As everyone knows Bowie is back, out of the blue. No one knew, but after 10 years he still surprises the world, from nowhere. All last year everyone was saying “has he retired?” “Is he a recluse?” But no..
He’s come back with a single, Where Are We Now?
What’s good about it? It’s what’s always been good about Bowie, it’s authentic, it’s real, it’s him looking back over his life, about Berlin, bringing back memories of a divided place. But it’s what Bowie hasn’t done which is great – he’s not sold out, he’s not done a snappy number about Twitter to show that he’s hip, he’s not done a protest song about broken Britain, riots, the Olympics, or how bad music is – he’s not even done gun crime in America. He’s looked within himself and expressed it. God knows there aren’t many who can do that. And he’s reinvented himself again. A new image again. The man in the black hat..
Perhaps he got it from Breaking Bad. It wouldn’t surprise me, he borrows influences from everywhere as he explains here.
I always liked Bowie, ever since I was a kid… it all began with hearing Heroes on my dad’s record player at the behest of my mum… I remember feeling something then… it’s the feeling of some unknown energy inside you bursting to get out. I learned to suppress it, of course, but there it was, teased out by the almighty magnificence of that track…
So here’s a top 5 of Bowie tracks, as voted for by me, now… the criteria? Nostalgia, my feeling, my gut and whatever else is churning around inside me (I had a large breakfast…)
5. Let’s Dance
One of those rare treats where you don’t know how much this is parody and commentary and how much he’s become part of it. You can’t hear it though and not go YEEEAAAAHHHHH! Plus there’s an AHHH dominant 7th straight out of Twist and Shout. Listen to the bass line. And that brass hit straight out of The Message. But it’s not a novelty record. It’s Bowie and it’s authentic. This is the paradox of Bowie, a man who lived only in characters and faces and incarnations yet is one of the most authentic artists around…
4. All the Young Dudes
Ah the riff, the riff – when I first heard this I thought “but this riff has always existed, surely”. It’s one of those. It was on a mix tape from my older brother Tom (he brought me one every fortnight) and I listened to it again and again. Pretty soon I knew to the second exactly how far to rewind my tape player to get to the beginning of the track – just by feel… Bruce Dickinson did a cover where he pimped up the riff. That guitar plus Bowie’s singing and it would have been perfect
3. Life on Mars
Isn’t it great? You see those blued-up mysterious eyes looking at you, and hear this inventive, ambiguous pondering, a very quick symphony of ideas, gestures by different instruments going in and out with thought and care. It’s so abstract, and it has the paradoxical gift of bursting forth with personal meaning yet being meaningless at the same time, written, as it was, with cut up pieces of paper.
2. The Man Who Sold the World
Another one with a great cover this time by Nirvana. It’s the riff again. Just three notes – that’s it. It inspired a song a wrote and recorded when I was 17… but that’s not online! It’s the haunting quality of this obsessive riff over these chords which somehow, with an indifferent guiro, conjure up images of magic and mysticism of an ancient and lost pagan folk music. It doesn’t help that he puts this phaser on his voice either to turbo charge the phantasmal quality backed by a creepier haunted theater organ…
It had to be… it’s where it all began. A riff from Judy in Disguise, a repeating three note guitar wail – the trumpets of heaven in the 1970s. And Bowie’s voice, starting with a reassured presence of absolute power being understated – like God: no need to show your power when you are power itself. And then, half way through, he unleashes the chariots of fire, lightning bolts raining down of celestial omnipotence “hot coals of love” as dear old Jesus used to call it. This track never fails…
I know. But look at the criteria… I warned you!
Rock stars used to have the good sense to die in a drugs overdose at 27 (although some still do), but now you get oldies still coming out with great stuff (actually there aren’t that many… Paul Weller just about got away with it, but no one’s got it like Bowie).. so the question is… how long will Bowie keep surprising us, and how can I be more like him…?
Side note: the challenge of writing a blog is finding YouTube videos that don’t have adverts at the beginning.I’ve clicked here to watch one of the greatest and most influential artists of the last 50 years, I don’t care how squeaky Oral B makes your fucking teeth, Yasmine, now PISS OFF!!!