Friday, January 13, 2012

Best of Bowie: 40 - 36

40. "Cracked Actor" (Aladdin Sane - 1973) - One of the many great, grungey blues riffs on Aladdin Sane, "Cracked Actor" is a song of crazy sexual abandon in L.A. When Bowie was on tour in the US for Ziggy Stardust, he wrote quiet a few tunes about his touring experience. Aladdin Sane would become the album of these tour songs and "Cracked Actor" is definitely the Ziggy vision of Hollywood. It's a vision of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll that is gritty, dirty and hard rockin'. This album really showed a more aggressive rock and roll approach than the more baroque arrangements of his prior Ziggy material and for that it's worth blasting and rocking out to. The title of the song is curious as well as Bowie himself is an "actor" of sorts, putting on these disguises and costumes. It may have been a reflection of the hard times on the road and the need for "company." This is all speculation on my part. Regardless of the true meaning of the song, "Cracked Actor" is one of Bowie's hardest rockers.

39. "Win" (Young Americans - 1975)- Quite the opposite of the aforementioned tune, "Win" is a slow jam of jazzy and smooth proportions. Instead of aggression, "Win" turns up the charm, but still in an unsettling way, mainly in it's lyrical content. Bowie has rarely looked at the brighter side of life and even in this slow jam that'll make the ladies fall to their knees, there is a sense of doubt. It's not quite a love song, although musically it sounds like a bedroom anthem. It's more of a song about not giving up. "All you've got to do is Win." Bowie's shattered croon is backed up again by glorious backing vocals and a rippling saxophone. It's a wonderful track. If you think that this style isn't an influence on future generations, Beck performed this track on several occasions (including in Philadelphia where the song was recorded.) Beck also did his own mock up of a jazzy, love-fest on Midnite Vultures with the fantastic bedroom jazz of "Debra,"an obvious antecedent to "Win."

38. "Starman" (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars - 1972)

One of Bowie's more classic pop-rock moments, "Starman" is a sumptuous treat. This is another side of Mick Ronson that many don't give him credit for. The string arrangements throughout this album and this song are all by Ronson as well as the catchy riffing. He excelled at creating a functionality for string arrangements amidst a rolling rock ballad. Mirroring T. Rex, Bowie's main competitor for glam rock king at the time, but this song soars high and into the ether. This is Bowie's ballad to rock and roll as a saving grace. This was a constant message in a lot of music in the late 60's and early 70's and this is one of the more hopeful visions in Bowie's catalog.

37. "TVC 15" (Station to Station - 1976) One of Bowie's stranger lyrical songs, "TVC 15" is a disco jam for the ages. It's swirling verses, sung with crazed abandon and almost out of breath intensity create an air of unease amidst a killer beat. The track based on a drug binge with friend and cohort Iggy Pop after Iggy hallucinated his TV eating his girlfriend. Strange, but coming from the mind of a guy deeply paranoid and over-drugged, it's no surprise. As many Bowie songs tend to, this track has a brilliant backbone of piano and guitar haze. This track showed that Bowie's new-ish band of Carlos Alomar, George Murray and Dennis Davis really was coming into their own. Although not as flashy a guitarist as Mick Ronson, Alomar's understated playing with the ripping rhythm section was flexing their muscles with this track. (Editor's Note: The video here from Top of the Pops is fucking stellar.)

36. "I'm Afraid of Americans" (Earthling - 1997) It's a common mistake to give full credit to Trent Reznor for "I'm Afraid of Americans." Although the version that he remixed is in fact the one we most know and hear, this track dates back to 1995's Outside, which was recorded and written by Bowie and Eno. Although there version . Much like "I'm Deranged," it deals with paranoia but in a much more sardonic way. The industrial vibe of the song makes it a no-brainer as to why Trent Reznor was tapped for a remix. His version adds just a bit of edge to the song with his usual drum loops and intensely heavy guitar. Even more memorable to most, this is one of Bowie's best videos with a paranoid bowie being stalked by an exquisitely creepy Trent Reznor through the streets of NYC.

No comments: