first time and I loved it. I used to wander around the house singing the crazy chorus having no idea what they meant: “The Jean Genie loves chimney stacks”. What does that mean? Who cares. This is the song that got me into David Bowie and it is the reason I bought the album Aladdin Sane. It deserves its spot at number three for that reason alone - and it is a fabulous song.
I love Starman. It is one of those songs that has a great sing-along chorus, while at the same time sending a massive shiver down your spine. It is a truly great pop song.
1. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
The best song from the best album had to be number one. The title track of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is a weird and menacing song, and at the same time extremely catchy. I’m sure there are some of you out there who disagree with me on this. I can’t really explain why I love this song – I just do. David Bowie produced some really weird songs with even weirder lyrics and the appeal of all of those songs is packaged perfectly in this one tune. I can’t say any more than that – I love it.
Actually, I have found it very refreshing to plough through my Bowie collection and it has perked my interest again. There are so many other great songs, like Rebel Rebel, Ziggy Stardust, China Girl and Heroes to name but a few. And I am sure that some of his more modern material is worth more than just a passing interest.
I think I might delve into the world of Bowie again, if nothing else, just to remind me what a great artist he is.