Ranking David Bowie’s album closers

Strangely, I found Bowie’s album closers less compelling than the openers. “The Secret Life of Arabia” and “Red Money” work fine as shimmering, weird album tracks that don’t quite end their albums like “Subterraneans” and “Bring Me the Disco King” do.

I hear exceptions, though. I have a memory of driving home shortly before two in the morning sometime in August 2002 when the University of Miami college station played “Heathen (The Rays)”; the experience was so powerful I almost pulled over to compose myself. For those who persist in thinking Bowie peaked before 1980, I refer to “Strangers When We Meet.” This grand ballad, released in 1995, shared a title with the Kirk Douglas-Kim Noval sudster and a romantic yearning. Using chord progressions owing a bit to “Heroes,” Bowie offers a tale of finding love when least expected but, upsetting expectations, offers a statement of increasing fragmentation; sense crumbles bit by bit, until the lyrics flicker as semaphored haiku of desire. It destroys me.

The Hague

Bang Bang (from Never Let Me Down, 1987)
Shake It (from Let’s Dance, 1983)
Pretty Thing (from Tin Machine, 1989)


Dancing with the Big Boys (from Tonight, 1984)
Heat (from The Next Day, 2013)
The Wedding Song (from Black Tie White Noise, 1993)
The Dreamers (from hours…, 1999)

Sound, Solid

The Secret Life of Arabia (from “Heroes,” 1977)
Red Money (from Lodger, 1979)
Lady Grinning Soul (from Aladdin Sane, 1973)
It’s No Game, Pt. 2 (from Scary Monsters, 1980)
Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family (from Diamond Dogs, 1975)
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust…, 1972)
Goodbye Mr. Ed (from Tin Machine II, 1991)
Memory of a Free Festival (from Man of Words/Man of Music, 1970)
Wild is the Wind (from Station to Station, 1976)
Law (Earthlings on Fire) (from Earthling, 1996)

Good to Great

Strangers When We Meet (from 1. Outside, 1995)
Fame (from Young Americans, 1975)
I Can’t Give Everything Away (from , 2016)
Heathen (The Rays) (from Heathen, 2002)
Subterraneans (from Low, 1977)
Bring Me the Disco King (from Reality, 2003)
The Bewlay Brothers (from Hunky Dory, 1971)

3 thoughts on “Ranking David Bowie’s album closers

  1. postpunkmonk

    “Bring Me The Disco King” keeps my rapt attention for hours of repeat play. I thought for years that it was the final Bowie song, and a better swan song I could not have imagined. Garson’s piano was never more eloquent. My esteem was such that the appearance of “The Next Day” in 2013 was a profound disappointment to me in that Bowie had not followed this jazz outlier to its conclusion years later. Fortunately, the “Sue” single and ★ paid off that expectation in spades.

    1. humanizingthevacuum Post author

      I’d been hearing about “Disco King” since an interview he gave to Rolling Stone in fall ’92 before the release of Black Tie White Noise. That’s how long he’d toyed with it.


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