We’re in-between the anniversary of the death of and what would’ve been the birthday of one of the most awesome artists in music history. I, of course, am referring to David Bowie.
Some years ago following his demise, I had constructed what I considered the Top 11 greatest songs David has ever released. Unfortunately, he has released so many awesome songs in his life that it’s impossible not to call any of the following 11 that I’ve listed great. So here’s my personal Other Top 11 David Bowie Songs. Why top 11? Because I like to go one step beyond.
Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)
Album: Cat People soundtrack  / Let’s Dance 
Written as the theme tune to the remake of Cat People and also found on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds, Cat People (Putting Out The Fire) is a chilling masterpiece and I have to admit that I prefer this film version to the 1942 one, not only due to the storyline, but the song is a definite part of it.
I know that horror exists as a genre for films/TV shows/books, but I’m wondering if there’s such a thing as a ‘horror song’. If people agree, I’m guessing they’d bring up Michael Jackson’s Thriller or the Monster Mash song. I think Cat People could be classed as one, helped by David’s baritone voice and the lyrical content. Through the opening lyrics “See these eyes of green”, you can sort of sense that you’re picturing a panther who looks on the verge of committing an attack. “Don’t you know my name?” senses that the narrator recognises that the panther was once a human. This also relates to the film’s synopsis. And do I even need to mention the line “I’ve been putting out the fire with gasoline”.
I’m a little surprised that this song never got an Academy Award nomination for Best Song. It did get a Golden Globe though. But I can’t believe none of his film songs ever got recognition from the Oscars; not even Underground, or When The Wind Blows, or Absolute Beginners.
Station To Station
Album: Station To Station 
The longest track on this list lasting just over 10 minutes and from the album of the same name, Station To Station is quite famous for introducing one of David’s characters, the Thin White Duke, who was a bit of a dangerous creation, hence the time he made statements about Adolf Hitler and his fellow Nazis in Germany and when he made what looked like a Nazi salute.
But enough of that. I think it’s amazing that David was able to write something so enduring and interesting at the same time. It commences with a smooth train acceleration sound followed by a slow and steady keyboard riff and a beautiful harmonica melody. After about two-ish minutes, in comes David’s vocal statements on the Duke. During the second half, it soon speeds up a bit as David quotes how “It’s too late to be hateful” and that “The European cannon is here”.
Station To Station is a classic album opener.
Album: Diamond Dogs 
1984 is named after George Orwell’s dystopian novel which is set in a state where a lot of people become victims of perpetual way, omnipresent government surveillance and propaganda. To top it all, there is a guy known as Big Brother who acts like some sort of cult figure and puts harsh control on a group of residents.
David originally wrote this song for a planned musical which was supposed to highlight similar themes to the story, but the musical never came into production. So he put it in the equally dark dystopian album Diamond Dogs instead. With that said, the next track that follows is called Big Brother.
What I especially love about 1984 is the funky keyboard and what sounds like a string ensemble during the intro and the breaks. I also love the way David sings “Beware the savage jaw of 1984”. Them two elements reflect the dramatic subject matter. 1984 may come from a glam rock album, but it was an album that’s truly different to most albums relating to the genre which is considered a light-hearted one. Plus, Diamond Dogs was meant as David’s final album to contribute to the era.
Under The God
Album: Tin Machine 
Under The God is one of two songs on this list which David released with his short-lived band from the late 80s/early 90s, Tin Machine. At that time, David’s material was failing to make much sales, so he went on to form the Machine, which I feel is quite underrated. Maybe they weren’t totally marketable, but the artistry within the music and lyrics certainly remained with David.
Under The God is one of David’s most political songs. You can sort of get the feel through the lyrics, although rather potty-mouthed, i.e. “Right wing d**ks in their boiler suits”, and the way he points out the “skinheads”, “beating on blacks with a baseball bat”, leading to “racism in the rule”.
David may not exactly have been viewed much as a political figure and it’s possible that stuff from this band and his album, Never Let Me Down, are overlooked, because the majority of his fans think apolitically when they think of David and that kind of stuff is less commercial compared to his huge hits, but David was all about being different and I’m sure he was a lefty in his personal life, let’s not think about the Thin White Duke’s infamous salute right now. So let’s give it some credit.
Album: Black Tie White Noise 
If fans wasn’t keen on much of Tin Machine’s material, I guess they considered David’s next album Black Tie White Noise greater in a way. And it’s one of the greats from the 90s. Never mind Take That or the Spice Girls.
Miracle Goodnight is definitely one of the songs that proves exactly how awesome the album is. Whereas Jump They Say is about mental illness despite its groovy rhythm, Miracle Goodnight is a more gentle piece which highlights the beauty of the time when David married Iman Abdulmajid. Accompanied by a slow and smooth yet funky saxophone riff, Miracle Goodnight is a truly beautiful experience, which I often imagine hearing during the aftermath of my wedding, stargazing with my future bride from a balcony and I feel that I want this song played at my wedding.
That and the album was both considered a wedding present to Iman. Iman was certainly a lovely wife to David and I congratulate her for looking after him through the remainder of his life. Speaking of which,…
Album: Blackstar 
If Miracle Goodnight is a song that would put smiles to faces, Lazarus is one that would spark tears to eyes.
Released from my all-time second favourite David Bowie album, Lazarus came out on David’s 69th birthday and a very short time before his end. From the opening lyrics “Look up here, I’m in heaven”, we can sense that he’s dangerously close to death. “Everybody knows me now” expresses the fame he achieved all through the years and we know how David lived a good life, that he lived “like a king” when he got to New York. Even the slow-paced saxophone contributes to the sadness of what’s about to happen to him.
I’d recommend you watch the music video, which is filmed with an unusual 1:1 aspect ratio, and pictures David with buttons sewn over his eyes, in bandages and lying on what appears to be his deathbed. He certainly looks like he’s wasting away as well by the way he’s shaking.
There is also a musical called Lazarus which was produced around the same time as the album, which I still have yet to see.
Album: Tin Machine 
And here we have another one of Tin Machine’s masterpiece, their self titled theme tune(?).
I can’t believed how overlooked Tin Machine is, compared to ‘classic’ guitar rock songs. C’mon, you can hear the magnificent guitar riff. I’ve had a go at trying to play that riff on my guitar and it’s rather difficult to do. How does Reeves Gabrels manage it?
I call it the band’s theme tune, not only does it have anything to do with the self-title, but despite it being the second track on Tin Machine… 1(?), it’s a sort of introduction to the music and the lyrical themes that Tin Machine would focus on for their next songs, ranging from the right-wingers’ abysmal schemes (“Working horrors-humping Tories”) to the other things that infuriate them, such as “The guy that beats his baby up” and “One sick deathless duty to remain endangered species”.
I repeat. Tin Machine deserve a bit more credit.
Where Are We Now
Album: The Next Day 
For some time after his release of Reality, David Bowie took a lengthy hiatus from show-business, aside from his one-off duet with David Gilmour and cameo appearances in Extras and Sponge Bob Square Pants. He surprisingly returned on his 66th birthday with this nice gentle ballad, Where Are We Now.
It was lovely to see David come out of retirement and back into the music business. For this song, he reminds the listeners of the time he spent in Berlin during the late 70s (“Had to get the train / from Potsdamer Platz”). He also adds a reminiscent of time wasted (“just walking the dead”). Personally though, I don’t think he’s wasted time at all or his life. I don’t call art a waste. But what can I say? From what I get from the chorus, I get the feeling that he’s expressing the truth about now he ain’t getting no younger and feeling that because of that, life is getting shorter.
Where Are We Now is one of the greatest ballads which I definitely recommend checking out.
Everyone Says Hi
Album: Heathen 
Next we have a space sounding song from the album, Heathen.
Apparently, fellow former Tin Machine member, Reeves Gabrels, stated that Everyone Says Hi makes him cry and it was the only one he heard of David’s at the time since he quit working with him. I’m not too sure whether he meant cry in a sad way or a happy way, but with that said, Everyone Says Hi does put a smile to my face. Maybe it’s the keyboards and synthesizers that place me in a space-like atmosphere every time I hear ’em.
In a way, I do get a feeling that the song centers on a couple living a long distance separately (“Said you took a big trip / They said you moved away”). The trip could be so long that maybe the protagonist’s friend moved so far away that one even moved through the universe. Further into the song, “Said you sailed a big ship” suggests obvious transportation, unless of course David’s referring to the giant flying ship in Disney’s Treasure Planet, which came out the same year. Or it could be a space ship he’s talking about. After all, it’s not like the friend literally “sailed away”, is it now? Later on, he reminds the friend that one’s always welcome home – “If the money is lousy / You can always come home”.
Everyone Says Hi – a truly underrated masterpiece.
Album: Blackstar 
The second longest track on this list which is literally just under ten minutes, Blackstar is another glorious opener for the album of the same name.
The first time I came across the music video for Blackstar was from a film-making friend of mine who posted the YouTube link on Facebook. He described it as scarier than Labyrinth. I thank him for the introduction to the song, because although Blackstar is one of the very last songs David released, it’s also one of his best. It’s kind of like Queen’s Innuendo, except the music is obviously different.
Blackstar is a truly dark and haunting song. What I get from the title is that it’s about a celebrity who’s about to fade away. If you look at the video, we can see how much David has changed, age-wise, not in the way we often pictured him before then. Later in the video, we see a skeleton lying on the ground, which apparently resembles Major Tom, his old creation through Space Oddity. Even the lyrics sound like the song is resembling death – “In the villa of Ormen / Stands a solitary candle”. During the middle, David senses the beginning of the end and what he wants after death – “I see right, so wide, so open-hearted pain / I want eagles in my daydreams, diamonds in my eyes”.
And all the way through, David cleverly experiments through a variety of music genres including jazz, blues, avant-guarde, electronica and drum & bass.
Before I reveal the number one pick, here are some honourable mentions;
Man Who Sold The World
Loving The Alien
Black Tie White Noise
And the number one song by David Bowie is;
I Can’t Give Everything Away
Album: Blackstar 
And Thunderbirds are go! And yes, another song from Blackstar.
Yeah, I know. But Blackstar contains so much awesome material, even though it’s much darker and more dramatic than David’s previous material. I say that from and artist’s point of view.
I also understand how more pop-ish I Can’t Give Everything Away sounds compared to both the title track and Lazarus, but nevertheless, it’s a beautiful closing to what would eventually become David’s final album. And considering that it’s also one of David’s final singles to be released, before I say this though, I’d just like to point out that it was released exactly on my 26th birthday. I was extremely traumatised when I heard about David’s death, considering that he was my favourite singer.
The accompanying video sparks a tear to my eye. All that’s required is swilling stars and pictures of David himself. Consider I Can’t Give Everything Away to be a final farewell to David.
So that was my secondary top 11 list of David Bowie songs. Don’t feel too disappointed if I’ve left any of your favourites out. Do feel free to leave your comments below. And may David continue to rest in peace.