in Top Ten

Now that Sean has given us a fairly exhaustive chronicle of David Bowie’s career, I suppose it’s time we move on to writing about something else.  Or at least, that’s what I’d be saying if there were actually some decent movies or albums coming out soon.  But there aren’t, so I guess we’ll just keep the Bowie lovetrain a-rollin’ as each of us (minus Nancy probably) share our top ten songs by Mr. Bowie.

I feel like one aspect of Bowie’s early career that Sean forgot to mention in his Retrospecticus was the musical contributions from guitarist Mick Ronson.  This song, and pretty much all of the album bearing its name show Ronson displaying a guitar style that’s flashy-but-not-too-flashy, all while laying some pretty solid groundwork for glam rock in general.

Here’s another pretty glammy song, that serves as a tribute to one of Bowie’s key influences.  I’m guessing this is supposed to be a nod to the early Dylan track “Song To Woody”, but I don’t know.  I assume not many people have listened to that first Dylan album, though I suppose Bowie’s always been a guy that’s pulled from somewhat obscure sources.

Psssssss.  I don’t know what the hell that sound is, but it’s friggin’ sweet.  It kinda seems like Bowie wasn’t trying as hard with lyrics during his Berlin era, but I guess that’s fine when him and Brian Eno were coming up with the kinds of untapped musical soundscapes that you hear on Low.  And this is definitely one of the more instantly likable songs on that album.

Scary Monsters was an album that I didn’t get into until just recently, but I’m really digging the way it took that synthy sound of his Berlin trilogy and turned into a more artsy take on pop music.  For me, this song kind of feels like a psuedo-sequel to “Young Americans”, except with a great melodic guitar solo from Robert Fripp.  Which compels me to ask the question: should I try to get in to King Crimson?  Maybe.

Speaking of “Young Americans”, here’s that song (bad transition!).  Who ever thought a pasty English dude would be able to translate his sensibilities into soul music so easily?  I think it’s just a testament to Bowie’s amazing versatility as a vocalist, and I’d say this song ranks among one of his finest vocal performances.  Which is further illustrated by the fact that I’ve yet to sing it competently in Rock Band.

It’s weird what time does to your opinion of a song.  When I first got in to Ziggy Stardust as a teenager, I was all like “Why did Bowie choose to start off this badass rock album with such a slow, depressing opener?”  But now I’m all about the way this song slowly builds up the Sci-Fi melodrama.  Also, it’s probably just natural that I’ve become more fond of slow, depressing songs as I’ve gotten older and more cynical.  Sigh.

This is one of those songs that I love just because it’s a perfect example of what an artist sounds like when they’ve really hit their stride.  There are so many different ideas going on melodically and lyrically, that you get the sense that from here on out, Bowie was pretty much destined to become a superstar.

Yeah, I know.  Not exactly the coolest song in the Bowie songbook.  But what can I say?  This song always puts me in a good mood, even if it is incredibly ’80s-sounding, and has a dopey Footloose-esque intro.

Basically David Bowie’s manifesto in a lot of ways, since you know, this dude was pretty much the guy that exemplified what it meant to grow and change in a post-Beatles rock landscape.  Also, it’s a little corny to admit, but I don’t think there are many lines that’ve stuck with me in such an enduring way as “Turn and face the strange”.  Face the strange, indeed.

I feel like whenever we try to do these top tens of certain artists’ songs, I try to go with a somewhat unconventional pick for #1, but not this time.  It’s just so damn good!  Not many rock songs come to mind that are so romantic, so tender, so unique, and yet so all-encompassing and anthemic.  And of course it’s all delivered with a perfect balance of wistful croon and emotional sincerity from one of the great voices in rock.