David Bowie

David Bowie

Born David Jones, 1947, Brixton, London, UK. After a series of unsuccessful releases through the second half of the 1960s and a brief period as a one-hit wonder when Space Oddity reached #5 in the wake of the 1969 moon landing, Bowie’s success began in earnest in 1972 when he adopted the persona of Ziggy Stardust. A string of classic hits ensued, including Starman, The Jean Genie, Life On Mars? and Rebel Rebel, culminating in a chart-topping reissue of Space Oddity in 1975. The less commercial but critically acclaimed “Berlin trilogy” of albums Low, “Heroes” and Lodger saw out the ’70s, but Bowie was soon to return to huge commercial, if not critical, success. 1980’s Scary Monsters reached number 1, as did its lead single Ashes To Ashes, but it was to be Bowie’s last album for long term label RCA. Moving to EMI he enlisted Chic’s Nile Rodgers to produce 1983’s ultra-commercial Let’s Dance, another number 1 single and album which also spawned the top three hits China Girl and Modern Love. The following year Bowie’s next album Tonight also hit number 1 but his commercial success came at the expense of critical favour. After a year of film projects including Absolute Beginners (the title track of which reached number 2 in 1986) and Labyrinth, Bowie returned to music with 1987’s Never Let Me Down, which gained few favourable reviews and only reached number 6 – even Bowie himself wasn’t happy with it and requested that the track Too Dizzy be removed from later pressings of the album.

Bowie’s response to Never Let Me Down‘s lacklustre reception was, of course, to form a heavy metal band. Stands to reason. In 1989 he formed Tin Machine with Reeves Gabrels (guitar), Hunt Sales (drums) and Tony Sales (bass), the latter two musicians being the sons of US comedian Soupy Sales. The band’s eponymous début album reached number 3 but failed to generate any top forty singles. As the 1990s dawned Bowie continued to persevere with Tin Machine, releasing a second album Tin Machine II (1991, #23), but lost interest after the failure of the band’s 1992 live album Oy Vey, Baby and returned to solo work. Black Tie White Noise (1993, #1), his first solo album in six years, was the first of many to be hailed by the critics as a “return to form”. 1993 also saw the release of Bowie’s soundtrack to the BBC drama series The Buddha Of Suburbia. Increasingly turning his back on his ’80s commercial sound, Bowie embraced electronica on 1. Outside (1995, #8), although ironically the only track to make a significant impact on the chart was a remix of Hallo Spaceboy (1996, #12), stripped of its industrial noise and reinvented as a dance anthem by the Pet Shop Boys. Next album Earthling (1997, #6) was influenced by drum ‘n’ bass, while Bowie returned to a more conventional sound on a trio of well-received albums, hours… (1999, #5), Heathen (2002, #5) and Reality (2003, #3). This fruitful period was cut short when Bowie suffered a minor heart attack in June 2004, prompting a period of semi-retirement which lasted almost a decade before the surprise release of a new track Where Are We Now? on his 66th birthday in January 2013. Reaching #6, his first top ten hit in almost twenty years, it heralded an album The Next Day which topped the chart in March 2013 and saw Bowie crowned Best British Male at the 2014 Brit Awards, thirty years after he had last won the title.

ESSENTIAL ’80s DAVID BOWIE

SINGLES

Ashes To Ashes sleeve

ASHES TO ASHES
August 1980, #1

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Let's Dance single sleeve

LET’S DANCE
March 1983, #1

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Absolute Beginners sleeve

ABSOLUTE BEGINNERS
March 1986, #2

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ALBUMS

Scary Monsters sleeve

SCARY MONSTERS
September 1980, #1

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Let's Dance LP sleeve

LET’S DANCE
April 1983, #1

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Never Let Me Down sleeve

NEVER LET ME DOWN
April 1987, #6

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