An album cover featuring a shirtless guy in boxing gloves would inspire this Newser’s musical journey.
For my 8th birthday I asked my mom for a couple of Atari games but instead received a handful of cassette tapes — including one with a shirtless guy wearing boxing gloves on it.
At first, I laughed at the cover of David Bowie’s 1983 album “Let’s Dance” and it quickly began gathering dust on my dresser. A few months later, I threw it on once just to see how awful it was.
It’s been playing ever since
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Funnily enough, I thought he was a new ’80s artist — I was completely unaware that the rock legend was already responsible for transcending a genre crowded by hair metal bands and cheesy one-hit-wonders.
Somehow, the tape never snapped after playing “Modern Love” and “China Girl” on loop for months. I eventually found my way into Sam Goody and began to gather his back-catalogue.
One has to appreciate his remarkable range; he can scare you with his Ziggy Stardust voice, nail a high note or melt you with crooner vocals. His melodic sense is on par with the greats.
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Here are some of his best tracks:
David Bowie hangs out with Susan Sarandon in 1983, the year “Let’s Dance” hit shelves.
Space Oddity (1969)
Major Tom gets caught up in the hoopla of the first ever Apollo moon landing and pens a futuristic, unconventional masterpiece that proves to be his first stroke of artistic genius. Tense orchestration and peculiar use of the Stylophone provide a sensational backdrop for a slew of memorable lyrics including “Here am I floating round my tin can far above the moon.”
The Man Who Sold The World (1970)
This is simply a poem read through song, filled with a heavy bass line, slew of melodic guitars and Bowie’s raspy vocals. It paints an eerie picture of someone on a desperate search to find themselves. This powerful song has been covered zillions of times but no one ever hit the nail harder than late Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, who busted out the track during their MTV “Unplugged” show in 1994.
Bowie gives us his best Roger Daltry stutter on the hook, but the keyboards and string arrangement are the stars of this sweet hymn. This song allowed Bowie to really distance himself from the rock mainstream at the time.
Rebel Rebel (1974)
Gender-bending lyrics. Guitar licks that demands immediate volume raising. One of the last songs of his glam-rock era was originally written for a Ziggy Stardust musical in 1973. A year later, the “Hot Tramp” resurfaced it for the masses.
One of his signature tracks was intended to be instrumental until a last-second decision to add lyrics. A conventional arrangement of piano, bass guitar and drums clash with siren-like synthesizers producing low-frequency feedback. “Heroes” mirrors a few early Pink Floyd workings in many ways, but still has the classic elements of a Bowie production.
Under Pressure (1981)
This Vanilla Ice cover, er, duet with Queen is pure bliss. Bowie and Freddie Mercury trade vocals over one of the catchiest bass riffs of all time while grinding guitars chime in at just the right moments. The only shame is the two superstars never headed into the studio to compile a full album, which they expressed interest in doing.
Modern Love (1983)
The song that made me fall in love with him. Inspired by one of his idols Little Richard, it maintains a perfect melody, allowing it to be a dance and rock song simultaneously. Robert Aaron’s performance on the saxophone on this cut would wow Clarence Clemons.