(Wow! This blog is getting harder to write. The more I watch Bowie the more I realise he was a fucking rock god... With good hair. Bastard!)
I think anyone who is interested in music, who writes about music, has to be saddened about the news today of David Bowie's death. Also, having grown up in the 70's and early 80's you can't be unaware of the cultural impact - possibly bigger than record sales - of Bowie. It's sort of a truism to go on about Bowie being an 'artist' who continually reinvented himself, challenged himself, push the boundaries etc etc. I'll leave that sort of analysis to pale young men who can cry into their copy of Low. Me? I thought he wrote and performed on some of the best records and so let me give you - drumroll - my Bowie top five...
(Note the first song I ever knew of Bowie's was Space Oddity. Probably the 1975 reissue. Also the first Bowie song I learnt to play on guitar. Great song. Not on the list! Also; Rebel Rebel, Scary Monsters, The Man Who Sold The World and Sound and Vision - exquisite all - don't make the list.)
Ashes to Ashes (1980)
Weird and wonderful. You had to be 12 and be an avid Top of The Pops watcher to truly get how great this song was when it came out. A sort of New Romantic pre-curser; so atmospheric and memorable. Who could forget the video where various Bowie weirdoes do that strange dance in front of a digger? The first contemporaneous Bowie song I remember. Hitting Number 1 can't have hurt!
Under Pressure (1981) - Queen and David Bowie
Two artists at the top of their game. A strange collaboration, an amazing, different, beautiful song. Pop mastery from two greats. I remember it being shiny and special when it came out. Not run of the mill. A collaboration that worked and pushed forward pop. Not equalled until Vanilla Ice nicked the riff ten years later (only joking).
Embarrassingly, I didn't know this one until The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 (which is weird as I watched Live Aid and he did it there). This is one that grows on me more and more and more. I remember blubbing when the UK team marched out to this tune in 2012 at the start of the Olympics. "We can be heroes" is the cry of the disenfranchised, the bored, the underachieving. Just for one day. We can be heroes. And that one sustained note on the guitar. Genius!
Velvet Goldmine (1971)
Now we get to real Bowie appreciation! This was on the b side of the Space Oddity re-release (1975) along with Changes. I used to play this a great deal in my teens. Strangely I dug the sound of this song - not the lyrics. To me it suggested doomed 4th century Cataphracts riding out into Parthia to defend the late Roman Empire. You must remember that at the time I was listening to this I was reading a lot of Roman history. Never underestimate the porous nature of children/teens! To me it still suggests epic but proud failure.
Ziggy Stardust (1972)
Come on! What guitarist has not played this Mick Ronson riff? I think along with Queen's Greatest Hits, this was the sound of our common room. Bowie commands the form, commands the medium; this is 'God given' in it's simplicity and brilliance. I could have picked Rebel Rebel or Jean Genie for guitar riffs also but this one is one that I remember as being 'cool' in the 6th form. And if it was cool then, then it it's cool forever. Remembering the days when me and Jerry would earnestly play through this - tablets handed down from the rock gods indeed.