After extensive scientific research, I can reveal the four tiers of David Bowie.
I realised I own no Bowie except an old 45 rpm single of “Sound and Vision” which I can’t play as I have no record player, went to the web to buy The Platinum Collection and listened to it a few times.
– 20% is awarded for a catchy chorus
– 20% for having a good verse as well (often why some songs are relegated to Tier 2 or below – great choruses but weak verse)
– 20% for weird lyrics, sexual ambivalence
– 10% for singing in a funny voice (machismo of “Boys Keep Swinging”, mockney sneering)
– 10% for odd instrumentation (“Heroes”)
– 10% for a blistering guitar part (whether medlodic like Starman or just nasty like “Boys Keep Swinging”)
– 10% for being seminal (“Ziggy Stardust”)
1 bottle of Toro Loco Tempranillo wine, stereo cranked up so loud your partner wakes up and comes downstairs to give you a bollocking before stomping off to bed and waking early to turn on some bullshit Kerrang radio in revenge.
Tier 1 (80% or more): Starman, Ziggy Stardust, Suffragette City, Heroes, Scary Monsters, Let’s dance, Boys Keep Swinging, All the Young Dudes (but Mott The Hoople’s version is still better at 100%; Bowie’s suffers from too much sax)
Tier 2: (65% – 79%) Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion, Jean Genie, Space Oddity, Sound and Vision, Diamond Dogs, The Prettiest Star
Tier 3: (50% – 64%) China Girl, Changes (great choruses, weak verse) Rebel Rebel, Oh You Pretty Things
Tier 4: the rest
Tier 67: Laughing Gnome, Tin Machine stuff, execrable covers of Let’s Spend The Night Together, The Alabama Song
Bowie’s best is sublime, and had hardly dated at all. There is a perception of a quality drop-off in the 80s, but some great songs came about during that time, although there was a lot of mediocre funk nonsense too. In a career spanning four decades, there is a good deal of filler but that’s both unsurprising and forgiveable, given the brilliance of his Tiers 1-3 work.
If Bowie came round to my house, I’d share a bottle of red with him and we could have a jam, and I’d even let him use my 12 string elecro-acoustic guitar.