Tuesday, November 30, 2010

David Bowie. The 15 Best Songs

I was planning this list a few weeks back, slowly editing down a very long list of songs. Then last week I saw that Rolling Stone Magazine posted a feature which included Bono of U2 picking his 15 favorite songs by David Bowie. Below are my 15 picks, but I have to tell you... this was so not easy. So many great songs had to be dropped to make room for others. If I did this in a month it would be a different list. Oh yeah, Bono and I had 4 of the 15 songs in common.

I always listen to a lot of Bowie this time of year - when I was a kid, my parents gave me a whole bunch of Bowie albums for Christmas. Hope you enjoy this list - every song is perfect. Scroll to the bottom to listen to these selections on our Spotify playlist.

15.  Fantastic Voyage
From the album Lodger (1979)
So many songs could've taken this spot on the countdown, but there is just something about this song that is pure and beautiful. It also is one of Bowie's best vocal performances.

14.  Fascination
From the album Young Americans (1975)
What a departure from 1972's Ziggy Stardust, huh? It's co-written by Luther Vandross, who was one of Bowie's backup singers at the time.

13.  The Bewlay Brothers
From the album Hunky Dory (1971)
The ending vocals are just insane.

12.  Letter to Hermione
From the album Space Oddity (1969)
One of the best love songs of all time.

11.  Strangers When Me Meet
Released as single; appeared on the album Outside (1995)
The 80s and early 90s weren't the strongest times in Bowie's artistic output, so when this album dropped in 1995, it was a blessing.

10.  Heroes
Released as single; appeared on the album 'Heroes' (1977)
What else can be said about this song? It's perfect.

09.  A New Career in a New Town
From the album Low (1977)
The drum sound is just killer. This was the last track on Side One of Low. It bridged the gap between the vocal songs to the instrumentals on Side Two.

08.  Time
Released as single; appeared on the album Aladdin Sane (1973)
The interplay between the cabaret-like style of Mike Garson's piano and Mick Ronson's lead guitar work are exquisite.

07.  Word on a Wing
From the album Station to Station (1976)
Another of Bowie's best vocal performances.

06.  Life on Mars?
Released as single (1973); appeared on the album Hunky Dory (1971)
Amazing. You have this album don't you?

05.  Conversation Piece
Released as b-side to The Prettiest Star single (1970)
I love this song so much. It was a bonus track on the Ryko edition of Space Oddity. My brother Bart and I used to cover this at several acoustic Audra shows.

04.  Lady Grinning Soul
From the album Aladdin Sane (1973)
Brilliant. The guitar solo alone is worth the 99 cents you will pay for this song right now.

03.  Starman
Released as single; appeared on the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
The first Bowie song I fell in love with.

02.  We are the Dead
From the album Diamond Dogs (1974)
Diamond Dogs is my favorite Bowie album. It's mostly known for the huge single, Rebel Rebel, though the album's beauty lies in its lesser-known tracks like We Are The Dead, Big Brother and my #1 pick.

01.  Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (reprise)

From the album Diamond Dogs (1974)
I don't even know what to say about it. His voice in the very beginning is wicked and dark.  My favorite moment is when it segues into Candidate and he sings that first line, 'I'll make you a deal, like any other candidate.' It always gives me chills.

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  1. wow, looks like you and i could seriously talk bowie, my friend. i grew up on his old lps, as well, and also like the "deep cuts" as itunes would call them. now i totally have "it ain't easy stuck in my head, btw." :)

  2. Anji, I am a self-proclaimed Bowie scholar. :) I would love see what 15 you would choose.

  3. You know your stuff. I love your choice of #1. The demo of 'Candidate' is very different, shame it's lyrics must've discounted it from the album. I also think 'Word on a Wing' is under-rated by most people. For me, 'Cygnet Committee' would be on this list. cheers

  4. Dear Anonymous. Thanks! I love Cygnet Committee, such a great track. It was on the list before it was cut down to 15. Yeah, Word On A Wing is just a gorgeous track. Thanks for stopping by. Bret

  5. 'Blackout' and 'Some are', as well as his collaboration with Mr. Lennon... would make my list. Isn't it amazing how much of his music is timeless? I imagine much of his music will still find new audiences in the years to come.

  6. Anonymous, thanks for stopping by. Yeah, I love those tracks as well. You speak the truth when you say Bowie's music is timeless. I agree with you 100%. :) Bret

  7. That's a fantastic list i can't really disagree with any of it ... i've tried doing bowie song lists but its just too annoying, you look at the stuff you leave off and shake your head ... but i'll try anyway - (there's no order of preference)

    15 - The Motel
    His voice is amazing, you can tell his been in all sorts of out of the way places with it.
    14 - The Lady Grinning Soul -
    The sensuousness is unbeatable.
    13 - Letter to Hermione
    You can tell he's had is heart broken, for the first time.
    12 - Five Years
    The imagery in this song is staggering.. to me this song calls on Bowie fans everywhere to gather... song this with many a bowie friend on the Reality tour ... Also, i'll admit this song i shed a little tear when i hear it live.
    11 - Space Oddity
    I love the snare drum sound on this, his break through song
    10 - Slow Burn
    I have to say that bowie gets the best guitar work out of Pete Townsend ... fab
    9 - Life on Mars?
    Like 'Five Years' the imagery is breathtaking ... with the same underlining themes of isolation.
    8 - Sons Of The Silent Age
    First heard this when about 12, it took me half an hour to peel myself of the ceiling lol. It just comes from a place i still doing now where to find.
    7 - Warsawa
    I'm glad there's no real vocal on this song, that way you float into its atmosphere which is not always a fun place to be.
    6 - Shadowman (Heathen/toy version)
    Okay this is all about him, his artistic DNA. I gets emotional when i hears it.
    5 - Station to Station
    The lyrics in this song are some of the best poetry you'll find anywhere ... a really frighting song when you think about it.
    4 - Fantastic Voyage
    Love his voice, love what he's singing as well.
    3 - Sweet Thing Suite
    His voice is dark and brooding with a slight hoodlum element to it.
    2 - Loving the Alien
    This song is full of imagery and conflict ... it also shows Bowies path ... look who he ended up marrying?
    1 - Addalinsane
    The piano, the lyrics, the debauchery ... of going of to kill foreigners and screw girls as he once said on stage.

  8. Great picks!!! Loved reading your explanations too. Loving The Alien is such a great song. He did a fantastic version for the Reality tour. The Motel - great pick.... and Shadow Man - love seeing obscure songs on a list. :) Thanks for stopping by! - Bret

  9. In no particular order, here is my pick. I know that they are a bit more "staple" than the others, but I still love to listen to them!

    Ashes to Ashes
    Ziggy Stardust
    Aladdin Sane
    Oh! You Pretty Things
    Young Americans
    Lady Grinning Soul
    John, I'm Only Dancing
    Suffragette City

  10. Sweet Thing/Candidate is my favourite too. Then Moonage Daydream, Soul Love, When You Rock N Roll With Me, Stay, Lady Grinning Soul, Prettiest Star, Bewlay Brothers, Drive In Saturday, 1984, Time.

  11. 15-The Man Who Sold the World
    One of the best songs about schizophrenia, if not the best.
    14-Soul Love
    David Bowie isn't known for his love songs. But this. This is all he ever had to write about the subject. Perfect.
    My main issue with "Heroes" (the album not the song) is how it feels like Eno took over on the B-side. With Low everything feels balanced.
    12-Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
    I enjoyed Let's Dance more than I had any right to... Gotta love how bizarre the lyrics are here. Gasoline? Cat people? Fire?
    My friend told me this song was about sodomy. Some say it's about drugs. Personally I think it's about Bowie's fear of flying in airplanes. Who knows it was the 70s. Damn Bowie you funky honky you. Right is probably about all three of those things. At the same time.
    10-Drive-In Saturday
    This was the first sign that David wanted to be Bootsy Collins.
    The essential post 9/11 song.
    7-Segue- Ramona A. Stone/I Am With Name
    Sounds like something Alan Wilder would've composed. If you don't enjoy 1.Outside with all of its insane plot I don't think we can be friends.
    6-Word On A Wing
    David this song makes me cry... Make it stop...
    5-Red Sails
    Pure joy.
    4-Loving The Alien
    This song reminds me of Neon Genesis. No reason why. Bowie kinda looked like Kaworu. Huh.
    3-The Bewlay Brothers
    When you find out about David's brother, you're gonna cry.
    2-I Can't Give Everything Away
    Speaking of crying...
    1-Ashes To Ashes
    Remember that cute little space song about Major Tom? Well the whole thing was a drug trip. Genius writing. Plus the song is chilling as all get out.