When influential and legendary rock star David Bowie died Sunday, artists across the globe reacted with shock and sadness. Three West Michigan musicians offered Local Spins their lists of top Bowie tunes.
The monumental impact that David Bowie had on the rock scene over the past 50 years was borne out by the outpouring of tributes this week from fellow musicians across the globe. Even in West Michigan, musicians reacted with stunned sadness to news that Ziggy Stardust had passed away from cancer at age 69.
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In tribute to the mercurial and ever-inventive Bowie, three musicians — Jon Pataky of The Bootstrap Boys, Brian Haik of Skankadank and Afro Zuma, and well-known guitarist-singer Jack Leaver — submitted their playlists of favorite Bowie tunes to Local Spins.
JON PATAKY: THE DAVID BOWIE PLAYLIST
1. “Changes,” Hunky Dory – A lot of my friends have stories about perusing their parents’ record collection as children, discovering big names like Led Zeppelin and The Velvet Underground, thus kick-starting their obsession with rock ‘n’ roll. The only record I ever really remember my parents owning was “Whitney,” by Whitney Houston, which my father played in heavy rotation (no complaints here, really – it’s a great record). Instead of flipping through stacks of vinyl, I spent a lot of my time on our basement computer, exploring the depths of Encarta ’95 and listening to “The Phantom Of The Opera” soundtrack, as one who likes to party is inclined to do. One day I drummed up the courage to type the words “ROCK AND ROLL” in a search and the first clip that came up was “Changes,” by David Bowie. I believe it was 35 seconds in length and I listened to it over and over: That voice! That piano! Those harmonies! This was WAY cooler than “The Phantom Of The Opera”! It took a while to circle back and appreciate Bowie fully, but this was definitely the beginning of my musical journey.
2. “Life On Mars?” Hunky Dory – This song is a huge inspiration. Epic-orchestral-rock-opera-psychedelia – just my style, so much so that we ripped off the fade-out-fade-in piano reprise for a track on The Mighty Narwhale’s first album. I feel like I’m about to black out whenever that chorus hits, and I could probably sing the, “Take a look at the” turnaround all day long.
3. “Modern Love,” Let’s Dance – One time at a local dance night my friends and I lit a pinata head on fire and threw it in the middle of the dance floor then shredded up a bunch of Recoil magazines and threw them in the air like confetti. This song was the devil on our shoulder that night.
4. “Here Comes The Night,” PinUps – I guess you have to give some of the credit to the track that precedes this one on PinUps, “Rosalyn,” a real ’70s train-comes-a-rollin’ rocker that stops on a dime and pick slides into the glorious horn-laden half-time intro of “Here Comes The Night.” Bowie’s bizarre stuttered squeal at the beginning and the mega-chill saxophone solo really sell this wild little number.
5. “Absolute Beginners,” Absolute Beginners Soundtrack – This gorgeous ’80s ballad has become a bit of a theme song as of late and reminds you that love is a mystery that we’re just trying to solve together. A recent favorite that is often overlooked.
6. “Lady Stardust,” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – This is the point in list-making where I start questioning my actions and my choices and realizing that Bowie’s catalog is so expansive and diverse that I really don’t know what I’m talking about anymore. Soulful, smooth and velvety Bowie – a real head-nodder, really nice, really quite out of sight.
7. “The Bewlay Brothers,” Hunky Dory – Hunky Dory’s haunting and schizophrenic closer makes almost no sense but I love how it feels. It’s like if Paul McCartney’s “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” had a nightmare about itself and wrote a song about it. It’s a beautiful and bizarre way to end an album.
8. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide,” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – Another stunning album closer, but one that goes in the opposite direction of “The Bewlay Brothers.” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide” is one long buildup to the explosive, “Oh no! You’re Not Alone!” which fires Bowie off in a haze of strings as he shouts, “Give me your hand!” atop an almost Monty Pythonish men’s chorus of “You’re wonderful,” and terminates itself on a chord just as slightly as it began. Bowie bombast is in full effect here.
9. “Sound and Vision,” Low – Sometimes Bowie just wanted you to dance.
10. “Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix by James Murphy For the DFA),” The Next Day – I’m not completely sold on modern Bowie, or electronic music as a whole for that matter, but something about this remix really talks to me. I’m somewhere far away in dreamland when that “Ashes To Ashes” sample kicks in.
Honorable Mentions: Ashes To Ashes, Teenage Wildlife, Crashing The Same Car, China Girl, Let’s Dance, Stay, Sons Of The Silent Age, Heroes. It’s impossible to qualify David Bowie. He’ll be deeply missed.
BRIAN HAIK: THE DAVID BOWIE PLAYLIST
I chose to stick with my favorite period of Bowie: 1969-74. This time period sees the rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust.
1. “Life On Mars?” Hunky Dory – The first time I heard this song was at the end of “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” movie. Ever since that moment I was a David Bowie fan. I’ve always liked the radio hits I’ve heard before like “Space Oddity,” “Jean Genie,” “Rebel Rebel” to name a few, but this was different. The lyrics are so surreal and the mood of the music fits the lyrics perfectly. An orchestra in rock music? Brilliant.
2. “Moonage Daydream,” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – This song has very playful lyrics. As Bowie fans know he likes to write lyrics that take you on a journey, quite often times to space. Bowie was really into Sci-fi novels.
3. “Oh! You Pretty Things,” Hunky Dory – I like the diversity of this song. It’s delicate piano parts and then it just ROCKs with the chorus. The song has lots of meanings, I think it’s about rebellion, a super human and aliens.
4. “The Width of a Circle,” The Man Who Sold the World – This is a more obscure Bowie tune that everyone should know. It’s kind of mellow and then it ROCKS! Lyrics are about God, satan and super humans.
5. “Space Oddity” (Single) – What Bowie list would be complete without this song? Even though I’ve heard this overplayed on mainstream radio, I still really enjoy this one. This song was released the same month Apollo 11 landed on the moon.
6. “The Man Who Sold The World,” The Man Who Sold the World – The first time I heard this song was when Nirvana covered it. I liked their version, but the original is better. What an awesome, but simple guitar riff. Mick Ronson, Bowie’s guitarist in the Ziggy Stardust era, was crucial for Bowies early sound.
7. “Ziggy Stardust (Live)” – Another song that can’t be kept off the list. Bowie was Ziggy Stardust. He created this androgynous visitor from another planet, and he played the role well.
8. “Diamond Dogs (Live)” – A post-apocalyptic rock song. Ziggy Stardust retires along with his band, The Spiders From Mars, and Halloween Jack is born, and he assembles a new band that includes a sax. A catchy tune if you ask me.
9. “Queen Bitch,” Hunky Dory – Rockin’ song about drug deals. Do I need say much about this song? It ROCKS and I like it.
10. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide,” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars – This version of the song is the last song ever performed by Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. It is a farewell to Ziggy Stardust.
JACK LEAVER: THE DAVID BOWIE PLAYLIST
I had so much trouble picking just 10 songs, I asked my brother Mike to help. I am a huge fan going back to junior high school, but Mike is even more of a fan. We really didn’t put these in order. This was really hard! R.I.P. David Bowie.
1. “Suffragette City,” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
2. “Starman,” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
3. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide,” The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
4. “Panic in Detroit,” Alladin Sane
5. “1984,” Diamond Dogs
6. “Station to Station,” Station to Station
7. “I’ve Been Waiting for You” (Bowie’s Neil Young cover) – I included this because his version is so good and I am convinced they influenced each other).
8. “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed,” David Bowie (Space Oddity)
9. “Thursday’s Child,” Hours
10. “Young Americans,” Young Americans
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