Tonight I’m interrupting my more-or-less regular schedule of Monday postings, and taking you back to when Friday nights at Meanwhile, at the Manse often meant it was musical-reminiscence time. On various Fridays through the past four years of this blog, I’ve written about the 20 most ubiquitous pop songs from the years (1964 to 1975) when I was growing up here in this very Manse; about the song that went missing from that list; about the sometimes underappreciated Ringo Starr; about one particular ubiquitous song from that era, Please Come to Boston; about the greatest hits on the cafeteria jukebox at Centre Hastings Secondary School back in the early 1970s; and so on.
I wish there were a happy reason for my resumption of that Friday-night musical tradition this week. Sadly – very sadly indeed – it is prompted by the death this past week of David Bowie, an artist who transcended generations and styles, not to mention time and space. I wouldn’t call myself a monster Bowie fan, but there are tons of his songs that I adore, and I’ve always been impressed by his fearlessness, self-reinvention wizardry, and, yes, his oddity. I’ll say it flat out: the world this week lost one of the greatest and most original musical artists of all time.
Now, Bowie’s death basically took over the internet, and it’s putting it mildly to say there’s no shortage out there of collections of best-of-Bowie songs and performances. But in thinking about his music – as I have been, a lot, these past few days – I decided to put a Manse spin on things by collecting videos of his songs that were hits during my childhood here, Manse Era 1.0. The July 1975 cutoff date (when I was 15 and my family moved away from Queensborough to the town of Campbellford, Ont.) means no Ashes to Ashes, no Let’s Dance, no Fame, no China Girl, no Golden Years, and most disappointingly, no Heroes, perhaps Bowie’s most powerful and most lasting song.
But the good news is that those years do include some absolutely great, great songs, and I thought you might appreciate my hour or so of searching out YouTube for videos of Bowie performing them. So herewith, the greatest hits of the early years of the former David Jones of Brixton.
Of course we begin with Space Oddity, the 1969 single that was the first connection that many of us had to this offbeat androgynous Brit singer:
Then there’s Ziggy Stardust from 1971, which I’ve just learned, to my surprise, was never released as a single. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say it’s got the greatest guitar-riff opening of any pop song in history (sorry, Keef):
Then, from 1972, Changes, featuring the immortal imperative “Turn and face the strange”:
Rebel Rebel, 1974:
Diamond Dogs, also 1974:
And finally, Young Americans from 1975. I love that song, and I love this live performance – from, if you can believe it, the Dick Cavett Show. Wow. Just – wow.
So yeah, David, or Ziggy, or Commander Tom, or whoever you are, and wherever you are this Friday night: Thanks. Thanks so, so much.