Before music videos became the music videos industry, David Bowie released a rather wonderful little film for his song "Ashes To Ashes" (lyrics printed without permission below).
"Ashes To Ashes" appeared on Bowie's "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" album, one of the milestones in his career, which followed the so-called (poorly-referenced) Berlin trilogy.
Tony Visconti's production, together with a remarkable band of musicians and very strong lyrical content, make "Scary Monsters" a must-have for any collection.
The weakest track, "Fashion" is actually a wonderful pop song loaded with cultural and political references, done only as Bowie can do it. His cover of Tom Verlaine's "Kingdom Come" is sung with all the verve and elan one would expect from Bowie.
"Teenage Wildlife" (one of my all-time favorite Bowie songs) lifts guitar treatments directly from Bowie's own "Heroes" (executed brilliantly by Robert Fripp and seemingly a direct copy of his guitar work on Blondie's live version of "Heroes"). Teenage Wildlife's complicated lyrics are a return to Bowie's pre-Berlin songwriting skills that are not seen on another Bowie release for many years to come afterwards. Bowie is a master lyric-smith, and though some of his most wonderful songs show an economy of lyrics, his catalog is filled with long, story-telling lyrical treats that for many years were a staple of his releases.
I had not planned a blow-by-blow (or cut-by-cut) article of this album's songs, so I will leave you to the "Ashes To Ashes" video, which is an example of why Bowie is not just the godfather of punk, but also the godfather of the music video:
"Ashes To Ashes" by Daivd Bowie, 1980.
Do you remember a guy that's been
In such an early song
I've heard a rumour from Ground Control
Oh no, don't say it's true
They got a message from the Action Man
"I'm happy, hope you're happy too
I've loved all I've needed to love
Sordid details following"
The shrieking of nothing is killing
Just pictures of Jap girls in synthesis and I
Ain't got no money and I ain't got no hair
But I'm hoping to kick but the planet it's glowing
Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom's a junkie
Strung out in heaven's high
Hitting an all-time low
Time and again I tell myself
I'll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again
I'm stuck with a valuable friend
"I'm happy, hope you're happy too"
One flash of light but no smoking pistol
I never done good things
I never done bad things
I never did anything out of the blue, woh-o-oh
Want an axe to break the ice
Wanna come down right now
My mother said to get things done
You'd better not mess with Major Tom
Produced by Tony Visconti
David Bowie: vocals and guitar
Michi Hirota: vocals (on It's No Game)
Carlos Alomar: guitar
Robert Fripp: guitar
George Murray: bass
Tony Visconti: guitar
Dennis Davis: drums
Pete Townshend: guitar
Roy Bittan: piano
Andy Clarke: synthesizer