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The Beginners’ Guide to David Bowie (RIP, Five Years Since…)

Always wondered what the fuss was about with David Bowie (who sadly joined Major Tom five years ago)? After all, some of those albums the critics push – Low, Heroes, The Lodger, Scary Monsters – turn out to be filled with nonsense. Come on; those instrumentals on the other side of Low, which no one plays. That’s Bowie taking your for a ride. But it wasn’t always that way. He made remarkable music when he could be bothered. It’s just that the rock media always played the safe card – “Life on Mars”, “Heroes”, “Ashes to Ashes”, “Let’s Dance”, the latter (song, not LP), being some of the most boring and predictable records ever made.

So don’t be bored; here are the best 10 David Bowie songs really worth listening to; the stuff you won’t hear on Radio 2, chosen by former Mojo production editor Ed Glinert, who runs “David Bowie’s London” tours.

  1. Modern Love (Let’s Dance, 1983)

“I know when to go out/And when to stay in” Perfect!

  1. Be My Wife (Low, 1977)

An extraordinary Anthony Newley impersonation drives this charging piece of uxorious nonsense. 

  1. This Is Not America (The Falcon and the Snowman, 1985)

Led by a gorgeous synth-drenched mood piece with Pat Metheney. 

  1. Letter to Hermione (David Bowie, 1969)

By 1969 Bowie had dropped the theatrical inanities of “The Laughing Gnome” and immersed himself in Roy Harper/Al Stewart/John Martyn introspection along with superb melodies. 

  1. Win (Young Americans, 1975)

Sensual, sultry, sudorific, soporific and sensational.

  1. Stay (Station to Station, 1976)

Bowie out-funks the funkiest with one of the most powerful guitar figures ever encountered, thanks to Earl Slick. 

  1. Little Wonder (Earthling, 1997)

Bowie out Prodigys The Prodigy. 

  1. An Occasional Dream (David Bowie, 1969)

Breathy and simply gorgeous with the dreamiest of vocals.
“We’d dream of a Swedish room/Of hessian and wood.”

           2. Station to Station (Station to Station, 1976)

It takes a while to get to its frenetic climax, but what a climax as Bowie, during his fascism phase, paradoxically makes a nod at the Kabbalah: “One magical movement from Kether to Malkuth.” What was he on exactly, and did he get there?

  1. The Width of A Circle (The Man Who Sold the World, 1970)

Bowie fuses Hendrix, Sabbath and Cream in a new departure for hard rock, suffused with cryptic allusions and sexual encounters with the God, the devil or worse. Typical Bowie.