10.  Loving the Alien (Tonight, 1985)

A slow, gentle opening to what is personally my favorite Bowie album, Tonight.  As a lyricist, Bowie was capable of writing incredibly complex and arcane poetry but making it accessible to masses and intellectuals alike.  He sings about Christian soldiers who commit acts of torture, “But if you pray all your sins are hooked upon the sky/Pray and the heathen lie will disappear/Prayers they hide the saddest view/Believing the strangest things, loving the alien….”  It’s at once a condemnation of religion and a plea to God: “And your prayers they break the sky in two…”

Covers: Never heard a good one.
9.  Breaking Glass (Low, 1977)

I know a lot of folks wouldn’t include this on their best of Bowie lists, but I find this song facinating.  It’s very simple—just a few lines long:

I’ve been breaking glass in your room again
Listen, don’t look at the carpet
I drew something awful on it
You’re such a wonderful person
But you got problems oh-oh-oh-oh
I’ll never touch you

But it says so much.  I can’t tell you how many relationships I see that are just like that, full of resentment, recrimination, compassion and fear.

Covers: Not a lot.

8.  Golden Years (Station to Station, 1975)

Doo wop!


7.  Space Oddity (David Bowie, 1969)

A short time before he became Ziggy Stardust, Bowie released his eponymous debut that contained a career-defining single.  “Ground control to Major Tom…”  It was a slow, almost sad story of an alienated astronaut.  He would refer back to it frequently throughout his career, most notably in “Ashes to Ashes” where seems to say that the song was never about space travel but rather was about drug use (“We know Major Tom’s a junkie”), but also in his final single, Blackstar, released just before his death.  He recorded Space Oddity multiple times throughout his career, once in Italian, and then re-recordings for various releases.  Fun facts: It was actually a B-side, not a single.  Also, that’s Rick Wakeman on the Mellotron.


6.  Modern Love (Let’s Dance, 1983)

When I first heard this, I thought it was Elton John.  Stevie Ray Vaughan: Guitar on “Modern Love”  Production by Nile “Chic” Rodgers and guitar work by Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Covers: First of all, go here for a few. Good blog.

5. Fame (Young Americans, 1975)

This is the one Bowie wrote with John Lennon, a fast-paced rock and roll song that was Bowie’s first #1 hit.  That’s John singing “fame, fame, fame, fame, fame…” at the end.  He also plays guitar on the song.  Bowie covered it himself as “Fame 90” during his “Tin Machine” phase.
The original is still the best.

Yes, I know I already did a five. I just couldn’t cut one more song.

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