Pushing Through the Market Square, So Many People Dying
David Bowie played all the guitars, and also all the saxophones, on his landmark 1974 album Diamond Dogs. That mean slide guitar lick that opens the title track? That’s not Mick Ronson. Much ink has been spilled over Bowie’s towering influence across decades of music, his charisma and many self-reinventions, but more than anything else, he was a consummate musician.
The erstwhile David Jones didn’t find his niche until he was almost thirty, but the fifteen years after Space Oddity topped the charts around the world were as productive, and astonishingly eclectic, as any artist in the history of recorded music has ever spent. David Bowie’s adventures in Dylanesque, folky pop music lasted barely two albums. After that, he danced his life away through menacing proto-metal and then gritty, Stonesy rock, in the process pretty much inventing glam all by himself. After that it was surrealist art-rock, blue-eyed soul, ambient music, krautrock, then back to the art-rock. He wrote and recorded with and played keyboards for Iggy Pop, doing his best to rescue his pal from the scrap heap after the Stooges self-destructed. Even after Bowie’s career had peaked, the stylistic shapeshifting didn’t stop, first with dance-rock and eventually a strange detour into industrial metal. That path took a lot of twists and turns, and like his alter ego Ziggy, went through a lot of rises and falls. But Bowie never stayed in one place long enough to get stale.
Beyond the personas – as you might expect from someone who got his start in the theatre – he was second to none as a crooner. He was a visionary lyricist who spoke for generations of alienated kids who’d given up on this world and pondered if life on Mars might be any kind of improvement. “Give me your hands,” he entreated. “You’re not alone!” Both men and women idolized him, wanted to be him.
For those new to the Bowie canon, Ziggy Stardust is the iconic album. But both The Man Who Sold the World and Diamond Dogs are more musically interesting and ambitious. And the best, and most musically stunning of all of them, is 1980’s Scary Monsters.
This blog, founded in 2011, never covered David Bowie. There was no need to. He was an icon long before New York Music Daily’s future owner made the trek from Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn to see Bowie play a rare Manhattan club gig at Roseland way back in the 90s. It was a bucket-list show. They had the dive-bomb guy from Tin Machine on guitar. Mike Garson was on piano; supposedly, this was the first time he’d played with the Thin White Duke since the Ziggy Stardust days. They encored with All the Young Dudes. What an irony that it took another band covering one of Bowie’s least memorable songs to put hin on the map here.