01 Oh! You Pretty Things (Hunky Dory December 1971)
02 Life On Mars? (Hunky Dory December 1971)
03 Queen Bitch (Hunky Dory December 1971)
04 Five Years (The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars June 1972)
05 Moonage Daydream (The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars June 1972)
06 Lady Stardust (The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars June 1972)
07 Rock’n’Roll Suicide (The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars June 1972)
08 Jean Genie (Single A Side November 1972)
09 Drive In Saturday (Aladdin Sane April 1973)
10 Time (Aladdin Sane April 1973)
11 Rebel Rebel (Single A Side February 1974)
12 Sweet Thing / Candidate / Sweet Thing [Reprise] (Diamond Dogs May 1974)
13 Right (Young Americans March 1975)
14 Station To Station (Station To Station January 1976)
15 Word On A Wing (Station To Station January 1976)
16 Sound And Vision (Low January 1977)
17 “Heroes” (Heroes October 1977)
18 Boys Keep Swinging (Lodger May 1979)
19 Ashes To Ashes (Scary Monsters September 1980)
20 Loving The Alien (Tonight September 1984)
These days I’m really kind of blasé about people I know dying. My cold, cold heart has been battered enough. Family, friend, acquaintance or star, young, old or middle aged; nothing surprises me anymore. Yet when my daughter woke me early this morning to tell me in her typically sensationalist, 16 year old way that David Bowie had died, not only did it bring my own mortality sharply into focus, blow me if it didn’t almost bring a tear to my eye. As always I brushed it off with the minimum of fuss until a few hours later when I realised I’d been playing nothing but Bowie songs all morning and had a strange compunction to write my own tribute to the old fella.
While I’ve never had any heroes as such, Bowie must be the closest I’ve come to actually having one. After all, it was only a couple of weeks ago in a Late Night Tales piece that I mentioned how he had saved me from my miserable, teenage, suburban nightmare. Living in the sticks, feeling useless, unworthy and out of place, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and Station To Station were life savers, introducing me to new worlds far beyond the small minded land I lived in.
Of course, it was all so very different back then. Appearing as if from nowhere like some exotic, extra-terrestrial lifeform on a personal crusade to destroy all the old clichés and values, it was Bowie’s alien artfulness that first led to my discovery of a darker, far more subversive place. To me and thousands like me, he was the outsider aesthetic writ large, his urban teen anthems screaming; if you’ve got it flaunt it, and if you haven’t got it, fake it and reinvent yourself.
In 1976, when punk really began to flower, it was obvious Bowie had been the prime catalyst, the only one capable of pulling the disparate legions of suburban, British youth together. Ironically, it was on May 8th of that momentous year at the Empire Pool, Wembley that I got to see him live for the first and only time. The final UK date on his notorious Thin White Duke tour, from the blinding white lights to Bowie’s Dracula like appearance, every last detail remains etched on my memory.
I may not have known it at the time, but as far as I was concerned that was his last hurrah. Apart from 1977’s Low and Heroes, my punk and post punk years largely excluded the man himself. Nonetheless, watching from a distance, he continued to be the ever thoughtful changeling even if he did sound pretty much spent artistically.
The one thing I’ve found baffling in the immediate aftermath of his death is the great outpouring of emotion from the unlikeliest of folk. Even my previously Bowie free, piss poor excuse for a local radio station have been playing his eighties hits non-stop on rotation. For some reason I didn’t expect such gushing for a man who was never afraid to speak out and made some of the most uncompromising, groundbreaking yet commercially successful music of all time. But I guess it proves how after a near fifty year career, in one way or another, Bowie belonged to all of us.
Ultimately, what must be considered his greatest achievement in a lifetime of great achievements, is that the musical and cultural map of the twenty first century looks completely different to how it did when he first landed. Emblematic as a rare breed of once fallen hero who somehow managed to rise and challenge our perceptions time and time again, we should never forget it was David Bowie who helped redraw it. I feel incredibly fortunate to have been conscious of so much of it while it was happening.
There’s little point in trying to make a definitive Bowie playlist although God knows I’ve tried countless times. With 25 albums and numerous single only releases to contend with, it’s impossible to sum him up in a mere 20 songs. So I make no apology for this being an unashamedly personal selection, in strict chronological order naturally.
Chris Green. 11th January 2016