David Bowie - songwriter?

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For somebody who looms so large, there sure haven't been many covers of his stuff. "Heroes" (Oasis), two versions of "Man Who...", Herman's Hermits guy doing "Oh You Pretty Things", Eater's "Queen Bitch". I tried to figure out why this is, and trying to work on some Bowie covers for a larf with the band I started wondering - without the production and the concepts, are there any 'songs' there? Take any Bowie track away from it's creator, its album context, and the times it came out (memories etc) and what's left? (BTW I'm not really a 'song' guy myself, but I'd like to hear from people who consider themselves such) (Maybe when the songs are left to stand alone the ridiculous lyrics and formula weirdness just overwhelms the fragments of ideas he picks out of whatever's caught his efficient ear that year?) (I like Bowie btw, for the sounds his bands and producers came up with mostly, I think I now realise)

dave q, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

OK, all our covers suck (except for the Germs one), but trust me, I analysed the mechanics of these songs in good faith and diligence

dave q, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Oasis? I coulda sworn that was the Wallflowers who did that cover of "Heroes"

Lord Custos II, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

On that live BBC compilation of theirs, believe it or not, Generation X do a storming version of "Andy Warhol."

Alex in NYC, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

(Maybe when the songs are left to stand alone the ridiculous lyrics and formula weirdness just overwhelms the fragments of ideas he picks out of whatever's caught his efficient ear that year?) (I like Bowie btw, for the sounds his bands and producers came up with mostly, I think I now realise)
Ah, but he got his start back in the day when you absolutely MUST MUST MUST have a "concept" for your album. And just like all the other "concept" albums out there, they actually don't stick to the concept very well. Even Diamond Dogs -- which came close to having a coherent story (Unlike ELPs Tarkus or The Beatles Seargent Peppers) -- is actually two vaguely related stories: a "Mad Max" dystopia in the beginning, and a "Orwells '1984'" dystopia at the end.

Lord Custos II, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

As for his lyrics, he makes me want to defecate in ecstasy.

Lord Custos II, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

My favourite Bowie song is "I dig everything." Released on Pye Records in the mid-60s I believe.

nathalie, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

David Bowie covers (with thanks to http://covers.wiw.org) 1984 covered by Tina Turner
After All ? covered by Ventilator
After All ? covered by Mission UK
After All ? covered by Tori Amos
All The Madmen ? covered by Alien Sex Fiend
All the Young Dudes ? covered by Bruce Dickinson
All The Young Dudes ? covered by Gene Loves Jezebel
All The Young Dudes covered by Travis
Always Crashing In The Same Car ? covered by King Black Acid
Always Crashing In The Same Car ? covered by Silent Order
Andy Warhol ? covered by Stone Temple Pilots
Andy Warhol covered by Nick Cave
Andy Warhol ? covered by Treepeople
Andy Warhol ? covered by Tubalcain
Ashes To Ashes ? covered by Happy Rhodes
Ashes To Ashes ? covered by LB
Ashes To Ashes ? covered by Tears For Fears
Beauty and the Beast covered by loud family
Boys Keep Swinging covered by Susanna Hoffs
Boys Keep Swinging ? covered by Dambuilders
Boys Keep Swinging covered by Associates
Cat People (Putting Out Fire) ? covered by Big Electric Cat
Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family covered by Wedding Present
Diamond Dogs ? covered by Beck
Diamond Dogs ? covered by Duran Duran
Drive-In Saturday ? covered by Morrissey
Fame ? covered by Dave Matthews Band
Fame covered by God Lives Underwater
Fame ? covered by Infectious Grooves
Fame ? covered by Duran Duran
Fame covered by Dr Dre
Fashion covered by Glamma Kid
Five Years covered by Fish
Golden Years ? covered by Dave Matthews Band
Golden Years covered by Neil Finn
Golden Years ? covered by Swell
Golden Years ? covered by Marilyn Manson
Hallo Spaceboy ? covered by Nine Inch Nails
Hang On To Yourself ? covered by Kommunity FK
Heroes ? covered by Blondie
Heroes ? covered by Magnetic Fields
Heroes ? covered by Oasis
Heroes covered by Wallflowers
heroes ? covered by Belle And Sebastian
Heroes ? covered by Wreckage
Heroes covered by Nico
It Ain't Easy ? covered by Hazel
It Ain't Easy ? covered by Five Horse Johnson
John, I'm Only Dancing covered by Polecats
John, I'm Only Dancing ? covered by Chameleons
Kooks covered by Danny Wilson
Kooks ? covered by Robbie Williams
Kooks ? covered by Smashing Pumpkins
Let's Dance ? covered by Tina Turner
Life On Mars covered by Divine Comedy
Life On Mars? ? covered by Barbra Streisand
Life On Mars? covered by Flaming Lips
Life on mars? ? covered by Anggun
Modern Love ? covered by My Favorite
Moonage Daydream ? covered by J Hell
Moonage Daydream covered by Zen Guerrilla
Panic In Detroit ? covered by Christian Death
Queen Bitch ? covered by Capsize 7
Queen Bitch covered by Gourds
Quick sand ? covered by Dinosaur Jr
Quicksand ? covered by Seal
Rebel Rebel covered by Dead Or Alive
Rebel Rebel covered by Sigue Sigue Sputnik
Rebel Rebel covered by Rickie Lee Jones
Rebel Rebel ? covered by Duran Duran
Rebel Rebel ? covered by Iggy Pop
Rebel Rebel ? covered by Lenny Kravitz
Rebel, Rebel ? covered by Joan Jett
Rock'N'Roll Suicide covered by Black Box Recorder
Rock'N'Roll Suicide covered by Tony Hadley
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) ? covered by Ex-Voto
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) ? covered by Nine Inch Nails
Secret Life Of Arabia covered by Billy MacKenzie
Soul Love covered by Marti Jones
Sound And Vision ? covered by Quasi
Space Oddity ? covered by Happy Rhodes
Space Oddity covered by Helloween
Space Oddity covered by Natalie Merchant
Space Oddity covered by Flying Pickets
Space Oddity covered by Cold
Starman covered by Boy George
Starman ? covered by 10000 Maniacs
Starman ? covered by Nosferatu
Suffragette City covered by Alice In Chains
Suffragette City covered by Culture Club
Suffragette City ? covered by Blitz
Suffragette City ? covered by Golden Delicious
Suffragette City covered by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Suffragette City covered by Turbonegro
Suffragette City ? covered by Corpus Delicti
The Jean Genie ? covered by Fernando
The Jean Genie ? covered by Van Halen
The Man Who Sold The World covered by Lulu
The Man Who Sold The World covered by Midge Ure
The Man Who Sold the World ? covered by Nirvana
The Sun Machine (Memory Of A Free Festival) ? covered by Mercury Rev
Time ? covered by Cinema Strange
TVC 15 ? covered by Duran Duran
Watch That Man ? covered by Lulu
Width Of A Circle ? covered by Spurge
Young Americans covered by Cure
Young Americans ? covered by U2
Ziggy Stardust ? covered by Wilco
Ziggy Stardust covered by Gourds
Ziggy Stardust ? covered by Def Leppard
Ziggy Stardust ? covered by apologizers
Ziggy Stardust covered by Grade
Ziggy Stardust covered by Bauhaus

Judd Nelson, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Life On Mars? ? covered by Barbra Streisand

I love that song, and I always thought it would sound good in a musical!

dleone, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Bowie used to write some pretty great songs, but I have to say that the image, production and packaging were a big component as well. A big problem with his current (read post-Let's Dance) stuff is that not only is it not terribly compelling musically, but his image is just one big blank. What made him so interesting wasn't just the music, but the fact that he seemed so freakish. Now he's just blah.

Sean, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

As for his lyrics, he makes me want to defecate in ecstasy

Why would you do that to perfectly good ecstasy?

Dan Perry, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

That list doesn't include Simon Turner/King Of Luxembourg's ACE covers of The Prettiest Star and Andy Warhol (though unfortunately, SFT doesn't do the "Warhol...as in holes bit at the beginning)

jamesmichaelward, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Aladdin Sane is a great song - as long as you can get someone to do that fucked-up piano part at the end.

Dave225, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Why would you do that to perfectly good ecstasy?
Don't ask me...ask Bowie! He's the one who started that notion.

Lord Custos II, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

The list doesn't mention the Au Pairs' version of "Repetition". I was very surprised when I found out that Bowie had written that song. "Repetition" contains a concise, coherent narrative about domestic violence. It isn't a typical example of his songwriting style at all.

Mark Dixon, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

I agree that after Ziggy Startdust he concentrated more on his sound and a little less on songs, but I think what makes Bowie so great and covers of his songs not as great is that he makes his songs just for his sound, and they go together. (I feel the same about the Pixies) But pre-Ziggy Stardust I think because he wasn't really doing to much with his sound, that his songs were really good. So try coving somehting like Width of a Circle, or Come and Buy My Toys.

A Nairn, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

My favourite Bowie song is "I dig everything." Released on Pye Records in the mid-60s I believe.

Mike Hanley, did you ever cover this?

Also--Redd Kross covered "Savior Machine", Ann Magnuson did "Moonage Daydream", and I saw Momus do a fab version of "Cracked Actor" in LA once. And Beck does "Win" live.

Arthur, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Chris Connelly did "Cracked Actor" at least once live. And quite good it was too.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Wow!

Thanks. For making sure I am going to be in debt for the next 60,000 years. My children's children's children's children are going to be a vast army of slaves for Jeff Bezos' children's children's...ah fuck it where's the Visa

dave q, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Suede have made an entire career of covering Bowie songs.

John Darnielle, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

And such a fine job they do of it.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Ned, stop rescuing damsels in distress! The list doesn't mention the Au Pairs' version of "Repetition". I was very surprised when I found out that Bowie had written that song. "Repetition" contains a concise, coherent narrative about domestic violence. It isn't a typical example of his songwriting style at all.

Good point about 'Repetition', though I would disagree that it's not typical of Bowie's songwriting style. It's not typical of his songwriting of the last, oh, twenty years. But go back far enough and you'll find gems of character observation and tightly-written narratives with consistent point of view: 'Space Oddity', 'God Knows I'm Good', 'When I'm Five', 'Five Years'. He can do it when he wants to.

I think Bowie's writing has been ruined by Brion Gysin, surrealism, laziness, post- modernism, whatever. Where he really writes brilliant stuff that stands up without the surrounding charisma / imagery, reads well on the page, and can be covered by third parties, is where he's got a story but he's using innovative techniques in its telling; language (his 'Clockwork Orange'-inspired slang period) or cinematic editing techniques (the dissolve shot in 'Space Oddity' on the pun on 'Hear / here': 'Can you hear / here am I sitting in a tin can...'

When he's bad he's very bad, but when he's good he's the best.

Momus, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Oh, and although people often say he should go back on them, we could add drugs to the list of things that have undermined Bowie's clarity and coherence.

Of course, I also like the nonsense style. 'Blackout' off "Heroes" makes no sense, but is fantastic expressionist poetry.

Momus, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

Ned, stop rescuing damsels in distress!

You're always ruining my fun! *cries*

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 24 April 2002 00:00 (eighteen years ago) link

five years pass...

I was just looking for a thread to proclaim the obvious, i.e. that "Oh You Pretty Things" is a fucking perfect song. So why aren't there a lot of covers of it? Because, like another of my favorite songs, "What a Fool Believes" by the Doobie Brothers, it's relatively challenging to play and sing well.

Hurting 2, Saturday, 27 October 2007 04:02 (twelve years ago) link

twelve years pass...

He was a good songwriter imo. That B.E.F./Billy Mackenzie cover is wild.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 10 January 2020 03:30 (eight months ago) link

Barbara Streisand covering Bowie. Forget whether I have heard that . Will have to give it another listen

curmudgeon, Friday, 10 January 2020 17:04 (eight months ago) link


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