RIP Bowie, taken from us when we least expected it but leaving behind a rich legacy of material. As an artist who reinvented himself at very regular intervals, and switched between genres at least as often, it would be very unlikely that any one fan would consider all period of the Bowie oeuvre as being equally brilliant.
In fact, given the sheer volume of it you would have to be a pretty dedicated fan to listen to all of it, but there is unquestionably something for everyone, from the more esoteric numbers (TVC-15, Seven Years In Tibet – Mandarin version, Space Oddity of course) through to old-fashioned rockers (Jean Genie, Diamond Dogs), melodic pop songs (Changes, Sorrow), soulful numbers from the Thin White Duke period (Fame, Young Americans), songs which harked back to previous times (the doo-wop of Drive-In Saturday), and a sprinkling of novelty records that became hits against Bowie’s wishes (The Laughing Gnome, Life On Mars.)
In my case, the fascination started with Aladdin Sane, for which album I queued up and paid £2.38 at Rumbelows in Wilmslow in 1973, the first album I bought with my very own money and still, for my money, his greatest work. You’ll note the inclusion of three songs from this album, though it could have been more. The title track, a virulent anti-war song including a fractured piano solo, certainly extended my horizons.
I’m not sure my parents were that impressed by the pomp of the glam rock era, either in the androgynous costumes or dazzling make-up, quite apart from music that was pretty advanced for their ears at that time, not that it bothered me any. The distinctive voice and musical style were what attracted me, nothing else. Whatever else you say about Bowie, he could certainly sing and wrote many remarkable songs over a very long period, on his own and in collaboration with others (eg. Cat People was written with Giorgio Moroder.)
There are periods missing from this selection, and a definite weighting towards the early period, but I’m happy with this list, in no particular order:
- Drive-In Saturday – (from the album) Aladdin Sane
- Aladdin Sane – Aladdin Sane
- Time – Aladdin Sane
- Fame – Young Americans
- Wild Is The Wind – Station to Station
- Golden Years – Station to Station
- Queen Bitch – Hunky Dory
- The Bewlay Brothers – Hunky Dory
- Velvet Goldmine – Ziggy Stardust 1990 edition
- Cat People (putting out fire) – Let’s Dance