This needs to be finished off......
David Bowie is a popular singer and significant art and media figure of the late 20th century. Born David Robert Jones in England on 8 January 1947, Bowie has been a major figure in the world of popular music for over four decades, and is renowned as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. He is known for his distinctive baritone voice as well as the intellectual depth and eclecticism of his work. His androgynous appearance, combined with his claim to be bi-sexual, was an iconic element to his image, particularly in the 1970s.
Bowie first caught the attention of the public in July 1969 when his song "Space Oddity" reached the top five of the UK Singles Chart. After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with the flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single "Starman" and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Bowie's impact at that time, as described by biographer David Buckley, "challenged the core belief of the rock music of its day" and "created perhaps the biggest cult in popular culture." The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona proved merely one facet of a career marked by continual reinvention, musical innovation and striking visual presentation.
In 1975, Bowie achieved his first major American crossover success with the number-one single "Fame" and the hit album Young Americans, which the singer characterised as "plastic soul". The sound constituted a radical shift in style that initially alienated many of his UK devotees. He then confounded the expectations of both his record label and his American audiences by recording the minimalist album Low (1977)—the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno over the next two years. Low, "Heroes", and Lodger, the so-called "Berlin Trilogy" albums, all reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise. After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single "Ashes to Ashes", its parent album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), and "Under Pressure", a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached a new commercial peak in 1983 with Let's Dance, which yielded several hit singles. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including blue-eyed soul, industrial, adult contemporary, and jungle. He has not toured since the 2003–04 Reality Tour and has not performed live since 2006. Bowie's latest studio album The Next Day was released in March 2013.
David Buckley says of Bowie: "His influence has been unique in popular culture—he has permeated and altered more lives than any comparable figure." In the BBC's 2002 poll of the 100 Greatest Britons, Bowie was placed at number 29. Throughout his career, he has sold an estimated 140 million albums. In the UK, he has been awarded nine Platinum album certifications, 11 Gold and eight Silver, and in the US, five Platinum and seven Gold certifications. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked him 39th on their list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and 23rd on their list of the best singers of all time.
|David Bowie (1967)|
This is fascinating. A quirky and very listenable and interesting album of songs. I've come to Bowie straight from looking at Elton John, and it's such a relief to encounter bold and clever lyrics playing around with a range of original themes and ideas. The oddity is the music hall style of the album. The voice is pure Anthony Newly, and the songs could come from either a playhouse or a theatre. This is not rock. Yet the lyrics have a rock sensibility, with a (perhaps at this stage purely coincidental) touch of Syd Barrett, and the delivery is knowing, arch and arty. Bowie was coming from a world of Joe Brown, Tommy Steele, and Marty Wilde; but he also had an awareness of more rock orientated pop artist such as The Kinks and The Beatles, whose music hall influenced Sgt Peppers was recorded and released at the same time.
|Back cover of US release|
Other debut albums in the same year include Al Stewart's Bed Sitter Images; Van Morrison's Blowin' Your Mind; Captain Beefheart's Safe as Milk; Strawberry Alarm Clock's Incense & Peppermint; Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which indicate that Bowie's album is very much of its time. Yet it is also the work of someone who will become one of the most important, influential and fascinating musical and media figures of the late 20th century. It wasn't successful - apparently the album wasn't promoted, and it would be two years and a different record company before his nest album.
I like the album. The quirky lyrics and somewhat daft 1967 approach combined with easy listening tunes make it an intriguing and listenable album. It's not a major album, and it's not on the same level as some of the other debut albums mentioned above, but it certainly beats almost every album that Elton John has released.
|David Bowie / Space Oddity (1969)|
More readily accepted by Bowie fans, critics and Bowie himself as the first "proper" Bowie" album, as he is using his own voice, and the music is more rock focused. However, the songs and lyrics are pretty much the same as the first album, just different production, voice, and approach. I find it rather messy and lacking the quirky charm, energy and easy listening appeal of the first album. There is a lack of direction about it all, with a different feel to each song, sometimes Al Stewart, sometimes so it all feels rather random and amateurish. The first track "Space Oddity" was a hit as a single, allowing Bowie to buy a flat, and to feel excited about his future as an artist. But the album itself sold poorly, and Bowie drifted for a while before hitting success again with the "Starman" single and the Ziggy Stardust tour. The album was re-released in 1972 under the name Space Oddity, but has recently been returned to its original name. Space Oddity and Memory of a Free Festival provide nice moments, but mostly the album is boring and difficult to listen to all the way through without some impatience.
"Letter to Hermione" is one of Bowie's rare personal songs. It's about the break up of his relationship with Hermione Farthingale, She is also the girl in "An Occasional Dream" and "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed". In the video accompanying "Where Are We Now?" he wore a t-shirt with the words "Song for Norway", a film for which she left him to act in. They appeared together in the film Love You Till Tuesday. She is the girl with mousy hair in "Life On Mars?"
Rating: 2 1/2
|The Man Who Sold The World (1970)|
This is the first album in which we get to hear the classic Bowie. The song structures are quite mature, and Bowie's voice is now fully developed so he uses it in those expansive styles that we recognise and value. We also have Mick Ronson on guitar, a significant part of early 70s Bowie. And Tony Visconti producing. The classic team has been assembled, and the sound on this album is focused so it feels like an album. How successful it is will be up to each listener, but it's certainly an album that intrigues, and encourages attention and repeat listening. Released shortly before Bowie and the team started recording were albums by Van der Graf Generator, Black Sabbath, and The Stooges. Elements of these three areas of music - prog, heavy metal, and hard rock, are present in the album. A number of musicians at the time were playing around with blues rock and also with dark lyrics and themes, so there's nothing really innovative in this album, and at times the songs seem secondary to what is going on elsewhere - Saviour Machine and She Shook Me Cold for example; but the last two tracks on Side Two, the title track, and Supermen, are worth the price of entry and indicate that this Bowie chap might be a little bit interesting. Unfortunately for Bowie, as they are right at the end of the album, and the rest of the songs are nothing special, this album didn't sell, and he had to wait a little longer for his breakthrough. While the first two albums (especially the first) are mostly disregarded by Bowie listeners, this one does get a little attention - particularly as during Bowie's creative peak when everything he touched turned to gold, he gave this to Lulu and produced the recording. Later, Nirvana also recorded the song in a stunning Unplugged performance. The Width of a Circle tends to get attention; though it's not an achieved song such as The Man and Superman, it shows promise, and it both shows the way Bowie would go, and also, interestingly, what elements of prog rock he would leave behind.
Rating: 5 1/2
|Hunky Dory (1971)|
This is an astonishing album. Possibly Bowie's best. It is crammed full of really, really good songs that stand alone as special, and when taken as a group make for a very satisfying and rewarding album to rival Lou Reed's Transformer, which, of course, Bowie produced during his creative peak when everything he touched turned to gold. It was not this album that broke Bowie, and that's chilling. That someone could make an album as good as this, with such catchy songs as Changes and O You Pretty Things, and someone who had already had a hit single, and yet despite favourable reviews it gets largely ignored by the public and unpromoted by the record company. How many other really great albums are there out there that are as yet undiscovered? If it hadn't been for "Starman", and for the critics picking up on the concept story of Ziggy Stardust and hyping Bowie, this album and Bowie's others would likely have been discontinued, and Bowie would have given up and become an art teacher or something.
When Bowie broke into the mainstream, this album was part of his back catalogue, and everyone was looking toward his future albums rather than toward his past, especially as his back catalogue was being confused with the release of his juvenalia, such as "The Laughing Gnome". However, over time people have gone back to this and found it exquisitely rewarding. Opinions are divided as to which is Bowie's greatest album, but for many this is it - an album unhyped, unpromoted, largely undeclared. An album that reveals itself uniquely and individually to each listener.
|Ziggy Stardust (1972)|
|Aladdin Sane (1973)|
A return to the Hunky Dory approach of an album of assorted songs. There's some very good songs here, some of my favourites, with at times great lyrical imagery, and occasional brilliant music. However, the album is a little uneven, and doesn't have both the consistency, variety, and charm of Hunky Dory.
|Pin Ups (1973)|
I really liked this when it was released. My friends and I would enthusiastically discuss his choices, and how close he was to the originals, or what he had done differently. It was a record of its time - an insight into the most fascinating pop figure of the time, and a re-stirring of some classic 60s music. Released at the same time as Brian Ferry's excellent ''These Foolish Things'', it was cool and interesting, and seemed the very thing that cool and interesting musicians should do. But today it is significantly less interesting. Some of the covers are embarrassing, especially when Bowie plays the sax. Only a few tracks have stood the test of time - "Sorrow" being the main one (with Ken Fordham playing the sax this time).
|Diamond Dogs (1974)|
|David Live (double live album 1974)|
|Young Americans (1975)|
The title track is one of Bowie's best songs. Perfect. Great music, great lyrics, and one of his best (possibly his greatest) vocal performances."Fame", another great song and hit single, was co-written with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar. - the riff that Carlos developed was copied that same year by James Brown for "Hot (I Need To Be Loved". The rest of the album is a bit hit and miss, but the album is important as it really drove home that here was a person willing to explore music interests, and who enjoyed using a wide palate. Bowie has an ability to write fascinating lyrics - they may not always be spot on, but they are usually interesting, and are a step above the average "You broke my heart" love song, or the "Purple dwarves vomit on the highway" prog rock song. He also has an ability to write catchy melodies, simple rockers, and decent music.
Great title track, crap album.
Wikipedia; Pitchfork; Stylus; AllMusic; Rolling Stone;
|Scary Monsters (1980)|
For a number of major artists, the 1980s was not a good period artistically. There seemed a desire to turn commercial, and to use electronic or synthesised music rather than more organic instruments. It was the nature of the period. And Bowie was no different. His music turned very commercial - but it still retains enough of interest. This album comes after the difficult and non-commercial Berlin Trilogy, and for a good number of Bowie listeners, this was a blessed relief. Proper music again!
|Let's Dance (1983)|
- David Bowie (1967)
- David Bowie (1969)
- The Man Who Sold the World (1970)
- Hunky Dory (1971)
- The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
- Aladdin Sane (1973)
- Pin Ups (1973)
- Diamond Dogs (1974)
- Young Americans (1975)
- Station to Station (1976)
- Low (1977)
- "Heroes" (1977)
- Lodger (1979)
- Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980)
- Let's Dance (1983)
- Tonight (1984)
- Never Let Me Down (1987)
- Black Tie White Noise (1993)
- The Buddha of Suburbia (1993)
- Outside (1995)
- Earthling (1997)
- 'Hours...' (1999)
- Heathen (2002)
- Reality (2003)
- The Next Day (2013)
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69 April 2019