David Bowie – A Playlist

By Molly Twilleager

Why David Bowie?

At the beginning of 2021, I grew determined to grow my musical knowledge. For the past few years, I had mostly listened to musicals, a bit of pop, and a little indie, so I decided my playlists needed a bit of updating.  I started with The Beatles, working my way through their albums, added on Green Day and some Queen, but, when I stumbled upon Davidd Bowie, something clicked more than other artists had before. Bowie revolutionized music and style, and, coming out as gay and bisexual in the 70s, definitly paved the way of acceptance for the LGBT community. David Bowie was strange, but brilliant, and, more than anything, I find his lyrics strong, relatable, and extremely brilliant. When it comes down to it, David Bowie remains, in my opinion, one of the greatest artists of all time, and I think more young people need to realize it. So, here are some of my favorite David Bowie tunes. 

“Starman” – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

As the first single released from its album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, “Starman” remains one of David Bowie’s most influential songs, for it truly began a new era of music and style that would go to influence many musicians today, including Harry Styles. This song describes Bowie listening to the radio as an alien-type being takes over. This being, the Starman, surprisingly does not want to take over or tell humans what they have done wrong, but he wants everyone to join him and dance. Along with this, the lyrics “There’s a starman waiting in the sky. . .” and those that continue the chorus follow the same melody and The Wizard Of Oz’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” grounding the celestial roots of the song. 

“All The Young Dudes” – All The Young Dudes (Mott the Hoople)

In 1972, the band Mott The Hoople stood on the ledge of breaking up. But, saving the band, David Bowie gifted them the song “All The Young Dudes,” relaunching Mott The Hoople to fame. The song begins by describing the hardships young people face, one of which being the general media calling the younger generations “juvenile delinquent wrecks.” However, Bowie counters the “television man’s” point by sarcastically stating that he does not need to listen to arrogant people on television when he can listen to T. Rex. Following the theme of his song “Five Years” Bowie sings about how the young people are carrying the news that the world is ending, and that they are the ones who need the attention. As the song carries on, Bowie states that, even though young generations are stereotyped to be emotionless, “We can love. Oh yes, we can love.” Continuing on, the rocker declares that older generations are stuck in the past and, while referring to the 60s and The Beatles’ song “Revolution,” demands we move forward and see that the end is coming. Drunk and numb to the idea of the world imploding, “All The Young Dudes” ends with the “heckler’s ten seconds,” where Ian Hunter, the lead singer of Mott The Hoople, repeats what he stated in a club a few nights before the recording session. 

“Life on Mars?” – Hunky Dory

In his masterpiece “Life on Mars,” Bowie vividly describes the story of a girl living her life similar to how a large percentage of Generation Z does today: through escapist media. “The girl with the mousy hair’s” parents are arguing and, though she does not find the matter a large issue, her father tells her to go away to avoid witnessing the parental argument. She escapes to a movie theater, where her friend did not show up to meet her. Saddened with her life, she lets the “silver screen” consume her, as Bowie describes the many adventures the girl rewatches over and over. In the end, she finds herself obsessed with the idea of other worlds, and she is stuck wondering “Is there life on Mars?” The song quickly changed view from the girl to the people producing said escapist media. Bowie comments on how money has taken over people and companies, such as John Lennon and Disney, following the same tone of disgust he does in many of his songs. Building up to the end of the songs, the final melody mocks end-of-movie themes grandly. 

“Rock n’ Roll Suicide” – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Personlly, Bowie’s brilliant anthem “Rock n’ Roll Suicide” rightfully earns it place as my favorite David Bowie song of all time. The song starts by commenting on the rock and roll lifestyle, displaying that, though the happiness dependent on the cheering and “wall-to-wall” crowds lives for a bit, the hardships of one’s lifestyle and critics eventually catches up. Many rockers find frustration within their life, being too told to conjure anger, but too young make big decisions and change their lives. Revealing more about the 70s performer’s lifestyle, Bowie states that those who find themselves stumbling around, lost, and succumbed to addiction become a “rock n’ roll suicide.” Though the beginning to this song sounds melancholy, once the chorus kicks in, Bowie declares, “Oh no, love! You’re not alone!” This statement sets the theme for the rest of the song, and Bowie reveals that he faces the same struggles, and ends the song with a reference to Puck’s epilogue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, stating “Give me your hands, ‘cause you’re wonderful.”

“Space Oddity” – Space Oddity

In my opinion, “Space Oddity” remains one of David Bowie’s most heartbreaking songs. The song follows a fictional astronaut, Major Tom, through his journey to space. The lyrics depict communication between the astronaut and ground control as he launches into orbit. Once Major Tom’s “tin can” is stable, the first thing ground control asks him is what t-shirts he wears. This line remains relevant today, and follows a similar theme to many of Bowie’s songs, for the first thing asked of Major Tom after his launch is to respond to the media, and, as the astronaut points out something wrong with his capsule, ground control ignores his notice. While performing his “space walk” outside of the capsule, the Major looks upon Earth, which glows a brilliant blue, and sees the sadness that fills the planet. Instead of taking his launch as an escape from said sadness, he simply states, “there’s nothing I can do,” and remains in a  melancholy helplessness. Facing a malfunction in his “tin can,” the astronaut asks ground control to tell his wife he loves her, and ground control loses contact with Major Tom. As he floats further and further into space, the Major remains saddened by Earth’s state, claiming, “Planet Earth is blue, and there’s nothing I can do.” Concluding the ballad, the instrumentals of the song mimic the capsules malfunction and fade out, just as Major Tom fades away.