Today’s Mail on Sunday has a giveaway CD with “David Bowie’s own choice of the 12 greatest tracks of his career.”
I couldn’t resist this even though I have pretty much everything already. It turned out to be worth it, if only for the two pages of new notes by the man himself within the paper. Completists will also want the CD for the reworked “Time will crawl”:
I’ve replaced the drum machine with true drums and added some crickety strings and remixed.
Any revelations here? Not really, though there are some touches of detail. Like how Life on Mars came together. He was sitting on the steps of a bandstand in a park in South London when the riff came to him “Sailors bap-bap-bap-bap-baaa-bap”, couldn’t get it out of his head and rushed to work it up into a song at Haddon Hall in Southend Road.
Of the song Bewlay Brothers, which sounds autobiographical, Bowie says:
…this wasn’t just a song about brotherhood, so I didn’t want to misrepresent it by using my true name. Having said that, I wouldn’t know how to interpret the lyric other than suggesting that there are layers of ghosts within it.
Bowie says that the aforementioned Time will Crawl was inspired by the Chernobyl, when a nuclear power station exploded:
A complicated crucible of impressions collected in my head, prompted by this insanity, any one of which could have become a song. I stuck them all in Time Will Crawl.
This echoes what Dylan said about his (incomparably greater) song A Hard Rain’s a-gonna fall, which is also associated with nuclear threat. In the sleeve notes to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, Nat Hentoff recalls Dylan saying that Hard Rain was written during the Cuban missile crisis, and adding:
Every line in it is actually the start of a while song. But when I wrote it, I thought I wouldn’t have enough time alive to write all those songs so I put all I could into this one.
Bowie says he chose “songs that I don’t seem to tire of”. There’s nothing from his iconic album Ziggy Stardust (unless you count the live Hang on to yourself); draw your own conclusions. Here is what he chose:
- Life on Mars
- Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (reprise)
- The Bewlay Brothers
- Lady Grinning Soul
- Some Are
- Teenage Wildlife
- Fantastic Voyage
- Loving the Alien
- Time will crawl (MM Remix)
- Hang on to yourself (Live Santa Monica ‘72)
The full article is here.