David Bowie: iconic songs

David Bowie, original name David Robert Jones, (born January 8, 1947, London, England—died January 10, 2016, New York, New York, U.S.), British singer, songwriter, and actor who was most prominent in the 1970s and best known for his shifting personal and musical genre hopping.

 

- Changes.

Recorded: November 1996
Producers: David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels, Mark Plati

Released: 29 August 2020.

The mostly acoustic recordings were made and mixed at Philip Glass’s Looking Glass Studios in New York City, during preparations for Bowie’s 50th birthday concert, which was held at Madison Square Garden on 9 January 1997.

We began working on the Birthday Show right after the album [Earthling] was mixed. We created several new arrangements of songs. This was an amazing thing to work on for me technically as I hadn’t done much work with video. Some things were incredible – everyone involved know that this was something special…

 

Before the Birthday Concert we recorded several acoustic versions of older songs for a BBC special. This was an amazing session. We did most of the songs in a day – David, Reeves, and Gail together live. I added some strings and keys after the fact. David did six lead vocal tracks in two hours.

Mark Plati
Interview for Strange Fascination, David Buckley

 

 

 - Heroes.

Written by: David Bowie, Brian Eno
Recorded: July-August 1977
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 23 September 1977

A tale of two lovers meeting under the Berlin Wall, “Heroes” was recorded in the German city in the summer of 1977, and became one of David Bowie’s best-loved songs.

They use “Heroes” for every heroic event, although it’s a song about alcoholics. We did it on twenty-four tracks in Hansa Studios in Berlin. With all of the backing vocals and instruments on it, we only had one track left for the vocal. So Bowie would do a take and listen to it and he’d say: ‘I think I’ve got one better.’ And I’d say, ‘Well, you know we can’t keep that take.’ This was before digital recording. So he’d pull his socks up, take a deep breath, and go and do a better take than the one he did before. And that was it, it was gone, the previous vocal was gone. We kept doing that. Having experience in the studio, you have to know when to say, ‘I think we’ve got the take.’ There’s no way of going back to take five or take two; they were gone, evaporated. I did a lot of records that way. That’s when you work as a team, as a producer, coach, singer, artist. Everybody’s on the same page and everyone is just hyped up with adrenaline.
Tony Visconti
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

- Modern Love.

Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: December 1982, January 1983
Producers: David Bowie, Nile Rodgers

Released: 14 April 1983

‘Modern Love’ was the opening song on Let’s Dance, David Bowie’s 15th studio album. It was released as a single in September 1983.

In a 1997 edition of Guitar World magazine, Bowie was asked for “60 minutes of music he’d loan to Major Tom on his next space flight”. His replies included ‘True Fine Mama’, a 1957 recording by Little Richard.

Even though it shows off his strong church background, it rocks like hell. When I do my little call-and-response things on songs like ‘Modern Love’, it all comes from Little Richard.
David Bowie
Guitar World, April 1997

 

- Ashes To Ashes.

Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: February-April 1980
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 8 August 1980.

David Bowie’s second UK number one single, ‘Ashes To Ashes’ revived the character of Major Tom from ‘Space Oddity’. The first single released from the album Scary Monsters… And Super Creeps, it was recorded under the working title ‘People Are Turning To Gold’.

The song was released in the summer of 1980. In reintroducing Major Tom after 11 years, Bowie simultaneously bookended the 1970s, his most creatively and commercially successful decade, and wiped the slate clean for a new era of music.

 

– Life On Mars?

 

Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: August 1971
Producers: Ken Scott, David Bowie

Released: 17 December 1971

One of David Bowie’s early masterpieces, song Life On Mars? Print first appeared on 1971’s Hunky Dory album. Its enigmatic lyrics, soaring melodies and Mick Ronson’s masterful string arrangement all combined to make a modern classic, which remained part of Bowie’s live set until his final shows.

There is a quick single repeat on the entire drum kit throughout the song. The ending? Ah yes, that strange ending with the piano coming back in and strange goings on as it fades out. Unfortunately that’s way too long a story to put in here!
Ken Scott, May 2015

 


- As The World Falls Down.

Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: April-June; October-November 1985
Producers: David Bowie, Arif Mardin

Released: 23 June 1986

Available on:
Labyrinth

The ballad ‘As The World Falls Down’ was written by David Bowie for the soundtrack of the 1986 film Labyrinth.

The song as the world fall down Print was written for a dream sequence in which Jareth the Goblin King, played by Bowie, dances with Sarah Williams (Jennifer Connelly) at a masquerade ball.

I wrote ‘As The World Falls Down’ for the ballroom scene. Jim [Henson] wanted something which was fairly old-fashioned in its sentiments and it is, for me, the prettiest tune in the movie, and the most relaxed.
David Bowie, 1986
Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History

 

  • Did you know?

    In 1997 David Bowie issued Bowie Bonds, asset-backed securities of revenues of the 287 songs he recorded before 1990. They paid an interest rate of 7.9%, and were all bought for $55 million by the Prudential Insurance Company of America.

     


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