Notes on Bowie – part two (part one: here), and to me it’s the momentum that’s the killer. Potency of lyric, guitar licks that zap and pow, stylistic dexterity – Ziggy as poster boy for the disenfranchised – all remain significant elements of the Bowie allure, but it’s the constant compulsion to reach forward that stands out, (even in his weaker tracks, or during the late ’80’s when he totally misplaced the muse). There’s a morbid fear of inertia in play here, etched into whole swathes of albums.
As I previously mentioned, selecting one track to feature in the Fucked Up Festive Fifty is a difficult business (only one track per artist allowed trills the rulebook). Hardcore Bowie fans understandably gravitate towards the ’70’s material – the critical consensus has him at his zenith at least somewhere in that decade – but even then the sheer breadth of canon belies an obvious candidate. Folk-tinged to Confident Troubadour to Glam Rock Waif to Philadelphia Soul Boy to Berlin Batcave – that’s an incomplete summation of the decade in question, and even that inadequate overview contains musical destinations far wider in scope and vision than the majority of acts ever get close to.
Songs I nearly selected: ‘Queen Bitch’ (Hunky Dory). ‘Hallo Spaceboy’ (Outside). The first half of Aladdin Sane, and practically anything from the Berlin trilogy (Low, “Heroes”, Lodger) – Bowie at his darkest, his most experimental and musically erudite – ‘V-2 Schneider’ is extremely close to appearing below, a track that hovers menacingly in the background of Spiritualized’s ‘Lay Back In The Sun’.
Ultimately, however, it’s this:
#3. David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)
The reasons: it’s catchy, wearing its New York new wave influences proudly, but without aligning itself completely with the transiencies of fashion. It’s dark, celebrating its undertone of abrasiveness, Robert Fripp’s guitar prowling wild-eyed across the narrative in liberal quantities. It’s a track whose parent album (1980’s Scary Monsters) intelligently and tenderly parodies the Bowie back catalogue, but the LP’s title track sidesteps this dynamic, instead plumping for a full-on immediacy heightened by the claustrophobic intent to the lyrics:
I looked in her eyes, they were blue, but nobody home.
She asked for my love and I gave her a dangerous mind.
I love the little girl and I’ll love her till the days she dies.
I guess the reason ‘Scary Monsters’ is so significant is that it encapsulates the inherent iconicness of Bowie fandom. It explains why, as an artist, I find him so attractive – which is all you can ask for in a track.
David Bowie / Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)