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Fans Choice: 25 Favorite David Bowie Songs

by Rick Henry 2 months ago in song reviews / list / art / alternative · updated 2 months ago
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The Songs David Bowie Fans Love!!!

Fans Choice: 25 Favorite Songs of David Bowie

I polled more than 550 David Bowie fans to find out which David Bowie songs are their favorites.

I have long been a David Bowie fan. It was back in 1974 (could have been '73) that Bowie first came to my attention. My family drove to Bakersfield, California for our yearly visit to see Grandma (Grandpa was already gone by now). It was an extremely hot summer day and by the time we made it to Grandma's house I ended up with a nosebleed. The very hot weather was too much for me to handle. After we settled in, my cousin Bobby and I escaped into the little back house to listen to music. He had two main favorites: The Beatles and David Bowie. He put on the 7" single of The Beatles' "Hard Day’s Night" of course I knew that one. But then again, who didn't? While the song was playing, I noticed a magazine with this odd looking man(?) on the cover. He had longish red hair, crazy facial makeup and this space age outfit. I asked my cousin, "Who is that?" He grabbed the magazine and opened its pages and proudly said, "David Bowie." The name was familiar to me, but I had never seen him before. Next my cousin put another single on the turntable. I remember the guitar intro sounding 'pretty' to my ears. I liked it right away. My cousin Bobby said it was "Space Oddity" by David Bowie. I'd seen the song title before but had not heard the song. From that day forward I was a David Bowie fan.

Now I own tons of Bowie music on vinyl, cassette, CD, digital downloads and so forth. His unique artistry meshes well with my oddball personality and taste in music.

Before moving on to 'Fans Choice: 25 Favorite Songs of David Bowie' let's look at some of the data gleaned from the poll.

A few songs I expected to rate higher are: #22. "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" / #31. Fame / #42. Fashion, / #52. Scary Monsters, / #86. "DJ" / #150 "1984"

A Fan Speaks: "The man was like no other. He was a genius."

The following soundtrack songs received votes from the fans: #13. "Absolute Beginners" (1986) / #28. Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" (1980) / #63. "As The World Falls Down" (1987) / #93. "Underground" (1987) / #113. "Magic Dance" / "When the Wind Blows" (1990)

A Fan Speaks: "So many amazing songs."

In other Fans Choice lists that I've made (Roxy Music / Kate Bush) I was able to list the songs which received zero votes from the fans. But David Bowie has such a large discography that it would be a major undertaking to list all the Bowie songs that fans did not vote on. Therefore, I will list some of the songs that seemed like they should have received at least one vote.

The Songs That Received No Votes: "The Supermen" (1970) / "Velvet Goldmine" (1971) / "V2 Schneider" (1977) / "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy (Bing Crosby 1977/1982) / "Alabama Song" (1979) / "Crystal Japan (1979) / "Scream Like a Baby" (1980) / "Criminal World" (1983) / "Never Let Me Down" (1987) / "Real Cool World" (1992)

A Fan Speaks: "I love early Bowie"

The following RARE tracks received at least one vote from the fans: "Shadow Man" (1971) / "All the Young Dudes" Studio recording (1972) / "Waiting for The Man" (1973) Velvet Underground cover / "Helden" (1977) / "The Man Who Sold the World" SNL w/ Klaus Nomi (1979)

A Fan Speaks: "I first listened to David in 1969. I've enjoyed every piece of his music.

Collaborations and Duets that received at least one vote: "The Man Who Sold the World" SNL w/ Klaus Nomi (1979) / "Under Pressure" with Queen (1982) / "Dancing in the Street" with Mick Jagger (1985) / "Pretty Pink Rose" From the Adrian Below album Young Lions. Written by Bowie and Lead Vocals (1990) / "Comfortably Numb" David Gilmour in concert with David Bowie on vocals (2006)

A Fan Speaks: "Love the entire Scary Monsters album."

The following are the non-LP songs mentioned by the fans (This includes songs that were later added as bonus tracks and Non-LP Singles and B-Sides): "Can't Help Thinking About Me" (1966) / "I Dig Everything" (1966) / "Rubber Band" (1966) / The Laughing Gnome" (1967) / "Love You till Tuesday" (1967) / "The Prettiest Star"(1970) / "Conversation Piece)(B-Side of 'The Prettiest Star's)(1970) / "Lady Stardust" (Demo)(1972) / "John I'm Only Dancing" (1972) / "Amsterdam" (B-Side of 'Sorrow')(1973) / "Who Can I Be Now" (1974) / "It's Gonna Be Me" (1974) / It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City" (1974) / "John I'm Only Dancing Again" (1979) / "Dancing In The Street" (with Mick Jagger)(1985) / When The Wind Blows (1986) / "Fly" (2013) / "Loving The Alien (Acoustic)(2013) / "The Informer" (2013)

A Fan Speaks: "Station to Station" - almost a daily listen. "Ashes to Ashes" - structured, poetic, dark. "Heroes" - Brilliance. "Moonage Daydream" - Artistic. "Boys Keep Swinging" - Fun, double entendres, cheeky.

Tin Machine (Only one Tin Machine song was listed as a favorite): "I Can't Read" from Tin Machine I (1989)

A Fan Speaks: "Rebel Rebel is the song that saved my life when I was a teenager."

Live Cuts (These are the fans favorite live tracks): "All The Young Dudes" (David Live) / "Aladdin Sane" (David Live) / "Cracked Actor" (Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture 1983) / "Wild is the Wind" (Not Specified) / "Seven" (Something in the Air Live Paris 99) / "Comfortably Numb" (Live at the Royal Albert Hall as a guest in David Gilmour 's concert 2006)

A Fan Speaks: "David Bowie is my favorite. I saw him at least six times in concert."

Remixes: Surprisingly only one remix was mentioned which was the Nine Inch Nails remix of "I'm Afraid of Americans." There were three votes in total for this remix. One specified Version 1, the other two did not specify the version of which they were voting.

A Fan Speaks: "Sometimes I forget that Bowie has passed on. His music is a daily constant in my life. It's like he's still alive."

For those of you that might be wondering. My personal choices are: "Scary Monsters," "Up the Hill Backwards," "Cat People" (Giorgio Moroder version), "The Man Who Sold The World," and "Space Oddity" - Rick Henry

A Fan Speaks: "My favorite album is Scary Monsters…"

The Studio Albums: The following list tracks the fans' favorite Bowie albums. Including the posthumously released "Toy" and Tin Machine there are 29 David Bowie studio albums in total.

29. Tin Machine II (1991) / 28. Tin Machine I (1989) / 27. Toy (2022) / 26. Black Tie White Noise (1993) / 25. David Bowie (1967) / 24. Never Let Me Down (1987) / 23. The Buddha of Suburbia (1993) / 22. Pin Ups (1973) / 21. The Next Day (2013) / 20. Reality (2003) / 19. Tonight (1984) / 18. hours… (1999) / 17. Earthling (1997) / 16. 1. Outside (1995) / 15. Heathen (2002) / 14. Lodger (1979) / 13. Black Star (2016) / 12. Low (1977) / 11. The Man Who Sold the World (1970) / 10. Let's Dance (1983) / 9. Young Americans (1975) / 8. Diamond Dogs (1974) / 6. Aladdin Sane (1973) /

Top Five Studio Albums (According to the fans) : 5. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980) Produced by: David Bowie and Tony Visconti . Most Popular Fans Choice Song: "Ashes to Ashes" / 4. Heroes (1977) Produced by: David Bowie and Tony Visconti . Most Popular Fans Choice Song: "Heroes" / 3. Hunky Dory (1971) Produced by: Ken Scott and David Bowie. Most Popular Fans Choice Song: "Life on Mars?" / 2. Station to Station (1976) Produced by: David Bowie and Harry Maslin. Most Popular Fans Choice Song: "Station to Station" / 1. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) Produced by Ken Scott and David Bowie. Most Popular Fans Choice Song: "Five Years"

A Fan Speaks: I don't think any other artist has as many A+ level songs as Bowie has.

Wait…!!! There's more…

The extended BUBBLING UNDER list… (These are the songs bubbling under the 25 Fan Favorites) : 100. The Buddha of Suburbia (1993) / 99. A New Town and a New Career (1977) / 98. Valentine's Day (2013) / 97. Seven (1999) / 96. Time Will Crawl (1987) / 95. Can You Hear Me (1975) / 94. We Are the Dead (1974) / 93. Underground (1986) / 92. Everyone Says 'Hi' (2002) / (91. Sunday (2002) / 90. Be My Wife (1977) / 89. Hang On to Yourself (1972) / 88. Sons of the Silent Age (1977) / 87. 5:15 the Angels Have Gone (2002) / 86. DJ (1979) / 85. Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud (1969) / 84. Dollar Days (2016) / 83. I'm Deranged (1995) / 82. Little Wonder (1997) / 81. Right (1975) / 80. Boys Keep Swinging (1979) / 79. Conversation Piece (1969) / 78. John, I'm Only Dancing (1972) / 77. Warzawa (1977) / 76. Breaking Glass (1977) / 75. Heathen (The Rays) (2002) / 74. It's No Game Pt. 1 (1980) / 73. Up The Hill Backwards (1980) / 72. Strangers When We Meet (1993) / 71. Hallo Spaceboy (1995) / 70. Where Are We Now (2013) / 69. Rock 'n' Roll with Me (1974) / 68. Bring Me the Disco King (2003) / 67. Fantastic Voyage (1979) / 66. All The Young Dudes (1972) / 65. Cracked Actor (1973) / 64. Kooks (1971) / 63. As the World Falls Down (1986) / 62. Slip Away (2002) / 61. TVC 15 (1976) / 60. The Heart's Filthy Lesson (1995) / 59. Slow Burn (2002) / 58. Thursday's Child (1999) / 57. Blue Jean (1984) / 56. Look Back in Anger (1980) / 55. Win (1975) / 54. This Is Not America (1985) / 53. All The Madmen (1970) / 52. Scary Monsters (1980) / 51. Word on a Wing (1976) / 50. Lady Stardust (1972) / 49. Queen Bi##h (1971) / 48. I'm Afraid of Americans (1995-1997) / 47. Always Crashing in the Same Car (1977) / 46. Panic in Detroit (1973) / 45. Soul Love (1972) / 44. Sorrow (1973) 43. Lazarus (2016) / 42. Fashion (1980) / 41. Aladdin Sane (1973) / 40. Oh, You Pretty Things (1971) / 39. Under Pressure (Queen) (1981) / 38. Stay (1976) / 37. Teenage Wildlife (1980) / 36. Cygnet Committee (1969) / 35. Modern Love (1983) / 34. Sweet Thing-Candidate-Sweet Thing (Reprise)(1974) / 33. Width of a Circle (1970) / 32. Suffragette City (1972) / 31. Fame (1975) / 30. Quicksand (1971) / 29. Sweet Thing (1974) / 28. Drive-In Saturday (1973) / 27. The Bewlay Brothers (1971) / 26. China Girl (1983)


Fans Choice: 25 Favorite Songs of David Bowie

25. Golden Years (1975)

Parent Album: Station to Station (1976)

UK & US Chart History: UK #8 / US #10

Trivia: It is said that Bowie wrote "Golden Years" for Elvis Presley to record. Though the artist's offices contacted each other the project never materialized. Elvis did write a note to Bowie saying, "All the best, and have a great tour"; Bowie kept the note for the rest of his life. Bowie's first wife Angie stated that he wrote the song for her and that he sang it to her over the phone.

Rick Henry's Thoughts: "Golden Years" was one of my five favorite songs by Bowie up until about 1981 after the release of the Scary Monsters album. That album made me do a deep dive into Bowie's catalog and my favorites changed drastically.

24. Time (1973)

Parent Album: Aladdin Sane (1973)

Trivia: Keyboardist Mike Garson described his performance as being a mixture of Avant Garde jazz, show music, European, and a stride piano style. The stride piano style originated from 1920s ragtime jazz piano players.

23. Let's Dance (1983)

Parent Album: Let's Dance (1983)

Chart History: #1 in the following countries: US, UK, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Ireland, Israel, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland / #2 in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Germany, South Africa / #5 Poland, #37 Portugal, #50 Italy

Trivia: Indisputably, Bowie's biggest hit single worldwide and his only hit to be #1 in both the US and UK. Legendary blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan played lead guitar on the song and is featured on a guitar solo at the end of the song. Vaughan was working on his debut album Texas Flood when Bowie called him to play on the record. Vaughan's Texas Flood was released in June 1983 just two months after Bowie's Let's Dance album. Nile Rodgers, co-founder of the disco/funk group Chic produced the song/album. Rodgers also produced Bowie's 1992 single "Real Cool World" and the 1993 album Black Tie White Noise.

Rick Henry's Thoughts: Although "Let's Dance" was a huge super mega-hit, I am not surprised by its lower placement in this poll. Many first-generation fans consider this to be Bowie's sellout and do not consider it to represent the best of Bowie. The same fans regard the entire period from 1983 to 1993 to be a low spot in Bowie's career.

22. Cat People (Putting Out Fire) (1982)

Parent Album: Cat People (Soundtrack) (1982)

UK and US Chart History (and other #1 showings): #26 UK, #67 US, #1 Finland, New Zealand, Norway, and Sweden

Trivia: The version of "Cat People" here is the original 1982 release produced by Giorgio Moroder who is best remembered for producing all of Donna Summer's albums during the 1970s. "Cat People" received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Song from a Motion Picture.

Rick Henry's Thoughts: I love this song. It is compelling and dramatic. The dynamic percussion drives the song and Bowie gives one of his most powerful vocals of his career. I always felt that Bowie should have recorded an entire album with Giorgio Moroder.

21. Lady Grinning Soul (1973)

Parent Album: Aladdin Sane (1973)

Trivia: Influenced by Rolling Stones, "Lady Grinning Soul," was one of the last songs written for the Aladdin Sane and was added as a replacement for the "sax version" of "John, I'm Only Dancing." After Bowie's death, American soul singer Claudia Lennear revealed that he personally contacted and informed her "Lady Grinning Soul" was about her. Bowie met her during the US leg of the Ziggy Stardust tour. Lennear also inspired the Rolling Stones' "Brown Sugar."

20. The Jean Genie (1972)

Parent Album: Aladdin Sane (1973)

UK and US Chart History: #2 UK, #71 US (The song charted in the Top 40 - mostly Top 10 throughout Europe)

Trivia: "The Jean Genie" was the first song written for Aladdin Sane. The song first came to life during the Ziggy Stardust tour, on the bus going from Cleveland to Memphis, when Mick Ronson strummed out a Bo Diddley-inspired riff on his new Les Paul guitar. Bowie wrote the lyrics in New York in actress/model Cyrinda Foxe's apartment (an associate of Andy Warhol).

Rick Henry's Thoughts: "The Jean Genie" first came to my attention in 1976 when I bought the compilation album Changesonebowie. From what I recall it took me a few listens to warm up to the song. I remember visions of an overweight male Genie wearing curly toed slippers and an undersized vest came to my mind - the silly mind of a sixteen-year-old.

19. Blackstar ★ (2015)

Parent Album: Blackstar ★ (2016)

UK and US Chart History: #61 UK, #78 US

Trivia: David Bowie won four Grammys in total posthumously, two for the song "Black Star" (Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song) and two for the album (Best Alternative Music Album and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical). Released on November 19, 2015 "Blackstar" was the second to last single released before Bowie's death. "Lazarus" (which is at #43 on the Bubbling Under list) was released on December 15, 2015, and was the last single released while he was still alive. The album Blackstar was released on January 8, 2016, which coincided with Bowie's 69th birthday. He passed away on January 10, 2016, of liver cancer.

Rick Henry's Thoughts: Bowie's "Blackstar" is decidedly jazz influenced as are a few other tracks from the album of the same name. While producer Tony Visconti was working on Blackstar with Bowie he was also working with jazz and art-rock musician Esperanza Spalding on her album Emily's D+Evolution. Esperanza has won five Grammy awards so far. Four being in the jazz music category. My theory is that some of the jazz influence in working with Spalding rubbed off on Visconti and spilled over to Bowie's Blackstar. Though Visconti worked on both albums simultaneously only one common musician appeared on both, that being Erin Tonkon who was an assistant engineer on both albums.

18. Changes (1971 / 1972)

Parent Album: Hunky Dory (1971)

Chart History: See description below for chart history.

Trivia: "Changes" was different from Bowie's other songs in that it was piano driven and exhibited a softer sound which could have easily found a home on early 70s Adult Contemporary radio. Bowie played the saxophone on this track, giving it another smooth groove dimension.

Initially released as a single on January 7, 1972 "Changes" was a relative failure charting only in the US at #66. The song was Bowie's chart debut in the United States. In October 1974 the song was rereleased as a single and again was a relative failure although despite charting higher in the US this time at #41 and #32 in Canada. It wasn't until after his death in 2016 that the song charted in Europe at #49 in the UK and #84 in France.

Rick Henry's Thoughts: Despite its modest chart success I did not notice the song until 1976 when I purchased the compilation Changesonebowie. After which it remained my favorite Bowie song until 1980 with the release of "Ashes to Ashes" which remained my favorite until the release of "Cat People" in 1982.

17. Diamond Dogs (1974)

Parent Album (1974) : Diamond Dogs

Chart History: #21 UK, #7 Finland, #27 Ireland, #46 Netherlands, #186 France

Trivia: While as a single "Diamond Dogs" was not a big hit the song has gone on to become Classic Bowie and is a fan essential. This song and several others from the time period signify the influence The Rolling Stones had on Bowie's music most prominently the guitar work. "Diamond Dogs" found Bowie moving toward a Stooges influenced proto punk style which was evident on other tracks on the album including "Rebel Rebel."

16. Young Americans (1975)

Parent Album: Young Americans (1975)

UK and US Chart History: #18 UK, #28 US

Trivia: What's interesting about "Young Americans" is that it only reached #28 in the US, although it received major airplay on pop and rock radio stations from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

"Young Americans" was Bowie's first venture into "blue-eyed" soul. The gamble was successful as the song opened him up to a new audience which led to bigger hits with "Fame," and "Golden Years."

The song touches a bit on politics including oppression and racism in the US. With the line, "have you been the un-American," Bowie is making a light reference to McCarthyism. He mentions, "Do you remember your President Nixon?" Bowie recorded "Young Americans" just two days after Nixon resigned from the presidency. Bowie makes mention of other events in history as well as brand names such as Ford Mustang, Chrysler, Cadi(llac), and Barbie doll.

The legendary Luther Vandross provided backing vocals and vocal arrangements for the song and the album.

Rick Henry's Thoughts: "Young Americans" was one of my first favorite songs by David Bowie. The song worked its way up the charts in 1975 - one of my favorite years for music. Other songs that were popular in '75 were "Philadelphia Freedom" by Elton John, "You're No Good" by Linda Ronstadt, "Shining Star" by Earth, Wind & Fire. A few popular albums in '75 were Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, Physical Graffiti by Led Zeppelin, Why Can't We Be Friends by War. Of course, '75 also found Bowie at #1 in both the US and UK with his mega-hit "Fame" - which oddly is only at #31 in this poll.

15. Wild is the Wind (1976)

Parent Album: Station to Station (1976)

Chart History: #24 UK, #15 Ireland

Trivia: "Wild is the Wind" is the most popular non-Bowie written song with Bowie fans. The song was written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington for the 1957 George Cukor directed film Wild Is the Wind. Johnny Mathis recorded the song for the film and released it as a single in November 1957. His recording was a semi-hit in the US reaching #22. But it is Nina Simone's 1966 recording that inspired Bowie to record the song. He recorded it as a tribute to Simone. Bowie's recording was belatedly released as a single in 1981 to promote the compilation album Changestwobowie.

14. Ziggy Stardust (1972)

Parent Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

Trivia: This is one of David Bowie's most iconic songs. Post-Punk Goth band Bauhaus covered the song in 1982, which became an iconic recording.

The song is about Bowie's alter ego Ziggy Stardust, a rock star who acts as a messenger for extraterrestrial beings. Bowie commented that the Ziggy Stardust persona stuck in his psyche for many years even after he gave it up. It got to the point where he questioned his own sanity.

Rick Henry's Thoughts: I had long been a fan of the song "Ziggy Stardust," but it was the cover by Bauhaus that rekindled my attention to the song. Around the same time, they recorded la cover of Brian Eno's "Third Uncle" which appeared on their album The Sky's Gone Out.

13. Absolute Beginners (1986)

Parent Album: Absolute Beginners (Soundtrack)

Chart History: #1 (Finland, Ireland, Poland), #2 (UK, Austria, Greece, Italy), #3 (Belgium, Switzerland), #4 (Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway), #5 (Australia, Sweden), #6 (South Africa, Germany), #7 (West Germany), #17 (Spain), #21 (France), #45 (Canada), #53 (US)

Trivia: Julien Temple, the director of the film Absolute Beginners was instrumental in getting Bowie to write music for the film. Temple directed Bowie's short film Jazzin' for Blue Jean a few years earlier. Rick Wakeman (keyboardist for Yes, Journey to the Centre of the Earth) played keyboards on this song.

12. The Man Who Sold the World (1970)

Parent Album: The Man Who Sold the World

Trivia: It wasn't until Lulu's recording of this song, which was produced by Bowie and Mick Ronson, made it to #3 on the UK charts that Bowie's recording garnered mainstream attention.

The song is based on a recurring circular guitar riff played by Mick Ronson with Bowie's acoustic guitar underneath it. This combination of the two guitars gives the song a dark yet uplifting feel. The song is fronted by one of Bowie's most haunting and expressive vocals.

Rick Henry's Thought: There were no singles released from the album The Man Who Sold the World. Executives determined none of the songs were suitable for release. Instead three very uneventful songs were released as singles ("The Prettiest Star," "Memory of a Free Festival Pt 1," and "Holy Holy.") All three songs failed to chart. I disagree with the executives' assessment as I feel the song "The Man Who Sold the World" had potential for success. I consider it to be one of Bowie's greatest missed opportunities. If anybody cares this is my current day favorite song by Bowie.

11. Sound & Vision (1977)

Parent Album: Low

Chart History: #3 UK, #2 Netherlands, #3 Belgium, #6 West Germany, #7 New Zealand, #15 Austria, #69 US

Trivia: The female backing vocal is Mary Hopkin who is best known for her 1968 #1 hit "Those Were the Days." Mary was listed as Mary Visconti on the credits for "Low," as she was married to David Bowie's producer, Tony Visconti, at the time. Brian Eno also provided backing vocals on the song.

10. Rebel Rebel (1974)

Parent Album: Diamond Dogs

Top Ten Chart History: #2 Ireland, #5 UK, #5 France, #6 Belgium, #8 Netherlands, #9 Norway, #64 US

Trivia: Recording for Rebel Rebel began shortly after Christmas 1973 and was initially intended for a Ziggy Stardust musical which never materialized. An ode to a boy who rebels against his parents by wearing makeup and tacky women's clothes, this was one of Bowie's last glam songs and a moving toward his proto-punk era. "Rebel Rebel" is considered Bowie's most covered song although some say, "Life on Mars?" is the most covered. At this point in time Mick Ronson left Bowie's band in order to pursue a solo career so Bowie picked up the slack and played the guitar on this track as well every track on the album Diamond Dogs except for "1984" on which Alan Parker played.

9. Rock 'n' Roll Suicide (1972)

Parent Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Chart History: #22 UK, #12 Ireland, #30 France, #39 Belgium

Trivia: Like the Beatles' "A Day in the Life," this 1950s stylized rock and pop song begins with an acoustic instrumentation and builds up to a rich arrangement which is backed by an orchestra.

8. Moonage Daydream (1972)

Parent Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Trivia: Although not released as a single "Moonage Daydream" is one of Bowie's best-known songs. I would consider this a missed opportunity. The song is a glam rock classic with its tuneful hooks, heavy metal guitar riffs and snappy hard rock percussion.

7. Starman (1972)

Parent Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

UK and US Chart History: #10 UK, #65 US

Trivia: "Starman" is one of Bowie's most iconic songs. The song has been featured in several films including Matt Damon's The Martian (2015) and the 2022 animated film Light-year. As well as in the In 2016 Audi Super Bowl commercial. 2016 U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders used the song prominently in his campaign.

6. Five Years (1972)

Parent Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Trivia: "Five Years" is the fan favorite from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. As the opening track of the album the song acquaints the listener with the overall theme of the album: The Earth will be destroyed in five years due to an apocalyptic disaster.

5. Space Oddity (1969)

Parent Album: David Bowie (1969)

Chart History: #5 UK (1969), #1 UK (1975), #15 US, #16 Canada (both 1973) - this is not a complete list of chart appearances.

Trivia: Originally released in 1969, "Space Oddity" is considered by many to be Bowie's signature song. Tony Visconti, who produced Bowie's 1969 album, passed on producing "Space Oddity" as he viewed the song as a novelty. Gus Dudgeon, who soon after became Elton John's producer, was brought in to produce the song. Rick Wakeman, who was an unknown keyboardist at the time, was employed to play the mellotron. The single was rush-released before the upcoming Apollo 11 Moon landing. Initially the song only reached #48 in the UK. After an October 1969 appearance on Top of the Pops Space Oddity climbed up to UK #5. After the album Ziggy Stardust… became a hit in 1972 "Space Oddity" was rereleased and became Bowie's first hit in the US reaching #15. The song also made it to #16 in Canada in 1973. Major Tom also appears in the songs "Ashes to Ashes" (1980), "Hallo Spaceboy" (Pet Shop Boys) (1995), and "Blackstar" (2015). German musician Peter Schilling's 1983 worldwide hit "Major Tom" was obviously influenced by "Space Oddity."

Rick Henry's Thoughts: "Space Oddity" was the first David Bowie song I heard; it was in 1973/74 when my cousin Bobby played it for me. The song stuck with me from that moment and to this day remains one of my all-time favorites.

4. Station to Station (1976)

Parent Album: Station to Station

Trivia: Clocking in at 10 minutes and 15 seconds this is the longest song David Bowie recorded in his career. There was an edited version released on a 7-inch promo single in France which was 3 minutes and 40 seconds long. Prices for this promo range from $350 to $800 depending on condition. Station to Station was a transitional album for Bowie in which elements of hits such as "Fame" and "Young Americans" from his soulful era are represented with "Golden Years." While hints of what was yet to come with his Berlin trilogy are represented in electronic synth heavy tracks like "Station to Station" and "TVC-15."

The title track opens with an effect that sounds like a train which works into an ethereal Eno-esque electronic new age style that eventually becomes a Kraftwerkian krautrock flight of fancy. The second part of the song takes on the tempo of an upbeat prog rock song with mild notations of funk and disco. Lyrically, the song is an introduction to the controversial Thin White Duke persona. The song is considered one of Bowie's all-time greatest works.

3. Ashes to Ashes (1980)

Parent Album: Scary Monsters

Chart History: #1 UK, France, #3 Australia, Norway, #4 Ireland, #6 Austria, New Zealand, Sweden, #8 Canada, #9 West Germany, #11 Netherlands, Switzerland, #15 Belgium, #101 US

Trivia: Eleven years after the initial release of "Space Oddity," David Bowie revisited Major Tom, "Do you remember a guy that's been in such an early song?" This time Major Tom is portrayed as a drug addict, "Ashes to ashes, funk to funky. We know Major Tom's a junkie."

The following is from Wikipedia:

For "Ashes to Ashes", Bowie referenced an experimental Guitarchitecture track from guitarist Chuck Hammer as the descending modulating chordal and rhythmic structure. The song is notable for its delicate guitar synth string sound, counterpointed by hard-edged funk bass, and its complex vocal layering. Its choir-like textures and theme were created by Hammer with four multi-tracked guitar synthesizers, each playing opposing chord inversions; this was underpinned by Bowie's deadpan, chanted background voices. The rhythmic chordal theme originated from a guitar synth composition by Hammer. The resulting track has been described as "One of Bowie's greatest studio moments".

Rick Henry's Thoughts: "Ashes to Ashes" is one my favorite Bowie songs from my favorite Bowie album. I bought both the single and the album along with the subsequent singles released from the album. From 1980 to 1985 I must have easily played the song (on my record player) a good 5,000 times.

2. Life on Mars? (1973)

Parent Album: Hunky Dory (1971)

Chart History: #3 UK, #9 France, #39 West Germany

Trivia: Throughout a good amount of this poll "Life on Mars?" was trending at #1. It wasn't until the last 50 votes that "Life on Mars?" fell to #2.

In 1968 Bowie was asked to write English lyrics for the Claude François French song "Comme d'habitude". Bowie's lyrics were rejected, and Paul Anka ended up adapting the song into "My Way" which became a hit for Frank Sinatra in 1969. In return Bowie wrote the soaring cinematic ballad "Life on Mars?" as a parody of "My Way" using Sinatra's rendition as a template. This masterpiece contains elements of glam rock, art rock, and cabaret and has been covered by Barbra Streisand, Frida Lyngstad (ABBA), Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.

1. Heroes (1977)

Parent Album: Heroes

Chart History: #24 UK, #8 Ireland, #9 Netherlands, #10 France, #11 Australia, #17 Belgium, #19 Austria, #34 New Zealand

Trivia: In its original run "Heroes," as iconic as it became, was an unremarkable hit. The song only made it into the Top 10 in only three countries. It wasn't until after Bowie died that the song charted fairly well across the world. That made it into the top 40 in 14 different countries with nine of those being in the top 15. The song was written by the influential team of David Bowie and (the legendary) Brian Eno. As time has passed the song has gained prominence and many consider it one of the greatest songs of all-time.

While recording Bowie's vocals producer Tony Visconti used a technique based on vocal gating. He used three microphones. One placed nine inches from Bowie, the second was 20 feet away and the third 50 feet away. As described on Wikipedia; Each microphone was muted as the next one was triggered. As the music built, Bowie was forced to sing at increased volumes, leading to an increasingly impassioned vocal performance as the song progressed.

Rick Henry's Thoughts: "Heroes" was one of my favorite Bowie songs from the first time I heard it back in 1978. But it wasn't until 1984 when I dug deeper into Brian Eno's rock albums (Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain, Another Green World, Before and After Science) that I became a big fan of the song.

Thank you, friends, for taking the time to read this!!! I appreciate the support.

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About the author

Rick Henry

Writing is a distraction for me. It takes me to places unknown that fulfill my need for intellectual stimulus, emotional release, and a soothing of the breaks and bruises of the day.

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Comments (9)

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  • Hussrwn Eldenxiy2 months ago


  • Mi Lui Vori2 months ago

    Well written

  • Heather Hubler2 months ago

    A very well-written article. I'm always in awe at the depth of care you show in what information you include and how you present it. Loved seeing so many songs I've had the pleasure of listening to over the years :) Great work!

  • Love this!

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    Great article, Rick. I'm impressed by the effort that was put in to this. I'd probably agree that Space Oddity is a fave, along with quite a few more, even some that didn't make the top 25.

  • You have created the perfect time machine, we could be lost for days Thank you for sharing, what a fantastic job!

  • Irene Economou2 months ago

    Wow! Rick, you keep Bowie alive with your amazing articles about his music and different ways to analyze what he's done. Love this one, too! I never ever tire of hearing some of my favorites, including "Let's Dance," "Changes," "Life on Mars." One thing I noticed this time when I listened to "The Man Who Sold the World" was that the music and sound made me think of the Beatles. "Blackstar" is special...very ritualistic, having an ominous, Mid-Eastern feel to it. I really like this one...maybe because it was his last offering to us. As always, well done, Rick!!!

  • Excellent article Rick, I have written a few Bowie pieces including one on covers of Heroes and Your Favourite David Bowie album. Excellent work.

  • Oof, the amount of work that went into this. Hats off to you! And I loved that you've included the fans comments. Those were very nice to read!

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