David Bowie’s 30 best songs

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8 Changes
From Hunky Dory (December 1971); released as a single, January 1972, re-released December 1974. Highest UK chart position: 41; Highest US chart position: 66
The first single taken from Hunky Dory was a commercial flop, but proved an enduring artistic manifesto for Bowie’s pop mutations

GUY GARVEY (Elbow): Hunky Dory was my entry point into music. One of my sisters had a cassette tape of it and when I got my first player, I put it on. I loved it as a kid, mainly because of the sing-a-long nature of the tunes. When I came back to it in my teens, I started to realise what Bowie was singing about. It made it exist on a whole different level. It was organic and personal, a beautiful piece of work. From the outset, the chord progression of “Changes” is so dramatic. It starts off uneasy, gets a little less uneasy and then suddenly becomes so excited. The last chord of the intro is quite disconcerting, then this riff drops in that’s very sure of itself. It’s very well-constructed. It’s also the first time you hear this spiky kind of character emerge in his singing. The way he sings those first few lines is like he’s adopted some really bizarre character, like a wizened old scientist.


KEITH RICHARDS: Can’t remember. Who is he? Oh, he went to the same art school as me. “Changes”, maybe. That’s about it. Not a large fan, no. It’s all pose. It’s all fucking posing. It’s nothing to do with music. He knows it, too. I can’t think of anything else he’s done that would make my hair stand up.


7 Rebel Rebel
From Diamond Dogs (May 1974); released as a single, February 1974. Highest UK chart position: 5; Highest US chart position: 64
Bowie says farewell to glam with an irresistably Keefy riff and gender-bending lyric, originally written for a proposed Ziggy musical


RODNEY BINGENHEIMER, DJ: In early 1971, I was working for Mercury Records in LA and took Bowie around Hollywood. We stayed at my friend Tom Ayres’ house. I remember Gene Vincent being there and Bowie writing the lyrics for “Hang On To Yourself” and talking about the Ziggy character. He was talking about making it into a stage play. I think LA was a culture shock for Bowie. His mind was blown, everything was so big and bright. But it was a culture shock for others, too, because he was wearing a dress, the same one from the cover of The Man Who Sold The World. One party was at [socialite, columnist] Dianne Bennett’s house and [Warhol acolyte] Ultra Violet was there, in a milk bath. Bowie sat on the bed and played stuff from Hunky Dory and Ziggy on acoustic guitar. Everyone loved it.

In London, Bowie took me to the Cellar club, where they played music by Slade and T.Rex. That was where he gave me the idea for doing Rodney’s English Disco in LA. I always loved Bowie’s glam stuff. When I had the club, he would send me acetates and test pressings of those songs. “Rebel Rebel” was such a great dance song. It was really the glam rock song. It was like an anthem.


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