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January 14th, 2016

My Favorite Bowie

I'm a huge David Bowie fan, so in honor of his passing, here are my favorite Bowie songs. This isn't necessarily "the best of Bowie" and certainly not his biggest hits, but these are the ones that I love. I'd love to hear what you love too!

From his self-titled debut album, David Bowie: The Laughing Gnome and Let Me Sleep Beside You. Ok, nothing on this album is very good, the Laughing Gnome just makes you go WTF. In which David Bowie sings to a chipmunkesque speeded up version of himself. It's like The Hobbit on acid. Or something. But it makes me laugh out loud every single time I listen to it. Meanwhile, Let Me Sleep Beside You is juvenalia at its best: you can hear the foundations of everything that's going to be amazing. Despite very conventional production designed to make him the next teen heartthrob, the lyrics have twists. "Your darkened eyes throw mystery but your lips are void of history. You could not imagine that it could happen this way, could you?" Very young Dionysus, singing to a very young Persephone.

From Space Oddity: Space Oddity of course! Creepy, lovely, and sticking with you like almost nothing else, this favorite deserves its fame.

From Hunky Dory: Oh You Pretty Things! instead of the more usual Changes. Mind you, I like Changes, but if Oh You Pretty Things wasn't written about what was happening in X-Men comics just then, I'll eat my hat. (And it has a feather, too.) This is David Bowie does Magneto, which is not to be missed.

From Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars: despite my adolescent attachment to Rock 'n Roll Suicide, the track on this album that I consistently adore is Suffragette City. Can I be a girl Ziggy now? No?

From Aladdin Sane: there are two tracks on this album that are totally different from one another, and I love them both. The first is the sassy, nasty, pushy, defiant Jean Genie. In 1973 drag was out, lost in the first attack of the clones when the gay community went macho. Jean Genie is a tribute to the drag queen, because even being subversive has to be off-kilter. The second track I love is one of my overall Bowie favorites, Lady Grinning Soul. It's quite simply one of the most beautiful love songs ever, and says everything about the power of the Aphrodite archetype.

From Diamond Dogs: another of my absolute favorites, Rebel Rebel. This one's on my Elza playlist. Like, forever.

Station to Station is the one album I listen to all the way through without skipping a track, and so it's really hard to pick out favorites. Golden Years is so evocative and perfect -- I was listening to it this morning, and it twisted around, becoming about something different again, this time Jerry's theme song for Oath Bound. And maybe that's totally appropriate. I also love Wild is the Wind and Word on a Wing.

Which brings us to Low: Again, listening this week, I'm in love with Art Decade all over again. Always Crashing in the Same Car is the theme song for a long past relationship, and I don't need to listen to it again, though it's gorgeous. But the finest thing on the album is what is possibly Bowie's "best" ever, Warzawa.

From Heroes: of course Heroes, though I actually prefer the version on the soundtrack album of Christiane F. But my sleeper favorite here is Beauty and the Beast. Again with the underworld, I know....

From Scary Monsters: Ashes to Ashes was the big success on this album, but my favorite is the title track, Scary Monsters. I've always wished for a Sanctuary vid to this one!

Let's Dance is the one the Bowie purists usually don't like, but I actually do. My favorite tracks are China Girl and Cat People. Cat People was a soundtrack cut, and it's kind of underrrated, but I think the guitar line is fantastic, and the soaring vocals are Bowie at his best, sinewy and sharp. "I've been putting out fires -- with gasoline."

Tonight has a bunch of great songs, but my favorites are Blue Jean because who can't dance to that, and Loving the Alien. Loving the Alien is just such a manifesto about the Night World that it ought to be an anthem.

From the Labyrinth soundtrack: As the World Falls Down harkens back to Station to Station, but stands on its own. Gorgeous. And then there's Underground which really explicitly takes the underworld themes to their logical place.

From Tin Machine: Heaven's in Here is my favorite on an album I'm not that into because I feel like his voice got lost. This is my favorite track.

Sound + Vision: this is supposed to be a compilation, but there are a few new things, including Bowie's amazing cover of Springsteen's Hard to be a Saint in the City. OMG. This may be my favorite Bowie ever. I keep saying that, but this one just.... I listen to this on repeat when I'm writing Charles van Aylde. It's amazing. If you haven't heard it, go find it!

Reality: Never Grow Old is sharp. Bowie can skewer, and this is his sharp wit at its best, self-mocking and self-aware.

And on the new album, Blackstar, the album released just three days before his death, the last song on the last album, I Can't Give Everything Away. You never did, sir. You kept an ace up your sleeve to the end.