The 5 Best David Bowie Albums for (Absolute) Beginners
David Bowie releases Nothing Has Changed today, a collection of hits spanning his illustrious career (and, believe it or not, his 46th compilation album!).
While hardened Bowie fans aren’t going to find anything new on the compilation (apart from his jazzy new track Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)), it’s a (slightly overwhelming) goldmine of material for newcomers to the great man’s music.
Compilation albums are only the beginning, though. Once you’ve finished with Nothing Has Changed, what should you (as a Bowie newbie) move onto next?
Although he released three albums before Hunky Dory (and a very famous song about space…), this album arguably represents the beginning of Bowie as we know him.
The music itself is relatively straightforward, a collection of catchy folk-pop ditties that have more than stood the test of time (with Changes, Oh! You Pretty Things, Life on Mars? and Queen Bitch, Hunky Dory is almost a greatest hits collection in itself).
Two important things changed though: Bowie began to display his taste for theatrics and cinematics (and the odd bit of sexual ambiguity), and he assembled his classic Spiders from Mars line-up for the first time. And the rest, as they say, is history!
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust
The one everyone has heard, and for good reason. Bowie’s classic glam rock opera about an alien and his band is an absolute classic, with 11 tracks of pure glam rock gold.
You’ve probably heard most of the hits already, but it’s worth sitting back and enjoying the album in one go. It’s one of the best concept albums of all time.
Station to Station
After killing off Ziggy Stardust and a brief stint as Aladdin Sane (who, confusingly, looked a lot like Ziggy Stardust), Bowie introduced the third and final character of his career: the Thin White Duke.
The Duke was, by Bowie’s own admission, ‘a very nasty character indeed’ and it comes through on Station to Station, which combines sleazy funk and soul with the ominous art-rock and ambience Bowie explored in his subsequent albums.
Fun fact: Bowie apparently remembers next to nothing about recording this album as he was taking a lot of a certain powdered substance at the time…
In the mid-70s, Bowie had something of a meltdown and ran off to Berlin. While he was there, he recorded three classic albums with famed ambient musician Brian Eno.
Of the 3, “Heroes” is arguably the most accessible. It maintains heavy Krautrock influences, and the second half is nearly all instrumental, but it’s slightly easier to digest and thus a better introduction to Bowie’s Berlin period than Low or Lodger.
Oh, and the title track’s pretty good too…
Bowie’s biggest selling album (with over 8 million copies worldwide) was produced with disco superstar Nile Rodgers – and it sounds like it too.
The title track and the New Romantic-tinged China Girl are the big hits here, but the rest of the album is equally likely to get you grooving too.
Unless you’re David Bowie, of course. The album led to Bowie spending the 80s producing more commercial material, a period he later described as his ‘Phil Collins years’. Poor Phil…
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