|David Bowie 2002|
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With David Bowie's passing the answer to the question "What will Bowie do next?" can never be answered again. It's an important question because that was how Bowie promoted himself through the 1990's and early 2000's and that is what drove my interest in him as an artist after his mainstream success from the 1980's began to decline.
A new Bowie album was as exciting as a highly anticipated movie release to me. Basically my Star Wars of the music industry.
Space Oddity) but got on board in the 1980's when his fame really blew up. From there you probably dove into his back catalogue and discovered just how timeless his biggest hits of the 1970's actually are.
If you really dig deep Bowie has quite a good selection of songs from the late 1960's too. I'll admit I'm a fan of the Laughing Gnome. It's especially appealing if the first time you heard it was as child. Most of his early recordings can be found on the Love you til Tuesday album. But I digress.
Through all the eulogies most fans seem to have disconnected with Bowie towards the end of the 1980's. I will admit I did a little too.
Tin Machine for two albums without making any kind of big deal about being part of a group. The stripped back music music almost predates the grunge sound of the 1990's and was very different to what fans were used to. I will admit I liked their first single but couldn't get into the first album which I bought at the time.
Bowie's Black Tie, White Noise album seemed like a bridge back to more familiar ground but failed to gain much impact. I remember it's release but my interest in Bowie was at it's lowest in favor of new alternative rock and seeking out artists that were doing things against type. I didn't mind the single Jump (They say) but I remember thinking at the time that much of the album sounded like elevator music to me. Bearing in mind that was my younger self. I wouldn't be that harsh today though I'd still say it's one of my least favorite Bowie albums.
Outside which, if you partner with his next album release Earthling, you'll have the finest collection of contemporary Bowie post 1980's mainstream success.
Both albums were highly creative with plenty of echoes of early seventies Bowie in that he really seems to have put a lot of energy into experimenting with sound and producing lyrics that inspire strong images but not necessarily a logical narration. Many of Bowie's songs from this period onward are more like contemporary musical paintings - open for interpretation with no real wrong answer.
To top that off the videos for both albums were very much in the same vein. Artsy, styled pieces that didn't necessarily tell a complete story but contained strong images and symbolism.
Black Star has become his first number one American album. Even before the shock news of his death tracks from it were being critically acclaimed.
What frustrates me most about that is, I've so often heard from Bowie fans that they really only liked what he was doing during the 1970's and 1980's. Yet if you like Blackstar, and think it is genius (for the record, I do, especially the accompanying imagery in the two music videos) you really should take the opportunity to fill in the album blanks you missed post 1980's. There's some incredible music that really explains how Bowie gets from Modern Love to Lazarus, none of which is particularly inaccessible.
From there on Bowie's music really begins to mellow through albums like Hours, Heathen, with Reality containing a few more lively tracks but he really becomes much more reflective by the time he released The Next Day.
Once you've been through that album journey, Blackstar is so much like a Bowie album with Bowie ever present, doing some of his best work knowing he's running out of time. It's an album from a man who always said he just wanted to change or influence music in some way. There's no denying he succeeded in that goal.
Even though his music was central to his career it was everything else around that that made him inspiring to me. An artist who pretty much spent his career producing work that was the most interesting to him at any given time. Not always successful but successful enough that he rarely needed to compromise.
If you're one of those fans that kind of fell away post 1980's then now is a great time to rediscover more than 20 years of Bowie's more recent music, not unlike you might have done back in the 1980's when you delved into his 1970's back catalogue.
...and if you happen to read through any of the album links posted throughout this article, it'll maybe even dawn on you that there's a lot of unreleased Bowie music just waiting, including possible songs planned for an album after Blackstar.
Maybe we will get to answer the question of 'What will Bowie do next?' at least one more time.