David Bowie Dead at 69: Ten Underrated Songs From the Legend's Career | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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Ten Underrated David Bowie Songs From His Early Career

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6. "Panic in Detroit" — Aladdin Sane (1973)
The sense of urgency is absolutely palatable in this track, supposedly inspired by Iggy Pop’s recollections of the revolutionaries he had known as a kid growing up in Michigan. It also might have been written about the riots that took place in 1967, marking it as one of the few Bowie songs to actually have historical precedent. Not surprisingly, radicals John Sinclair and Che Guevara are referenced in the lyric. It’s also distinguished by the unlikely musical references inscribed in its refrain, a combination Bo Diddley beat with hints of Latin melody conveyed through a prominent conga drum and the backup vocals. 


7. "1984" — Diamond Dogs (1974)
Here again, Bowie foretells an era of dramatic change and autocratic rule, using George Orwell’s classic tome as its template. “Come see, come see/Remember me” — Bowie urges his flock to take action before it becomes too late. Much like the early Ziggy Stardust opus, it fits into an overall concept, one that was originally intended to be a stage play until Orwell’s heirs denied him permission. The one real break from the motif comes in the form of some wah-wah guitar and hints of funk that would later be fully realized on the album Young Americans.


8. "TVC15" — Station to Station (1976)
Bowie was not at his best during his residency in Berlin. Despite the fact he kept company with such notables as Brian Eno and Iggy Pop, he became entrapped in a cocaine haze and later admitted that he barely remembers recording much of the material that emerged from that era. Still, with its catchy hooks and dance-ready rhythm, “TVC15” is the most accessible song Station to Station has to offer, even though its origins are slightly suspect. It was supposedly inspired by a hallucination Iggy Pop claims to have had, and indeed, the lyric about a woman sucked into a television set would seem the ideal fodder for such delusional decadence.


9. "Sound and Vision" — Low (1977)
It bears a catchy title, one that eventually came to symbolize Bowie’s career up until that point. Indeed, when his first box set was compiled, it took its name from this song. The original arrangement by Tony Visconti featured the synthesized setting that characterized Low overall, but the striking guitar work and backing vocal by Visconti’s wife, Mary Hopkin (“Those Were the Days”), allowed it to stand out. The lengthy instrumental intro makes it apparent that Bowie wasn’t quite sure about the song’s direction, but he needn’t have worried. It still managed to scale the British charts, even though it failed to register in the States.


10. "Ashes to Ashes" — Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)
Major Tom had it tough to begin with. As noted originally in the song “Space Oddity” (which, by the way, was allegedly written with the Bee Gees in mind), he was separated from his family by the cold, cruel orb of outer space and left wondering if he’d ever see them again. With an overall ambiance as icy as the original, “Ashes to Ashes” becomes a sequel of sorts, one that finds the good major a junkie and lost in a wilderness of his own making. Coolly catchy, it ranks easily as one of Scary Monster’s standout selections.


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Lee Zimmerman