Happy Birthday Mr Bowie!

David Bowie turns 63 today and so as a tribute to my all time favourite artist and entertainer I give you five of my favourite Bowie songs.  To make it a bit more interesting I’ve picked one song from each decade so if you don’t recognise some of them because your only knowledge of Bowie comes from “Labyrinth” or his video for “China Girl” then click on the links provided, it really is that easy to get a sweet ass taste of the man.

60’s:  The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud

Yes I know Space Oddity was released in the 60’s and while it does hold a certain special place in my heart of hearts, it does seem a little obvious to choose, doesn’t it?  Released on the lesserknown Space Oddity album, “Wild Eyed Boy…” competes with “Cygnet Committee” for grandest song on the album.  I give “Wild Eyed Boy…” the nod for two reasons.  I love the imagery of the prophetic boy who is nearly destroyed by those who love and revile him and is subsequently saved by a crashing mountain who decides it needs to save it’s little buddy.  The amount of times I really could have used a mountain as a back up in a fight is too numerous to mention so there is a bit of wish fulfilment there.  Secondly in the final “Ziggy Stardust” concert you can hear a wonderful medley that begins with “Wild Eyed Boy…” and segues into “Oh You Pretty Things” and finally “All the Young Dudes”.  Magical stuff and linked here.  It is also a song I feel pretty confident singing along too which always helps when you’re spending time too long in the shower lamenting your decision to never take up in a rock and roll band.

70’s:  Life On Mars?

The hardest decade to choose from as there is literally billions of cracking songs to choose from.  While I bypassed “Space Oddity” as being too obvious before you’re probably thinking “Life On Mars?” Is too easy now but I swear when I originally fell in love with this song no one else even seemed to know what I was talking about.  Now it is so well known it is even the title of a misguided American update of a classic English television series.  Written as a reaction to “My Way (A very funny story that Bowie recounts on VH1 Storytellers) I was moved to tears when I saw him perform this in Dublin in November of 2003.  My number one favourite song of all time, if this is not played at my funeral I will rise from the grave and punch someone in the face for getting it so wrong.  Click here for the totally awesome film clip...and here for the version I saw with all four of my human eyes.

80’s:  Teenage Wildlife

This song kicks off side two of “Scary Monsters” (That’s side two of a record for you kids who think CD’s are ancient) and is a sprawling epic that confronts the 80’s as he waves goodbye to the 70’s.  Bowie was already being consigned to the over the hill brigade as he turned 33 but just as the Messiah did in his Jesus year Bowie bounced back with an album that included “Ashes to Ashes”, “Fashion” and this glorious song.  If I ever saw him do this live I would positively do human wee with excitement.  Obscure enough to not have a huge amount of choices to choose from on youtube, it is still worth checking out here.

90’s:  The Motel

You’re probably thinking this would have been a tough decade to find anything of significance but you’re wrong, wrong, wrong I tellsya.  An under rated decade for the great Dame, I could name many a song that I not only love but would gladly spoon with when no one else was around.  “Hearts Filthy Lesson”, “Hallo Spaceboy”, “Strangers When We Meet”, “Jump They Say”, “I’m Afraid of Americans”, “Thru These Architects Eyes”, “Something in the Air”…all songs I love without question and some of his strongest songs performed on his “Reality” tour.  “The Motel” is a song that I never believed I would hear live so when he launched into it in Dublin I nearly did that aforementioned wee.  Check it out here or a slower version from the Outside tour here.  Introduced on the “Live and Well” CD as a “Love song to desperation”, “The Motel” is beautiful and haunting. The chorus of “There is no Hell like an old Hell” not only inspired a movie that I will one day get around to writing but also introduced me to the Walker Brothers “The Electrician”.  And when I wrote to the pianist who plays on the song, a Mr Mike Garson, he wrote back to me agreeing that he too thought it was one of Bowie’s best songs ever.  So in your face!

00’s:  Slip Away

Nearly every Bowie album released from 1987 onwards comes with the caveat “His best album since “Scary Monsters”…” As Iggy Pop once said:  “Blah, blah, blah.” Ironically then the album Heathen may actually have been the best Bowie album since “Scary Monsters” so this one time I’ll excuse the cliché.  A wonderful album from a man coming to terms with age, full of songs that look forwards, backwards and just over there to the side, “Slip Away” (found here) is the jewel in the crown lamenting the melancholy of lost childhood through the prism of a TV programme called “The Uncle Floyd Show”.  Once again another beautiful song that finds the great man conjuring images that make you wistfully remember your fading past.  I wonder if one day someone will write something as beautiful about Fat Cat, Humphrey and Shirl’s Neighbourhood?

So there you have it.  I could rabbit on for hours about this topic but will save you of that hideous fate by instead turning on the Bose to maximum volume and singing along in the safety of my very own glam world.

Until then:

Justin Hamilton

Fitzroy North…just down the road from Suffragette City

January 8th, 2010