David Bowie

This post was originally part of an email conversation. Read here for more details.

by Jonathan Odom

From: Jonathan Odom
Sent: 10 July 2008 14:18
To: Ben Smith
Cc: Stoneman, Chris; John Klein
Subject: RE: Musical Journey : David Bowie

Since Chris covered the beatles, the next logical step in the progression is undoubtedly David Bowie. The Beatles were basically a boy band when they came out, but they progressed into something much bigger and more experimental as their career progressed. McCartney and Lennon were the perfect balance for melody and songwriting, Harrison seems to have pushed the limits of what’s acceptable in pop, and Ringo kept the easy-​​going persona that the masses could relate to. The perfect mix at the right time.

Mr. Bowie on the other hand, emerged in the late 60’s. He started his career on experimentation and challenging boundaries. When you listen to the early records (or any record for that matter) you get the sense that the man is the zeitgeist. Constantly changing to reflect the context, critique it, poke fun at it, and worship it. No two bowie records are alike. With incomparable production talent and the ability to scrap an identity and move on to the next one with absolute grace, this guy has added countless annexes, additions, extensions (and trap doors to bottomless pits) to the foundation The Beatles laid in the 60’s.

The Highlights:

1. Space Oddity, 1969-​​ you all know the lyrics “ground control to major tom…”, that’s from the title track. ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ is a somberly toned, haunting classic (nirvana covered this on their MTV unplugged). ‘Velvet Goldmine’ is the undisputed rock anthem of the glam culture (grown straight men wearing frock, blouses and makeup with endless chicks lining up for them wearing the same thing).

2. Hunky Dory, 1971-​​ much lighter and more glam than Space Oddity, this one has some truly gorgeous ironic ballad-​​ish songs. ‘Changes’ is a solid pop song with some really interesting time-​​changes and hamonies, another glam anthem. ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’ is one of my all time favorite songs-​​ outstanding lyrics with an interesting melody and a 50’s throwback harmony. ‘Queen Bitch’ is just badass rock-​​n-​​roll, period. Fucking outstanding song.

3. The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, 1972-​​ for this record and tour, bowie made up this character, Ziggy Stardust, and performed as him, did interviews as him, only answered to “Ziggy” for a couple of years (can we say obsessed?). it’s definitely a theme record, but there are some solid-​​gold rock songs in this one. ‘Soul Love’ is another confused love song with some awesome harmony and great instrumentation.’Starman’ has one of the best chorus lines in rock history. I’m kind of obsessed with last song choices on albums, and ‘Rock-​​n-​​Roll Suicide’ is among the best.

4. Diamond Dogs, 1974-​​ the album as a whole is a little raw for a Bowie endeavor, but ‘Rebel Rebel just makes you want to find some chick in tight jeans and do naughty, naughty things to her.

5. Young Americans, 1975-​​ as a whole i can take it or leave it; full-​​on prelude to the sax-​​heavy sound of the 80’s (5 years prior, mind you) and some super-​​polished production that sets the stage for his future projects. but the last song, ‘Fame’ (with Lennon on backing vocals) is an amazing critique on the pseudo-​​identity of the famous. Some fucking awesome production experiments on this track, and one of the best guitar riffs ever.

6. Heroes, 1977-​​ best known for the title track, which has an amazing and simple melody and totally unique sound, this record has like 5 tracks of seriously high-​​brow classical music sandwiched between pop songs. Philip Glass even adapted the score in the 90’s and made a symphony out of it.

7. Let’s Dance, 1983-​​ the title track is a solid 80’s hit. It’s got that 50’s retro thing going while still being totally avant-​​garde. ‘China Girl is also on this one.

8. Reality, 2003-​​ almost 40 years later, still somehow the zeitgeist. It’s a little off-​​putting at first, as senior citizen pop-​​stars tend to be, but after a few listens you start to get it. The first track, ‘New Killer Star’ has a really interesting rhythm and brings back the harmony stuff he used to do in the 70’s. In ‘The Lonliest Guy’, you get the full-​​on introspection of a sex-​​symbol in his 70’s-

Streets damp and warm
Empty smell metal
Weeds between buildings
Pictures on my hard drive
But I’m the luckiest guy
Not the loneliest guy

Really incredible song. ‘Looking For Water’ is a really bizarre, expiremental song disguised as benign pop. He has a way of doing that.

That’s all for now, what’s next on the menu?

From: Stoneman, Chris
Sent: 10 July 2008 15:01
To: Ben Smith; Jonathan Odom
Cc: John Klein
Subject: RE: Musical Journey : David Bowie

AGREED, here’s some more thoughts.

Low, 1977 – I love pop music, but its when people like The Beatles or Bowie fool listeners into thinking they’re listening to pop when they’re not that I REALLY love it. Beatles did it a lot, as did Bowie. It’s very important to remember that all these albums were made with a Side 1 and a Side 2, and in this case Bowie (with help from Brian Eno) used Side 2 to introduce the masses to modern avant garde Classical Music, not the most natural of progessions. Genius.

Also I have to mention ‘Quicksand’ off Hunky Dory and ‘Time’ off Aladdin Sane, the latter of which makes me have to sit down every time I hear the passage leading up to ‘And all I had to give, was the guilt for dreaming.’ And Mick Ronson’s guitar solo on Moonage Daydream, and the cover of the Pixies ‘Cactus’ on Heathen. And shouting ‘OH NO NO, YOURE NOT ALONE’ along to Rock n Roll Suicide. The end.

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