Nominated by Neil Hallows
David Bowie’s Life on Mars? has become bound to time travel, thanks to the synonymous TV series.
And the album it came from, Hunky Dory, has thrown me back nearly 25 years too.
I didn’t think that I knew Queen Bitch and The Bewlay Brothers, tracks on the more challenging B-side. But I did. They took me back to my first weeks at university and my then new friend, the wonderful Eleanor Parker. She’d been in a play about Myra Hindley in her A-level drama course, and she loved David Bowie (He was new to me, apart from the scary Ashes to Ashes video of 1980. ‘We all know Major Tom’s a junkie…’ gulp, I didn’t).
The Queen Bitch is ‘In her frock coat and bipperty-bopperty hat’. It’s the ‘bipperty-bopperty hat’ that I can see and hear Eleanor singing. So full of energy – you’d all love her. We’ve lost touch, so big hugs to you Ms Parker if you happen to Google your name and find this.
That’s the power of music. Two bars and you can be zipped back to a time, place or person, whether you like it or not.
But back to Bowie. This album is packed with big songs, Life on Mars?, Changes and Oh! You Pretty Things… are ‘best of’ must-haves. The chorus to Pretty Things is so catchy, it’s one of my very favourite little bits of music.
Do these seem better songs than the rest of the album because they are so familiar, or because they are actually quite amazing, compared with anything? Discuss…
There’s no duff tracks on Hunky Dory, Bowie’s fourth album, though and for me lots of pop references. Song for Bob Dylan is funny – a homage, or a parody? He certainly mimics the singing style. Is there a bit of the Kinks in Kooks? (‘Don’t pick fights with the bullies or the cads ‘Cause I’m not much cop at punching other people’s Dads’. Lovely). And some Velvet Underground in Andy Warhol?
It’s funny to think that I didn’t quite exist when this record was released in the summer of 1971. It doesn’t seem old enough. I guess time travel keeps you young.