Ranking David Bowie’s album openers

Here’s a fun list! I’m not asking about the best song, but about the best track to open one of Bowie’s albums. In many cases he followed sixties orthodoxy about best song first; in the case of Never Let Me Down, he had no idea what the best songs were.

I wrote the following on ILM:

For sheer pop joy, “Modern Love.”

For sheer wtf-ness, “Speed of Life”

For sheer epic build and release, ebb ‘n’ flow, “Station to Station”

For gutbucket rock, “Watch That Man.”

For an example of how terrible a singer and songwriter he could be, “Day-In Day-Out.”

But I’ll stick with the song to which I listened anew when a friend popped ‘Heroes’ in the car the spring of 2001. He had never heard Robert Fripp. He had never heard Eno. He had never heard guitar screeches like this. We weren’t exactly sober. Someone fetch a priest — you can’t say no to the Beauty and the Beast. Dah-liiiiing!

The Hague

Day-In Day-Out’ (from Never Let Me Down, 1987)
Thursday’s Child (from …hours, 1999)

Meh

Heaven’s In Here (from Tin Machine, 1989)
Magic Dance (from Labyrinth Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1986)
Rosalyn (from Pin Ups, 1973)
Uncle Arthur (from David Bowie, 1967)
Future Legend (from Diamond Dogs, 1974)
Leon Takes Us Outside (from 1. Outside, 1995)

Sound, Solid

Little Wonder (from Earthling, 1997)
The Wedding (from Black Tie White Noise, 1993)
The Width of a Circle (from The Man Who Sold the World, 1970)
Space Oddity (from David Bowie/Space Oddity, 1969)
New Killer Star (from Reality, 2003)
The Next Day (from The Next Day, 2013)
Buddha of Suburbia (from Buddha of Suburbia Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, 1993)
Baby Universal (from Tin Machine II, 1991)
Loving the Alien (from Tonight, 1984)

Good to Great

Beauty and the Beast (from “Heroes”, 1977)
Modern Love (from Let’s Dance, 1983)
Station to Station (from Station to Station, 1976)
Speed of Life (from Low, 1977)
Young Americans (from Young Americans, 1975)
Blackstar (from ★, 2016)
Watch That Man (from Aladdin Sane, 1973)
Fantastic Voyage’ (from Lodger, 1979)
It’s No Game (No. 1) (from Scary Monsters…and Super Creeps, 1980)
Five Years’ (from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1972)
Changes (from Hunky Dory, 1971)
Sunday (from Heathen, 2002)

4 thoughts on “Ranking David Bowie’s album openers

  1. Jukebox

    I’ve always liked the “Space Oddity” which charted in 1975 (in the Rhino version of Young Americans) over the original. For starters, no countdown crap.

    I wish I das room for “Five Years” in my list. So many classics in the upper list.

    Reply
  2. postpunkmonk

    My only [very] minor quibble with your immaculately congruent list? I would move “Heaven’s In Here” up a notch, and “Future Legend” up two. And, yes, “Beauty + The Beast” is pinnacle Bowie to me. It manages to threaten and swing at the same time; no simple feat! Fripp’s serpentine guitar is THE BEST.

    Reply

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