So……what’s it all about, Davie?
The Guardian, in March 2020, listed Fashion at #21 in its rundown of David Bowie‘s 50 Greatest Songs, with feature writer Alexis Petridis offering this summary
Brilliantly claustrophobic, reggae-influenced post-punk funk that casts a jaundiced eye over the ever-changing trends in the world of the hip. The ironic tone of Fashion seemed to be largely missed, possibly because the idea of David Bowie, of all people, protesting about ever-changing trends was frankly a bit rich.
It’s worth remembering that Fashion was recorded in 1980, and therefore one interpretation, as hinted at above by Petridis, could be that it was his sideways dig at a post-punk/new wave scene that many journalists, certainly in the UK, were predicting would change music forever.
Another line of thought that I’ve seen online is that the ‘turn to the left/turn to the right’ lyric was his commentary on the political landscape just a short time after the Tories, under the leadership of Margaret Thatcher, had come to power. Things hadn’t been great in the final couple of years of the previous Labour government, but Bowie was predicting it wouldn’t be any different with the sudden shift to the right. If this was indeed was the meaning of the song, then his warning didn’t go far enough given the social unrest across many parts of the country and the way that many traditional communities were more or less abandoned in the remainder of the decade.
But maybe it’s just best that we don’t read too much into things and just enjoy Fashion for what it is, A fabulously catchy, upbeat and jaunty pop song that sounds just about as good on the radio as it does when played through big speakers above a discotheque floor.
Fashion was the second single lifted from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), and while it didn’t provide a follow-up #1 to Ashes to Ashes, it’s #5 position was more than respectable.
The b-side was another track lifted from the album, but with no edit or remix.
Both tunes are dominated by the guitar-playing of Robert Fripp, best known to the youngsters these days as the strange looking bloke playing the music as his wife, Toyah Wilcox, frolics in their kitchen. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, then check out this You Tube channel/playlist