I’m setting myself a near-impossible task with these top tens!
David Bowie is one of the great originals. From “Hunky Dory” in 1971 to “Let’s Dance” in 1983 he released a string of albums which are unsurpassed in their combination of invention, variety and sheer pop power. Always one step ahead of the game. Challenging, fascinating, , innovative, funky, foreboding, electro, brilliant rock’n’roll. He has done some good things since 1983, like the “Black Tie, White Noise” album, but it is those twelve years from 1971 to 83 that were exceptional. All my choices come from that period – when Bowie could genuinely lay claim to being the greatest pop artist of all time.
I’ve set myself one rule: only two tracks from any one album. Makes the selection reasonably varied, but in some ways even harder!. But here goes, anyway.
10. Queen Bitch, from Hunky Dory (1971)
There are so many tracks I could have chosen from “Hunky Dory”, Bowie’s first great album. “Life on Mars” would be a big one, for many, and I really like “Andy Warhol’. But “Queen Bitch’ has a wonderful, dirty rock’n’roll riff, and some some of Bowie’s seediest singing.
9. Let’s Dance, from Let’s Dance (1983)
Bowie’s always moved with the times. This was his shiny disco hit, as pop, soul and dance really started to come together in the eighties, Michael Jackson to the fore. His last truly great record?
8. Rebel, Rebel, from Diamond Dogs (1974)
“Diamond Dogs” is an extraordinary album, one of Bowie’s best. It works as a piece, a disturbing piece. “Rebel, Rebel” juts out, stand-alone, his Rolling Stones tribute, his teenage angst song. Got your mother in a whirl, not sure if you’re a boy or a girl… In ’74 this was revolutionary.
7. Hang On To Yourself, from The rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)
This selection process is brutal. This is my only track from Ziggy. How can that be? “Hang On To Yourself” is another of those rasping rock’n’roll songs with a twist, which Bowie was so brilliant at in the first half of the seventies. It’s as simple as that. It rocks!
6. Golden Years, from Station To Station (1976)
Bowie made some brilliant funk tunes, including “Fame” and “Fashion”, but this is the standout, for me. It’s funky, slinky, and unmistakeably Bowiesque.
5. Sound and Vision, from Low (1977)
“Low” was a total groundbreaker, as Bowie retreated to Berlin, drew the curtains, called up Iggy Pop and embraced Germanic electro. “Sound And Vision” is a story of depression, but extraordinarily uplifting at the same time. Because of its vision and sound.
4. Panic In Detroit, from Aladdin Sane (1973)
This is a track that has grown and grown on me over the years. Powered by another great rock’n’roll riff, it is an extraordinary tale of urban paranoia. Shaky…
3. Jean Genie, from Aladdin Sane (1973)
Bowie’s greatest pop tune? Enormous piledriver riff. That edginess that pervades all of “Aladdin Sane”. Competed at the time with the Sweet’s “Blockbuster” which had a remarkably similar riff. I had this on my 50th birthday party playlist. Everyone – all ages – rocked to it! Primal…
2. Heroes, from Heroes (1977)
The Berlin Wall song. So poignant, such an anthem. Presaging the fall of the wall. Tragic and uplifting. Ordinary people fighting the Machine. Bowie’s electro perfection and an inspiration to so much pop music thereafter, not least the New Romantics.
1. Station To Station, from Station to Station (1976)
Bowie as the Thin White Duke wasn’t exactly a role model. Coked out, Nazi salutes at Victoria Station. But the music was on another planet. Station to Station is an epic, building slowly from the sound of the incoming train, the stabbing piano, the return of the Thin White Duke, throwing darts in lover’s eyes, the frantic, pounding finale. It’s too late!.. Mysterious and magnificent, I still find this song the most powerful in the Bowie canon. And that is saying something…
You can listen to the top ten on Spotify at TFW510-Bowie
As ever, so many near misses. They include: “John, I’m Only Dancing”, ” The Man Who Sold The World”, “Andy Warhol”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Starman”, “Rock’n’Roll Suicide”, ‘Aladdin Sane”, “Cracked Actor”, “Sweet Thing/ Candidate”, “The Chant of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family”, “Young Americans”, Fame”, “Right”, “Stay”, “TVC 15”, “Breaking Glass”, “Always Crashing In The Same Car”, V2 Schneider”, “Ashes To Ashes”, “China Girl”…. and beyond.
All I can say is listen to all the albums!