I remember the first summer I really got into the music of David Bowie. Everyone grows up listening to a handful of the classics – Heroes, Changes, Starman – but the first time I took it beyond the songs that would find me via airplay or my dad’s old record player was on the Greek island of Spetses. In the photo below, it’s highly likely I was listening to some Bowie on an early incarnation of an MP3 player. I distinctly remember lying back on the boat, soaking up the sun and sinking into an incredible bank of music that would never stray far from my ‘most played’ thereafter.
I’ve always been even more interested in the lyrics of a song than the music itself, and to me, that’s where Bowie shone. When I got home from Spetses, I decided to write out the full lyrics of Moonage Daydream on the wall next to my bed. I’d read them night after night and get lost in this beautiful, ridiculous ‘otherworld’ he managed to create by putting some mismatch words together.
My fascination with his persona followed shortly after, and accelerated in university. My parents came up to visit at some point in my freshman year and, as they were arriving just as I was on my way out to some non-fancy dress club night or another (NOT pictured below), my mum exclaimed “you look like David Bowie!” “That’s the point. Ta-ta”. I became associated my penchant for drawing lightning bolts on my own face, and coercing my pals into letting me do the same to them. I freaking loved David Bowie so much that the person who got me in our Secret Santa that Christmas just got me a whole load of Bowie merch (t shirt; book; glittery make up to apply yet more lightening bolts to my face).
Those photos are a necessary evil.
As time wore on, lightening bolts became stars. On this particular night out, I was listening to Starman while doing my make up and, well, this is what happened. Notice no one else is wearing face paint. 18 year old me is so cringe.
As I’d moved away from home, my mother painted over the walls, and Moonage Daydream disappeared. So, too, did the words “Bowie, come here, I loooove you,” which were scrawled on the ceiling. They allude to a voice recording of my friend Ciaran saying exactly that, which I used as my text tone for a year in 2005 (not to the great amusement of my teachers who couldn’t work out where this weird voice was coming from). That bedroom is now a (warm, lovely, hospitable) spare room with one major hark back to my 18 year occupation: a giant poster of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust. I bought it because it shows him in exactly the kind of gear I wanted to deck myself out in at the age of 17.
The popularity of some artists is ubiquitous. David Bowie was an indisputable genius. If the legacy of his various colourful incarnations could get one sullen 2003 teen out of black t-shirts and into something a little more sartorially jubilant, I have no doubt that his tragic passing will prevent that from happening again and again. He’s timeless.
Using its airplay data, music licensing company PPL issued a list of the 20 Bowie tracks that were used most frequently on TV and radio:
1. Let’s Dance
2. Under Pressure
4. Ashes to Ashes
5. Rebel Rebel
6. Space Oddity
7. Life on Mars?
9. The Jean Genie
10. China Girl
12. Modern Love
13. Young Americans
14. Golden Years
15. Sound and Vision
18. Dancing in the Street
19. Absolute Beginners
20. Ziggy Stardust
Right now, I don’t have time to fix the bug that’s preventing me from embedding videos; but these are my very favourite David Bowie songs. Enjoy. Let me know your favourites in the comments below. The great thing about an artist with such an extensive back catalogue is that there’s always a new B-side to discover. Hit me with it.
RIP Bowie, you’re wonderful.