Bowie: The Studio Albums – A ‘cut-to-the-chase’ guide Part I 9

Bowie: The Studio Albums – A ‘cut-to-the-chase’ guide Part I

Rightly so March belongs to David Bowie and what better way to celebrate his extensive legacy then for your host to take you all on a personal ‘cut-to-the-chase’ guide through the back catalogue.

So let me take you on journey through all 27 of Bowie’s official studio albums – including those fatuous Tin Machine debacles and his two soundtracks, but omitting the live LPs – highlighting both the well known gems and not so familiar tracks from each.

David Bowie (Deram) 1967

David Bowie Debut LP 1967

If it wasn’t for a certain pesky Monkee named Davy Jones, then the Bowie moniker may have never existed. As it was he at least got to keep the name for a short time when in charge of the blue-eyed soul mod act, Davy Jones & The Lower Third.

The name change along with his adopted theatrical twee, cockney burr, Bowie’s debut solo affair has a certain vaudeville charm. Quintessentially British in theme and characterization, he catches us off-guard with a colourful and whimsical cast of oddballs, disaffected, refugees from life, creeps and outsiders.

It totally flopped of course, sending Bowie back into the wilderness and drawing board.

Decreed as the leading highlights of the album by the majority –

Love You Till Tuesday (single), Sell Me A Coat, Rubber Band (single)

Pay attention to these often overlooked beauties –

She’s Got Medals, When I Live My Dream (single)

Space Oddity (Phillips/ Mercury) 1969

David Bowie Space Oddity LP

Or as the yanks like to call it, Man of Words/Man of Music, is a loose patchwork of ideas bandied together under the torch bearing title track savior.

Longevity alone, the single, ‘Space Oddity’ – believed in some quarters to be a paean of sorts on the metaphoric stages of injecting and experiencing smack – is a constant burden, being arguably Bowie’s most popular hit.

Daring himself to greedily hoover up all that was on offer in 1969, Bowie tried the role of balladeer on the last kiss goodbye, ‘Letter To Hermione’, grew his hair out on the cosmic folk on ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’, and ran through the full gambit of Dylan sloganism on the sprawling epic ‘Cygnet Committee’.

A world away from his self-titled debut, but an indicator of what was to follow.

Decreed as the leading highlights of the album by the majority –

Space Oddity (single), Memory Of A Free Festival

Pay attention to these often overlooked beauties –

Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud, Cygnet Committee 

The Man Who Sold The World (Mercury) 1970

David Bowie The Man Who Sold The World LP

The birth of glam? Well pomp-rock at least. The ‘Spiders From Mars’ nucleus, with producer/bassist Tony Visconti, thrashed out a lipstick smudged, drug debauched, rock gala in a haunted Edwardian grotto, to kick start Bowie’s most rewarding decade.

Preoccupied – some would say obsessively – with his recent marriage to Angie, this glorious monolithic riff-heavy album is really a shared group effort – though all the credit is very much taken by Bowie.

Fixations with androgynous sexual encounters on hilltops (‘She Shook Me Cold’), Nietzsche (‘Superman’) and insanity (‘All The Madmen’) – an omnipresent miasma that stalks the Bowie family tree – helped shape the first omnivorous classic in the Thin White Duke’s cannon.

Decreed as the leading highlights of the album by the majority –

The Man Who Sold The World, The Width Of A Circle, All The Madmen

Pay attention to these often overlooked beauties –

Black Country Rock, Running Gun Blues

Hunky Dory (RCA) 1971

David Bowie Hunky Dory LP

Just before the Bowie transformed into Ziggy, he once more donned the vestiges of Dylan and played with the Romanticists for another stab at Earthly glamour. Posing as some effete bygone screen idol (Dietrich et al), the sepia toned oeuvre of, mostly, tribunes and nostalgia is fondly regarded as a beacon of diaphanous songwriting magnificence.

Bowie’s meticulous studies include glib portraits of Andy Warhol (and his ‘factory’ of misfits), Bob Dylan (yet again) and Lou Reed, nestled alongside plaintive mini opuses, inspired by the mythical status of Nietzsche (yes, again) and Aleister Crowley.

That perfect melodic piano/weepy lead guitar counterbalance is defined on this melodramatic, and often, dotingly personalized, glitter smirched songbook, which rightly belongs in the Parthenon of the musical gods.

Decreed as the leading highlights of the album by the majority –

Changes (single), Life On Mars (single), Oh You Pretty Things, Queen Bitch

Pay attention to these often overlooked beauties –

Quicksand, Bewlay Brothers

The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (RCA) 1972

David Bowie Ziggy Stardust LP

He painted himself as the freaky rock & roll totem from another dimension, but suspiciously sounded like a whey pallor drag act, playing the refined and artistic version of glam rock.

Not for the first or last time, Bowie based an album around the impediment of apocalypse. In this case Earth’s fateful, ‘5 Years’, date with its own destruction. Bowie’s, usually left unsung, collaborators are allowed to share the spotlight, with Mick Ronson, a constant foil, striking home the killer-heel riffs and salacious wet-kissed licks.

The foreboding presage of Ziggy’s fall from grace, and the planet’s eventual demise, could not have sounded more flamboyantly grandiose, yet poignantly sad.

Decreed as the leading highlights of the album by the majority –

Ziggy Stardust, Five Years, Starman (single), Rock’n’Roll Suicide

Pay attention to these often overlooked beauties –

Lady Stardust, Moonage Daydream 

Aladdin Sane (RCA) 1973

David Bowie Aladdin Sane LP

Killing off Ziggy Stardust to assume the lightning anointed role of Aladdin Sane, Bowie’s split personality only partially moved on from its precursor.

If Hunky Dory pretty much alluded to the USA from a distance, then Sane is living it. From the scuzzed rock’n’roll chugging riffs to the Latin-Cuban styled piano flourishes and ‘give my regards to Broadway’ passing fancies, Bowie is cast adrift, absorbed in the aroma of the Americas.

Fantastical, yet nostalgic in equal measure, the backlot of 50s drive-ins, Che Guevara styled revolution on the streets of Detroit and heart-crushing laments, effortlessly turn from tears to swaggered rock.

Decreed as the leading highlights of the album by the majority –

Watch That Man, Drive-In Saturday (single), Time (single), Jean Genie (single)

Pay attention to these often overlooked beauties –

Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?), Lady Grinning Soul

Pin Ups (RCA) 1973

David Bowie Pin Ups LP

Aladdin Sane signs off with a love letter to the British ‘beat group’ (1964-67) era, a final reminisce before the next incarnation.

Whether catching the zeitgeist of his own times, Bowie’s second LP of 1973 coincidently came out on the exact same date as Bryan Ferry’s own memory lane romp, These Foolish Things.

Delivered in the manner of a live covers band, the Pin Ups set list runs languorously and smoothly through numbers made famous by the Easybeats, Kinks, Merseys, Mojos, Pink Floyd, Them, The Who and Yardbirds. The grittier snarl and garage stomp menace is all but watered down to suit Bowie’s, now, sophisticated, lighter palate, which slows down the tempo and adds wafting sassy saxophone to those harder-edged, rebel rousing originals.

An exercise in doffing the cap in admiration and respect to his peers and inspirations, it can’t help but sound totally fatuous and silly.

Decreed as the leading highlights of the album by the majority –

Roselyn, Shape Of Things, Sorrow (single), Shape of Things

Pay attention to these often overlooked beauties –

Here Comes The Night, Friday On My Mind

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.