MIXTAPES: Ben P Scott's Best Of Bowie - Part 1

MIXTAPES: Ben P Scott’s Best Of Bowie – Part 1

People who know me well will probably be aware of my fondness for making compilations and mixtapes. You may also know that I am a huge fan of David Bowie. Last week I published an article called What Bowie Means To Me, which you can read HERE. In the article, as well as worshipping at the altar of my idol, I explained how all the many ‘Best Of’ collections sound hugely incomplete in the context of his diverse and prolific career. 

So now I reveal my own carefully chosen SIX PART Bowie compilation. Here are the first two volumes…

Floating In A Most Peculiar Way: Bowie 1964-1971

We start with the early work, which is often overlooked. But it’s usually overlooked for a reason: the man hadn’t yet discovered his own voice, and the quality of his pre-‘Space Oddity’ material mostly paled compared to his later work.  Listen to these compilations below, either via Mixcloud or Spotify.

First up is 1964’s ‘Liza Jane’ which marks Bowie’s first ever appearance on record, under the name Davie Jones with the King Bees. The Rolling Stones were shaking things up at the time, and it’s clear to see that a 17 year old David Jones wanted a piece of that action, creating a raw RnB infused adaptation of an old rockabilly number. A year later, and after releasing a flop single with The Manish Boys, he returns as David Bowie And The Lower Third with a Who-esque single ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’, which proved as unsuccessful as his early works. 1966 saw the first single credited solely to ‘David Bowie’ in the form of ‘Do Anything You Say’. But I’m going to go for its B Side ‘Good Morning Girl’, an intriguing oddity with an upbeat be bop rhythm. The scat singing in particular is most uncharacteristic of Bowie’s familiar style.

01Bowie’s self titled debut album was released in 1967 and displayed something of an identity crisis. His manager Ken Pitt was keen to mould Bowie into a Tommy Steele-esque all round entertainer, but the songs also mixed the theatrical style of Anthony Newley and the 60’s pop sounds of The Kinks. But more interestingly, the album contains brief hints of topics that were to become familiar Bowie subjects in years to come: ‘We Are Hungry Men’ imagined a world where the population turns to cannibalism, ‘There Is A Happy Land’ played with the idea that children were existing in some sort of separate society from adults, and my choice pick ‘She’s Got Medals’ addresses gender bending. Despite its quaint charm, the album is too poor to be considered a “proper” Bowie record. Driven by acoustic guitar and recorded in the wake of the debut album’s commercial failure, ‘Let Me Sleep Beside You’ was the first track he created with Tony Visconti on production duties. It was recorded as a proposed single, but it was rejected by Deram and didn’t see the light of day until it appeared on a 1970 compilation.

1969’s ‘Space Oddity’ is where the familiar story begins. The accompanying album of the same name was definitely an improvement on the 1967 debut, moving into folk territory and displaying Bowie’s newfound gift for progressive songwriting. But sometimes it can be a bit over-complicated, and at times the tunes just aren;t strong enough. I’ve picked the classic title track, and the stunning ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’, which celebrates as well as encapsulates the author’s disillusionment with flower power and the peace and love generation. Next was 1970’s ‘The Man Who Sold The World’, an album which pretty much invented the term ‘glam rock’. The riffs were harder, the choruses more infectious, and the lyrics seemed to take a darker and noticeably introspective turn. I’ve chosen the LP’s magnificent opener ‘Width Of A Circle’, the enjoyable breeze of ‘Black Country Rock’, and the classic title track. 1971’s ‘Hunky Dory’ is often regarded as Bowie’s first classic album, and what a record it is. The incredible ‘Life On Mars’ was recently voted the UK’s favourite song of all time, and ‘Queen Bitch’ feeds off of The Velvet Underground to create what a lot of people consider to be the first ever appearance of Ziggy Stardust. Closing the album, ‘The Bewlay Brothers’ combined sweeping melodrama and (some say) lyrics about David’s schizophrenic half-brother, Terry. ‘Hunky Dory’ was one hell of an album, and Bowie’s next LP was to make him an eternal legend…


Loose and Hard To Swallow: Bowie 1972-1975

bowie02Five Years’ is the powerful opener from the legendary 1972 LP ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’, quite rightly regarded as one of the finest records ever made. ‘Moonage Daydream’ is testament to this, a song that defines the word ‘electrifying’. The no-nonsense kick of ‘Suffragette City’ and melodramatic closer ‘Rock N Roll Suicide’ round off a classic selection of tracks from a solid album. 1973’s ‘Aladdin Sane’ used the glam rock sound to frame a collection of soul, jazz and doo wop influences collected from the States, its lively opener ‘Watch That Man’ a fine example. As well as the sleazy crunch of the brilliant ‘Cracked Actor’, I’ve also featured the familiar hard strutting blues of ‘The Jean Genie’. A year on he returned with the hard rocking paranoid visions of ‘Diamond Dogs’ which as well as its addictive title track, also contains the classic but conspicuously out of place ‘Rebel Rebel’. As well as these, I’ve picked the superb ‘Sweet Thing’, elegantly hinting at the soul music he’d explore future on his next effort. It’s only right to feature the full album version along with its coda ‘Candidate’ and the following reprise. Rounding off this volume of the compilation we have the joyous Philadelphia sound of ‘Young Americans’, along with the blissful ‘Win’ and the awesome ‘Fame’, a song so funky that James Brown ordered his band to deliberately imitate it for his single ‘Hot (I Need To Be Loved, Loved, Loved)’. In these four short years Bowie had already explored more styles than most artists do in their entire careers. And explore he would continue to do…

Until the next part of my Bowie compilation arrives online, how about reading these brilliant articles…

David Bowie: A Retrospective by Sean BW Parker

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

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.