Here is a list of ten tunes I grew up listening to and I hope it acts as an initiation into the world of David Bowie.
Musician, actor, director, painter, call-him-what-you-want, David Bowie was as real as it gets. While playing it safe worked for most musicians, the Thin White Duke was a chameleon and the only talented one I’ve had the pleasure of listening to since childhood. My neighbour had a record player and we danced to Bowie’s Hunky Dory on weekends and Christmas. The news of his death was like a punch in the stomach and I’m still recovering. However, there is a bigger problem at hand.
With Honey Singh and Justin Bieber ruling every playlist in the country, even the likes of David Bowie will find it hard to be heard (Ground control to Major Tom. Get it? Of course, you don’t). After all, it is easy to get lost among all the over-produced, unnecessarily slick music doing the rounds nowadays. If you’re a Bowie newbie, and you thought the song Heroes was originally by The Wallflowers, here are ten songs to set you up on a mysterious journey through the mind of one of music’s foremost songwriters. Thank me later.
You may have heard of this or listened to an astronaut’s version in space, but Bowie’s Space Oddity is a celestial trip. Singing about an astronaut lost in space, the lyrics go: “And I'm floating in a most peculiar way/ And the stars look very different today.”
This is what they should be playing in nightclubs. Shot in Australia, the video follows a young, Aboriginal couple struggling to come to terms with Western cultural imperialism in the 70’s. The song is infectious and how can you say no to Stevie Ray Vaughan playing guitar?
Rock n Roll Suicide
Bowie’s penchant for the theatrical culminated with the release of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972. It detailed his alter ego’s (Ziggy) life and Bowie performed as this new person on tour. Personally, one of my favourite albums and Rock n Roll Suicide is the last song documenting Ziggy’s final collapse. You know a song is good when the first line is: “Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth.”
The next time you’re at a party, slyly put this song on and wait for the saxophone to kick in. Self-proclaimed limey, this tune sums up Bowie’s infatuation with soul music.
I’m just going to leave this here: “There's a starman waiting in the sky/ He'd like to come and meet us/ But he thinks he'd blow our minds.” My theory is that Starman just returned to his home in the sky.
Remember that scene from The Perks of Being A Wallflower where the three main characters are zipping through a tunnel and a song comes on? This is that song. One of Bowie’s most covered tunes, Heroes is a song for any day and any mood.
The Man Who Sold The World
Bowie was known for writing lyrics that kept critics and fans up for nights. The Man Who Sold The World, with its sci-fi references, is a haunting track made popular by Kurt Cobain in Nirvana’s 1993 MTV Unplugged show. For Bowie fans, this ’72 track was always a winner.
If Chuck Berry’s your jam, this rock n roll tune will set you up. A killer bass line, a dirty riff and Bowie’s voice make this song one of my all-time favourites from Ziggy Stardust.
In the lovely year of 1975, Bowie and Iggy Pop were running on cocaine. This song is from Station To Station and it came as no surprise the man scarcely remembered recording it. A great song about a holographic television, TVC 15 is slightly more buoyant than the other tracks on this album.
I’m Waiting For The Man (Velvet Underground cover)
I’m going to end this list with the best duet ever. Lou Reed and David Bowie performing a Velvet Underground song takes me to a happy place. Every time. Yes, the song is about buying heroin but it brings together two songwriters who have influenced generations of musicians. Its plain tragic that both of them are no longer with us. In a parallel universe, I would exchange ten Justin Biebers to have these two back. I’m serious.
This is not a definitive list. I’ve picked out ten songs that came to me as I went back and reminisced about my childhood. I was lucky enough to be exposed to good music, and all I’m doing is paying it forward. Here’s hoping your playlist undergoes a minor, yet significant, change. David Bowie, forever.
By Nicholas Rixon
Photo Credit: Flickr user Hansthijs