David Bowie is an artist I believe I don’t know or appreciate nearly as much as I should. What I do know of his work I like very much, but it seems the real gems are hidden away in the material that’s new to me.
My ignorance of Bowie’s catalog is likely due to my sister’s pathological fear of the man during my pre-teen years. She would not only turn off the TV but leave the room when his videos for ‘China Girl’ or ‘Let’s Dance’ played on MTV. So it’s not like I grew up with his music in the house.
But later in life I just never picked up any of his albums (apart from Ziggy Stardust, which I actually own twice… the original CD and a copy of Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights that mistakenly has Ziggy Stardust burned onto the disc instead). I’m familiar with his biggest hits (Ch-ch-ch-changes indeed) but that’s as far as it goes.
But I know people adore him, and hold him in esteem the way I hold somebody like Elvis Costello in esteem. He has whole albums of material I’ve never heard that fans and critics alike consider essential. So that makes me curious.
Take this song, for example. I’d never heard ‘Life on Mars’ before Wes Anderson used it in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. And that upsets me. Because this has to be one of the best songs I’ve ever heard (now that I’ve heard it). Plaintive verses building to an insanely awesome chorus, wailed in that distinctive Bowie tenor… I can’t get enough of this song.
If there are more songs like this one tucked away in the Bowie albums I’ve never heard, I’m a huge fan waiting to happen.