With the passing of the 70’s many of the old guard were beginning to feel the effects of their own mortality. Now in their 30’s and heading for the impossibly old age of 40 they were now heading into virgin territory, was there a career for a 40 tear old in a art form that had previous idolised youth?
Jazz and Blues musicians became a potential role model. No one really cared how old Miles Davis or Howling Wolf or Muddy Waters actually were. If anything age had given them a dignity, experience, a life lived that made the pop generation seem shallow and callow.
What we know know with retrospect is that after a difficult decade or so many of the artists achieved just that. The Who and The Stones are essentially nostalgia acts but no one is going to snigger when Daltrey launches into ‘My Generation’, He’s earned the right.
Solo artists have an easier time, if they come up with anything that’s even OK we heave a sigh of relief, if they produce a load of garbage we can convince ourselves that its all part of the artist’s cantankerous genius and hope that the next album will be better.
And that brings us to Bowie.
Subsequent to his passing I suspect there weren’t many of us digging out copies of ‘Tonight’ or ‘Black Tie White Noise’ or ‘Earthling’ to celebrate his career. Bowie was the 70’s artist releasing no less than 11 albums during that decade compared with,say,five in the 1990s. And, the all important point, all 11 albums were bloody brilliant.
For me Bowie was just too good, I like a bit a fallibility in my music and for a decade he just didn’t put a foot wrong (he had a few near misses). For this reason I like my Bowie in bite sized chunks so here are my bestest Bowie tracks ever, and they are all form the 70’s of course.
The Man Who Sold the World
If his career had ended at this point we would still be lauding Bromley Dave. At this point part of a rock band ‘The Man Who Sold the World’ was a dense paranoid piece of work. At this point and indeed at future points mental instability was to be a recurring theme inspired by his own experiences with his brother Terry. A juxtaposition of the mundane ‘We passed upon the stair’ and the fantastic. Also welcome the fantastic production or Tony Visconti and the guitar of Mick Ronson
Produced by Ken Scott for the ‘Hunky Dory’ album this was a side step for Bowie showing that he hadnt yet left Anthony Newley completely in the past. Unlike a lot of his songs I find this genuinely touching and no doubt it embarrasses the hell out of Bowie being a love song both for his son but his subsequently terrible wife Angie.
‘Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cad, cos I’m not much cop at punching other people’s dads’
Call the Social Services!
Life on Mars
Again from Hunky Dory and released as an out of sync single.Rick Wakeman plays the best piano of his career and Mick Ronson contributes a lovely guitar solo but it’s Bowie’s lyrics that grab me every time, and it mentions the Norfolk Broads, that was a big deal to me.
‘Wow he really is a bender’ we whispered with a mixture of fear and awe the next day at school. Dressing in a skirt and announcing he was bisexual hadn’t convinced us but putting his arm around red blooded heterosexual Yorkshireman Mick Ronson scared the shit out of us. Unbelievably brave in 1972 but today it’s Trevor Bolder’s sideburns that are truly frightening
John I’m Only Dancing
This got a bit lost because it was a single without a place on an album. This was a big hit at the Friday night disco’s I was now attending and so has a special place in my heart, not because it’s Bowie but because its a great record. On one level Bowie was like a being from another planet but let us not forget The Spiders from Mars played their first gig at The Toby Jug in Tolworth,The Toby Jug in Tolworth!!!. Ok I don’t know where that is either but it doesn’t sound exotic.No doubt the band were travelling about in the back of a Ford Cortina eating meat pies and drinking brown ale. But on-stage they were exotic creatures.
And who else would write a song about a gay guy dancing with a girl and reassuring his partner it was a platonic relationship.
Drive In Saturday
Aladdin Sane was the only Bowie album I owned and that was only because I was offered it cheap (£1 if my memory serves me well). This of course was the single. A mixture of futuristic lyrics with a 50’s do-wop vibe. Usually I like to include a live video clip but these studio recordings are so fantastic,that I’ve broken with tradition this week
At this point Bowie was brilliant even when he was treading water. Pin Ups was a pause for breath and a bit of a patchy record. Nevertheless this is a wonderful single and notable for Bowie’s saxophone solo. His sax playing it underrated, he’s no John Coltrane but his sound is unique and rather lovely.
And now Bowie is playing one of the all time great guitar riffs (it’s more difficult than you think)
At this point he’s struggling a bit, the lyrical inventiveness is starting to take a back seat but this is a great single.
Like the Beatles growing facial hair this is a point where Bowie started to loose part of his audience. When this was released I loved it but somehow felt I shouldn’t. For the first time here is a clip where the live experience equals the record. He’s got slick players, he’s got cocaine in his veins, its American and funky.
‘Aint there one damm song that can make be break down and cry’
Blimmin heck! This is five years of his career !