Saturday, 30 April 2016

Z - Ziggy Stardust

Ziggy played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly
The Spiders from Mars.  He played it left hand
But made it too far, became the special man
Then we were Ziggy's band

The titular song from David Bowie's 1972 concept album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was first recorded as a demo in February 1971, and then re-recorded in November 1971 at Trident Studios in London, England.

Its name was partially inspired by the work of the rockabilly musician known as the Legendary Stardust Cowboy, and as a joke on his friend Iggy Pop.  Bowie explained to Q Magazine in 1990 that there was a tailor's shop called Ziggy's that he passed on a train.  "I liked it because it had that Iggy connotation but it was a tailor's shop, and I thought, well, this whole thing is gonna be about clothes, so it was my own little joke calling him Ziggy."  Many years later, on his 2002 album Heathen, Bowie covered a Legendary Stardust Cowboy song "I Took a Trip On a Gemini Spaceship".

"Ziggy Stardust" charted at position 17 on Billboard Hot Rock Songs and is ranked Number 277 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.  Cover versions are featured in the video games Guitar Hero for the PS2 and Rock Band 3.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Y - Young Americans

Ain't there a child I can hold without judging?
Ain't there a pen that will write before they die?
Ain't you proud that you've still got faces?
Ain't there one damn song that can make me
break down and cry?

The title track of David Bowie's album Young Americans was the result of his "obsession" with soul music.  It was recorded at Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia in August of 1974, and released as a single in February 1975 with "Suffragette City" (UK) or "Knock on Wood" (US) as the B-side.

Bowie would later refer to the album's sound as "plastic soul... the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey" (a derogatory term for people from England).  The song marks the first time that Bowie would work with guitarist Carlos Alomar and singer Luther Vandross.  Its lyrics jab at many issues of the time, from black repression to the Nixon scandal.  The line I heard the news today, oh boy! was lifted from the Beatles song "A Day in the Life".

"Young Americans" was a massive hit in North America, reaching position 28 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and position 33 on the Canadian Singles Chart.  Rolling Stone Magazine has this song ranked at number 481 on its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of all Time.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

X - X-Rated Borders

David Bowie wrote no songs whose titles begin with the letter X.

However he certainly had no fear of putting allusions to sexuality in many of his songs and performances.  Nobody could pin him to one category: his early stage personas were presented as androgynous, he declared himself gay during a 1972 interview but later claimed he was bisexual, and he famously opened a 1975 Grammys speech with "Ladies and gentlemen, and others" - all while married to his first wife Angela.

There were times that he clashed with censors who wanted him to modify lyrics or album art.  The cover painting for his 1974 album Diamond Dogs was airbrushed to remove the dog's genitalia.  In the song "Beauty and the Beast" on his 1977 album "Heroes" the line Someone fetch a priest was originally intended to be Someone f*** a priest (which happened to be a favourite epithet at the time).  Before a guest spot on SNL in 1979, network execs told him that they would mute a line from the song "Boys Keep Swinging": When you're a boy other boys check you out.  In protest he performed the song while strapped to an anatomically correct life-sized marionette.

In some ways he was a one-man spearhead for the sexual revolution.  As he put it in a 1976 interview for Playboy magazine: "Sex has never really been shocking, it was just the people who performed it who were."  The bluntness of that attitude is quite obvious in such works as "Moonage Daydream", "Sex and the Church", and many others.  He was never one to skirt the subject.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

W - When the Wind Blows

So long child, it's awful dark
I never felt the sun
I dread to think of when
When the wind blows

This song was written by David Bowie and Swiss musician Erdal Kizilcay for the animated film When the Wind Blows, based on the book of the same name by Raymond Briggs.  It was released by BBC Studio 4 as a single in June 1986 with an orchestral arrangement of the song on the B-side.

A limited edition picture-disc was released the same year, containing the same tracks but the picture on the front of the disc was of the main characters from the movie.  "When the Wind Blows" peaked at number 44 in the UK, having been promoted by a video that featured a montage of clips from the film.  Since then the song has appeared on only a few reissues and compilations.

This was the second time that Bowie contributed to a film that was based on a Raymond Briggs book: the first was a filmed introduction to The Snowman in 1982.  Erdal Kizilcay would work with Bowie again on five albums, most notably the 1993 soundtrack album The Buddha of Suburbia.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

V - V-2 Schneider

V-2 Schneider
V-2 Schneider

This rarely-performed, mainly instrumental piece was recorded in the summer of 1977 at Hansa Studio by the Wall in West Berlin for David Bowie's album "Heroes" and was the B-side for the "Heroes" single.  The only lyrics are those of the title, distorted by an electronic filtering process called phasing.

For a long time it was erroneously assumed that the title was a reference to the German V-2 rocket, but in fact it was a nickname for Florian Schneider, one of the founders of the German electronic music band Kraftwerk that was a heavy inspiration for Bowie at the time.

What makes the piece more interesting is the fact that Bowie takes his saxophone entry off-beat and continues from there.  Rather than redoing the track, Bowie left it as it was because he recalled one of guitarist Brian Eno's mantras about honoring one's mistakes.  It still works for the piece as a whole, given that many of the studio sessions for the "Heroes" album were improvised.

Monday, 25 April 2016

U - Under the God

As the walls came tumbling down
So, the secrets that we shared
I believed you by the palace gates
Now the savage days are here

The first single from David Bowie's hard-rock album Tin Machine, for which he had formed the band of the same name, was recorded in the fall of 1989 at Mountain Studios, Montreux and Compass Point Studios in Nassau; its B-side was "Sacrifice Yourself".  Unusually, the single was released after the record had been issued.

Reeves Gabrels' frenetic guitar riff gives the listener an immediate sense that the song is a radical departure from Bowie's late 1980s material.  Unsatisfied with his creative performance since the success of Let's Dance in 1983, Bowie said: "For me, that band was absolutely necessary.  It accomplished what it was supposed to do, which was bring me back to my absolute roots and set me back on the right course of what I do best."

Although "Under the God" was considered a commercial flop in both the UK and North America, it still reached fourth position in the U.S. Billboard Alternative Songs and position 51 on the UK Singles Chart for 1989.  The song has been described as an unabashed example of Bowie's stinging social commentary - which for much of his early career had been blunted by censors - as well as a rebuke to people who use rock and roll songs out of context as anthems for their causes.  (In fact, this song itself was reportedly used as a hate anthem by a German skinhead gang.)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

T - TVC-15

Up every evening 'bout half eight or nine
I give my complete attention to a very good friend of mine
He's quadraphonic, he's a, he's got more channels
So hologramic, oh my T V C one five

The odd-sounding but straightforward "TVC-15" was recorded in the fall of 1975 at Cherokee Studios and Record Plant Studios in Los Angeles California, for Bowie's tenth album Station to Station.  It was released as a single in April 1976 with the B-side "We Are the Dead".

According to Bowie, the song was inspired by the hallucinations of his strung-out friend Iggy Pop, in which a television was swallowing his girlfriend.  The song's narrator sings of his girlfriend who crawls into a television set, and afterwards he wishes to crawl in himself in order to find her.  The song also seems to warn about the hypnotic and detrimental effect of watching too much television.

"TVC-15" wasn't quite as popular as most of Bowie's other singles from the same period.  It reached number 33 on the UK Singles Chart and in North America it peaked at number 64 on the Billboard Singles chart.  However he performed it regularly during his live concerts and it has appeared on several compilations.

Friday, 22 April 2016

S - Starman

Look out your window, I can see his light
If we can sparkle he may land tonight
Don't tell your poppa or he'll get us locked up in fright

"Starman" was recorded in February 1972 at Trident Studios in London, and released as a single in April 1972 with "Suffragette City" as the B-side.  It was a late addition to David Bowie's fifth album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars because the vice-president of A&R at RCA records loved the demo and believed it would make a great single.

Although Bowie himself said that the character of Ziggy Stardust was not the Starman but merely a messenger, that didn't quash the opinion of many that Ziggy was supposed to be an extraterrestrial - one piece of evidence being that the octave leap on the word "Starman" is identical to that of the word "Somewhere" in the song "Over the Rainbow".  The song has had many interpretations over the years; the most common was that it was an allusion to the Second Coming of Christ.

"Starman" was Bowie's first big hit since "Space Oddity"; it climbed to Number 10 on the UK Singles chart and it was his first single to reach the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 where it peaked at number 65.  A limited edition picture disc of the single was released in 2012, and it appears in the soundtrack of the 2015 film The Martian.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

R - Rebel Rebel

You've got your mother in a whirl
'Cause she's not sure if you're a boy or a girl
Hey babe, your hair's all right
Hey babe, let's stay out tonight

Considered the last of David Bowie's glam rock singles as well as his most-covered track, "Rebel Rebel" was recorded in late 1973 at Trident Studios and Olympic Studios in London England as part of the 1974 concept album Diamond Dogs.  Its B-sides were "Queen Bitch" for the UK version and "Lady Grinning Soul" for the North American version.

Bowie's biggest hit in the U.S. since Space Oddity, the song became a glam anthem as it peaked at 64th position on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and at 30th position on the Canadian Singles Chart.  Its distinctive guitar riff was described by Bowie as "just fabulous".

As with a number of older songs, Bowie intended to retire "Rebel Rebel" after the 1990 Sound+Vision tour but brought it back for the 1999 Hours tour, and performed a new arrangement in the 2003 Reality tour.  The song appears on many compilations and in several film soundtracks, notably the 1999 film Detroit Rock City.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Q - Queen Bitch

She's so swishy in her satin and tat
In her frock coat and bipperty-bopperty hat
Oh God, I could do better than that

"Queen Bitch" is the fifth track on side two of David Bowie's fourth album Hunky Dory.  Recorded at London's Trident Studios in the summer of 1971, Bowie wrote the song in tribute to friend Lou Reed's band Velvet Underground.  It never was released as its own single, but appeared as the B-side of "Rebel Rebel" in the UK and the B-side of "1984" in the U.S.

Bowie's performance in this song is rather understated, but shows the template for the glam rock style that he embraces in his followup albums Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane.  The main guitar riff reportedly was lifted from the song "Three Steps to Heaven" by Eddie Cochran.

Gamers using Playstation and Xbox consoles would be able to play and/or sing "Queen Bitch" in the series Rock Band, as it's available through downloadable content in a 3-song pack along with the songs "Moonage Daydream" and "Heroes".

For those not familiar with British slang, to be "swish" means to be effeminate and/or with girly interests, and is usually used in a derogatory fashion.  "Tat" probably refers to decorative lace on clothing.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

P - Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy

Peace on Earth, can it be
Years from now, perhaps we'll see
See the day of glory
See the day, when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again

No Christmas music repertoire is complete without this famous duet of David Bowie and Bing Crosby.  It was recorded at Elstree Studios in London on September 11th 1977 for Crosby's then-upcoming television special Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas.  Bootlegs of the song had "Heroes" as the B-side (which Bowie had also performed for the special) however in 1982 an official single was released with "Fantastic Voyage" from Bowie's album Lodger as the B-side.

Bowie reportedly hated the song "Little Drummer Boy" so the songwriters for the show composed "Peace on Earth" as a counterpoint, and the two singers performed the duet after less than an hour of rehearsal.  Afterwards Bowie admitted that he only appeared on the show because he knew his mother liked Bing Crosby, but he also described the experience as "surreal" because it occurred at a time when he was trying to "normalize" his career.  A few days after the taping, Crosby had a positive opinion of Bowie: "A clean-cut kid... He sings well, has a great voice."

The single hit Number Three on the UK singles chart in 1982, became one of Bowie's fastest-selling singles and was certified silver within a month of its release.  In 2010 a limited edition of 2000 copies was released on red vinyl in the U.S. by Collector's Choice Music, with a 1953 duet of Bing Crosby and Ella Fitzgerald singing "White Christmas" as the B-side.

Monday, 18 April 2016

O - Outside

It happens outside
The music is outside
It's happening outside
The music is outside
It's happening now

The title track for David Bowie's nineteenth album 1.Outside was recorded in the summer of 1994 at The Hit Factory Studio in New York.  However the tune was supposedly written back in 1989; an incomplete version was performed during Bowie's Tin Machine tour of the same year and was called "Now".

The song was partly inspired by a visit to the Maria Gugging Psychiatric Clinic near Vienna Austria, where the artwork created by patients is frequently put on display.  In fact, the album cover is a self-portrait by Bowie himself.

While the lyrics seem simple enough, the tone of the song expresses some of the end-of-an-era jitters that Bowie was going through.  "The momentum gathers as we approach the end of this cycle of 100 years, a huge anguish that everything will change," Bowie had said.  "I wanted to make a record that reflected those anxieties, a state of moral, spiritual, and emotional panic."

Saturday, 16 April 2016

N - New Killer Star

All the corners of the buildings
Who but we remember these?
The sidewalks and trees
I'm thinking now
I got a better way

The first CD single from David Bowie's twenty-third studio album Reality, "New Killer Star" was recorded at Looking Glass Studios, New York, and released in September 2003 with a cover of the British New Wave band Sigue Sigue Sputnik's "Love Missile F1-11" as the B-side.

Like many Bowie songs the meaning is rather ambiguous, although Bowie mentioned on several occasions that the song was partly inspired by the events following 9/11.  The video uses postcard-like images to tell a story about a spaceship crashing to Earth, with implications of the appearance of a messiah (an oblique callback to Ziggy Stardust).

The lyric "Let's face the music and dance" is a reference to a song by Irving Berlin that gives a message of hope, perhaps also an admonition that we has a people should deal with the consequences of our actions.

Friday, 15 April 2016

M - Moonage Daydream

Keep your electric eye on me, babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah!

One of the pivotal songs on David Bowie's 1972 tour-de-force album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, "Moonage Daydream" was first recorded in February 1971 with the band Arnold Corns and released as a aingle with "Hang On to Yourself" as the B-side.  The version which actually appears on the album was recorded in June of 1972 with Bowie's backing band The Spiders from Mars.

The song forms part of the album's overall narrative which describes Earth facing an impending disaster and the arrival of an alien messiah who becomes a rock star, and who ultimately self-destructs under the pressures of his own fame.

The song has been covered many times, and also inspired the title of a book published in 2002 that chronicles Bowie's persona of Ziggy during 1972-1973.  Moonage Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust was written by Bowie, illustrated by his friend and photographer Mick Rock, and published by Genesis Publications.  (Good luck in getting your hands on a copy - it's out of print and some sources quote prices starting at $330.)

Thursday, 14 April 2016

L - Let's Dance

Let's dance
Put on your red shoes and dance the blues
Let's dance
To the song they're playin' on the radio

Recorded in 1982 at The Power Station Studio in New York, "Let's Dance" was the first released single from David Bowie's 1983 album of the same name; its B-side was "Cat People (Putting out Fire).  Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan played the guitar solo at the end of the song.  It became Bowie's fastest selling single up to that date, topping the charts for three weeks.

The dance-pop style was intended to introduce Bowie to a younger audience that was largely unaware of his career in the 1970s, but unfortunately Bowie found himself distanced from those very fans because he was unsure of what they wanted from his music.

The video for the song was filmed on location in Australia and is quite striking considering the deceptively simple subject matter of the song.  The "red shoes" appear several times as a symbol against racism.  "Let's Dance" was nominated for the Canadian 1984 Juno Award for International Single of the Year (but lost to "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson).

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

K - Kooks

Will you stay in our lovers' story
If you stay you won't be sorry
'Cause we believe in you
Soon you'll grow so take a chance
With a couple of kooks
Hung up on romancing

This little-known song from David Bowie's fourth album Hunky Dory was recorded in the summer of 1971 at Trident Studios in London England.  A live version was taped in June 1971 at the BBC In Concert radio show with John Peel and subsequently released on the 2000 compilation album Bowie at the Beeb.

The awkwardly welcoming and warm lyrics were written by Bowie to his then-newborn son "Zowie" Duncan Haywood Jones, and the LP sleeve bears the caption "For Small Z."  The song's jazzy style is a homage to the early career of Neil Young, because Bowie happened to be listening to Neil Young records when he received the news of his son's birth.

Ken Scott, Bowie's producer at the time, loved the track and thought Bowie should do an album of children's songs.  Bowie allegedly considered the idea but never followed through on it.  Some early versions of "Kooks" found on bootlegs and BBC recordings add a line to the last verse:
And if the homework brings you down
Then we'll throw it on the fire and take the car downtown
And we'll watch the crazy people race around

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

J - Jump They Say

They say he has no brain
They say he has no mood
They say he was born again
They say look at him climb

"Jump They Say" was released in March 1993 as a promotional single for David Bowie's eighteenth studio album Black Tie White Noise.  It was recorded in the summer of 1992 at Mountain Studios, Montreux and at Hit Factory, New York with "Pallas Athena" as the B-side.  A solo from avant-jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie is prominently featured.

The song was Bowie's way of expressing his feelings about his schizophrenic half-brother Terry Burns who committed suicide in 1985 by jumping in front of a train.  The lyrics describe a man driven to desperate acts by the pressure that the world puts upon him.  As well, the powerful video depicts Bowie as a paranoid businessman forced to jump from the roof of his office building by his colleagues.  Bowie's own fear of the unknown is also clear; an interesting admission from a man who had changed his image repeatedly.

The song was marketed as a comeback single, and indeed, the album Black Tie White Noise was commonly viewed as the start of an artistic renaissance for Bowie.  "Jump They Say" peaked at Number 9 in the UK charts and Number 26 in the Canadian Singles Chart for 1993.

Monday, 11 April 2016

I - I'm Afraid of Americans

Johnny's in America
No tricks at the wheel
No-one needs anyone
They don't even just pretend

This song was co-written by David Bowie and Brian Eno during the sessions for Bowie's 1995 album Outside.  However it wasn't released in its finished form until a version of it was used in the film Showgirls, after which it was remade for the album Earthling in 1997.

Bowie mentioned in interviews that the song was meant as a protest against the invasion of other countries by American corporations and homogenized culture.  Other speculation is that the singer is also afraid of the gratuitous violence depicted within mass entertainment - the music video spotlights this as it shows the main character being stalked through the streets of New York.

The song has been covered many times, particularly by the group Nine Inch Nails.  It also appears in Episode 1x22 of the TV show Person of Interest where it serves as the background music for a sequence where a security analyst is being pursued by a government hitman because he was asking too many questions about his job.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

H - "Heroes"

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be Heroes, just for one day

This song was a product of David Bowie's "Berlin period", recorded at Hansa Studio by the Wall in West Berlin and released in September of 1977 with "V-2 Schneider" as the B-side.  A 6-minute version was the title track for the "Heroes" album, Bowie's twelfth.

According to Bowie, the title of the song was a reference to the 1975 track "Hero" by the German band Neu!, and the lyrics were inspired by the sight of his manager Tony Visconti embracing his girlfriend by the Berlin Wall.

Although the song didn't become a huge hit at the time, it has gone on to be one of Bowie's signature songs and is his second-most covered song (after Rebel Rebel).  A performance in 1987 at the German Reichstag in West Berlin was considered to be a major catalyst to the eventual bringing down of the Wall.  After Bowie's death, the German government issued a statement thanking him and saying "you are now among Heroes."

Friday, 8 April 2016

G - Golden Years

Don't let me hear you say life's taking you nowhere, angel
(Come get up, my baby)
Look at that sky, life's begun
Nights are warm and the days are young

The first track completed in the 1975 Station to Station sessions, "Golden Years" was recorded at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles.  It was released in single format in November of 1975 with "Can You Hear Me" as the B-side.  The full-length version was originally intended to be the first track on David Bowie's tenth studio album Station to Station but it ultimately became the second track instead.

Both Bowie's then-wife Angela Barnett and singer Ava Cherry have claimed to be the inspiration for the song.  Bowie himself said that he was looking to emulate the glitzy nostalgia of Broadway musicals, and he offered one version of the song to Elvis Presley to perform, but Presley declined.

"Golden Years" had commercial success in both America and Europe, charting at Number 10 in the U.S. and Number 8 in the UK in 1976.  The song was played regularly on several of Bowie's tours, and was used as the theme for Stephen King's 1991 U.S. mini-series Golden Years.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

F - Fame

Fame, makes a man take things over
Fame, lets him loose, hard to swallow
Fame, puts you there where things are hollow

Written in collaboration with Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, "Fame" was recorded at the Electric Lady Studios in New York and released as a single in July 1975 with "Right" as the B-side.  Lennon's voice can be heard near the end of the song.  An extended version is the final track on the album Young Americans, and also appeared on the 1976 compilation ChangesOneBowie.

The song carries a funky style and has angry overtones; Bowie later admitted that the malice was partly aimed at then-manager Tony Defries and the Mainman Group's contract, from which he had been trying to extricate himself.  In 1990 Bowie reflected: "Fame itself is not a rewarding thing."

"Fame" was Bowie's biggest hit in America up to that point, becoming the Number One single on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. and on the RPM Top Singles in Canada.  Bowie would claim that he had no idea that the song would do so well.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

E - Everyone Says Hi

Said you'd took a big trip
They said you moved away
Happened oh so quietly, they say

A more traditional-sounding rock ballad, "Everyone Says Hi" was recorded at Allaire Studios in New York for Heathen, David Bowie's twenty-second studio album in 2002.  Vocals were done both by Bowie and his friend and producer Tony Visconti.  The B-side for the CD single version was "Safe".

The lyrics are relatively straightforward as the singer laments the sudden departure of a dear friend and asks them to come home if their situation doesn't work out.  It's unclear if Bowie was referring to a real person when he wrote this.

Three versions of the single were released in the UK and two others in Europe.  The B-sides of these were re-recordings of some of Bowie's less familiar 1960s material, such as "Baby Loves That Way" from his days as a member of Davy Jones and the Lower Third.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

D - DJ

I am a D.J., I am what I play
Can't turn around, no, can't turn around, oh no
I am a D.J., I am what I play
I got believers (kiss-kiss) believing me

Initially recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux in September 1978, it was re-recorded in March 1979 in New York for the album Lodger and later released as a single with the B-side "Repetition".

The song is noted for the bridge guitar solo by Adrian Belew that was recorded in multiple takes and re-mixed together.  The single was issued on green vinyl in the UK and is now a highly sought-after collector's item.  However it didn't receive much chart success and was very rarely performed live.

The video features Bowie having the run of a music studio intercut with scenes of him strolling around London and interacting with a crowd of curious people.

It has been thought that the song is a commentary on the "cult of the DJ" and the price of fame - a theme that comes up frequently in Bowie's music.

Monday, 4 April 2016

C - Changes

So I turned myself to face me
But I've never caught a glimpse
Of how the others must see the faker
I'm much too fast to take that test

Long considered one of Bowie's best-known songs, "Changes" was recorded in London England in the summer of 1971 for the album Hunky Dory, and it was released as a single in January 1972 with "Andy Warhol" as the B-side.

The lyrics were oddly prophetic, as the 1970s saw Bowie go through several stage personas (including his most famous one, Ziggy Stardust) and nearly self-destruct from spiraling drug use.  At the time Bowie thought of the song as a mere parody of a nightclub song, but had underestimated the scope of its popularity as fans kept asking for him to sing it at his concerts.

Despite only reaching Number 41 on the U.S. Billboard Top 100 in 1975, the song has appeared on most compilations of Bowie's best songs and it was a regular feature in his live performances.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

B - Blue Jean

Blue Jean, I just met a girl named Blue Jean
Blue Jean, she got a camouflaged face and no money
Remember, they always let you down when you need 'em
Oh Blue Jean, is heaven any sweeter than Blue Jean

First released as a single in September 1984 with "Dancing With the Big Boys" as the B-side, the song was recorded at Le Studio in Morin Heights, Quebec for David Bowie's album Tonight.  One of only two tracks on the album that was written entirely by Bowie, it was described as "a piece of sexist rock 'n' roll" and "not very cerebral".  Nevertheless it reached Number 8 of Billboard's Hot 100 in 1984.

The song was and remains one of my favourites mainly because it was recorded not far from my hometown.  The moniker "Blue Jean" became my first BBS (bulletin board system) alias.

A rare edition of the Blue Jean single was pressed on blue vinyl.  The song also became the focus of a 21-minute short film called "Jazzin' for Blue Jean" (starring David Bowie of course) about a man who tries to win the affections of a beautiful woman by pretending he knows her favourite rock star.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

A to Z Blogging Challenge

Once again it's time for the A-Z Blogging Challenge.  Last year I discussed many classical and contemporary music composers.  I'm dedicating this year's Blogging Challenge to the work of the late David Bowie who was one of my favourite rock musicians.  His songs cover almost the entire alphabet, and I'm starting with As the World Falls Down.

As the pain sweeps through/Makes no sense for you
Every thrill has gone/Wasn't too much fun at all
But I'll be there for you/As the world falls down

This song was recorded for the soundtrack of the 1986 film Labyrinth, starring David Bowie and Jennifer Connolly.  The featured scene is an illusion of a masquerade ball that the Goblin King (Bowie) creates for young Sarah (Connolly) to distract her from her quest to find her missing baby brother.

With gently seductive lyrics and an overlay of chimes and bells, the song has an otherworldly quality to it along with a subtle call to leave cares behind and put faith in one's heart.

A video featuring clips from the film was planned for release in 1986 but was mysteriously cancelled.  Instead it was included on the Best of Bowie compilation DVD in 2002 and can now be viewed on YouTube.

Friday, 1 April 2016


I've always admired the use of natural materials like wood, brick, and stone in construction and decoration. When done well it gives an impression of beauty and solidity.

The first house that my parents bought, which we lived in until I was eight, had part stone and part brick exterior cladding with a tumbling rock garden in the front (which my mother spent many hours tending).

My grandfather's house had black slate tile on the kitchen floor.

My parents' current house has stone cladding all across the front, a stone front path, and a driveway made up of interlocking pavers.

I remember having a conversation with Dad while the house was still under consideration, in which he wasn't certain about the driveway.  "Paving stone can be troublesome," he said.  "The stones can heave and break over time, and they're awfully expensive to replace because you can never match them."

After seventeen years, there hasn't been one problem with the pavers.  The stone still looks as good as it was when the house was purchased.  That just goes to show how well it was installed.

If I'm ever so fortunate as to own a house, some of the criteria on my bucket list are: a stone outdoor patio, a rock garden, and a stone-surround fireplace.