Notes on Bowie. As a musical constituency, it’s difficult subject to tackle without breeching some 10,000 word barrier. Mass is a factor – the significantly weighty impact of both quantity and quality – but it goes beyond even that; Bowie has always been a moving target – a Spring-Heeled Jack, fleet of foot and fast in temperament should you wish to capture him in the crosshairs.
Like Madonna after him, his portfolio has always been calibrated against the flux and pull of musical fashion, and although his sorties towards or against the zeitgeist haven’t always been successful – the drum and bass inspired Earthling; the synthetic electro-funk of Black Tie White Noise: both sound particularly dated, whilst Never Let Me Down is crap, even by Bowie’s own admission – he’s never been risk averse. That’s probably the key difference between Bowie and Ms Ciccone; it’s hard to interpret Madonna’s chain of reinvention as anything other than a cynical attempt to prolong a career (Kylie is another, more recent example), where-as the chameleon aesthetic of the former David Jones suggests a clever assimilation of musical nuances, dipping wildly between the overtly commercial, the hip avant-garde, and knowing Tin Machine irrelevance.
Your gratuitous Star Trek reference: Bowie is the Borg.
(This flexing is further mirrored in his choice of collaborator, ranging from high-end rock royalty (Queen, Lennon, Jagger, Nile Rodgers etc) to more esoteric elements: Iggy, Mick Ronson, Tony Visconti, Brian Eno, Robert Fripp, Placebo, Trent Reznor, Pet Shop Boys to name-check but a few).
I’m an unashamed Bowie fan; a self-confessed musical snob who’s regularly to be found sneering in the undergrowth whenever some pop kid identifies ‘Let’s Dance’ as Bowie at his finest (they do this regularly – I suspect some dodgy genetic affliction). All of which begs the question: if it’s that obvious that a Bowie track would always be featured should I happen to be compiling – for instance – a list of fifty songs, which one to choose? Regular readers will have a fair grip upon the musical subsets this blog colonizes – you know the stuff I like – but even that isn’t necessarily a reliable indicator when dealing with such a diverse and intriguing back cat.
I’ll reveal what lives at #3 on the Festive Fifty tomorrow, and try to unravel some of the methodology of why I’ve hit upon what I have. Until then, and below the words, a Pixies cover. ‘Cactus’ is one of two Pixies tracks recorded for the much under-rated Heathen album of ten years back. Classic Bowie it ain’t; it’s too refined and a little too safe for that, but however stilted, the magic can still be detected.
David Bowie / Cactus