Thursday, 20 January 2011

Top Ten David Bowie Songs


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.

2. Starman

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.

20 comments:

Kath Lockett said...

Oh and Major Tom. When I first heard that - played by my year five teacher in class in 1978 - I was hooked. It was the first time I'd heard a song that told a story. Brilliant, even today.
"Here, am I sitting in my tin can, faaaaar, above the world, planet earth is blue and there's nothing I can do....."

Thank god Love Chunks and Sapphire are coming home tonight or the neighbours might be lucky enough to hear me sing *that* one to the dog!

Kath Lockett said...

Oh and Major Tom. When I first heard that - played by my year five teacher in class in 1978 - I was hooked. It was the first time I'd heard a song that told a story. Brilliant, even today.
"Here, am I sitting in my tin can, faaaaar, above the world, planet earth is blue and there's nothing I can do....."

Thank god Love Chunks and Sapphire are coming home tonight or the neighbours might be lucky enough to hear me sing *that* one to the dog!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

Yes - Space Oddity is a cracker, isn't it?

I started singing "Aladdin Sane" to Mrs PM and she wasn't impressed:

"Who will love Aladdin Sane. Millions weep a fountain just in case of sunrise. Whoooooo will love Aladdin Saaaannneeeee"

So many great songs ....

:0)

Cheers

PM

Suz said...

Yes it's really hard to pick because there really is so many great songs. The whole Aladdin Sane album is perfect. And probably my favourite in the end. But there's one for every mood. A very nice romantic song is his version of 'Wild is the Wind' off 'Station to Station'. It really shows off what a phenomenally beautiful voice which you almost don't notice as he's so original. The film clips fantastic. I actually love his mostrecent album too. You should have a listen.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Suz,

"Wild is the WInd" is another great song. I will certainly have a look at his more recent stuff - the "blip" that was "Let's Dance" was probably just that - a blip. Having said that, it wasn't that bad an album.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Anji said...

Yes, Major Tom and what about 'The Laughing Gnome"(1967) ?




I found your blog on ExposeYourBlog!

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Anji,

I remember The Laughing Gnome - I've tried to forget it...

:0)

Cheers

PM

River said...

Major Tom is a favourite of mine too. I don't like many other David Bowie songs.
I remember when he was Ziggy Stardust.

Lady Grinning Soul said...

That is actually quite an atypical list for a Bowie fan I think... Although, having said that, I am more of an Alladin Sane/Station to Station/Low kind of Bowie fan so I guess that makes a difference.

What with my name and all, I probably should do this list myself, haha.

I'll also be endlessly proud that the first album I ever bought was 'Hunky Dory'. In fact I think I'll go and listen to it now.

Thank you for sharing!

LGS xx

Lady Grinning Soul said...

OH! Also.. did you see/have you heard his live album from the BBC Radio Theatre (2000 I think)? Because the versions of 'I'm Afraid of Americans', 'Ashes to Ashes', 'Let's Dance' and 'Fame' on there are kick-ass! So so so good.
LGS xx

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I remember Ziggy Stardust too. It's a pretty good album but I prefer Aladdin Sane.

:0)

Cheers

PM

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi LGS,

You should do the list - but it is bloody difficult I can tell you.

SInce compiling the list, I have listented to Aladdin Sane again - and it is absolutely superb.

I haven't heard the live album but I will do if I get the chance. There are live albumbs out there (which you can hear if you have spotify).

:0)

Cheers

PM

Pandora Behr said...

Hi PM,

Some great stuff here. I've always wanted to get more into Bowie - his early stuff is amazing (Like Kath, Major Tom is the first thing I think of when it comes to Bowie) Just won an iTunes voucher - hmmm.

Thanks for the tips.

Pandx

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Bowie is well worth exploring - especially the stuff from the 70s.

:0)

Cheers

PM

HoofsOnYourHeart said...

Fantastic post! Actually really helped me out :) I don't quite remember the first Bowie song I heard...I think it was...either man who sold the world or heros...either way, I didn't like him very much...I'm 16, (just recently started getting into his stuff) and I guess I was so brainwashed with today's stuff I didn't realize what good music was... After reading this post, I found life on Mars and loved it. Now I honestly can't get enough of his songs (and man who sold the world is now one of my favorites) and am on a quest to download every song to my phone! Its really some brilliant stuff... Anyhow, I just wanted to thank you for posting this!! I feel like I've just converted religions or something...now I'm sorta wishing I was born earlier so I could have seen some of the live stuff...shame he doesn't tour anymore :(

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi HoofsOnYourHeart,

I'm a lot older than you and one of my regrets is that I never saw Bowie when I had the chance (and I did have the chance in the early 80's).

I was your age when Bowie was at his most popular and I still love that old 70's stuff of his.

I'm delighted that I could help. I would recommend Aladdin Sane and Scary Monsters as two great albums to listen to (although most of the other stuff from the 70's is brilliant too).

:0)

Cheers

PM

HoofsOnYourHeart said...

O I've downloaded just about every Bowie album I can get my hands on lol So far I have to say my favorites are Aladdin Sane and diamond dogs... and Ziggy... and well... I can just go on but as of this moment those are my top 3. I fully regret being born in '95 lol I've seen some of the live stuff and its fabulous! Its a shame ya didn't take that opportunity in '80... ah well that's what time machines will be for right ;) anyhow, thanks again for the brilliant post , I'm thoroughly enjoying my 'iPod now :)

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi HoofsOnYourHeart,

At least you can enjoy it now.

:0)

Cheers

PM

Anonymous said...

First time I’ve agreed with someone else’s top ten list! I have been David Bowie fan for a long time. My Best David Bowie Albums Are:
Heathen
Low
Diamond Dogs
Ziggy Stardust
Hunky Dory

The Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Anon,

I should do a top 10 Bowie albums post!

Watch this space ...

:0)

Cheers

PM