The Best of Bowie - Page 3

Absolute Beginners

The year is 1986. It's also the mid 1940s or 50s, and Bowie is looking so gentlemanly in the duds of the period. There's this stripey zebra girl running around the city and Bowie is trying to smoke some Zebra Brand cigarettes, but the pack is empty. So he goes to the cigarette machine back when they used to have those, but the machine isn't working. Instead of cigarettes, he gets promotional scenes from Absolute Beginners. But only for about 3 seconds, because then it all freezes because the disk has a big gash right there.

We've never gotten to see this whole video and we've never seen Absolute Beginners. This looks suspiciously like one of those Non-Bowie Bowie-Promoted movies. Like they put him on the cover and claim that he's important, but he's actually 9th or 10th billed and only has three scenes. This was a big trend in the 80s, claiming to employ Bowie and using him to promote your film, but having him sit in a trailer for the whole shoot. Damn annoying that, especially twenty years later when you fall for it and end up wasting money on unfulfilled Bowieness. This one stings in particular because it's an interesting setting with a romantic angle, and everyone wants to see Bowie in the lead. Who the hell even remembers Eddie O'Connell?? We want The Bowie, and we wanna see The Bowie get his Bowie on!

However, this is one of The Man's best love songs - unusually commercial and catchy, just perfect.
And we assume that the zebra girl has something to do with the plot.

Never Let Me Down

Some fans bash this album, and even Bowie thinks it's one of his worst, but we love this one and keep it in regular rotation. It's a bit overwrought with 1980's style and arrangement, and Frampton's guitar is Hit-Or-Miss (painfully Miss on "Zeroes," blegh) but the tunes and lyrics are very solid. We only skip one track on it (Shining Star), which is great compared to how much hopscotch is required for albums like Black Tie white Noise and 1.Outside. We think people just jump on the Criticism Bandwagon because it's a fan trend for Never Let Me Down to be the Abused Middle Child of the Bowie albums.

Day-In Day-Out sounds upbeat, but the video is all about shoplifting and urban strife in LA. We were actually living in so Cal at the time of the riots, so it's impossible to watch this one objectively. It just seems like Day-in, Day-out, another miserable day in a city full of phonies who have to riot every 5-15 years. But we love this song, so we just ignore the video and appreciate the music.

Time Will Crawl is the best track on the album and one of Bowie's best songs ever. It's all freaky and apocalyptic with a wild rhythm, and the lyrics blow your mind. It's like all of Diamond Dogs condensed into one song. You've never heard so much awesome, sexy horror in so few syllables. Bowie is often a 50-cent word guy, but "Time Will Crawl" is beautifully succinct.

That said, it has the most ineffectual video of all time. It's a bunch of stunt guys in costumes messing around in a soundstage, climbing on scaffolding and throwing The Bowie around and being too rough on him. It has a crazy S & M feel, as these guys look like The Village People colliding with Mad Max auditioning for American Gladiators. There's no B-Roll and no story, and it has a bad ending - Bowie appears dead.

Never Let Me Down is a classier video that someone probably worked hard on. It looks good and fits the song pretty well, though it's hard to understand. Bowie is performing in a period-set, sepia-toned dance competition where half the people are injured and the other half are on valium. They're all dying on their feet while referees and military guys (like naval dudes) are watching. Of course, Bowie is splendid and busts out the harmonica, but these people are too far gone to appreciate him. We dunno what this video is trying to say, but it's totally redeemed at the end when Bowie dances with a little kid. So sweet!!

Black Tie White Noise, They Say

Some fans consider this a Bad Apple in Bowie's Barrel. We consider it mealy, but not bad. It has songs we love like Miracle Tonight, Jump They Say, and a few other goodies. The only thing that's *really bad* is actual Black Tie White Noise, cuz it's not even Bowie. Someone else sings it, and Duke is like backup on his own title track?! Wtf. It might be a good song except we can't stand that other guy's voice.

(Which is David's fault, BTW. Once you become a Bowie fan, you get hooked on his voice. You need it all the time, and anyone else's voice becomes gratingly inferior and usually insufferable. It's bizarre and icky to go to a Bowie album and find some other guy hanging around, especially on the title track.)

Anyway. By this time we were into the 90s and videos were growing up. Bowie had taken a couple years off to record and tour with Tin Machine, and he came back all new and frisky with Jump They Say, a great song and an even better video. It has weirdness and subjective imagery like a classic video, but it looks totally modern.

But before we go any further, something peculiar must be addressed. Which is Bowie of the 1990s. Bowie was always "cute," "angelic," the good-looking British rocker. Everyone fell in love with him because he has particular qualities. Like magical, kavorka, Mojo Love-charm qualities. But the 90s came along and began an entirely new era:

Outrageously Devastating, Smokin' Hot Bowie

You first see this phenomenon clearly in Jump They Say. He simply became the best-looking man in the world. Something happened. Some combination of age and experience, or the fact that he was gone for a while and then came back as Bowie and looked and sounded amazing. Who the hell knows, but he would spend the next several years overwhelming us with the hotness demonstrated in this video.

There's trouble afoot for gorgeous Bowie.
He's sleek and beautiful, but this suit comes with some kind of corporate evil.
Strange girls with telescopes suggest controlled observation and conformity, and then mean coworker guys kidnap Video Bowie!
Then they put wires on him and do experiments and it's like Thomas Newton Revisited.

This video also has the unpleasant visual of Bowie with his face all bruised up, implying that he's fallen or jumped from the building. It does happen and he ends up down on a smashed car. It looks bleak, but then there's the coolest moment ever when people gather around him and appear to bring him back to life. (?)
This may just be our wishful-thinking interpretation, but they seem to be all kindness and love, and their anguish wakes him up. He looks dazed, but he opens his eyes and is alive somehow; it's a beautiful message, and this is why Jump They Say is in our Top 3 Favorite Bowie videos.

"Ball Two to Bowie, Low and 1.Outside"

Being a Bowie fan is a privilege. Nay, an honor. Musically, you get the best of all worlds, plenty of variety from a brilliant guy with the most beautiful voice in the universe, and all the creativity to match. Bowie really is the whole package. But with great artistry come daring extremes, which are usually a grand adventure.
But it can't all be glitter and magic and balloons...

If Black Tie is the Bad Apple, 1. Outside may be the Ugly Duckling. It has awesome, amazing stuff in it, but you have to learn to love it. It's the most complex of the albums, and it takes the most time to figure out. (A lot of fans do love this one and consider it Top 5 material.) Personally, we're still on the journey with 1.Outside and are currently grading it about B. It has some of the coolest songs ever (Hearts Filthy Lesson, Hallo Spaceboy, Strangers When we Meet) a few other good ones (Outside, No Control, Oxford Town) but it also has some chaff and clutter. Too, it's a Concept Art album based on horrible themes of homicide and dismemberment, so it's not a happy place to visit.

The video for Hearts Filthy Lesson is really disturbing, full of disfigured bodies and implied murder and torture. It's gross and we've never gotten through the whole thing. (We've never even been able to read the graphic stories on the CD insert! This isn't our kind of thing. We're wimps.) It seems like a missed opportunity for something better (or at least more meaningful), like with a motel and hookers and stuff, cuz the song suggests these things. Instead it's like a summary of the album's darkest themes.

Hallo Spaceboy is totally on the other side, cool and artistic in a relevant way. It has all this great old footage from sci-fi movies, cartoons, and crazy-random footage from whatever. It even fits the wild feel of the song and that awesome, racing drumbeat, and Bowie is incredible. He's up on this platform with a mic stand, tapping his feet (in heels) and sort of backlit for this shadowy, theatrical performance. Way cool.

And in the shallow end, we have to comment on how Bowie looks fucking amazing in these videos. Maybe he was having work done or something? Whatever, it looks great on him and he's in fantastic shape.
He seemed to go extra-lean and wiry for this project (1995), and the Period of Smokin' Hot 1990's Bowie showed no signs of abating.

Go to The Next Page

Lost in Best of Bowie? Go Back...

To Page One

Go Back...

To Jareth's Page

To The Labyrinth Pages

Email Us!

2011 The Labyrinth Pages
c/o Champion Valley