What can I say that’s not already been said or written? Only a personal view.
My first experience of David Bowie was hearing ‘The Laughing Gnome’, maybe I saw the video on Top of the Pops but either way I remember it vividly. It was quirky, different and about a gnome; David singing and the Gnome
laughing and talking in high pitched voice (similar sound as can be heard in the background towards the end of Hunky Dory’s ‘The Bewlay Brothers’). It was 1967 and I was three. Impossible? Heard it later in life? Definitely not, it’s one of my first memories – musical or otherwise.
In the book, My Old Man’s a Busman, there’s a section on my first musical memory, but unfortunately when I wrote it I’d completely forgotten this song / memory and my research at the time concludes that it was ‘Puppet on a String’ by Sandie Shaw, also in 1967. ‘Puppet’ was late March and ‘Gnome’ was early April so who knows? It was a long time ago.
Second memory was the incredible Space Oddity two years later in 1969 which, even at five years old blew me away. So different, so futuristic and eight years ahead of Star Wars!
Then to be honest after that it’s a bit of a blur. I wasn’t a big fan at the time. I’d love to say that ‘Ziggy’ or ‘Hunky Dory’ were the soundtracks to my adolescence, but they weren’t. While Bowie was appearing at his Gender-Bending best – ‘Life on Mars’ video being a great example -I was listening to the pop end of glam, the likes of Mud, The Rubettes, Sweet and Suzi Quattro. I was aware of his music and various incarnations (via the must-see TOTP’s) but it just wasn’t for me then.
It’s been a gradual affair; like olives and fine wines it’s a taste that’s been acquired with age.
So with the very sad news of his untimely, but dignified passing, everyone is trying to pick their favourite Bowie tracks but of course like any great artist – it’s tough and depends on your mood, day of the week etc.
So in keeping with the style of the rest of the book I need to find a Video and a Top 10!
First a video. Even that’s tough…
Laughing Gnome. In my memory the video that I saw had David singing this on a bed and the Gnome kept popping up (either at the end or at the side of the bed), however I can’t find it on YouTube – only cartoon versions- so for that reason it’s not in. If anyone has shared memory or has video of this PLEASE let me know.
Queen Bitch. Contains the great lyric mentioned in the title and clearly influenced The Killers ‘Mr Brightside’ but… not quite hard wired into the memory banks enough.
The aforementioned ‘Life on Mars’. Bowie possibly at his Gender-Bending, Androgynous best and featuring the unforgettable piano playing of Rick Wakeman. This so nearly made it…
Even ‘All the Young Dudes’ – a hit for Mott the Hoople but so obviously Bowie when you listen (who also released a version on ‘Ziggy Stardust – The Motion Picture’).
But for sheer impact, on me…and millions of others, it has to be ‘Space Oddity’- but in true MOMAB fashion, not the obvious version, instead the original video which has a different version of the song from that was the final single release…enjoy!
So to the top 10 – having agonised, I’ve come up with a list that would not have been yesterdays and that I’ll regret tomorrow, but is – if nothing else - a marker in the musical shifting sands. In no particular order then;
All the Young Dudes
Life on Mars
Ashes to Ashes
Wild is the Wind
Oh You Pretty Things
Pop Cricket Score – 30 for 5 (What’s this? You need to read the book!)
I can already hear the clamour of disagreement.
A great talent who’s music and legacy will live on for decades…along with that Bibbety-Bobbity hat.