New York’s In Love

Everybody loves David Bowie at his best. These days, a basic familiarity with his greatest hits is near-obligatory if you want to play with the cool kids. But are you fan enough to still peruse him at his most mediocre? Bowie has a singularly rewarding back catalog for anyone ready to leave the compilations behind, but even the deepest barrel has a bottom. So, here’s a fairly terrible David Bowie song to test your mettle. I say ‘fairly’ terrible because it’s still David Bowie and you could do a lot worse in the badness department. But it’s a pretty terrible song by anyone’s standards.

New York, New York

Finally, a tribute to everyone’s favorite city as crazy weird as the place itself. Nina Hagen sees it as a place of nightlife and glamour. Maybe Prima Nina’s brand of provocative punk doesn’t reflect the full scope of what the city can be (it’s all things to all people as much as any city could claim to be) but she certainly reflects a certain powerfully appealing underworld. The wannabe edgy and fashionable are still paying homage to the denizens of Mudd Club and Danceteria, and still coming to New York in hopes of establishing their own iconic style utopias. The tribute stays relevant.

New Town

Never mind the racial implications of black women with feathers on their heads… Political context is not and never has been Bryan Ferry’s thing. He’s definitely presented some insensitive images throughout his career, but…but…but…I guess that’s not the point. I’m not looking to Bryan Ferry for any kind of commentary on anything at all whatsoever. His job, as he’s presented himself through the years, is to embody a particular kind of romantic fantasy. He’s stylish and dreamy, he mopes around in glamorous locales. He has great hair and his suits are well tailored. The real world need not – and must not – intrude on the fantasy.

Never Say Never

Yeah, I might like you better if we slept together. Might like you better if we slept together. I do like you better since we’ve slept together. Oops. We all know how this narrative goes… And thus Romeo Void earns an eternal spot on my list of Anthems for Classy Ladies. No, they were never seen or heard from again. They made that one hit really count. Total props to Debora Iyall for being an underrated badass, writing and delivering a statement of intent for voracious ladies who deal with unrequited love on their own terms. Because why would you even commit to being in unrequited love if you don’t run a test drive first to see if you really like them?

Never Let Me Down

David Bowie has never let me down. That alone makes him more important than most of the mere humans orbiting around in my life. Most people will at some point let you down. David Bowie will never let  you down. He also has Never Let Me Down, which a lot of people actually did think was a bit of a letdown, ironically enough. Not me, though. I’ve always earnestly enjoyed it in all of its garish 80’s glory and it never occurred to me that it might not be a great album until I started reading up on the critical reviews. Bowie himself has admitted embarrassment over the album, mainly regarding the lazy production, but he stands by this particular song, calling it one of his most personal. If he ever decides to do another project of do-overs, he should begin here, with strong material that just needs sharpening up.

Neighbours

Say what you will about Mick Jagger’s gay football outfit, but I have an abiding affection for the Rolling Stones’ 1981 stadium tour. I used to watch that documentary all the time, and found it a fascinating spectacle. As in, Jagger’s ass in those leggings is a fascinating spectacle. It’s also fascinating in other ways, such as you can see The Stones really coming into their own as the stadium-filling, globe circling, money-making cottage industry they are today. Today it’s another year, another billion dollar Rolling Stones tour, but in 1981 it still felt fresh. There was a feeling of excitement sweeping over those vast crowds. It was new territory. And of course, the boys were still relatively young, still getting along with one another, and armed with the confidence of having a really strong album to support. But, coming around to what really matters… how about them football pants? There’s something delightfully wrong about Mick Jagger, a consummately  effete English glitter fairy, paying homage to the hyper-masculine  eroticism of American football. It’s a nod and a wink to the sheer absurdity of playing stadiums in the first place.

Midnight to Stevens

You may know that I feel ambivalent about the practice of actually buying physical manifestations of music. Ya know, it’s a ripoff and the record industry is a huge scam and one of their favorite gambits is overpriced box sets and ‘deluxe’ editions stuffed to the gills with garbage that the artists were initially smart enough to be ashamed of. But I’m contradicting myself to say sometimes it’s worth it, and  Clash on Broadway is a box set that so worth it. (Although why, why are they on Broadway? Are they auditioning for Cats?) The set contains most of the singles we all know and love, plus many unreleased songs that are magnificent and should have been singles. The Clash were one of the few bands to meaningfully transcend their initial punk attributes without looking like wussy sellouts, and also managed to bow out of their existence as a band without too much embarrassment, both of which are tricky things to achieve. It takes a wide-spanning collection of 60+ tracks to show their range, of which they had substantially more than most of their contemporaries in peroxide and leather. So, yeah, good investment.