18 Rock’n’Roll Suicide
From The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (June 1972); released as a single, April 1974. Highest UK chart position: 22
Epic, defiantly show-stopping closer to the Ziggy live show, a rock’n’roll update of Jacques Brel’s “My Death”
MARC ALMOND: There are so many Bowie songs of the late ’60s and early ’70s that represent so much to me, but I have to single out “Rock’N’Roll Suicide”. As a skinny, spotty 14-year-old, bloody from being bottled by thugs on the way to Liverpool Empire in 1972, I climbed over the orchestra pit at the front of the stage. And as Bowie sang “Give me your hand!”, he reached down and took my hand. I was a mess of blood, glitter and cheap, badly applied make-up, but in a state of near religious ecstasy. “Rock’N’Roll Suicide” is a wonderfully structured song. It’s Bowie at his theatrical, Jacques Brel-inspired best. Sometimes I still sing it live to bring back that moment.
I loved all his work throughout the ’70s. That’s an incredible body of work, brilliant and innovative. I can’t think of any other artist that’s made so much impact in a short period. A year ago, at an opera in New York, he sat opposite me. We smiled at each other, but I’m not even sure he knew who I was, though Bowie probably knows who everyone is. I quite like it that we’ve never really met, as I can still be a fan that admires him from a distance.
17 Young Americans
From Young Americans (March 1975); released as a single, February 1975
Highest UK chart position: 18 Highest US chart position: 28
Stateside, Bowie hopes to catch some of the Philly Sound, and winds up inventing post-Nixonian Plastic Soul
SLASH: I remember this track really well. I was about 11 years old and my mom had worked as a costume designer on the Nic Roeg movie that he starred in, The Man Who Fell To Earth, and Bowie was around the family a lot. He and my mum were kinda dating. And this was the record that had come out when my mom was first hanging out with him. I didn’t know anything about him before that, he was just this cool-looking guy who’d come round the house. So this period of Bowie’s work – the whole white funk thing, Young Americans, Station To Station – that was my introduction to his work. What I love about it is that it’s funk, but there’s no sense of pastiche or parody. He’s taken this music and made it his own – cool, icy, stylish, sexy, a bit frightening – to the point that it couldn’t be anyone else. After that I worked backwards into Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust, and I got heavily into “Heroes”, which is a fantastic single, and I loved all the Low period, like “Warszawa”. But it’s stuff like “Young Americans” that had the biggest effect on me.