Poll, Day 2: Readers’ Favorite Bowiesongs, 100-51


“I’d better be impressed,” the taciturn man says as he turns on his laptop. So, here we go.

The issue with the lower stretches of the top 100 songs is, as you’ll soon see, that there are lots of tied songs. This isn’t often the case above the 50-song barrier. But get ready. If one of your picks is in a tie, well, you can say it’s the best of the bunch and no one can contradict you.

Let’s begin at Haddon Hall, 1971:

David Bowie in a dress, 1971 (3)

TIE: 100-99. Kooks. (30 points/votes).

Soul Love (30 points/votes).

98. Fascination (31 points, 27 votes, 1 #1 vote). Go Luther!

97. Watch That Man (32 points/votes).

96. Up the Hill Backwards (34 points/votes).

The vacuum created by the arrival of freedom
And the possibilities it seems to offer,
It’s got nothing to do with you, if one can grasp it.


Hey, it’s a TIE 95-94.

Everyone Says ‘Hi’ (35 points/votes).

Blue Jean (35 points, 31 votes, 1 #1 vote). A strategic #1 vote by a certain music writer.


If you want it, boys, it’s a THREE-WAY TIE, 93-91.

Hang Onto Yourself (36 points/votes (2 for live 1972 recordings, 1 for Stage)).

I’m Deranged (36 points/votes, 1 for Lost Highway edit).

New Killer Star (36 points, 32 votes, 1 #1 vote).


Yeah, well now it’s a FOUR-WAY TIE, 90-87.

Love Is Lost. (37 points/votes, 7 for the James Murphy remix).

Slow Burn (37 points/votes).

I Have Not Been to Oxford Town (37 points, 33 votes, 1 #1 vote). Toll the bell.

V-2 Schneider (37 points, 33 votes, 1 #1 vote).  “YES OKAY I PUT V2 SCHNEIDER AT NUMBER ONE OKAY WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME” email from its #1 voter.

37 Bowie a

What’s that? You say you want another FOUR-WAY TIE? 86-83.

Conversation Piece (38 points/votes, 7 specified the Toy version, 2 the original). One of the most surprising and loveliest of placings in the top 100. Well done, everyone: well done.

I’m Afraid of Americans (38 points/votes, 1 specified the Earthling version, 1 the NIN remix).

The Next Day (38 points, 34 votes, 1 #1 vote). Not quite dying indeed!

and another fun surprise:

Alternative Candidate (Candidate Demo), (38 points, 30 votes, 2 (!) #1 votes).


Ok, a break from the ties for a bit.

82. Cracked Actor (39 points/votes).

81. Heathen (the Rays) (42 points/votes). Bit of a surprise placement? More support than I expected.

80. China Girl (43 points, 39 votes, 1 #1 vote; 1 vote specified Iggy’s version, 1 Bowie’s).

79. Thru These Architects’ Eyes (44 points, 40 votes, 1 #1 vote).

78. Cat People (45 points/votes, 2 specified the Let’s Dance remake).

77. Diamond Dogs (46 points/votes).

76. DJ (48 points/votes).

75. Sunday (49 points/votes, 1 specified the Moby remix).


and presenting, the rookie of the year:

74. Blackstar (50 points/votes). For a song that debuted midway through this poll, this is a pretty damn impressive showing. The big question: had it come out a month earlier, how high would it have been?


Now the hitters get heavier:

73. All the Madmen (51 points/votes).

72. Red Sails (52 points, 40 votes, 3 #1 votes).

71. Hallo Spaceboy (53 points/votes, 3 specified the Pet Shop Boys remix, 2 specified “NOT the Pet Shop Boys remix”).

Well, it’s been so long, time for a THREE-WAY TIE: 70-68.

Sons of the Silent Age (54 points/votes).

Jean Genie (54 points, 50 votes, 1 #1 vote).

We Are the Dead (54 points, 50 votes, 1 #1 vote).


another high-speed TIE for 67-66.

Jump They Say (55 points/votes, 1 for “rock” mix).

Speed of Life (55 points, 51 votes, 1 #1 vote).


and a hard rocking glam TIE for 65-64.

John, I’m Only Dancing (56 points, 52 votes, 1 #1 vote).

The Width of a Circle (56 points, 48 votes, 2 #1 votes).


63. The Secret Life of Arabia (57 points, 53 votes, 1 #1 vote).  At one point, early on in the tabulations, this was in the top 30 songs, votes-wise. I knew that streak couldn’t last, but hey, I had no idea there was so much love for this one.

62. A New Career In a New Town (58 points/votes).


And a titan-clashing TIE, 61-60.

Under Pressure (60 points/votes, 1 specified the Dorsey-sung Reality Tour version).

The Motel (60 points, 48 votes, 3 #1 votes). Lights up, boys.


was rooting for this to do a little better than it did, but still..

59. Uncle Floyd/Slip Away (61 points/votes, 4 specified “Uncle Floyd”).

It’s a post-apocalyptic Che Guevara TIE for 58-57.

Panic In Detroit (63 points/votes).

Loving the Alien (63 points, 59 votes, 1 #1 vote; 2 votes specified early 2000s live versions, 1 vote specified the full version on Tonight).


Now the “too low!” yells from the crowd grow in number and fervor:

56. Lady Stardust (64 points, 52 votes, 3 #1 votes).

55. All the Young Dudes (66 points, 58 votes, 2 #1 votes; 1 vote specified Bowie live 1973, 2 specified Mott the Hoople, 2 specified Bowie live 2003.)

54. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). (68 points, 64 votes, 1 #1 vote).

53. Blackout. (69 points, 61 votes, 2 #1 votes).


And finally, a tie for the almost-made-it-ins (from the class of 1977), 52 and 51.

Beauty and the Beast (71 points, 67 votes, 1 #1 vote).

Subterraneans. (71 points, 47 votes, 6 #1 votes). Broke my heart: it was so close to the top 50 but couldn’t go the last 100 meters. The last ten votes compiled sealed its fate.

Next: Winners’ Outer Circle: Songs 50-26.

60 Responses to Poll, Day 2: Readers’ Favorite Bowiesongs, 100-51

  1. My #1 was #56 – too low!

  2. Shane James Bordas says:

    Ah, alas, so Subterraneans could have been a contender! It was my number 1 choice, but no matter. As far as I’m concerned, this whole list is made up of absolutely magnificent songs. Here’s to other tracks from ☆ making it on the next poll!

  3. ric says:

    Wooo! for Conversation Piece. And love the Ziggy action shot, with the machine head taped up on the 12-string.

    • Michael says:

      Conversation Piece is a stone-cold classic.

      It’s my maudlin go-to, and latterly I’ve found some empathy with the early version, having first come across the Toy track.

      Both equally have their place and as a pair seem like bookends to an adult lifetime of feeling.

  4. Galdo says:

    I just love polls and I enjoyed the reading a lot! I got very surprised with all these Heathen songs getting its place on top 100. Always thought the reception, even by the fans it was a bit lukewarm. My number #1 (Joe the Lion) isn’t on this list. Maybe it hit top10? I loved to see the Outside songs getting some #1 votes too.

    • BenJ says:

      I just want to second your point about the reading. Chris has done an amazing job with this blog all around. These are pieces I go back to again and again, even on songs that he and/or I aren’t too crazy about.

  5. I specified the OST version of Cat People but no instance of that is noted on the list… Not that every specification has to be indicated on the countdown, and it might be paranoia on my part but, did you receive my email, Chris?

    • col1234 says:

      Guido–sorry, forgot to mention that. I figured the majority of votes were for the original.

      I have a feeling i missed recording a few notes here and there: was more concerned with getting the numbers correct.

  6. Six of my picks made this segment: DJ (my number 9), We Are The Dead (my 13), Slip Away (my 16), Conversation Piece (my 18), All The Madmen (my 25), and Loving The Alien (my 29). I’m very happy so far.

  7. audiophd says:

    7 of my Top 30, and another 7 of my Top 50. Nice!

  8. Ten of my top 30 picks so far. My strategic #1 pick hasn’t showed up yet, which makes me hopeful!

  9. MC says:

    5 of my picks have made it on so far. I’m pleased that Thru These Architects’ Eyes made it in, and I’m surprised that Jean Genie was so low. The other 3 are placed about where I would have expected them to be (namely Panic In Detroit, The Next Day, and Uncle Floyd/Slip Away). I was one of the ones who specified Uncle Floyd, after much dark-night-of-the soul deliberation :), but Slip Away’s great too.

    I’m impressed with the quality of the picks overall. I think it’s great that so many instrumentals made it in, and I feel guilty that only one made it into my Top 30. I must say I found the album picks a lot easier than the Top 30 songs list, but my instinct was to go off the top of my head as much as possible, or I’d be working on it still.

    • BenJ says:

      “Jean Genie” was one of three AS tracks that I voted for. Might have gotten pushed off some other lists, though.

      I approached it the same way you did, basically. I had some songs I knew from the beginning I’d vote for, then I had a couple of brainstorming sessions to fill out the list. That meant some morning after regrets about songs I’d left off, but most of them I figured would still do pretty well.

      One surprise: I haven’t seen “Afraid” yet. As songs from proper Bowie albums go it’s fairly obscure – Wikipedia has no article for it – but apparently it’s at least on the outer edges of the winner’s circle.

      • BenJ says:

        Oh, looking over the other comments it strikes me netherworld for “Afraid” is still a likely option.

  10. gcreptile says:

    I find quite a lot of my songs in this list, well, 12, including my nr.1 and nr.2. Under Pressure is remarkably low, in my opinion. The non-fan audience would probably place it higher. And I’m curious which songs the Bowie-fan audience chooses. Heroes is an obvious choice for #1, but I didn’t have it in my list at all. And the hardcore Bowie fans might not quite be on board with it, because it’s “too popular” and might be voting for Station to Station, Teenage Wildlife, Ashes to Ashes, Life on Mars, or Ziggy Stardust instead.
    My first song to appear was Slow Burn, which carries personal weight for me.
    I obviously prefer the avantgarde stuff (1976-80) over the glam rock stuff (71-74), so I’m not surprised that some of my favorites didn’t quite make it that far. After all, my top 30 has no Ziggy Stardust, no Suffragette City, not even Space Oddity.

  11. princeasbo says:

    You are amusing Chris.

  12. Sylvia says:

    I must admit, I giggled at “3 specified the Pet Shop Boys remix, 2 specified “NOT the Pet Shop Boys remix””. And since I submitted my ballot in the hectic haze of a week before finals and am reading these results now in the even MORE hectic haze of finals week proper I can’t remember which songs were on my list with much specificity. It’s almost like I’m not invested in the results! Almost…

  13. Mike says:

    I so regret failing to participate. All I can do now is root for Lady Grinning Soul, Win, and Stay from the sidelines.

  14. Mike says:

    Also.. what a testament to his brilliance that other musicians would kill to have written these “runners up”

  15. Dave L says:

    Hm … I had “Sex and the Church” in my top 30, expected it to show up in the previous post … and when it didn’t show up, thought it must be in this list, but it’s not here either … I can’t believe that it would end up top 50. My entry must have gone to your spam filter 😦

  16. Lux says:

    Perfect illustrations and fab witty commentary as usual, Chris. I’m being hypnotized by Screaming Lord Byron. “Now the “too low!” yells from the crowd grow in number and fervor” Indeed! My #1 was All The Young Dudes”. I didn’t specify but the Mott version of course! Taste is a fickle and fascinating thing.

  17. Something about seeing other people also rooting for your own semi-obscure favorites is so wonderful.

    I almost voted for Jump They Say but second-guessed myself on the point that perhaps the video for it was exerting a bit too much influence on my decision.

    Secret Life of Arabia placing that high is great. It’s such a lark compared to the track before it, which feels like the real closer. Yet, at the same time, Secret is *also* clearly a closer. There’s something about that juxtaposition that just tickles me. I feel like my own ballot gave a certain extra weight to tracks where Bowie was having fun, and although Secret didn’t end up on mine it almost did thanks to that criterion.

    • Mike says:

      I agree about Secret. After all that, a few disco handclaps aren’t unwelcome. Also I like how it’s a taste of Lodger. Like, here’s the trailer for my next album..,

    • Patrick says:

      It also stretched the considerable vocal cords of Bowie fan, the late, great Billy MacKenzie though I prefer the original which I’m pleased to see in the list.
      Including that I got 9 of my 30 so far.

  18. Paul O says:

    Nice to see you (i.e., I didn’t vote for you) Kooks, Soul Love, Fascination, Watch That Man, Up the Hill Backwards, Hang Onto Yourself, I’m Afraid of Americans, DJ, Blackstar, Jean Genie, Jump They Say, John, I’m Only Dancing, Loving the Alien, All the Young Dudes, Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) and Beauty and the Beast!

    Too low, too low, my pets: Cracked Actor (82), Diamond Dogs (77), Panic in Detroit (57), Lady Stardust (56)! (None of these is my #1, which may or not make it into the top 50. I’m nervous…)

    But with so few placements from my list in the lower 100, I’m bound to be very happy with the top 50 (he said, knowing that there’ll be tears before bedtime tomorrow).

    (The #80 song is one I actually singled out for dishonorable mention at the end of my list…)

  19. Shane75 says:

    Under pressure: “1 specified the Dorsey-sung Reality Tour version” I specified the mwstw-single version aka the Outside Tour version. Pretty much the same version as Reality Tour, but nonetheless; hope you received my poll, Chris.

    Great list, quite a few surprises.

    • col1234 says:

      Shane–I’m sure I got your email, just was a bit scattershot on getting all the notes down. I’ll edit these entries once I’m done.

      • Shane75 says:

        Ah thanks, I understand. Just checking.

        Funny; I feel sorta glad to see others have included quite a few of my favorite db songs that didn’t make it to my list. Killing darlings (Secret life, red sails, architect eyes, jump, sons, blackout, everyone says hi, up the hill, dj). This list contains so many excellent songs, can’t wait to see the final 50 results.

      • ric says:

        How good is this run? 56-51; Lady Stardust, All the Young Dudes, Scary Monsters, Blackout, Beauty & the Beast, Subterraneans

        we’re not even in the top 50 yet

  20. Dave L says:

    I love seeing the wide range of #1 choices. Loving the Alien! Subterraneans! V-2 Schneider! I love it.

    Heartened that 3 chose Lady Stardust to be #1, that’s one of my faves too.

  21. President Joan says:

    So, six of my thirty in this fascinating list.
    98. Soul Love
    96. Up the Hill Backwards
    83. Alternative Candidate
    64. The Width of a Circle
    58. Panic in Detroit
    54. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
    Waiting for #1 … (Hope it didn’t fall in “that valley” …)

    • BenJ says:

      Six of mine, too.
      100. Kooks
      73. All the Madmen
      69. Jean Genie
      58. Panic in Detroit
      52. Beauty and the Beast
      51. Subterraneans

  22. Ran says:

    Such a beautiful list! And very diverse with albums, I guess the top 50 will be much more homogeneous with 70’s songs.

    I’m so glad Red Sails got three #1s. I’ve almost chosen it as no 1 as well, but then changed to Lady Stardust. Then I was afraid no one would choose Red Sails for their no 1, so I’m really glad to see other people appreciate it. And, by switching to Lady Stardust, I put it also at 3 #1’s (which is still much lower than I would expect). I was also surprised to see the Jean Genie ranks so low, another potential #1 for me.

  23. fantailfan says:

    I’m a bit surprised at “All the Young Dudes.” Bowie made the suit, but it fits Ian Hunter better. I didn’t consider it a “real Bowie” song until I saw that it was eligible.

    I punted one original for a cover (not of Neil Young); it will be interesting to see if it places.

    11 of my choices are in this 51-100 list.

    • Michael says:

      Interesting isn’t it…

      I find Bowie’s ATYD a much more nuanced performance that holds almost endless fascination for me.

      As a kid, I heard Mott’s version first and liked it a lot, but by comparison it’s straight up and down, in and out, pretty two dimensional to me.

      Discovering Bowie’s version years later was like dethroning the impostor.

  24. Anonymous says:

    I want to meet the wonderful individual who also voted for “Width of a Circle’ as Number 1 – we need our own fan club!!!

  25. I want to meet the wonderful individual who also voted for “Width of a Circle’ as Number 1 – we need our own fan club!!! (sorry forgot to login)

  26. Martin Lightnin Frightenin says:

    I voted for Conversation Piece. It’s such a wonderful lyric – a very sweet character study, full of such rich imagery that places you right there. Very sophisticated songwriting for such a young pup! The original arrangement is a bit lightweight though, so it’s the Toy re-recording that does it for me.
    6 of my choices are in so far. I had to go for All The Young Dudes – Bowie never did a great take, but it’s a brilliant bit of writing and one of his best songs from the glam era, and well, probably the greatest song from that era full stop.

  27. I completely forgot to consider Subterraneans for my top thirty, which is odd because a few years ago it would probably have made my top five. Speaking of which, I hugely regret not adding Alternative Candidate to my list. I definitely intended to. Though I am happy to see it has a decent number of supporters.

    Eight of my songs made this list. I was also one of the 53 responsible for voting The Secret Life of Arabia.
    The Motel was my #3. My top two have yet to make an appearance and I have a feeling at least one of them will rate very highly indeed.

  28. Deanna says:

    I voted for “Conversation Piece” and figured I’d be one of the only ones, so I’m mega pleased to see the love it got. The ‘Toy’ version is heartbreaking beautiful. It somehow seems even nicer in its obscurity.

    Whoever voted #1 for “New Killer Star” is my hero, what a champ. You rock that ‘Reality’ love.

    I aaaaaalmost voted for “Secret Life of Arabia” but ended up cutting it in favour of “It’s No Game” part 2…

    *snickers at “Diamond Dogs” scoring so low*

  29. SoooTrypticon says:

    Chris, great job curating this. I didn’t expect a list of things so familiar to be this much fun… but then again, your blog is a testament to that. Bittersweet that it’s coming to a close- but what a thing you’ve done (:

  30. Bruised Passivity says:

    As I was reading through very thorough list of songs above I kept thinking “that was almost on my list”. Streamlining down to only 30 songs sooo tough! At this point only 5 of my votes have registered. (I must have a far more ‘mainstream’ Bowie palate than I realized.)

    1. Up the Hill Backwards (34)
    2. Slow Burn (37)
    3. Conversation Piece (38) 1 of the 7 who prefer the Toy version
    4. Sunday (49)
    5. Sons of the Silent Age (54)

  31. Adhesive says:

    I’m glad Secret Life of Arabia is actually on here… I think it’s brilliantly irreverent.

  32. Michael says:

    This is great fun, thank you Chris.

    (From someone with love for Secret Life of Arabia)

  33. Maj says:

    It’s a great list. Never realised how many people here like the less obvious (but not obscure) songs I do – The Next Day for instance. Really surprised it got so many votes (1 of mine). Ditto for All the Madmen (even though that one is on an album from the Golden Oldie era).

    So glad to see Jump They Say get quite a lot of votes. I’d have that one in my Top 35 but ended up having to kick it out of the 30. It’s such a brilliant song. Whenever it came on in the days after I sent the poll I would feel incredibly guilty. So now I’m glad to see my vote wouldn’t have made that much of a difference. There’s love for it here all right.

    I voted for quite a few of the songs on the lower half of the 100. Sigh. I’m so mainstream…and it’ll only get worse.

  34. Vinnie says:

    JUST LISTENED TO “LAZARUS” – *HOLY HELL* – this is Bowie?

    Ahem, anyway–
    “Sons of the Silent Age” is so low. So low – breaks my heart.
    “Joe The Lion” isn’t listed — is it #1? (Please say yes)
    “Soul Love” barely in the top 100? Damnnn – best song on Ziggy

    I love seeing what everyone voted for, we’re an eclectic lot. (Spit on my grave if any of the mainstream songs are #1, though)

  35. Anonymous says:

    So, who was The Idiot who put Iggy’s version as their #1 pick?

    ……(raises hand meekly)…

  36. No “Velvet Goldmine”? I wouldn’t expect it in top 50 – but not at all? Strange.

    • Bruised Passivity says:

      According to Chris’s spreadsheet VG got 26 votes putting in the more than 1 vote and not enough to get into top 100 ranking. Great track though, I’m a little surprised it ranked that low as well.

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