B – is for Bowie –ch..ch..changes

Saturday 20th September

Bowie was unique in many ways, no-one had sounded quite so alien and yet so undeniably English before, but he is almost unique among popular artists in that he has been prepared to lose his audience time and time again, and is never afraid to change his musical style even if most fans just wish he would keep making the same records.  I say almost unique, but both Bob Dylan and Neil Young continue to confound and follow their separate muses whatever.

Bowie could have made many more millions by milking Ziggy beyond three quick albums, but he decided to change course completely.  “Diamond Dogs” was a transitional album and though it had the big hit Rebel Rebel on it, it is one of my least favourite records, somehow it just seems to leave me cold.  He decamped to America and was completely engulfed in their music, especially the “Philly” disco sound, but absorbing and changing it to his own style he came up with the utterly brilliant “Young Americans” and followed it with the more sombre “Station to Station”, taking time out from his massive cocaine addiction to turn in a bravado performance in the film “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.

Then he moves to Berlin and under the influence of Brian Eno and obviously listening to records by Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk comes out with the largely instrumental “Low”.  This is such a radical departure that it took us a while to catch up and actually listen to this brutally modern but wonderful record.  He followed this with “Heroes” and “Lodger” where his sound became more hard-edged but with possibly better tunes.  “Scary Monsters” was more commercial and his renaissance climaxed with the monster dance album “Let’s Dance”.  Bowie appearing on the cover as a boxer (is that what he meant by dance?) and had massive hits, especially “China Girl”.  It almost seemed he was now untouchable and World Conquest was just an album away.

But this was Bowie and he had warned us with “Ch..Ch..Changes”.