The great late David Bowie would have turned 75 years of age this week,(Saturday the 8th of January). Join me as I dip into a personal and light-hearted selection of his not-so-famous, and seldom played tunes; from his hair-grown-over-the-collar hedonistic Mod day beginnings, to the drum’n’bass diva reinvention of Earthling in the 90s.
David Bowie as…. Davy Jones and the Lower Third ‘Baby Loves That Way’ (Taken from the 1966 B-side single to ‘You’ve Got A Habit Of Leaving’)
From 1964 to 66 alone, Bowie changed his name and friends countless times (The King Bees, Mannish Boys), as he found his feet in the music business. Before the rechristening (prompted by the Davy Jones of the Monkees fame), he used the name his mother intended; fronting this Mod beat-group and knocking out blue-eyed teenage soul, such as this innocent mid-60s classic.
‘Memory Of A Free Festival’ (Taken from the 1969 Space Oddity LP)
Growing that hair out long, in a mock frazzled perm; Bowie turned space-age troubadour on this paean to the Woodstock generation and their meeting with the cosmic forces of light! Don’t let that fatuous Dario G ‘SunMachine’ remix of the 90s put you off; hear it now in its original full idealised glory.
‘Rock’n’Roll With Me’ (Taken from the 1974 Diamond Dogs LP)
Theatrical perhaps, but still a guilty pleasure, Bowie’s musical aspirations are ploughed into this soulfully glam anthem; taken from what was set to be his staged reworking of Orwell‘s dystopian novel, 1984. Denied by the authors estate, those original concepts were reborn at the Diamond Dogs project.
‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ (Taken from the 1975 Young Americans LP)
Shrugging off the Ziggy mantel, Bowie headed Stateside; stopping off in Philadelphia to absorb the city’s rich soul heritage. Critics sneeringly called it “plastic-soul”, but in truth Bowie’s vocals never sounded better; as in evidence on this fondly crooned ode to heartache.
‘Station To Station’ Live (Taken from the 1978 Stage LP)
Bowie speeds-up the original laboured Trans-Europe-Express for this live outing. Imbued, borrowed, or stolen (you decide!) his flirtation with 70s Berlin inspired his most productive period. ‘Station To Staion‘ traverses Euro-synth pop, Krautrock and cocaine addiction on its journey through a romanticized continental landscape.
‘Look Back In Anger’ (Taken from the 1979 Lodger LP)
Talking of that Berlin epoch, Lodger -the final piece in the Teutonic triumvirate of albums – spawned this galloping frowning, plaintive rage.
Kingdom Come’ (Taken from the 1980 Scary Monsters and Super Creeps LP)
Into his third decade as a recording artist, Bowie still inspires – laying the seeds for the new romantic movement for starters – releasing one of his finest and most creative albums, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps. An often, shockingly, overlooked cover; this mooning primal howl rendition of Tom Verlaine’s (Television founder)prison redemption song is one of his finest performances on wax.
‘Shake It’ (Taken from the 1983 Let’s Dance LP)
Baggy suits and Colonial chic were now the rigour, as Bowie entered, perhaps, his most commercially succesful phase – both the Let’s Dance album and single reached number one. Unashamedly hitting the neo-geo dancefloor, ‘Shake It’ has an infectious pulse and optimistic pop bent.
‘Outside’ (Taken from the 1995 Outside LP)
Seeking out a postion in the contempoary art world, Bowie contributed to the esteemed Modern Painters magazine. He also helped rouse and fool the art crowd alongside William Boyd, with the infamous Nat Tate saga. With Outside Bowie created a conceptual LP based on an horrific body-parts art-crime, comitted in the bleak cyber performance-art world of a near future, where industrial music meets morbidly facsinating themes.
‘Dead Man Walking’ (Taken from the 1997 Earthling LP)
Making friends with the drum’n’bass kids and Trent Reznor, Bowie adopted one of his most unlikely guises yet. Brave, though some cried foolish, he produced an exhlirating hybrid of jazzy piano, avant-guitar, techno and pop. ‘Dead Man Walking’ is in my mind the albums highlight – Bowie recieved a nomination for best male rock vocal for this track at the Grammys, whilst the LP recieved a nomination for best alternative music performance.
(Orginal article appeared on the site in 2013)