This was going to be a post about my top electro 80s tracks to go running to, but a little thing intervened. And that little thing is DAVID BOWIE’S BIRTHDAY. It this were a weekday, it would be a National Holiday. Obviously. This is a supreme, glorious day. Bowie is 65 years old, wuzza wuzza. And his name……..is Jareth…….and he is the goblin king……
Not that I haven’t moved on from Bowie’s early work. No sirree. I started listening to Bowie around the time I was doing my AS Levels at school, and I think I should wholly attribute my success to Bowie and his good influence. Not really, it was all me. But your teen years are such a great time for discovering new music, because the music you hear and enjoy starts to become a part of your identity. You definite your parameters by what music, films and clothes you like. Everything you choose screams out some previously unexpressed facet of your nature. You revel in your new found self, certain that a piece of music has never, ever meant so much to anyone else.
I got into Bowie around the same time I got into Brecht and subsequently Cabaret. In other words, I was an absolutely insufferable, typical teenage Drama Student. And what? I think everyone should go through that phase. I still adore Bowie to this day, which is why I’m going to honour his birthday with my pick of his songs. I could, quite frankly, choose all of them. But I’ve tried to narrow it down, as he’s…well, you know. He’s done a lot.
1. Pallas Athena – coming much later than the majority of my Bowie collection, I stumbled across this track by accident. I’d put it on a Spotify playlist but never heard it, and it suddenly came on when I was marching around the underground. I suddenly felt very dramatic and special. Special in so many, many ways. You’ve got to try it. How crazy is that sax?!
2. Alabama Song – You can imagine that, as a Brecht-loving drama stude, this was high up on my list. Discordant, often tuneless and fairly ‘ugly’ to listen to, I adored it. You’ll love this or hate it, but it’s undeniably bizarre and strangely cheerful, despite the occasionally gruesome lyrics.
3. Golden Years – Quite possibly my all time fave. In this video, he sounds a bit like Harold Steptoe as he introduces the song, but just ignore that and focus on the sublime sliding of his voice around the line ‘don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, aaaangel’. Play this on road trips, at parties, when you need to do make a change in your life. I suspect that even when I’m 70, I’ll still be listening to him singing ‘the nights are warm and the days are youuuung’. An absolute must listen. Nothing’s going to touch you in these Golden Years.
4. Lady Stardust – from the album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ (phew!) and album of quiet starts and huge endings to the tracks. I could have chosen any song from this album, but the lyrics on Lady Stardust are what won it for me in the end. ‘Lady Stardust sang her songs of darkness and disgrace.’
5. Wild is the Wind – Almost alarmingly beautiful. I know it’s not his originally, but I would say Bowie’s version is my favourite. He puts the inimitable Bowie stamp all over it, so much so that it sounds as if he wrote it anyway. I was in a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar in 2010, and I couldn’t get over how much ‘Gethsemane’ reminded me of this song. You could pretty much sing one on top of the other. Anyway, enough of sullying Bowie with talk of ALW musicals.
Honourable mentions, but you all know/love them anyway, so no point picking them specially:
Rock’n’roll suicide for the slow build and the ‘oh no! You’re not alone!’ section.
Rebel Rebel because you just can’t beat it.
Modern Love walks beside me, walks on by, gets me to the chuuuuurch on time!
Life on Mars because it’s other worldly yet familiar at the same time.
Sound and Vision is another of my all time faves. Blue blue, electric blue, is the colour of my room, where I will live. You do that, David.
Five Years And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor, and I thought of Ma and I wanted to get back there’.
China Girl Because you know why.
Queen Bitch purely for the line about the ‘bibbidy bobbidy hat’.