10 Forgotten David Bowie Songs

Image courtesy of Flickr / Cea

Have we ever discussed David Bowie on this blog? Sometimes I forget…

Yes, the work of Mr. Bowie has become familiar territory for The Paper Masque ever since our career-spanning retrospective series a few months ago. So what brings us back here once again?

A couple of days ago, the official David Bowie Facebook page posted a link to BuzzFeed’s recent list of the “10 David Bowie Songs You Don’t Know, But Should.”

BuzzFeed’s list included the following tracks:

10 Criminal World (1983)
09 Absolute Beginners (1986)
08 Quicksand (1971)
07 Slip Away (2002)
06 Loving the Alien (1984)
05 Breaking Glass (1977)
04 Time Will Crawl (1987)
03 Dead Man Walking (1997)
02 Valentine’s Day (2013)
01 Sorrow (1973)

But that’s not all. The David Bowie Facebook page also included their own ranking of the songs in this category:

01 Looking For Water
02 Crystal Japan
03 Amsterdam
04 Something In The Air
05 Run
06 We Prick You
07 We Are The Dead
08 Remembering Marie A.
09 An Occasional Dream
10 A New Career In A New Town

Considering this, we’re kind of obligated to throw our proverbial hat in the ring and provide our own ranking in this field aren’t we?

So here it is folks. The Paper Masque’s list of the Ten Forgotten David Bowie Songs

10. “Seven Years in Tibet” (Earthling – 1997)

Though the Earthling album may not stand as one of Bowie’s best works, it certainly garnered some killer singles. “Seven Years in Tibet” stands as one of the album’s best and most intense, yet it is usually foreshadowed by the more popular “I’m Afraid of Americans.”

9. “Silly Boy Blue” (David Bowie – 1967)

Okay, Bowie’s self-titled debut record is pretty weird and mostly ineffectual, but one cut off the collection does stand above the rest. “Silly Boy Blue” encapsulates an offbeat kind of innocence and mysticism that is surprisingly unique and endearing.

The best recorded version exists on the Bowie at the Beeb compilation or radio sessions.

8. “Girls” (from the “Time Will Crawl” single – 1987)

The 80s era doesn’t particularly stand as the most fondly-remembered period of Bowie’s career, just as Never Let Me Down is typically not looked upon as a worthwhile album. Nevertheless, there are a number of tracks that warrant a second look. The b-side, “Girls” is just one of those tracks. With it’s progressive structure and a sensual vocal delivery, it’s hard to imagine why this only made it to the flip side of “Time Will Crawl” and not on to the main album.

7. “Strangers When We Meet” (Outside – 1995)

Originally appearing on the soundtrack record The Buddha of Suburbia, “Strangers When We Meet” is a brilliantly dark and remorseful love song that reaches its perfection in its re-recording on Outsides.

6. “The Prettiest Star” (Single version – 1970)

Perhaps more widely known for its glitz-y reworked version on Aladdin Sane, the original recording of “The Prettiest Star” (rumored to be played to Bowie’s first wife, Angie as part of David’s proposal) is a song that’s touchingly romantic in its heartfelt innocence and naivety.

5. “Let Me Sleep Beside You” (Bowie at the Beeb – from a 1969 radio session)

Like “Silly Boy Blue,” “Let Me Sleep Beside You” was a track recorded around the period of Bowie’s debut record, but its definitive form can be found on the Bowie at the Beeb compilation album. This version embraces a more raucous and frenzied nature that plays as a great rock track with a stellar performance by the singer.

4. “When the Wind Blows” (Soundtrack to the film – 1986)

Another standout from the 80s, “When the Wind Blows” couples a fatalistic kind of foreboding with an unmistakable romance to create a captivating juxtaposition within an already driving song.

3. “Memory of a Free Festival” (Space Oddity – 1969)

The closing track to Bowie’s preferable “debut” record provides the perfect finish to the album in which it resides. The nostalgic reminiscing in its lyrics and the imagery that is conjured within is something truly unique. And with a progressive crescendo from the somber beginning to the rapturous chorus at the end, “Memory of a Free Festival” prevails as one of Bowie’s most beautiful early songs.

2. “Letter to Hermione” (Space Oddity – 1969)

Again from the 1969 Space Oddity record, this song is perhaps the most heartbreaking love song recorded by Bowie. The pain and desolation that reverberates in this song makes the piece sound as though the singer sang it while on the verge of tears, leaving the audience in a very similar state.

1. “Never Let Me Down” (Never Let Me Down – 1987)

As mentioned in my podcast ranking of the David Bowie albums, though this track resides on a pretty sub-par release, it nevertheless stands as on of Bowie’s greatest pop songs. Sure, you can knock it for the characteristically 80s-style production and perhaps for its cheesy aspects, but all of these attributes actually work in its favor. The great thing about this song is that it uses all of these things that could be seen as knocks against it and turns it into a shockingly effective pop song in spite of itself, and out of all the songs mentioned here, it is the track that most deserves some retroactive praise.

Runners-up:

Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise) (Diamond Dogs – 1974)

Conversation Piece (“The Prettiest Star” Single  – 1970)

“Fantastic Voyage” (Lodger – 1979)

~ Stephen

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