38 YEARS AGO TODAY

8 August 1980. The date for the release of the song which would give David Bowie his second ever #1 hit in the UK, a full five years after Space Oddity.

mp3 : David Bowie – Ashes to Ashes (single edit)

The 17-year old me loved this. I hadn’t been all that much of a Bowie fan up until this point, admiring him more than adoring him, but this came out just as the point when it all began to make sense. My interest in electronica was beginning to grow at a rapid rate as my tastes expanded dramatically beyond the cut’n’thrust of new wave/post punk guitars.

I began to borrow Bowie albums from the 70s from friends who had either latched on to him earlier or who elder siblings who had been apostles from the earliest days. I didn’t embrace everything fully and indeed didn’t at the time feel any of his previous albums were as good as Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) which had been the first purchase of my own, followed by a budget price compilation album which was released just before Christmas 1980. I’ve changed my mind since then…..

I didn’t care much for the b-side to the single. It mentioned that it was from the album Lodger, a record I had listened to thanks to a friend buying it and playing it, but other than Boys Keep Swinging hadn’t done anything for me.

mp3 : David Bowie – Move On

I haven’t changed my mind on it track or its parent album over the years.

The US release of Ashes to Ashes had an absolute belter of a b-side:-

mp3 : David Bowie – It’s No Game (No.1)

The opening track of the Scary Monsters album remains one of my favourite Bowie numbers of them all, probably for as much as it being such an astonishing and different introduction to his wider work beyond the singles.

One bizarre thing I learned in doing a bit of research for this post. David Bowie would only enjoy one more solo #1 single in the UK with Let’s Dance in 1983. His total of three has been matched by a further three on which he was a co-vocalist or contributor (Under Pressure, Dancing In The Streets and Perfect Day, recorded with a myriad of others for a charity single in 1997). That’s some good pub quiz knowledge there for you…..

JC

10 thoughts on “38 YEARS AGO TODAY

  1. Popular opinion amongst Bowie fans of a certain vintage who bought the 70s albums is that this is his last great album but not his best.

    As a fellow new-waver, though, I am with you that this is my favourite as nothing else has the saw hard edge and rawness not to mention wildness but underpinned by great tunes.

    Station to Station would be my second favourite, not too far behind.

  2. Had the same Bowie journey as you did JC. This is where the obsession started. Only difference is think lodger one of his underated lps

  3. It took me decades, but now I fully embrace “Lodger.” But it still takes a back seat to “Scary Monsters.” That was the first Bowie album I bought as it was a new release and shortly afterward I grabbed “Low” and “Heroes” which were mid-price albums in America by 1980. They were completely unknown on American radio at the time and were stunning. They made perfect sense among the New Wave that I was listening to by 1978. I can remember thinking that Bowie was invincible then and that his stretch of world-straddling albums would continue indefinitely. I expected another one in 1981 – his year, if there ever were one. With the UK charts filled with his bastard sons. That there wasn’t was probably down to his wanting to wait out his agreement with DeFries. In retrospect, I think that act did him in creatively for many years.

    I still think of “Scary Monsters” as some sort of apex though. Bowie’s last hurrah before The Fall. The Fripp-head in me loves this album and “Heroes” as my favorites [I usually defer to “Heroes” due to “Beauty + The Beast,” my favorite Bowie song], but I acknowledge the vital importance of “Low” his most daring album and agree that “Station To Station” was the transitional album to Bowie’s even better late 70s period.

  4. I agree that ‘Move On’ wasn’t much cop. I remember reading the revues of ‘Lodger’ prior to buying it and this song was said to have the same chord progression as ‘All The Young Dudes’, but played backwards. ‘Dudes’ is a classic, but I’ve never wanted to play it backwards.

  5. This single came with a sheet of stamps that look like the images on the cover. Really cool.

  6. One bit of trivia concerning this. As Bowie’s second UK No.1, it was replaced by another act also having their second UK No.1 in The Jam with ‘Start!’.

  7. Thanks to some enlightened older cousins I was fascinated by Bowie since I was about 10, when I saw a what-the-hell-is-that poster of Aladdin Sane on their bedroom wall. So, by the time of Scary Monsters I was already well-devoted.

    Unfortunately, I agree with Alex and PPM that this would be his last great album. ‘Let’s Dance’ was to Bowie as ‘Born in the USA’ was to Springsteen. Turned a beloved major but still outsider artist into a mainstream household name. Personally, I never got over his replacing the untouchable rhythm section of Alomar/Davis/Murray that had been together since StationtoStation.

  8. Scary Monsters was an important part of my being 17. My first day of the fall term of my Senior year of High School, I wore an album cover t-shirt I found at Trash & Vaudeville in the East Village.

    My friends and I would mimic Bowie, Steve Strange and company from the brilliant video from Ashes To Ashes. Just that small move of smacking the ground by Strange and Judith Frankland was revelatory to very impressionable Bowie kids.

    But I was, and always will be a Lodger fan. as a 15/16 year old, it was otherworldly, and brash and informative. As an adult, I’ve always thought it’s true importance was to lay the groundwork for the end of David Bowie Version 1.0 and make room for whatever 2.0 would be. Now you can argue/debate that by 78, Bowie was already on Version 4 or 5, but in the larger context, the chameleon-like journey he took as a man and an artist was encapsulated in the decade of the 70s.

    What would follow Scary Monsters, for me, was mostly disappointment. I remember waiting outside The Power Station in Manhattan, in terrible cold for Bowie to come out and chat with my friends and I and maybe sign a record or two. When he did, it was the Bowie of Lodger and Scary Monsters. Smartly dressed and understated. By the time Let’s Dance came out, I barely recognized my hero under the wavy coif of bright blond and 80s power suiting. Corporate Bowie had arrived…I moved closer to the exit…

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