Deep Album Cuts Vol. 54: David Bowie

My last installment of this column was mourning Scott Weiland, who I praised in part for how he channeled his hero David Bowie, and I really had no idea that a month later I'd be mourning Bowie as well. Just last Saturday I was listening to his new album  and  marveling that he still had something like that in him at that age, and appreciating how creatively restless he'd remained decades after most of his contemporaries had stopped doing anything interesting.

And while there's something to be said for the whole of David Bowie's career, all 50 years of it, I do try to limit these playlists to just 80 minutes, and cover the period in which they had hit singles. So I started with his second album, and went up through his mid-'80s period as a Top 40 staple, before he went off to do Tin Machine and then became essentially a very famous cult act. But even narrowing the window a little leaves an absurdly rich discography.

David Bowie Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Janine
2. Black Country Rock
3. Queen Bitch
4. Kooks
5. Five Years
6. It Ain't Easy
7. Panic In Detroit
8. We Are The Dead
9. Win
10. Fascination
11. Word On A Wing
12. Breaking Glass
13. Always Crashing In The Same Car
14. Black Out
15. The Secret Life Of Arabia
16. Fantastic Voyage
17. Teenage Wildlife
18. Shake It
19. Tumble And Twirl

Track 1 from David Bowie aka Space Oddity (1969)
Track 2 from The Man Who Sold The World (1970)
Tracks 3 and 4 from Hunky Dory (1971)
Tracks 5 and 6 from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972)
Track 7 from Aladdin Sane (1973)
Track 8 from Diamond Dogs (1974)
Tracks 9 and 10 from Young Americans (1975)
Track 11 from Station To Station (1976)
Tracks 12 and 13 from Low (1977)
Tracks 14 and 15 from "Heroes" (1977)
Track 16 from Lodger (1979)
Track 17 from Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)
Track 18 from Let's Dance (1983)
Track 19 from Tonight (1984)

David Bowie is someone I've taken for granted probably for longer than I've appreciated him. I grew up with him as the perfect suave pop star of "Let's Dance," and the oldest memory I have of one of his new albums being released was Black Tie White Noise. And even as Kurt and Trent and various others helped make Bowie cool again throughout the '90s, I was pretty slow to come around to him, aside from Ziggy Stardust, which sounded incredible when my best friend Cody turned me onto it in middle school. I definitely went through a phase where I bought into the usual rockist argument against Bowie, that him having a sense of showmanship and not being an instrumental virtuoso was a weakness that made him unworthy of his stature, but I snapped out of it.

I've started to explore Bowie's catalog more in the last few years, but I'm still far from an expert, and one reason I like doing these deep cuts is that it gives me a reason to dive in deeper. It's fun to hear the album that "Space Oddity" or "Fame" or "Ashes To Ashes" came from and see what else he was doing at the time that maybe was (or wasn't) as radio-friendly. Bowie's handpicked selections for the 1989 box set Sound + Vision and the 2008 compilation iSelect favored album tracks over hits, and it was fun to pay attention to those and fan favorites while also gravitating towards some songs that don't seem to have any particular reputation but sound amazing to me.

Some of the songs that really grabbed me recently include "Kooks," a sweetly self-deprecating track addressed to his newborn son, the 2-minute "Breaking Glass," and "Fascination," a song co-written by then-backup singer Luther Vandross. It would've been nice to include some of the sprawling selections from the more experimental albums, but I like my self-imposed time limit, it helps me give some shape to these mixes, or perhaps in this case emphasize how much Bowie's output defied traditional career narratives.

A lot of great artists churned out albums pretty rapidly in the '70s and '80s, but it's hard to think of many people who have had as prolonged a fertile period as Bowie had. I'm almost envious of people who have him as their favorite artist, because there's such a huge catalog to explore, so much of it from his most creatively fertile years. One thing that I've started to really like is how his really iconic albums are buttressed by these more transitional (but not necessarily lesser) albums that form the connective tissue of Bowie's catalog. The Man Who Sold The World is like the bridge from his folky beginnings to the glam rock that would make him a star, Station To Station straddles the distance between Young Americans and the Berlin trilogy, and Scary Monsters is the link between the Berlin period and the Let's Dance pop crossover. For someone who's so known for "reinvention" and fictional personas, it's remarkable how much these albums seem to trace a very personal path that could be nothing but a guy very honestly following his muse.

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly
Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy
Vol. 12: TLC
Vol. 13: Pink
Vol. 14: Queen
Vol. 15: Steely Dan
Vol. 16: Trick Daddy
Vol. 17: Paramore
Vol. 18: Elton John
Vol. 19: Missy Elliott
Vol. 20: Mariah Carey
Vol. 21: The Pretenders
Vol. 22: "Weird Al" Yankovic
Vol. 23: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Vol. 24: Foo Fighters
Vol. 25: Counting Crows
Vol. 26: T.I.
Vol. 27: Jackson Browne
Vol. 28: Usher
Vol. 29: Mary J. Blige
Vol. 30: The Black Crowes
Vol. 31: Ne-Yo
Vol. 32: Blink-182
Vol. 33: One Direction
Vol. 34: Kelly Clarkson
Vol. 35: The B-52's
Vol. 36: Ludacris
Vol. 37: They Might Be Giants
Vol. 38: T-Pain
Vol. 39: Snoop Dogg
Vol. 40: Ciara
Vol. 41: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Vol. 42: Dwight Yoakam
Vol. 43: Demi Lovato
Vol. 44: Prince
Vol. 45: Duran Duran
Vol. 46: Rihanna
Vol. 47: Janet Jackson
Vol. 48: Sara Bareilles
Vol. 49: Motley Crue
Vol. 50: The Who
Vol. 51: Coldplay
Vol. 52: Alicia Keys
Vol. 53: Stone Temple Pilots
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