10 bowie moments that defined him and us
From his glam pop to his dark 80s period, these are the Bowie songs that changed everything.
They say that women are from Venus and men are from Mars. And then there was David Bowie. A space oddity with a vision unlike anyone else, a chameleon who shape shifted his way through his career, from Ziggy Stardust androgynous glam, to Halloween Jack dystopian rock 'n' roll, to The Thin White Duke's experimental amorality. He's defined, redefined, created and recreated the cultural landscape we all live in.
His star shines brighter than all the stars in the galaxy, and he shall never be forgotten. In remembrance of one of the greatest cultural icons of the 20th and 21st century, here are his top 10 music videos of all time.
Ground control to major Tom. In the original video Bowie makes like the fictional Major Tom and dons his finest astronaut gear and sets off in a tin can like a Space Oddity that he was. A second stripped back version directed by longtime collaborator Mick Rock, features Bowie sitting down strumming an acoustic guitar, with a shock of red hair, and a sparkly top. Space Oddity was Bowie's first hit and the song that launched his career after he'd spent the 60s searching for fame...
Life on Mars?
Standing against a plain white background, with his turquoise Freddie Burretti suit and dazzling red hair, David Bowie looks simply out of this world. It began Bowie's 70s fascination with gender fluidity, androgyny and sexual ambiguity, that opening shot where he appears covered in blue eye make up and red lipstick changed the possibilities of pop.
John I'm Only Dancing
Shot one afternoon at the Rainbow Theatre, Mick Rock's masterpiece captures Ziggy Stardust at his best, while Bowie's Spiders from Mars dancing in the background. The gay undertones were seen as being so controversial that the video was prevented from being broadcast on the BBC. They were only dancing!
Rocking an eyepatch, a bodysuit, and a crop of even redder hair than usual, Bowie as Diamond Dogs' Halloween Jack looks every inch the rebel that he was. Rebel Rebel was Bowie's farewell to the glam scene fashion he'd defined as Ziggy Stardust, before moving onto the Plastic Soul of Young Americans.
Perhaps his most stripped back and raw, the video for Heroes sees Bowie dressed head to toe in black, shirt open, make-up free, and silhouetted against a halo of light. What more of hero do you need? Recorded in Berlin in the late 70s with Brian Eno, the song is the most famous from the experimental period the pair spent in the city with Iggy Pop whilst David Bowie was trying to kick his drug habit. With the lyrics' famous image of a couple kissing by The Wall, the song would later be credited with helping end the Cold War.
Ashes to Ashes
Slip into the surreal world of David Bowie, in which he appears as the incarnation of the Commedia dell'Arte character Pierrot, and is joined by a nun, a dove, a melancholic padded room, and a supporting cast of New Romantics and Blitz Club regulars. At the time the most expensive video ever made. Revisiting Space Oddity's Major Tom who's grown up a junkie, Ashes to Ashes was Bowie's surreal nursery rhyme swansong to the 70s, and set the template for the wild fashion excesses of the 80s.
Among his more poignant political pieces, the video for Let's Dance stands out the most. Set in a hot and humid bar in Australia, it tells the tale of an Aboriginal people's struggles at the hands of Western imperialism. Bowie at his full on funkiest, working with Disco king Nile Rogers of Chic. Let's Dance was Bowie's last Number 1 single in America, and was followed by years of (relative) commercial failure that Bowie referred to as his "Phil Collins years".
I'm Afraid Of Americans
To the busy streets of New York, where Bowie can be seen running away from a very suspicious looking man and thrashing around in the back of a cab as he expressed his fear of Americans, and the whole world in general. There's also a Halloween like procession at the end. One of the jewels of Bowie's 90s period, written with longtime collaborator Brian Eno when he was getting into Drum 'n' Bass.
Where Are We Now?
Bowie's blasting comeback after a 10 year absence. Set in an artist's studio in Berlin, where Bowie lived in the late 70s, the music video for Where Are We Now? paints a nostalgic picture of the German capital that Bowie had spent the late 70s in. A screen showing black and white footage of the city, of the Berlin Wall, the Dschugel nightclub, various graffiti, and an auto repair shop, plays in the background, while Bowie appears alongside the artist Jacqueline Humphries in the form of conjoined monkey puppets.
Heralded as his swan song, Bowie's latest video for Lazarus features the singer confined to a hospital bed with his eyes covered in bandages - the same as it was in Blackstar. Widely interpreted as his parting gift to the world, with the lyrics "Look up here, I'm in heaven." This video is the last utterance from one of the greatest cultural icons of all time.