23 April, 2016

Seven days of Bowie - bonus tracks

Yes, I've already done the seven-day challenge and I've already cheated by choosing two for the last day, but when I first started this 'blog way back in 1899, the point of it was to do things my way. So here are three choices that almost made it and why:

Tin Machine
As with Never Let Me Down, I am not for one moment suggesting Tin Machine is a work of misunderstood genius. What's great about it is that it was such a breakout!

As mentioned and linked in the previous post, Bowie's plan in the mid-80s was to make as much money as he could and then retire to a tropical island somewhere. But he noticed it wasn't making him happy and Reeves Gabrels suggested to him that maybe he should do what makes him happy.

So yes, Tin Machine was rough and somewhat contrived, although probably no more or less contrived than any of Bowie's other adopted styles. It was as if all the raucous he'd been holding back for almost ten years came blurted out in two albums. These days you'd call it a reboot. And to push the analogy a little too far, rebooting can be messy.

Oh, and they rocked harder than a lot of the poodle metal acts around at the time.

I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday
It wasn't unusual for Bowie to do covers. In fact over half his albums have at least one cover version on them. Obviously being a Morrissey fan, this one is going to interest me but there's a cute circularity to the way this one came about.

Mick Ronson had produced Morrissey's Your Arsenal album, from which the song was taken, the year before. In one of the few insights into the creative process provided in Morrissey's Autobiography, it reveals that it was Ronson's idea to have the outtro of I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday follow the same chromatic run featured in the climax of Rock'n'Roll Suicide. Morrissey and his band were worried that Bowie would sue. Mick gave them a nod and a wink and assured them it wouldn't happen. The subtext? Ronson had written that part all along.

Bowie returned the compliment the following year saying, "It's me doing Morrissey doing me." None of this is to suggest that Bowie wasn't completely taking the piss on this version.

Ashes to Ashes
For the most part, I have tried to avoid obvious classics, but the one really is unavoidable. However, I am going to tell you something about it that you probably haven't heard before.

Bowie wasn't just a magpie in terms of musical styles; he would pinch lyrics and musical phrases from everywhere - not quite going as far as plagiarism but certainly going beyond a passing similarity.

One of the most obvious examples is in All the Madmen and the line, "Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall," which can easily be sung to The Beatles' You've Got to Hide Your Love Away.

For Ashes to Ashes, Bowie dug back even further to another 'sequel' song by none other than Buddy Holly. Peggy Sue Got Married features the lines
You recall a girl that's been in nearly every song
This is what I heard, of course the story could be wrong
Compare to the opening lines of Ashes to Ashes:
Do you remember a guy that's been
In such an early song?
I've heard a rumor from Ground Control
Oh no, don't say it's true
Coincidence? Nup! And there's nothing wrong with that.

Another little bit I love about Ashes to Ashes is for a tragic song, there's still a bit of humour in there. The background voice in the second verse repeats every line including a deadly earnest, "Whoa ooh whoa hoo." It could be Bowie's most perfect song.

That really is all for now - apart from all the others.
Remember, you're not alone!

1 comment:

  1. love... oh my love is like the wind.. and wild is the wind.
    Thanks Bill, never knew the Peggy Sue connection.