20. ‘Let’s Dance’.
20. ‘Let’s Dance’. You voted for them and here’s the Top 20, starting with the Dame teaming up with Chic’s Nile Rodgers to birth the new decade’s rock/soul crossover. Album: ‘Let’s Dance’. Did you know? M. Ward covered this on 2003 album ‘Transfiguration Of Vincent’.
18. ‘Wild Is The Wind’.
18. ‘Wild Is The Wind’. A rare cover, this fluid, swinging ballad was originally recorded by crooner Johnny Mathis for the 1959 movie of the same name. Album: ‘Station To Station’. Did you know? Bowie and producer Harry Maslin record seven takes of the vocal but ended up using the first.
16. ‘Time’. This intense, vamping opener to ‘Aladdin Sane’’s second side is a crazed flood of ambiguity with Mike Garson’s honky-tonk piano front and centre. Album: ‘Aladdin Sane’. Did you know? The reference to “senseless things” came from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and possibly influenced the later London punks of the same name.
15. ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’.
15. ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’. Wearing dresses, “coming out” to the press – it was all in a day’s work for Bowie in 1972. This skiffly turn was construed as a song about a homosexual affair, but who really knew? Album: ‘Changesonebowie’. Did you know? The reissue of 1975’s ‘Young Americans’ includes a full funk rework.
14. ‘Young Americans’.
14. ‘Young Americans’. Startling stream of consciousness babble with a young Luther Vandross on backing vocals and the best use of sax in pop, that ushers in Bowie’s cocaine soul period. Album: ‘Young Americans’. Did you know? The song is about a pair of newly weds who aren’t sure whether they like each other.
13. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me’.
13. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me’. A sweet shout-out to his own fans – or a lover, it all amounts to the same thing – ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me’ sees Bowie going a bit Elton John. He’s allowed a sentimental moment. Album: ‘Diamond Dogs’. Did you know? Co-writer Warren Peace (not his real name) regular appeared as a dancer onstage with Bowie.
12. ‘Drive-In Saturday’.
12. ‘Drive-In Saturday’. This end-of-the-night doo-wop pastiche is all about people from the future re-learning how to reproduce by watching old porn flicks. Obviously. Album: ‘Aladdin Sane’. Did you know? The song was initially offered to Mott The Hoople but they turned it down.
11. ‘Stay’. The one track on ‘Station To Station’ that most closely echoes the previous year’s ‘Young Americans’, ‘Stay’ sashays along to furious funk licks from Earl Slick. Album: ‘Station To Station’. Did you know? Referring to his refreshed condition when working on the track, Slick called this “a beer song”.
10. ‘The Man Who Sold The World’.
10. ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. Tony Visconti’s close, effects-laden production brings out the chill in this elusive, sci-fi horror story, memorably covered by Nirvana. Album: ‘The Man Who Sold The World’. Did you know? The biggest hit version of this was recorded by… Lulu, who took it to No.3 in 1974.
9. ‘Five Years’.
9. ‘Five Years’. Bowie loved a bit of apocalypse in the early 70s and here’s the leading anthem of doom. It’s all oddly ecstatic. Album: ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’. Did you know? Bowie felt the apocalypse was inevitable but told NME he wanted “to promote some feeling of optimism in the future”. Here’s how it’s done.
Credit: Phil Wallis/NME
8. ‘Starman’. “Let all the children boogie!” And they can to this acoustic funk, even if the aliens are coming, man. Famously prompted Bowie to – oh no! – put an arm around guitarist Mick Ronson on Top Of The Pops. Album: ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’. Did you know? This was only added to ‘Ziggy’ at the last minute.
6. ‘Ziggy Stardust’.
6. ‘Ziggy Stardust’. A killer riff and an entire nuanced alter ego to spearhead an assault on the pop charts. It bloody well worked too. Album: ‘The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars’. Did you know? Goth trailblazers Bauhaus were the first band to take this into the singles chart, creeping up to No.15 in 1982.
5. ‘Station To Station’.
5. ‘Station To Station’. This rollicking epic was originally called ‘The Return Of The Thin White Duke’ – and so yet another guise of the Dame was born, even scarier than the last. Album: ‘Station To Station’. Did you know? “It’s not the side effects of the cocaine” was a sly one in the eye of rumours that were rife at the time.
3. ‘Ashes To Ashes’.
3. ‘Ashes To Ashes’. In which Bowie invents the New Romantics and gives scenester Steve Strange a cameo in the video for good measure. Don’t hold it against him. Album: ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’. Did you know? The quirky ‘Ashes To Ashes’ was Bowie’s first No.1 in five years.
2. ‘Life On Mars?’.
2. ‘Life On Mars?’. That’s Yes’s Rick Wakeman on – for him – understated piano, adding grandeur to an already pretty opulent number that heralded the blossoming of a mighty talent. Album: ‘Hunky Dory’. Did you know? It’s a ‘My Way’ parody. Bowie wrote lyrics for the French original but it was never released, and then he was miffed when Paul Anka bought the rights.
1. ‘All The Young Dudes’.
1. ‘All The Young Dudes’. Mott The Hoople recorded the hit version, staying slavishly close to Bowie’s own rendering. Album: ‘The Best Of David Bowie 1969/1974’. Did you know? The “news” the dudes are carrying is tidings of the apocalypse. Listen to our Bowie Spotify playlist