In 2013, Cage The Elephant found glam in their rock for their album Melophobia. “In a far and distant galaxy/Inside my telescope I see/A pair of eyes peer back at me/He walks and talks and looks like me.” Lord Bowie could not have put it better.
As David Bowie got more experimental, his singles became less successful, but no less influential. 40 years ago (19 June 1977) this month, ‘Be My Wife’ was the 2nd and final single release from the ground-breaking album Low, the first of the so-called Berlin Trilogy. It failed to chart but was frequently played during his live sets due to his predilection for the sound. The ragtime intro still stands out.
Okay then, unless you are a die-hard Police fan, or you prefer one of Bowie’s other trinity of singles off Let’s Dance, this is the best pop sound from 1983. It seemingly emerged from nowhere with its unique sound. Stevie Ray Vaughan played lead guitar; David Bowie sang through new teeth; Rodgers produced with a slightly off time signature; and everyone bought the record. Have a great weekend.
One year on and the loss still flows. David Bowie’s 1980 single ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is undoubtedly one of the strangest songs to top the charts. David Bowie tried to sum up his life’s work with Scary Monsters, an album that touches a number of the styles that he had navigated during the 1970s. However, there was nothing to touch the synthesised nostalgia of ‘Ashes to Ashes’ and its reference to Major Tom.
Disconcerting vocals will be a short-lived theme, certainly now that I pull out my ace – David Bowie’s 1980 songbook Scary Monsters (Super Creeps). If you think Billy Corgan and Tom Verlaine can be discordant, check out ‘It’s No Game’ and ‘Kingdom Come’. I discard the latter because it’s actually painful. Whereas ‘It’s No Game’ opens the album, features Robert Fripp on lead guitar and is a damn good song despite Bowie sounding like he is having his intestines pulled out. That last bit came from an NME review. Have a great weekend.
From one distinctive voice to another. Alberta Cross was once an Anglo-Swedish act, formed by singer-guitarist Petter Ericson Stakee and bassist Terry Wolfers in London in the mid noughties. Uppsala-born Ericson Stakee has since parted ways with his “cockney brother” and now operates out of L.A. A couple of weeks ago, he was back in London playing at the Borderline. I went into the gig believing his voice to be an acquired taste (e.g. Jonathan Donahue, Will Sheff, Jonas Bjerre), but left thinking it fit the bill. His renditions of ‘Water Mountain’ and Bowie’s ‘Five Years’ are still front of mind.
This last week’s been Bowie vigil. I bring it to close by listing a few of my favourite sounds in chronological order…
The most honourable of mentions also go to: ‘All The Young Dudes’, ‘Ashes To Ashes’, ‘Changes’, ‘China Girl’, ‘Diamond Dogs’, ‘Heroes’, Lady Stardust’, ‘Let’s Dance’, ‘Moonage Daydream’, ‘Oh! You Pretty Things’, ‘Quicksand’, ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide, ‘Sound And Vision’, ‘Starman’, ‘The Bewlay Brothers’, ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, ‘Time’, ‘Word On A Wing’, ‘Young Americans’… among others.
For an artist who created several showstoppers in a 50-year career,’Where Are We Now?’ was perhaps his most unexpected track since 1969’s ‘Space Oddity’. Bowie chose to break a decade-long silence by releasing this strange and haunting single on 8 January 2013, his 66th birthday. Bowie – pop’s greatest star – shone brightly to the end.
I carry on into the weekend to hear the real deal. ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’ is one of those rare albums that doesn’t really have a weak moment. ‘Five Years’ is the perfect opener; and then this happens: “Stone love – she kneels before the grave/A brave son”. ‘Soul Love’ enthrals – the handclaps, Bowie’s rhythmic vocals, the sax and Mick Ronson’s singing guitar.
YouTube – No Amazon – No iTunes – No Discogs
No idea who Milky Edwards is nor the mysterious producer that circulated this high tempo hoax, but I love their style. The song starts with guitar effect that is not too dissimilar to The Supremes’ ‘You Keep Me Hangin’ On’ and then breaks out into some kind of foot-stomping vocal work-out that Edwin Starr would be proud of. The result is undeniable. Bowie a la Holland–Dozier–Holland. Have a great weekend.
Nirvana’s 1993 performance of Bowie’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ song for MTV introduced his early work to a new audience. Kurt Cobain’s TV performance was recorded 5 months before his death. The song would be released a year later on the MTV Unplugged in New York.
Pin Ups was the seventh studio album by Bowie that provided him with some respite during his prodigious, creative early 1970s run of albums. Reflecting how far he had stretched himself in such a short period time, his pin ups were mainly a handful of 1960s British invaders. However, Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd did not quite fit that bill. Bowie said that Barrett was the first man he saw wearing make-up on stage. On listening to Bowie’s cover, you can hear the respect that he and Mick Ronson pay to this psychedelic original.
1978 was the year that Scott Walker began to sound like David Bowie covering Scott Walker. One of the four songs that Scott Walker contributed to The Walker Brothers’ album of the same name, ‘Nite Flights’ would feature as a cover on Bowie’s 1993 Black Tie White Noise.