Wednesday, 13 January 2016

A brilliant Lego tribute to Lemmy - and a bit of Bowie (because there hasn't been enough, obviously)

And my three favourite covers of Bowie songs:

And yes, that is Davie Bowie on backing vocals - and saxophone, apparently.

Here's my favourite among Bowie's cover version of other people's songs - in this case, The Merseys' lovely 1966 hit, "Sorrow":

Glancing at Bowie's discography, it seems only two of his singles did better in America than here:"Fame" in 1975 and "1987's "Never Let Me Down" (me neither), with "Let's Dance" reaching No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic. Only two of his albums charted higher in the States - Space Oddity (1969) and Station to Station (1976). Presumably that's because, whatever Bowie's musical merits, he was quintessentially English - with a dash of European avant-gardism thrown in. The oddest thing about him was that, despite all his poncing about and the frocks and the arty pretentiousness, he was never annoying. I don't remember him ever whining or preaching, and he had the same sort of London lad likeability as David Beckham. And, although his music wasn't rootsy enough to hit my spot, he did make some terrific records. I was somewhat alarmed to discover that I share David Cameron's enthusiasm for Hunky Dory, which is the only Bowie album I bought at the time. As for singles, "Sound and Vision" is probably my favourite:


  1. Great post. I could never get what the fuss was about Bowie, rather like my blind spot about Bruce Springsteen. The process of his post mortem Dianafication is now on the wane but not before I offended one of my friends by regretting that there was now very little prospect of a Tin Machine reunion. But you are right. He was genuinely an original in a medium that is 90% built on reinvention. Oddly, for all his Britishness, it was his encounter with Nile Rodgers for a Bromley white boy's take on US funk that produced the brilliant Let's Dance, his most successful release, as you point out. If you can cross over markets in music, you will always end up rich.

    In the same vein, Glenn Frey who died a week later, wrote and sang on records now on the shelves of far more homes than David Bowie, simply by refining the 'little bit too C and W' Burritos, Gram Parsons, Poco and the Byrds into something acceptably mainstream.

    Mind you the Eagles never came up with anything as durable as Laughing Gnome.

    1. Bowie's departure was so stage-managed, even down to the apparently anonymous cremation, I wonder if this is not one more bit of Bowie artifice?
      It is often said that death is a great career move.
      He will soon be seen in a chip shop in Beckenham, mark my words.
      Actually I never liked him.
      The Eagles were fab.

  2. Let me get this straight, ex-KCS - you don't "get" Bowie, Springsteen or Dylan, but you approve of Prefab Sprout? Hmm. I'm partly with you on Springsteen, and I do find him incredibly portentous, especially when he's doing pretend bleakness. But there are at least 30 tracks I genuinely enjoy (his best album, for me, was the "18 Tracks" compilation, made up of shorter, poppier, mainly unreleased material).

    As for "Let's Dance", I have to admit to a sneaking preference for the Chris Montez disc with the same title - but Bowie's one is fine (as it should be with Nile Rogers and Stevie Ray Vaughan involved).

    As for The Eagles, I'm not sure you're right - I thought their version of "Smack My Bitch Up" was almost as good as "The Laughing Gnome".

    I did my best to resist the Eagles, Riley, but I'll admit to playing their stuff occasionally (with the windows shut and when the house is empty, obviously). I tend to feel manipulated when listening to anything that meticulously produced. I'm more of an Esau than a Jacob (i.e. not a smooth man).

    And if I'm ever faced with a 70-year old man wearing a skin-tight Ziggy Stardust outfit behind the counter, I'll be buying my packet of chips elsewhere.

    1. I know. It's a fair challenge. I really have tried several times and actually quite like early Dylan. I think it's the Bowie artifice and pomposity, the false bombast, the showbiz glitz and the shameless manipulation of the audience that create a barrier that I find it hard to climb over.

      As to the Sprouts, I thought that in the 80s for a while they were trying to do something genuinely original. In particular, Paddy McAloon's songs were both unusually tuneful for the times and intelligent lyrically. Some of them have lasted.

      By the way, you realise that in your reply to Riley, you have unconsciously referenced 'Everything He Did" by Steely Dan: "Turn up the Eagles, the neighbours are listening", which in the context of the song was intended to drown out the sounds of a domestic dispute. That in turn prompted the Eagles to retaliate with the lyric "They can stab it with their steely knives but they still can't kill the beast" in Hotel California.

      Yes. I know. I need to get out more.

    2. Ex KCS: the Steely Dan/Eagles info is a delight, congrats.
      I have just uncovered the splendid four part TV series on Brian Pern the lead singer of Thotch. Sorry, I can't recall the title but seek it out. Pure joy.