End of Chapter Six (1980-1987)

An explanatory note for (relatively) new readers: these very infrequent “chapter end” posts began back in 2009, when about eight people read this thing. They are a means to give me breathing space so I can write an overlong introductory piece for the upcoming phase of Bowie’s career, and to allow readers to praise and fight over their favorite songs from a particular period.

Problem is, I think it’s been too long since the last one (which ended with Lodger), so mercy, there are a lot of songs to go through. For this period, however, a lot of them aren’t great, so your list will likely narrow quickly. The inclusion of Scary Monsters utterly skews the ranking in my case. So have at it: list your best songs of the 1980-1987 period (Monsters to Never Let Me Down). Here’s my very Monsters-heavy list, extended to 15 because SM was such a dominant force:

Ashes to Ashes.
Up the Hill Backwards.
Modern Love.
It’s No Game (No. 1).
Under Pressure.
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).
Cat People (original).
Crystal Japan.
Blue Jean.
Let’s Dance.
Absolute Beginners.
The Drowned Girl.
Without You.

Top: Paul W. Locke, “Paul’s coworkers at Ferranti-Dege in Harvard Square, 1986.” (RIP Ferranti-Dege.)

34 Responses to End of Chapter Six (1980-1987)

  1. jopasso says:

    My 10 list in order

    1.Ashes to ashes
    2.Absolute beginners
    3.Under pressure
    4.Let’s dance
    5.It’s no game p.1
    6.Scary monsters
    7.Up the hill backwards
    9.Because you’re young
    10.It’s no game p.2

    Incapable to add more songs

  2. Ian McDuffie says:

    1. Teenage Wildlife
    2. Teenage Wildlife
    3. Teenage Wildlife
    4. Teenage Wildlife
    5. Teenage Wildlife
    6. Teenage Wildlife
    7. Teenage Wildlife
    8. Teenage Wildlife
    9. Teenage Wildlife
    10. Without You

    Okay, but in seriousness:

    1. Teenage Wildlife
    2. Ashes to Ashes
    3. Never Let Me Down
    4. Shades
    5. Up the Hill Backwards
    6. Without You
    7. Time Will Crawl
    8. Blue Jean
    9. Modern Love
    10. Cat People (Soundtrack)

    Yes, I’m defending “Without You.” I think that song has less fans than “God Only Knows.” It may be slight and harmless, but it’s on a through-and-through ‘pop’ album, and it certainly has more weight than “Shake It.”

    Bonus Points: here’s a young and innocent Me from 2008 covering Teenage Wildlife 😛

    I, since I’m number one contrarian in the house, am totally excited for the next Chapter. BRING IT ON, REEVES!

    • col1234 says:

      “without you” has really grown on me too—it booted “Time will Crawl” in my list.

  3. Diamond Duke says:

    Here’s my Top 20 David Bowie tracks from 1980-1987 (I hope that’s not pushing it! :D):

    -1. Teenage Wildlife
    -2. Absolute Beginners
    -3. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
    -4. Cat People (Putting Out Fire) (both versions)
    -5. Time Will Crawl
    -6. Up The Hill Backwards
    -7. Under Pressure [w / Queen]
    -8. Zeroes
    -9. Fashion
    10. Let’s Dance
    11. Ashes To Ashes
    12. Never Let Me Down
    13. As The World Falls Down
    14. Glass Spider
    15. It’s No Game (1 & 2)
    16. Dancing With The Big Boys
    17. Ricochet
    18. Blue Jean
    19. When The Wind Blows
    20. Loving The Alien

    Best cover tune of 1980-1987:
    Kingdom Come (Tom Verlaine)

    Worst cover tune of 1980-1987:
    Dancing In The Street [w / Mick Jagger] (Martha And The Vandellas)

  4. Remco says:

    1. Ashes to ashes
    2. Under Pressure
    3. It’s no game pt. 1
    4. Fashion
    5. Scary Monsters
    6. Absolute beginners
    7. Teenage Wildlife
    8. Up the hill backwards
    9. Modern Love
    10. Blue Jean

    Really glad the drabness of Never Let Down is over. I have to admit I stopped reading this blog for a short while. I’m not sure if it’s his nadir but NLMD is certainly my least favourite Bowie record. I’m up to speed now though and looking forward to Tin Machine….

  5. david says:

    Really looking forward to what you have to say about the Tin Machine years. Here’s mine

    1.Ashes to Ashes
    2.Teenage Wildlife
    3. The Drowned Girl
    3. Its no Game pt 1
    4. Because your young
    5. When the wind blows
    6. Loving the Alien
    7. Shades
    8. Under Pressure
    9. Richochet
    10. Time will crawl

  6. Shane James Bordas says:

    Ashes to Ashes
    Criminal World
    The Drowned Girl
    Loving the Alien
    Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)
    Teenage Wildlife
    This Is Not America
    Time Will Crawl
    Tumble And Twirl

  7. FrankZubmitra12 says:

    It’s No Game (1)
    Scary Monsters
    Ashes to Ashes
    Teenage Wildlife
    Under Pressure
    China Girl
    Cat People (OST/Moroder)
    This is Not America (7″)
    Absolute Beginners (7″ Vers)
    Loving The Alien (LP Vers)
    Time Will Crawl (Original ’87 Mix)
    It’s No Game (2)
    Is There Life After Marriage?

  8. scarymonster says:

    1. Ashes to Ashes
    2. Teenage Wildlife
    3. Absolute Beginners
    4. Let’s Dance
    5. Fashion
    6. Under Pressure
    7. Loving the Alien
    8. Ricochet
    9. Up The Hill Backwards
    10. Crystal Japan
    11. Without You
    12. Isolation
    13. This Is Not America
    14. Cat People (Moroder)
    15. Never Let Me Down

    Although I must admit I’d readily have had the entire Scary Monsters in the first 10 positions. And I vacilate between Without You and Criminal World (I think you were far too harsh about it).
    And of course, the China Girl video, with the overcoat and the erupting bowl of rice surely merits inclusion).

    But tonight, that list suits me nicely.

  9. timspeaker says:

    1. Ashes To Ashes
    2. Teenage Wildlife
    3. Modern Love
    4. Under Pressure
    5. Absolute Beginners
    6 Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
    7. Cat People (Putting Out the Fire)
    8. Blue Jean
    9. Fashion
    10. Because Your Young
    11 Time Will Crawl
    12. Loving The Alien
    13. It’s No Game Pt. 1
    14. Isolation
    15. China Girl
    16. Let’s Dance
    17. Scream Like A Baby
    18. Without You
    19. Shades
    20. Underground

    I also toyed with just going with Scary Monsters to start with. Again, thanks for the great site! I’ll be excited to get to the 90’s after a very interesting (I’m sure it will be) look at Tin Machine.

  10. MC says:

    Ok, here’s mine. Definitely skewed towards Scary Monsters, though pickings in this period are slim enough that myself I had no trouble keeping to 12. In no particular order (apart from the 1st on the list):

    Ashes To Ashes
    Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
    Teenage Wildlife
    Up The Hill Backwards
    Scream Like A Baby
    Modern Love
    Time Will Crawl
    Absolute Beginners
    the original Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
    Crystal Japan

    Best Iggy reworking: China Girl (by far)

    Best cover: The Drowned Girl (hell, why not most of Baal?)

    As a bit of a Tin Machine advocate myself, looking forward to the next phase, though I believe there’s one more Glass Spider-era track to come.

    • col1234 says:

      yes, one more. and the intro to TM song might surprise some, but it makes sense chronologically (sorta).

  11. MC says:

    Oh, crap, please insert It’s No Game (Pt. 1) into my list. (Guess it’s a Lucky 13.)

  12. David L says:

    Putting Scary Monsters up against the bulk of his 80s output is unfair. It’s like putting Adrian Gonzalez on the minor league all-star team because he spent a few days in rehab in Pawtucket. (You Brits can substitute the appropriate cricket/football/rugby analogy here)

    Naah, SM is from the 70s, whether you count that tenth year or not. So my list is entirely from 81 onward. Oh and I’m leaving out Iggy’s stuff too, mostly for the same reasoning.

    1. Absolute Beginners
    2. Let’s Dance
    3. Under Pressure
    4. Loving the Alien
    5. Dancing with the Big Boys
    6. Modern Love
    7. Without You
    8. Time Will Crawl
    9. Blue Jean
    10. Cat People

    That’s not a bad greatest hits album, actually, for most artists.

    • PH says:

      Yes, I decided to leave off Scary Monsters as well, otherwise it would take up the entire list. Instead, I’ve honed in (chronologically) on Bowie’s “fallow” years from 83-87.

      1. Let’s Dance
      2. Modern Love
      3. Criminal World
      4. Loving the Alien
      5. Tumble and Twirl
      6. Dancing With the Big Boys
      7. Absolute Beginners
      8. Underground
      9. As the World Falls Down
      10. Time Will Crawl
      11. Never Let Me Down
      12. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)

  13. atari 2600 says:

    1. Ashes to Ashes
    2. Teenage Wildlife
    3. Modern Love
    4. Under Pressure
    5. It’s No Game (No. 1)
    6. Because You’re Young
    7. China Girl
    8. Up the Hill Backwards
    9. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
    10. Blue Jean

  14. Derek says:

    I don’t know if I can pick one song, but my favorites are in no particular order:

    Ashes To Ashes
    Cat People (Original Soundtrack Version)
    Crystal Japan
    Modern Love
    Let’s Dance
    Under Pressure (though the live Reality Tour version is better IMO)

  15. Pierce says:

    Ashes to Ashes
    It’s No Game Pt 1
    Teenage Wildlife
    Scary Monsters
    Under Pressure
    Cat People (soundtrack)
    Let’s Dance
    China Girl
    Loving the Alien
    Absolute Beginners
    This is not America
    Never Let Me Down

  16. Jeremy says:

    I’ll give it a stab!

    Ashes to ashes
    Absolute Beginners
    Teenage Wildlife
    Time Will Crawl
    This is not America
    Under Pressure
    Up the hill Backwards
    Let’s Dance
    Without you
    Cat People (original)
    China girl
    Crystal Japan

    That’ll do

  17. Momus says:

    I’m going to say something embarrassing, but maybe it’s something many of us feel. Although he’s done lots of terribly disappointing things (most of them in Chapter Six), this is still the individual I love the most in the world, even more than members of my own family. He regularly appears in dreams as a friend and mentor. In the most recent of them I introduced him to my elderly relatives. “Oh,” they said, “you’ve brought David Bowie. That’s nice.” And they went back to reading their Sunday papers.

  18. Maj says:

    It’s weird mixing Scary Monsters with the later stuff…but anyway…in no particular (maybe a bit chronological) order:

    Ashes to Ashes
    It’s No Game Part 1
    Teenage Wildlife
    Because You’re Young
    Under Pressure
    Baal’s Hymn
    Modern Love
    China Girl
    Loving the Alien
    This Is Not America
    Absolute Beginners
    As the World Falls Down
    When The Wind Blows
    Time Will Crawl
    Never Let Me Down

  19. atari 2600 says:

    scarymonster mentioned the music video for “China Girl“ prompting this post since I feel that, at least according to my own sense of aesthetics, that the long-form “Jazzin for Blue Jean“ video is the this post since I feel that, at least according to my own sense of aesthetics, that the long-form “Jazzin for Blue Jean“ video is the best music video ever produced.

    At the risk of straying too far off topic and only to just to provide a sense of what other music videos I estimate as absolute standout efforts, here are a few that are almost of the same caliber:
    The Replacements – Bastards of Young, R.E.M. – Left of Reckoning and/or Feeling Gravitys Pull/Life and How to Live It, The Cure – Close to Me (Closer Mix), Sonic Youth – Disappearer/Titanium Exposé, Beastie Boys – Sabotage, Björk – Human Behaviour, Duran Duran – Rio, Michael Jackson – Billie Jean, Bruce Springsteen – Brilliant Disguise, Prince – Raspberry Beret, A-Ha – Take on Me, The Smiths – Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before & Nirvana – In Bloom

  20. Mother says:

    An underrated period in Bowie’s career in my opinion:

    Crystal Japan
    Play it Safe
    Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
    Scream Like a Baby
    Teenage Wildlife
    It’s No Game
    Baal’s Hymn
    Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
    Don’t Look Down
    Loving the Alien
    Dancing With the Big Boys
    Hide Away

  21. Brendan O'Lear says:

    A bit late on this but if we’re including Scary Monsters, I would have

    It’s No Game (pts 1 & 2) -not sure which I prefer
    Ashes to Ashes
    Up the Hill Backwards
    Scary Monsters
    The Drowned Girl
    Remembering Marie A
    Absolute Beginners
    This is not America

    … and at a stretch
    Loving the Alien

    … and if it’s allowed
    Crystal Japan

  22. 1. It’s No Game (Part 1)
    2. Ashes to Ashes
    3. Cat People
    4. Under Pressure
    5. Fashion
    6. Scream Like a Baby
    7. China Girl
    8. Loving the Alien
    9. Time Will Crawl
    10. Criminal World

  23. V. De Lay says:

    I have enjoyed reading this account of Bowie in the 1980s, but I have to say this is not how I remember it at all. This is what really happened.

    Following the blockbuster Serious Moonlight world tour Bowie was rushed into the studio in early 1984. EMI were eager to cash in on their newly minted superstar marquee act, and Bowie was eager to follow up Let’s Dance with another hit album. Unfortunately the exhausted Bowie had little left to give and the sessions did not go well. A series of producers were brought in to knock the material (dominated by covers) into shape, but none could do so to the satisfaction of Bowie himself. Nevertheless, EMI prepared their marketing campaign, even announcing the release of a new Bowie single, Blue Jean, for September that year.

    Their campaign in place, all EMI needed was the album, but Bowie and his string of producers demurred. A record of sorts was cobbled together, but at the very last minute Bowie (on the advice, allegedly, of long-time assistant Coco Schwab) pulled out of the project altogether citing stress and nervous exhaustion. EMI were livid and threatened to sue, but Bowie was adamant that the material for the album was not strong enough and refused to relent. Instead a compromise was reached and the label made do with the release of a double live album Serious Moonlight which did moderately well. His paymasters satisfied to a point, Bowie then withdrew from public life altogether, moving to his residence in Switzerland at the end of 1984 and staying there.

    Throughout the following year rumours about Bowie’s health (mental and physical) spread throughout the press, and public sightings of the fallen star (as the media portrayed him) were treated as major events. There was talk of involvement in numerous soundtrack projects, but nothing saw the light of day. A “where’s Bowie?” campaign was taken up by a number of music magazines, and scratchy bootleg cassettes of demos for the unfinished album (which legend holds was to be called Tonight) circulated amongst fans.

    In 1986 Bowie astonished everyone by announcing he would appear in Jim Henson’s children’s film Labyrinth, and would record a number of songs for the soundtrack. Unfortunately the project came to nothing and no film was ever released (decades later out-takes from the filming would become a YouTube sensation). This renewed stirring from the reclusive Bowie was soon followed by news that he was returning to the studio for the first time since 1982, and in the autumn of 1986 he commenced recording for Never Let Me Down.

    The album would consist of a number of tracks from the ill-fated Tonight sessions (including the now-legendary “lost Bowie single” Blue Jean), several tracks from his equally ill-fated soundtrack projects, along with a few newly written songs.

    The album was finally released in April 1987 to immediate acclaim. Never Let Me Down was an album that charted “…a doomed love affair at the end of the world”, and neatly captured the zeitgeist of the mid-1980s cold war paranoia and a nostalgia for simpler times with a mix of upbeat and darker tunes. Widely considered an exemplar of “high 80s” production, the album’s legacy was assured by the abundance of solid songcraft and soulful vocals. Never Let Me Down spawned no fewer than four hit singles for Bowie (including 3 British and 1 US number ones), with EMI milking its star for all he was worth. The album (number one in its own right around the world) further cemented Bowie’s reputation both artistically and commercially. Bowie later credited his three year hiatus as serving to both recharge his creative energies and to reaffirm his ‘mystique’ (“I was on the brink of over-exposure and only just withdrew in time” he told one interviewer in 1996). A hugely successful world tour followed. In 1989 Bowie once again confounded critics and fans alike by declining, once again, to follow a hit album with more of the same by forming the hard rock band Tin Machine: another leftfield move from an artist now firmly occupying the commercial centre stage.

    Never Let Me Down (*denotes single)
    1. Blue Jean*
    2. Time Will Crawl*
    3. As the World Falls Down*
    4. This is Not America
    5. Underground

    1. Absolute Beginners*
    2. Julie
    3. Never Let Me Down
    4. Loving the Alien
    5. Within You
    6. When the Wind Blows


  24. sirsha says:

    I am embarrassed that this seems like a singles compilation but here are my 10 in no particular order.

    Let’s Dance
    Under Pressure
    Loving the Alien
    This Is Not America
    Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
    Modern Love
    It’s No Game Pt. 2
    China Girl
    Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

  25. Teenwildlife says:

    You were doing so well until Without You appeared in your Top 15 – ah well nobody’s infallible!

  26. fluxkit says:

    1. Fashion
    2. It’s No Game Pt. 1
    3. Modern Love
    4. Cat People
    5. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
    6. Let’s Dance
    7. Under Pressure
    8. Ashes To Ashes
    9. Criminal World
    10.Loving the Alien

  27. fantailfan says:

    A comment about the photo: I worked at Ferrante-Dege in 1988, selling Apple computers in their Longwood Avenue store (long since swallowed by Beth Israel-Deaconess). Many musicians worked there over the years, partly because one of the owner’s sons is a member of Bim Skala Bim, and partly because the old photo store culture was a lot like the old record store culture.
    RIP Ferrante-Dege.

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