David Bowie’s famous concept album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars” was released 40 years ago this week. The album presents the story of an alien who attempts to give humanity a message of hope during its final five years of existence. A plaque commemorating the release was unveiled at 23 Heddon St. in London, which features on the album’s cover, in March. This week, The List looks at Mr. Bowie’s top 10 songs.
10. Heroes (1977) — This inspiring ballad about lovers on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall was recorded in Berlin during the period when Mr. Bowie took on the persona of the Thin White Duke. The song was written by Mr. Bowie and Brian Eno. It reached No. 24 on the United Kingdom charts but did not crack the U.S. top 40. In 2004, Rolling Stone rated “Heroes” No. 46 in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
“We can beat them, just for one day, we can be heroes, just for one day”
9. Blue Jean (1984) — One of Mr. Bowie’s great dance tunes form the “Tonight” album reached No. 8 in the U.S. charts and No. 6 in the U.K. The original video for the song was as garish and avant garde as they come.
“I just met me a girl named Blue Jean, Blue Jean, she got a camouflaged face and no money”
8. China Girl (1983) — This song, which appeared on the “Let’s Dance” album, was co-written by Mr. Bowie and Iggy Pop. The tune reached No. 10 in the U.S. and No. 2 in the charts in the U.K.
“I could escape this feeling, with my China Girl, I feel a wreck without my, little China Girl”
7. The Man Who Sold the World (1970) — A somewhat eerie song with stark lyrics, yet powerful and novel, it was the title track from Mr. Bowie’s 1971 album. The band Ultravox did a fine version of the song, as did Lulu and Nirvana.
“Oh no, not me, we never lost control, you’re face to face, with the Man Who Sold the World”
6. Ashes to Ashes (1980) — We return to the plight of Major Tom in this inventive and captivating tune from the “Scary Monsters” album. At the time, the video released for ‘'Ashes to Ashes'‘ was the most expensive ever produced. It failed as a hit in the U.S. but was Mr. Bowie’s second No. 1 hit in the U.K.
“They got a message from the action man, I’m happy hope you’re happy too, I’ve loved all I’ve needed love”
5. All the Young Dudes (1972) — One of Mr. Bowie’s greatest songs epitomizes the glam rock era of the 1970s. He gave the song to the band Mott the Hoople in 1972 to keep the group from splitting up.
“Oh the television man is crazy, saying we’re juvenile delinquent wrecks, oh man I need TV when I got T. rex”
4. Under Pressure (1981) —Mr. Bowie combined with the British band Queen for this song. It reached No. 29 in the U.S. Mr. Bowie’s live version with Annie Lennox is quite remarkable. In 1989, Vanilla Ice’s monster hit “Ice Ice Baby,” sampled the bass line from the song.
“Can’t we give ourselves one more chance, why can’t we give love one more chance”
3. Changes (1971) — From the album “Hunky Dory,” it has become one of Mr. Bowie’s most famous songs despite not cracking the Billboard Top 40 or the charts in the U.K. Rick Wakeman played on keyboards with Mick Ronson on strings.
“I still don’t know what I was waiting for, and my time was running wild”
2. Starman (1972) — One of the best songs from the album “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.” There’s a spiritual element to the song, with its passionate melody, that conjures up eschatology themes. Is Starman the long awaited Messiah? Reached No. 10 on the U.K. charts.
“There’s a starman waiting in the sky, he’d like to come and meet us, but he thinks he’d blow our minds”
1. Space Oddity (1969) — This haunting masterpiece, with wickedly clever lyrics, was revolutionary for its time as Mr. Bowie tells us the sad story of a man lost in space, possibly alluding to the film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” released the previous year. The song was awarded the 1969 Ivor Novello Award, together with Peter Sarstedt’s “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” The song was used in the BBC coverage of the moon landing. Mr. Bowie’s song reached No. 15 in the U.S. charts when it was reissued in 1973. It reached No. 5 in the U.K. charts in 1969 and then became Mr. Bowie’s first No. I hit in Britain when it was reissued in 1975.
“Ground Control to Major Tom, take your protein pills and put your helmet on”
Special mentions: “Ziggy Stardust,” “Young Americans,” “The Jean Genie,” “As the World Falls Down,” “Modern Love,” “Let’s Dance” and “Life on Mars?”
Compiled by John Haydon
Sources: The Washington Times, Wisconsin State Journal and Wikipedia.
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