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A TRUE ICONOCLAST: THE LEGACY OF DAVID BOWIE AND HIS 36 GREATEST SONGS

Published Jan 15 by Daniel Moss.
I think my initial reaction to hearing about the passing of David Bowie earlier in the week was the same everyone else's, that of disbelief. For some reason we assumed him immortal, a man of so many faces, so many personas. But ultimately he was just David Robert Jones - a mere mortal from South London. Although just a regular guy like the rest of us, the influence of David Bowie on music and culture as we know it today is immense. A musical trailblazer that drew from the far reaches of western and eastern cultures to develop a constantly evolving and always iconoclastic approach to popular music. A fashion icon that pushed the boundaries of what a man could look like, what a rock star could act like and how being your unique weirdo self could become the template for an entire generation after you. His legacy is unparalleled; there will never and can never be another like him.

When I heard he passed I immediately had the inclination to do a list of his greatest songs. With an initial idea of a top 20 songs, I did a quick shortlist that ended up with over 50 songs. So I did a cull and ended up with 36 before I was unwilling to cut any further. So here it is, a top three dozen - it probably could have been in any order but I did my best to order it in some way, numbers aside. 

SUE (OR IN A SEASON OF CRIME)

Part of wanting the list to go further than 36 was to include something from 'Blackstar'. Released just a few days ago, it's a testament to the fact that Bowie never grew complacent right 'til the end. This was my first introduction to any of the material from the album. Sounds like Scott Walker arranged by Charles Mingus and somehow, exactly like David Bowie.

JOHN, I'M ONLY DANCING  (1972 - Non Album Single)

A song by a bisexual man that addressed his sexuality and caused his record label to prevent it's release until 1976. Like Lou Reed, Bowie was integral in pushing things that were before considered taboo into the popular consciousness. 

ANDY WARHOL (1971 from 'Hunky Dory')

I remember playing this song in front of my class when I was in school and my teacher said he liked the performance considering it wasn't one of Bowie's best. I disagree, listening back to it now I still find it a fitting tribute to an icon. 

WARSZAWA (1977 from 'Low')

Using Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies in its creation, this track from Bowie's Masterpiece 'Low' is perhaps a perfect example of the Berlin mindset at the time. Using an invented language for the vocals and a musical arrangement designed to evoke the desolation of Warsaw, this track perfectly typifies the idea of evoking despair and trying to find the human emotion in the electronic instrument.

LAZARUS (2015 from 'Blackstar')

What a final song to release before his passing. With a video clip of him on a hospital bed and opening lines of 'Look up here, I'm in Heaven'. A parting gift that couldn't have come from anyone else.


ALADDIN SANE (1973 from 'Aladdin Sane')

The beginning of him pushing further into experimentation later explored in the Berlin years. In his personal life he was beginning to willingly self destruct with his ongoing drug use: 'A Lad Insane'.

KOOKS (1971 from 'Hunky Dory') 

Written for his newly born son Zowie (later Duncan) and with influence from the style of Neil Young. A new parent singing about the parent he hopes to be.

FASHION (1980 from 'Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)') 

Fripp on guitar, Bowie sending up British pop culture and one hell of an 80's video clip.

ALL THE YOUNG DUDES (1972 from the Mott The Hoople Album 'All The Young Dudes') 

After they passed on Suffragette City, David went back to the drawing board to offer up another song for Mott The Hoople's 1972 album. It not only ended up being the band's biggest songs but one of glam rock's biggest anthems.

MODERN LOVE (1983 from Let's Dance)

Always with an affinity towards American Culture, this is a song inspired by Bowie's love for Little Richard. Another big song from an immensely popular album.

BREAKING GLASS (1977 from 'Low')

Those drums. Tony Visconti fed Dennis Davis' snare through an Eventide Harmonizer to pitch it down underneath the original snare sound. Couple this with the bombastic kick drum sound and Eno's rude as hell Moog Synth and you've got the recipe for one of Art Rock Bowie's finest. 
 

QUEEN BITCH (1971 from 'Hunky Dory')

This track pretty much provides the template for the glam rock follow up in Ziggy. Inspired by The Velvet Underground, and showcasing Mick Ronson's guitar playing that would be integral in Bowie's sound moving forward. 

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