The loss of David Bowie to cancer conjures up so many memories: my brother, who burns out on musicians and hands me all of their albums, going alone to see Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour in 1974 because no one wanted to go, friends and I at a Bowie show in Philly a mere two years later for the Station To Station tour, a blinding white light mega-tour, and in between his foray into the "Philly soul sound" with Young Americans. Within another two years, he would declare "I am the New Age" with Low, and already be into his Berlin period with Heroes.
The man was hard to keep up with. The man was hard to get into. When I first heard the music, probably in 1973, Ziggy Stardust was the personna of choice and Bowie was not cool. You might think so. You might think he was a megastar by then but not in straight-ahead hard rock cities like Pittsburgh. Androgyny, bisexuality, the Quaalude feel of The Man Who Sold The World--these were all acquired tastes, and like our reaction to so many musical pioneers, we made fun of Bowie long before we endorsed him.
All of that is history. Now he is a musical legend, and his songs have been played everywhere, and no one bats an eye at his many styles and stylings.
Still, as a minor aficionado and an idiosyncratic listener, I had my own Bowie affair, and it doesn't always jive with the bests or the most played. So, tonight, to honor him, I offer my own eclectic "best of Bowie" in starts and stops, bits and pieces:
BEST RIFF THAT GOT ME INTO BOWIE: "Panic In Detroit."
BEST GUITARIST THAT EVER FIT BOWIE'S SOUND: Mick Ronson. Try "Moonage Daydream."
FAVORITE 21ST CENTURY BOWIE: Heathen, from 2002, which captures a post-9/11 malaise.
FUNNIEST COUPLET/RHYME: "Don't look on the carpet/ I threw something awful on it" from "Breaking Glass."
BEST LATE-70s LYRIC: "It's not the side effects of the cocaine/ I'm thinking that it must be love" from "Station To Station."
BEST 1-2-3 STRING OF SINGLES FROM ONE CD: "Modern Love, " "Let's Dance," " China Girl."
BEST MULTI-INSTRUMENTALIST IN ROCK: David Bowie.
MOST UNUSUAL, BUT ENJOYABLE BOWIE ALBUM: Low--one side of slight, bouncy, catchy pop songs, one side atmospheric, Eno-inflected synth instrumentals with wordless vocals.
BEST ELECTRIC SONG THAT MAKES A GREAT ACOUSTIC FOLK SONG FOR GUITARISTS EVERYWHERE: "Ziggy Stardust."
BOWIE ALBUM THAT HAS WEATHERED THE YEARS THE BEST: Hunky Dory.