So……what’s it all about, Davie?

mp3: David Bowie – Fashion (7″ edit)

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.

mp3: David Bowie – Scream Like A Baby

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




Well it wasn’t going to be a single disc across his full career was it.

To me and I’m sure/hope many of you, Bowie is GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), I am not smart enough to even begin to describe how brilliant, awesome, (and every other superlative you can think of) he is/was.

I wanted to focus on his later albums , which continued to show an artist never repeating himself and always exploring new. I’m not going to claim that any of them are individually as strong as the masterpieces of the 70s and early 80s, but I do believe they hide some individual tracks that are as strong as those of his earlier brilliance……

I was surprised by two things whilst putting this ICA together, firstly how ‘hard’ almost harsh most of these songs are and secondly what an amazing vocalist Bowie was, you always know it’s him but the range and scope is amazing

Hallo Spaceboy  (Outside, 1995)

I’m not a true Bowie fan, in that I haven’t bought every album as soon as it was released, there have been ebbs and flows, but it feels as though a ‘Space’ track has always brought me back onside, from Starman, Ashes to Ashes and this track. After the pop albums and Tin Machine – Hello Spaceboy, was fast and futuristic, at his best Bowie was always futuristic and was there ever a more Bowie line than ‘Do you like boys or girls? Its confusing these days’

I’m Afraid of Americans (Earthling, 1997)

‘Earthling’ was described as his ‘Drum & Bass’ album, I was obviously already middle-aged by this point as I had and have no idea what ‘Drum & bass’ sounds like. What I do know is this is a pulsating keyboards driven song.

Cactus (Heathen, 2002)

A cover of a Pixies song and according to Wikipedia all instruments are played by Bowie except bass and features his only recorded drum performance and of course the drums are to the forefront and do not sound out of time/place at all. Starting with just vocal and acoustic guitar before bursting into a full band sound, I had to look the lyrics up online to find out that the word ‘cement’ is used frequently, Bowie’s pronunciation is unusual.

Reality (Reality, 2003)

Probably my least favourite of the later albums, I was fortunate enough to see the subsequent tour at Birmingham NEC ( sadly his final tour), although I managed to put one of my daughter’s off Bowie for life, by going as it was on her birthday which she explained to me was not acceptable parental behaviour, over 15 years later it remains a topic of conversation. The song itself always reminds me of the Ziggy album – high praise.

Battle For Britain (The Letter) (Earthling, 1997)

More ‘Drum and Bass’, with a great piano solo from Mike Garson and some classic cockney vocals from Bowie.

Looking For Water (Reality, 2003)

Guitar(ist)s have always been crucial to Bowie’s music and this is a great example with the guitar leading the way from the start.

The Stars (Are Out Tonight) (The Next Day, 2013)

Following his health issues on The Reality tour, Bowie disappeared for 10 years, the assumption was that he had retired and was living in married bliss in New York. And then without any advance PR a single was realised – such was the shock it was a main item on the BBC news. The album was joyously received. It is very much a pop album and this track (released as a single with a wonderful video) was the pinnacle,

Girl Loves Me (Blackstar, 2016)

Blackstar as an album is very difficult, given that it was released the day before Bowie’s death and was recorded during his cancer treatment, to assess objectively or to listen to purely as a piece of music, in a similar manner to Joy Division’s Closer. It is certainly completely different from any other Bowie album, with nothing that resembles pop or rock music. It’s a ‘jazz’ album, and to be honest is the only ‘jazz’ album I own or am likely to. I have regularly returned to the album over the past few years but with the exception of this track and one other I struggle to enjoy it, there is just too much jazz for my personal taste. ‘Girl Loves Me’ unusually for Bowie seems to have no guitar and is propelled by almost only drums and bass but not in a ‘drum and bass’ manner.

Outside (Outside, 1995)

The Outside album was to me a true return to form if you ignore the short spoken word interludes, which is easily done today. Bowie’s vocal is beautiful, managing to be calming, soothing and yearning at the same time.

Lazarus (No Plan EP, 2017)

With it’s opening line of ‘Look Up Here I’m In Heaven’ there could be no other album closer and listening again to the lyrics with the soulful saxophone backing – wow it really is an incredible way to end.



A few weeks back, the good folk at the BBC loaded onto their own dedicated digital channel something around 150 performances from bygone years at Glastonbury as a way of filling some space in the absence of the festival taking place in 2020.  A number of the headline performances stayed up for 30 more days which is why myself and Rachel were able to sit down a few days later and finally watch the David Bowie set from 2000.

Social media went absolutely crazy at the time the BBC was showing it ‘as live’; it was the first time the entire show had been seen as the agreement back in 2000 with Bowie was that only the opening segments and part of the encore could go out over the airwaves.  It’s regarded by many as the best ever Glastonbury headlining show and among one of Bowie’s greatest performances, with the setlist consisting of many of his best-known and best-loved songs, as well as a smattering of new tunes (new in 2000 that is).

But here’s the thing…..neither of us at Villain Towers were that blown away by it.

Rachel is, of course, spoiled by the fact that at the age of 14 she was present at the Green’s Playhouse (later the Apollo) in Glasgow in 1973 when Ziggy Stardust was being toured, and there’s nothing that can beat that.  She thought that the songs from that era, and indeed the rest of the 70s, as seen and heard at Glastonbury felt and looked as if they were being performed by a Bowie impersonator backed by a group of musicians who wouldn’t have been out of place at a swanky Las Vegas hotel.  And I’m not disagreeing.

She had been really looking forward to the show having read all the fawning comments across social media and within the mainstream media reviews, especially as so many had focussed on the fact the songs had come from the entire canon.  When the band left the stage after the final encore, she turned to me and asked ‘Is that it?’  The closing two songs of Let’s Dance and I’m Afraid of Americans was not what she was hoping for or expecting.

Glastonbury setlist

1. Wild Is the Wind
2. China Girl
3. Changes
4. Stay
5. Life on Mars?
6. Absolute Beginners
7. Ashes to Ashes
8. Rebel Rebel
9. Little Wonder
10. Golden Years
11. Fame
12. All the Young Dudes
13. The Man Who Sold the World
14. Station to Station
15. Starman
16. Hallo Spaceboy
17. Under Pressure
18. Ziggy Stardust
19. “Heroes”
20. Let’s Dance
21. I’m Afraid of Americans

It led to us to recall the time we had seen Bowie in each other’s company, back in 1990 at the appalling Ingliston Showgrounds in Edinburgh – a venue that is just about the worst imaginable in terms of sound and yet managed to provide something really special on this occasion. The setlist from that night was the sort of thing that Rachel had believed she would now be watching from the comfort of the living room:-

1. Space Oddity
2. Changes
3. TVC15
4. Rebel Rebel
5. Golden Years
6. Be My Wife
7. Ashes to Ashes
8. John, I’m Only Dancing
9. Queen Bitch
10. Fashion
11. Life on Mars?
12. Blue Jean
13. Let’s Dance
14. Stay
15. China Girl
16. Ziggy Stardust
17. Sound and Vision
18. Station to Station
19. Alabama Song
20. Young Americans
21. Panic in Detroit
22. Suffragette City
23. Fame
24. “Heroes”
25. The Jean Genie
26. Pretty Pink Rose
27. Modern Love
28. Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

Looking back, it was something of a perverse ending at Ingliston with Pretty Pink Rose during the encore having folk scratching their heads as it was a duet with guitarist Adrian Belew that had been released as a single about six weeks earlier and very few knew it, followed by a well-known but not exactly highly-loved single. But what a way to rescue things and send the crowd home absolutely buzzing.

I know these things are subjective and the absolutely ideal set would have incorporated songs from both Glastonbury and Ingliston, but overall the vast majority would surely have been from those aired back in 1990 and not 2000.  I’d loved to have heard Wild Is The Wind, The Man Who Sold The World and Starman, but surely the Glasto audience deserved to hear Queen Bitch, Sound and Vision, Suffragette City, The Jean Genie and Rock’n’Roll Suicide– it was the absence of the last three on that list that really irked Rachel!

I asked her the next morning if she had changed her mind about being disappointed with the Glastonbury show. Her reply was that maybe she had overreacted a little but it was a response to feeling she had watched something that had over-promised and under-delivered. She also reiterated that the musicians on stage at Glastonbury had annoyed her – she knew they were incredibly talented and skillful but she couldn’t really classify them as a band – certainly not in comparison to the Ziggy tour or indeed the different and smaller number of musicians who shared the stage at Ingliston.

mp3: David Bowie – Queen Bitch
mp3: David Bowie – Changes
mp3: David Bowie – Rock’n’Roll Suicide



I’ve previously admitted that I was a fan of David Bowie, but not a devoted one. As a teenager, I liked his music although it would take many years to realise that what I had liked, I should have loved.

The single Diamond Dogs was released just a matter of days before my 11th birthday. I simply had no ability to have an understanding of lyrics that told of Halloween Jack living on top of Manhattan Chase nor could my young ears really pick up some of the other big words that I didn’t know the meaning of. The only reasons I liked listening to the song were the very sing-able two line chorus quickly followed by a tune that somehow reminded my young ears of another song (which in later years I would identify as Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones).

I knew nothing about Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane or any of the other complexities of David Bowie. He was just someone who made pop music whose stuff got played sometimes on BBC Radio 1 (247 Medium Wave) although I was more likely to hear him as I listened to Radio Luxembourg (208 Medium Wave) while pretending I was asleep, with a small pocket-radio under my pillow turned down as low as I thought I could get away with. Sometimes I would manage to stay awake till after 10pm……..

I didn’t like Diamond Dogs as much as The Jean Genie or Rebel Rebel, both of which were songs with memorable choruses and were my early favourites. It was OK to listen to, in the same way as Starman, Life On Mars and Drive-In Saturday had been but one thing for sure was that it was much preferable to the ghastly Space Oddity…..but before you judge me too harshly, just remember that the storyline of the latter and the way the song unfolds is the stuff of nightmares for a kid of my age with a vivid imagination. The very thought of a spaceman floating around out there and dying was the stuff of nightmares.

I didn’t buy any David Bowie records until Boys Keep Swinging while my first album would have been Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). But not long afterwards, and with some money given to me at Christmas 1980, I went out and bought The Best of Bowie, a budget-priced compilation album on budget label K-Tel, that offered up 16 tracks, most of which had been hit singles:-

Side A

Space Oddity
Life On Mars
Rock’n’Roll Suicide
John, I’m Only Dancing
The Jean Genie
Breaking Glass (live)

Side B

Diamond Dogs
Young Americans
Golden Years
TVC 15
Sound and Vision
Boys Keep Swinging

I wouldn’t call it an introduction to Bowie as most of the songs were known to me (Breaking Glass and TVC 15 were the exceptions) but it was a great way to finally have so many songs to listen to without relying on a radio. What I didn’t know was that a number of the songs had been edited down from the original versions, so as to fit all 16 tracks on two sides of vinyl. I didn’t have any sort of sophisticated record player either, so the fact that the songs had been crammed onto the vinyl with a subsequent dip in quality wasn’t apparent either. I just loved the idea of listening to a fantastic album time after time after time…..

For some reason, Diamond Dogs became my new favourite Bowie song. Maybe it was the fact that it sounded more new wave than many of the others or perhaps it was that the nonsensical lyrics now seemed so real, meaningful and intriguing to someone whose favourite new author was George Orwell…….

What I didn’t know was that Diamond Dogs was one of the most edited tracks on the K-Tel compilation, so for many years, this was the version I was most familiar with:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (K-Tel edit)

It comes in at just over three-and-a-half minutes, more than two minutes shorter than the original version that had limped to #21 in the UK singles charts in 1974.

Years later, and myself and Mrs Villain move in together. I bring an extensive vinyl collection, hers is much more modest but was of the utmost quality – she had he decided to leave much of hers behind when she left her marital home but among those that made the move were all the Bowie, T-Rex and Iggy Pop albums that she had bought on the days of their release throughout the 70s. As a result I got to hear the whole album in its full glory, while staring at the sleeve that had caused controversy back in the day.

mp3 : David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (LP version)

And for completeness, here’s the b-side to the single:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Holy Holy



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…..



One of my favourites from the Ziggy Stardust LP, I hadn’t realised it has been a flop single a few years later in 1976 when it was issued to accompany the release of the Changesonebowie compilation.

mp3 : David Bowie – Suffragette City

I still love getting up on the dance floor if this ever gets aired at an indie-type disco…which doesn’t happen often enough if you wany my tuppence worth on the subject matter. The Little Richard-style boogie-woogie piano bit is courtesy of the multi-talented Mick Ronson.

The b-side of the 1976 single was an edited version of Stay, a track originally been released on Station to Station the previous year. Again, until looking it up for this posting, I wasn’t aware that the shortened version of Stay had been a single in the USA. It’s some three minutes shorter than the album version.

mp3 : David Bowie – Stay (US single edit)




I’ve been a Bowie fan for ages. I got to see him as the lead in The Elephant Man on Broadway in 1980, and live at Madison Square Garden during the ‘Serious Moonlight’ tour. Goldie The Friendly Therapist teases me that her first ever concert was the legendary 1976 StationtoStation tour at the L.A. Forum, but only I got to see the man play one of the following three live. Guess which?




Bonus: Zion. Also known as ‘Aladdan Vein’ and other working titles, ‘Zion’ is a favorite lost Bowie track for true devotees. Here’s the wiki info.

And here’s a youtube video with the somewhat completed track



There were many fine tributes paid to David Bowie a few weeks back on the first anniversary of his death and/or what would have been his 70th birthday. Some of the best could be found within the pages of the blogs listed over on the right hand side and knowing this would be the case I decided to hold off paying my own small tribute until now.

Many of the tributes rightly focussed on the incredibly diverse styles adopted by Bowie throughout his stellar career and it was fascinating to read so many lovingly crafted words paying homage to a fan’s favourite song or album. I don’t ever expect to see a David Bowie ICA in the long-running series as it genuinely is impossible to narrow things down to ten tracks to make up the perfect sounding LP. I was tempted to have a go myself and wait with interest what the likes of The Robster and Echorich (among others) would say in response, but in the end I came to my senses.

Instead, I thought I’d settle for posting a song that I’m rather fond of along with a reasonably rare cover version taken straight from my vinyl copy (albeit I’m willing to admit it is far removed from being one of the essential Tindersticks recordings).

mp3 : David Bowie – Kooks
mp3 : Tindersticks – Kooks

The well-known story behind its composition back in 1971 is that Bowie wanted to write a song especially for his new-born son, one which would capture his feelings of excitement and nervousness about becoming a dad. It seemingly ended up being a pastiche of the sort of songs Neil Young was writing and recording at that time for the simple reason that Bowie was listening to the great Canadian when he learned his son had been born. Now I appreciate that very few folk would say that Kooks is one of his greatest compositions in the grand scheme of things but there’s just something very touching about the lyric that over the years must have put smiles on the faces of many new sets of parents.



David Bowie and Mick Ronson's infamous Starman performance.

My best mate Jacques is a tremendous writer who keeps his talents far too well hidden for my liking. Occasionally, he will leave behind a nugget of a comment but more often his best stuff comes in texts and e-mails.

This morning he posted a comment in response to the original piece on David Bowie that I typed up as I heard the news yesterday morning. It is far too good to be left there in the hope that some readers may stumble on it and so I’m reproducing it is a stand-alone piece. I think it will resonate with many.


I found it tough to write anything sensible about the passing of DB yesterday. I was truly stunned by the suddenness of it, just as we’d been discussing elsewhere his 69th birthday and the merits of another new album. As with everything the great man did, he moved on to some other cosmos with both style and dignity.

Musically he touched me deeply over the years and he was responsible for a, probably the, genuinely seminal event in my musical education. Starman truly was a magical moment that night it appeared on TOTP. So weird and wonderful that it had many of us kids arguing about it as we played in Primary School the next day. (So memorable, this is one of only 3 or 4 moments I can vividly recall from school in those early years). Of course it wasn’t so much the music we analysed, it was essentially the acceptability of a man looking a bit like a woman, the bending of gender. Fair to say that the argument split along the line of me and the girls versus the farmer boys. The die was cast for me – being a bit weird was okay. (And for the record, if ever I really was doing a Desert Island Discs, Starman is in there first, because that’s where the music began for me.)

It was a formative moment, but I’m not going to pretend that I totally “got” the music then or suddenly became a devotee. Hey, I was seven. But it had made a big impression and I always looked out for that weirdo over the next few years, buying the odd single and wishing the north of Scotland of the time was just a bit (well, a lot) more cosmopolitan.

During the punk years, I made a new friend, let’s call him Graham. He was a music collector the likes of which I had never known before, and he had copies of all the Bowie albums. For the first time, I could enjoy the full breadth of his back catalogue. And what breadth. Genuine pop majesty.

Again though, I still wasn’t a devotee. Loved pretty much all that he’d done at that point, but was ever keen to broaden my musical knowledge and experience, and wasn’t going to waste my life listening to the same old stuff over and over. It’s only now that I look back that I realise just how much of my record/cd collection is influenced directly and indirectly by Bowie. Without whom and all that. He’s always been there – a friendly uncle to turn to in times when you need something reliable, something you can trust to still be the friend you always knew. Something, let’s be honest, brilliant.

I never saw him live. I’m not sad about that. By the time I could, he was mostly playing to massive barns or stadia. Not for me.

And I’ll happily stand by the fact that, FOR ME, he hasn’t made a decent album in 30 years. But those 1970s ones are pretty much perfect. And for that I will always truly love him.

The Queen is dead, long live the Queen.



David Bowie in 1973

It was a stunning and wholly unexpected start to the morning to wake up to the news that David Bowie had passed away at the age of 69.  There will be many more people better qualified than I am to pen an appropriate tribute including many of those whose blogs are listed on the right hand side of this corner of the internet but I want to give it a go.

I was a fan, but not a devoted one. As a teenager, I liked his music….as I got older I came to realise that what I had liked I should have loved.  The first album of his that I was musically mature enough in my own development to appreciate was Scary Monsters and that LP remains my favourite to this day.

I did get to see him play live once in the 90s when he was touring the release of a greatest hits effort. It was in a dreadful venue at Ingliston in Edinburgh – a barn of a place with dreadful acoustics – but it did mean that another musical ambition had been realised.  Mrs V was with me, but by then she was a veteran of seeing the cracked actor, with her first being as a mere 14 year-old back in 1972 at the old Green’s Playhouse in Glasgow.  Between the great tours of the 70s and the stadium/arena things she went to in later years (not forgetting she was also at Live Aid) she was in his presence on maybe eight or so occasions and she remained a fan for life.  Indeed, we were only talking some 48 hours ago about her being at the Ziggy Stardust tour and how the memories of that gig were still so fresh in her mind.  She’s pretty shaken up today.

His was a body of work that surpassed just about everyone who is/was part of the modern music industry.  Of course it is not without flaw – no-one who makes music for almost 50 years will be any different – but right now it is much much easier to recall the great songs rather than the few clunkers.  The fact that in the first few hours since the announcement that so many different tributes on social media have highlighted so many different songs is testament to the quality of his work.

It is a very sad day.

PS : BBC Radio 6 is a doing a tremendous job with the tributes being paid.

PPS : I mentioned that many other members of the blogging fraternity would likely make their own personal tributes…here’s some links (which I will endeavour to update as and when I can)

Drew : http://acrossthekitchentable.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/and-scattered-stardust-trails-between.html
Swiss Adam : https://baggingarea.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/freak-out-in-a-moonage-daydream/
CC : http://www.charitychicmusic.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/starman.html
The Robster : http://isthis-thelife.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/bowie.html
Kaggsy : https://kaggsysbookishramblings.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/goodbye-david/
Post Punk Monk : https://postpunkmonk.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/david-bowie-1947-2016/
The Swede : http://unthoughtofthoughsomehow.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/nothing-to-say-blue-blue.html
Alex G : https://wewillhavesalad.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/dave-bowie-the-chameleon-of-rock/
Rol : http://histopten.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/my-top-ten-david-bowie-songs_23.html
Jonny G : https://myvinyldreams.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/david-bowie-1947-2016/
Phil Spector : http://plainorpan.com/2016/01/11/a-crack-in-the-sky-and-a-hand-reaching-down-to-me/
GBU : http://goodbadunknown.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/the-111-best-dreams-by-david-bowie.html
Jamie : https://formalcontentsonly.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/goodbye-david-bowie/
singing bear : http://flyingdownzedalley.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/david-bowie-rip.html
Andrea : https://conventionalrecords.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/david-bowie-1969-2016/
Ed : http://17seconds.co.uk/blog/2016/01/12/david-bowie-remembered/
Andrew : http://www.armagideon-time.com/?p=11165
London Lee : http://www.londonlee.com/2016/01/goodbye-spaceboy.html

And a special mention to Echorich, a really dear friend of this and many other blogs who is one of the biggest Bowie fans there is and for whom today must have been awful and difficult to get through. He wasn’t alone mind you…Mrs Villain ended up working from home today so that she could shed tears as and when she needed. She tells me that BBC Radio 6 continued to surpass itself all day.

Tomorrow will be another difficult day for many.  I’ve decided however, to make it business as usual and to stick with the post as I had scheduled and to do likewise for the rest of the week and beyond.  Will understand if folk can’t be bothered to read and/or comment.




Following my less than flattering words of yesterday, it would be remiss of me not to allow an opposite point of view to be articulated. In this case, the words are supplied by Friend of Rachel Worth:-

Okay case for the defence – I think you’ve missed some great stuff.

There seems to have been before the last LP a bit of view of Bowie that echoed the “What have the Romans Ever done for Us”, but in his case it is “He’s been shit since Lets Dance and in fact that wasn’t that good anyway”. Admittedly there have been some misfires and glass spiders , duets with Tina Turner , gurning with Mick Jagger , Tin Machine , stabs at Techno were all pretty horrendous. However, there have been moments of magic which , whilst not up there with the best of his 70s output still knocks socks off a lot of what else was around at the time. So here are my 10 for you to give a go or revisit without the ghosts of Ziggy, Aladdin etc.

1) Absolute Beginners – a fantastic song ruined by an awful film. Sinatra crossed with his own Heroes (I didn’t read Heroes at Live Aid at all like you did, I saw it as being much more universal – but then I still maybe naively view the whole thing as magical , flawed yes but magical still). Among lots of stuff that sounds like he was treading water for once a vocal that sounded like he meant it

2) Loving the Alien – I was so disappointed with the LP this came from. The awful Police-lite type reggae on a couple of tracks, a going-through-the- motions Beach Boys cover and that awful Tina Turner duet of the title track Tonight. However the opening track is majestic, hypnotic and epic. Starting the LP off with it only made what was to follow even more of a disappointment.

3) Thursdays Child – He has a habit with later LPs to include one lush ballad on each of them and here is another one from 1999’s Hours (another recording that was referenced as a return to form) . The best song Morrissey never wrote. The rest of the LP is okay even if a bit stodgy in its backing but this is one long melancholic sigh.

4) Pablo Picasso – he can spot a good cover and this is a bit of a mess , but it is a fun mess. The album it came from (2003 Reality his last before the new one) is a mixed bag of sounds and styles from buzzing guitars to jazzy piano.

5) Everyone Says ‘Hi’ – Heathen is probably the best of his later records and if you were going to give one a go it would be this one. Whereas Reality is a an interesting mess, Heathen is one of those proper grown up LPs – adult without ever being AOR. The one bit of light is Everyone Say Hi, a song to his son and the older brother of Kooks.

6) Buddha of Suburbia – I’m sure the BBC couldn’t believe it when he agreed to do the soundtrack for the tv adaptation of Hanif Kureishi’s novel. Often overlooked and little heard it is the sound of someone rediscovering his mojo.

7) Outside – first thing you have to strip away the annoying concept dialogue tracks – wonder how many people who bought the CD have recut it on their mp3 players. There is a sense that in the 90s Bowie has been looking back , seeking out old collaborators to rediscover something. This was Brian Eno’s turn. It has some great songs on it (the industrial slab of Heart’s Filthy Lesson , the jittery We Prick You , the straight forward Strangers When We Meet, the pre-Pet Shop Boys Hello Spaceboy , the frankly- odd Have Not Been To Oxford Town, all of which can hold their heads high in the company of his 70s output) all with interesting backing.

8) Jump They Say – Nile Rogers is all over this slab of polished pop

9) This is Not America – it’s with a jazz fusion guitarist , its got one of those naff pointless key changes to keep things going – but I love it

10) The new LP is a strange one.  It has some great moments (Stars Are Out , Dirty Boys , Where Are We Now especially). Maybe not one of the best 12 LPs of the year ( but then not sure any of the nominations can give claim to that any year). What was odd was the complete lack of hype has led to it being over-hyped.  I love the fact that relatively no one knew it was coming, an announcement just appeared.

The press then had 2 choices.  Having been caught out they could either slag it or praise it hell.  Whichever choice they made the column inches and airtime grew and grew. It’s pretty good, runs out of steam a bit  – no better than Heathen , but much better than what most other pensioner pop stars have been churning out, and if it had come from a bunch of skinny white boys playing guitars then they would be being hailed as the next big thing.

The best thing are his lyrics and his voice , both of which are dark enough to feel dangerous , well as dangerous as a 66 year old can make you feel.  Listen to the LP and you do start to worry about his state of mind… ever the frustrated actor

So there you go , trying not to and failing to damn with the faint praise of “its good but not as good as his old stuff”. There is enough here for a mighty fine spotify playlist, and re-listening to these songs has been much more enjoyable than the work I should be doing.


Note from JC

It was unfair of me to dismiss Absolute Beginners as it’s one of the 6,000 odd tracks on the i-phone.  Of the others mentioned, I’m only familiar with a handful – none of Loving The Alien, Buddha of Suburbia and Jump They Say do anything for me.

However FoTR, as much as you had me thinking you had made a decent case you make a very bad error of judgement with the inclusion of This Is Not America.  Next thing you’ll be saying Under Pressure is a work of genius!!

Have tracked down some of the tracks you mention:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Everyone Says ‘Hi’

mp3 : David Bowie – Thursday’s Child

mp3 : David Bowie – I Have Not Been To Oxford Town




As has been widely reported this past week, 66 year old David Bowie has made the twelve-strong shortlist for the 2013 Mercury Prize.  It would therefore seem, as far as the critics and others who make up the Mercury judging panel that his latest LP, The Next Day, is one of the best 12 albums released in the UK this past year.

I can’t say whether this is the case, although I strongly suspect not.  I’m more inclined to think that his inclusion is more to do with giving a high media profile to this year’s award than the merits of what was his 26th studio LP.  The reason that I can’t say for sure is that I’ve given the LP a total bodyswerve, as I have all his new material ever since the travesty that was Tin Machine in the late 80s and early 90s.  If any of you have remained loyal and faithful to his output in recent years, please let me know if in fact the latest LP is worth investing in….after all, I’m going to be bombarded with it on displays any time I venture into any High Street music store between now and the awards ceremony at the end of October.

Bowie is a performer who I’ve long felt ran his course in the mid 80s.  Just about all of his albums from the 70s  have more than stood the test of time  – it should also be recognised just how prolific he was in that decade with an an album in every year except 1978 – but then again there had been two absolute classics in 1977 in the shape of Low and Heroes.  I also remain fond of parts of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) from 1980.  The worldwide phenomena of Let’s Dance in 1983 was truly something to behold with the production and sound capturing the popular music of the era quite perfectly, albeit it was a long long way away from the music I was listening to.  It’s a recod which made Bowie the #1 box office attraction for a few years – the royalties from the classic rock stations playing the hit singles from that era must still be mega given how often I stumbled upon them during my recent few weeks in Canada.

My admiration for Bowie began to fall away around the time of Live Aid.  Many have said that he was one of the outstanding performers that day but I was disturbed by the fact that out of all his back catalogue he chose to perform Heroes and in a way that seemed congratulatory to all the rock stars who had shown up that day in London and Philadelphia.

What I find interesting about his career, which now spans a jaw-dropping 46 years, is that so many modern musicians cite him as a huge influence and have covered his songs, either in concert or as b-sides or album tracks.  But almost inevitably, these covers are of songs from the 60s and 70s with scant regard to the later material.  And instead of me posting some great songs from the 70s which I’m sure are well-known to all readers of this blog, I thought I’d share some of the covers I’ve most enjoyed:-

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

mp3 : Vivian Girls – John, I’m Only Dancing

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Secret Life of Arabia

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Sound & Vision

mp3 : Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

Actually, the only reason I’ve included that FF cover is that the dooh-doohs at the start are supplied by Girls Aloud…..very bizarre!

And here’s a cracking acoustic C&W version from Mr Bowie himself:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (live and acoustic)