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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Major Tom Crash lands

I am not going to tell you that I was a huge David Bowie fan.  There were songs I liked, and songs I didn't care that much for.  Sadly, his last lp- released just days before his death- didn't hit it off with me.  I heard the single Blackstar- a long, rambling tune that wiki described as "jazztronica".  It was a ten minute song; and in all fairness, the first minute's buildup was so slow, my son and I decided to jump a little further in, and weren't impressed there, either.  But the thing that made Bowie so popular, so much of an inspiration, was that he pushed HIS envelope- never afraid to be odd or different.

According to The Times: “Blackstar may be the oddest work yet from Bowie”.

And what else would you expect from a man of his caliber, recording what he knew would be his swan song?

I got looking at Bowie's chart record.  He had 23 top tens in the UK, but only twelve top 40s here.  I looked at the songs I knew- three of my favorites never sniffed our top 40 (Changes, #66; Jean Genie, #71; Rebel Rebel, #64).  And another one, Suffragette City, failed to chart.  You either got Bowie, or you didn't.  In his heyday, I was far more interested in pop, and I loved the "Serious Moonlight" era- Let's Dance, China Girl, and especially Modern Love.  It was years before I knew he did anything besides fame and Golden Years.  I never cared that much for Under Pressure, mainly because Queen lost me with the Flash Gordon soundtrack (although I am glad that I just discovered they sued that idiot Vanilla Ice and got a settlement over Ice Ice Baby).

I guess though, for me, his best was Young Americans.  Especially his vocal fun towards the end.  Ironically, his last time charting here was a 1997 single called I'm Afraid Of Americans.  Boo!  Just kidding.  That one only staggered its way to #66.

But like I said, you either got him or you didn't.  Blackstar was released about a month before the lp, and peaked over there at #129.  So it ain't only me.  Nor is it just me that can recognize him for his innovation, his creativity, and his boundless energy.

Belgian theatre director Ivo van Hove, who worked with the singer on his Off-Broadway musical Lazarus, explained that Bowie was unable to attend rehearsals due to progression of the disease. He noted that "Bowie was still writing on his deathbed, I saw a man fighting. He fought like a lion and kept working like a lion through it all."

It's not really work
It's just the power to charm
I'm still standing in the wind
But I never wave bye bye
But I try, I try...

-Modern Love, #14, 1983


Time for round two of the Martin 50 uncountable countdown (Say, that's a good name for these non-linear events!)

Today's list I call the fun bunch- happy, up-tempo tunes to contrast with what I will be calling the "Ambient bunch" coming later.

We kick off this list with a fun song that I found in researching famous English bands that didn't really make it here.  This band had a mini-burst of popularity in the early '70s , anchored by this #2 UK hit.  I give you Yanks the Strawbs:

Part Of The Union was a hit in 1973, and makes our list at #45 despite not hitting the M10 (I heard it earlier in the year before the M10 was born). (M10- did not chart)

You might remember Islandis as the two buddies from Down Under who did a song called Home, which I described as "reminiscent of what America might be doing if they were still around/alive.  They land, not at Heathrow as in the song, but at #44.  (#10 peak)

I talked a little about this one last time- it's the first song I heard (and thus first M10 hit) for a young Australian lady named Shannon Busch, who goes by the name of WILSN.  It hung around the bottom edges of the M10 for weeks before I finally let it in- and then got blown away by her FIRST hit, Unmeet You.  That song was called Walking For Days and sits at #43 on the big chart. (#9)

Just as I was about to try to sneak the new song by Pure Bathing Culture in, I read about their earlier hit that "sounded much like Fleetwood Mac".  It did, and thus it was that the years-earlier hit (well, 2013) Pendulum made the M10.  And it sits here at #31. (#7)

Cage The Elephant came into my consciousness, as I said last time, when I first heard their big hit from 2013's Melophobia, Cigarette daydreams.  They became more firmly intrenched on the hearing of the other big hit from the same lp, Come A Little Closer, and the screwy accompanying video.  Their second trip into the M10 nets them the #29 spot for the year. (#4)

One of the bands whose cause I adopted for my own is a little known Aussie band called Castlecomer.  Their first hit, Fire Alarm, made the cut at #25, just as the second, Escapism, was trying to carve itself a spot in next year's M50. (#5)

The biggest of the three hits on the M10 for Jeff Lynne's ELO, the unreleased cut One Step At A Time (which was one of the two in which the only other living being on the record- his daughter- made a backing vocal appearance) stepped its way into the top 4 at one point, and finishes the year at #21. (#4)

Duran Duran nearly made the M50 three times- the one that missed would have been another non-charting tune that hung around the bottom rung for several weeks, called Face For Today.  However, their big hit- the single Pressure Off (hit 33 on the Adult Pop Chart)- is the one that cracks the M50 highest at #20. (#2)

One of the things I hit researching a post for New Years Eve was that Adam Lambert's 2015 lp The Ultimate High was voted best album of the year by some music blogger.  Hardly a ringing endorsement, but I liked the tune from it, Ghost Town, enough to put it at #16 for the year.  A very lyrically rich tune. (#3)

And finally this time, a song that JUST Missed being a number one tune- in fact, an early attempt at the M10 from the first week of October, but it lost its spot "somewhere in those eyes" of Victoria Legrand and Beach House.  That is the highest of three tunes on the M50 for Family Of The Year, from the 2015 lp, Make You Mine. (#2)


  1. Hi, Chris!

    I wasn't a huge Bowie fan, but a few of his career highlights stand out in my mind.

    * In the 70s I worked as a TV news producer at an NBC station. Every Friday night after the 11 pm newscast, I hung around the control room and watched The Midnight Special with the director and sound man. On November 16, 1973, we were blown away when the series presented David Bowie's "1980 Floor Show."

    * In the spring of 1983, on a long drive from Lancaster, PA, to Philly to attend a motivational seminar, I became "anchored" to Bowie's single "Let's Dance" when it played on the car radio.

    * Another memorable Bowie performance was his acting role in the fantasy movie Labyrinth (1986) opposite the future Mrs. Shady #3 - Jennifer Connelly.

    Thanks for sharing your impressions of David Bowie, good buddy!

    1. Let's dance seems to be a lightning rod for Bowie- if you were there for Bowie past, you turned your nose up. If you were there for something you could move to and didn't suck, it was the $#!t. Frankly, it helped me appreciate Nile Rogers (did I get the right Chic-er?), which I really didn't theretofore.

  2. Chris:
    I agree with you about Bowie.
    While I consider myself a "fan" (with a SMALL "f"), and saw THREE of his concerts, what USED to be a fan THEN and what passes for one TODAY are pretty far removed from one another.
    And, a few decades ago, we didn't give a rip WHERE the songs charted.
    We liked what WE liked...screw such "conventionalities".
    It was better that way, because we KNEW stations wouldn't play the grooves off of them on the air (and get boring real fast, as was done with so MANY of the chart-toppers).
    Have to admit he WAS one of a kind.

    I will say one of THE worst songs Bowie did was the duet w/ Jagger (Dancin' in the Street)...horrible!
    Van Halen did a MUCH better cover.

    --I DO like Part of the Union...good "blue-collar" song from across the pond.
    I can easily see WHY it ranked #2 in the UK. many "near-misses" in the M50.
    Maybe you can do an "also-ran" list for those just missing the cut?
    (like you don't do ENOUGH?
    Just a thought.

    Keep on rockin' & stay warm up there, brother.

    1. See, now you see why I sometimes debate doing a top 20- and then I slap myself and say, "Isn't ten hard enough?"

  3. David Bowie did it his way and didn't care what anyone else thought. His innovative imagination in the early 70's was mind blowing. And it worked! Ziggy Stardust made mothers cringe and teens to start paying attention to a new style of music, hair and art. What I really loved most about David was that he could play with the best of them. Tina Turner, Bing Crosby, Mick Jagger, Freddie Mercury and Cher just to name a few, yet he always returned to create his unusual style. He did it his way, especially his end to his career and saying goodbye. Loved him!

    1. I saw your tribute. It's great to have the memories, isn't it? But Bowie was not one that attached to many of mine. I hope you enjoy Blackstar, if you hear something on it a little more my style than the title cut, let me know!

  4. I was a fan. I had not heard anything of his illness, and had picked up the new album Friday-between his voice (seemed thin) and the lyrics (dark, especially the song "Lazarus"), I wondered if he was sick.

    On Mike & Mike on Monday morning, I found it odd that they kept playing Bowie music, and then I heard one of them say something about losing an icon, so I googled it and found out DB had passed.

    Sad. While I always thought he got a lot more press about being innovative than he deserved (as much as I loved Young Americans, it's not like Bowie invented funk). he was very creative and I liked a lot of his output-although I liked his eighties output, his most commercially successful, the least.

    Another part of my childhood is gone.

    1. And they aren't going to stop going, at our ages. We've already lost two major music stars and couple minor ones. Could be another long sad year for old men...

    2. Not a good week for 69-year old celebrities who have cancer-Alan Rickman (Hans Gruber from Die Hard just died as well.