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We’ve spoken about that recent electro-tinged Bowie covers album Life Beyond Mars. Well, the man himself one-upped the comp with a free CD that appeared with the Sunday Daily Mail. Bowie selected his favorite Bowie. As he put it in the accompanying liner notes:

For this CD compilation I’ve selected 12 of my songs that I don’t seem to tire of. Few of them are well known, but many of them are still sung at my concerts. Usually by me. I’ll start off with the hit.

Any ideas?

“Sweet Thing/ Candidate/ Sweet Thing”
I’d failed to obtain the theatrical rights from George Orwell’s widow for the book 1984 and having written three or more songs for it already, I did a fast about-face and recobbled the idea into Diamond Dogs: teen punks on rusty skates living on the roofs of the dystopian Hunger City; a post-apocalyptic landscape.

A centrepiece for this would-be stage production was to be “Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing,” which I wrote using William Burroughs’s cut-up method.

You write down a paragraph or two describing several different subjects creating a kind of story ingredients-list, I suppose, and then cut the sentences into four or five-word sections; mix ’em up and reconnect them.

You can get some pretty interesting idea combinations like this. You can use them as is or, if you have a craven need to not lose control, bounce off these ideas and write whole new sections.

I was looking to create a profligate world that could have been inhabited by characters from Kurt Weill or John Rechy – that sort of atmosphere. A bridge between Enid Blyton’s Beckenham and The Velvet Underground’s New York. Without Noddy, though.

I thought it evocative to wander between the melodramatic Sweet Thing croon into the dirty sound of Candidate and back again. For no clear reason (what’s new?) I stopped singing this song around the mid-Seventies.

Though I’ve never had the patience or discipline to get down to finishing a musical theatre idea other than the rock shows I’m known for, I know what I’d try to produce if I did.

I’ve never been keen on traditional musicals. I find it awfully hard to suspend my disbelief when dialogue is suddenly song. I suppose one of the few people who can make this work is Stephen Sondheim with works such as Assassins.

I much prefer through-sung pieces where there is little if any dialogue at all. Sweeney Todd is a good example, of course. Peter Grimes and The Turn Of The Screw, both operas by Benjamin Britten, and The Rise And Fall Of The City Of Mahagonny by Weill. How fantastic to be able to create something like that…

“Teenage Wildlife”
So it’s late morning and I’m thinking: “New song and a fresh approach. I know, I’m going to do a Ronnie Spector. Oh yes I am. Ersatz, just for one day.”

And I did and here it is. Bless. I’m still enamoured of this song and would give you two “Modern Loves” for it any time. It’s also one that I find fulfilling to sing onstage. It has some nice interesting sections to it that can trip you up, always a good kind of obstacle to contend with live.

Ironically, the lyric is something about taking a short view of life, not looking too far ahead and not predicting the oncoming hard knocks. The lyric might have been a note to a younger brother or my own adolescent self…

“Some Are”
…Images of the failed Napoleonic force stumbling back through Smolensk. Finding the unburied corpses of their comrades left from their original advance on Moscow. Or possibly a snowman with a carrot for a nose; a crumpled Crystal Palace Football Club admission ticket at his feet. A Weltschmerz [world weariness] indeed. Send in your own images, children, and we’ll show the best of them next week.

There are tons of interesting tidbits in there, and eight other songs, but I excerpted anyway. You can read the rest/see his other choices here. If you didn’t get a copy of the actual disc, it should be easy enough to make your own facsimile.

[Photo by Jimmy King via Bowie's MySpace]

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Comments (17)
  1. that’s pretty freaky, bowie.

    isn’t it cold, quite cold out there bowie?

    do you need my jumper bowie?

  2. paolo  |   Posted on Jun 30th, 2008 0

    the “here” link toward the end of the article might need a coding fix.

  3. wintersox  |   Posted on Jun 30th, 2008 0

    How strange David would make that comment about two Modern Loves. I am a writer and singer, and last week I recorded two versions of Modern Love. I did the great Bowie version as well as the version by The Last Town Chorus. Genius.

    Wintersox

  4. Wintersox  |   Posted on Jun 30th, 2008 0

    But I try, I try…

  5. Abacus Finch  |   Posted on Jun 30th, 2008 0

    I’d give ten “Let’s Dances” for one “Modern Love.”

  6. Jeremy in FL  |   Posted on Jul 1st, 2008 0

    Bowie do you have one really funky sequined space suit, Bowie?
    Or do you have several ch-ch-ch-ch- changes?

  7. Teenage Wildlife is my all-time favorite Bowie song. Good to know he’s got a keen ear for his own songs!

  8. Liam  |   Posted on Jul 1st, 2008 0

    receiving transmission from David Bowie’s nipple antennae…

  9. Dave, let me trade you five ‘let’s dance’s for one ‘Sufragette city’, cause that song still gets me dancing. Or moving at least. In an akward way.

  10. He’s pretending your smart enough to know what he’s talking about…no. That’s not gay.

    It’s perfectly fine.

  11. Wintersox  |   Posted on Jul 1st, 2008 0

    Nevermind Bowie

  12. “sweet thing”/”candidate”/”sweet thing” !!! my all-time favorite bowie song. i’m glad to know he still thinks highly of it.

  13. Yes, it’s not like Bowie’s been doin’ anything else over the last 20 years…

    Reality, Bring Me the Disco King; Sunday, Heathen, Slow Burn, Afraid; Thursday’s Child, Survive, The Pretty Things are Going to Hell, If I’m Dreaming My Life; I’m Afraid of Americans (all versions), Looking for Satellites, Dead Man Walking, 7 Years in Tibet; Outside, The Heart’s Filthy Lesson, Hallo SpaceBoy, The Motel, We Prick You, I’m Deranged; Sex and the Church, Strangers When We Meet; You’ve Been Around, Black Tie White Noise, JUMP THEY SAY!!!!!!!

    (What are we doing sitting around reminiscing when this guy needs to get back into the studio, huh? PlLEASE get back into the studio before your fans drop off the edge of the planet, here, Dave!!)

  14. Oh yea! While Bowie picks over his oldies but goodies (one more time)? – Pierce Brosnan imitates the Master in “Mama Mia!” It ticks me off…

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