Album Poll, Day 3: 10-1

David Bowie

It’s the end. The album poll’s Top 10 results show that even for as diverse a group as Bowie fans are, the power of consensus is mighty and vast.

It’s interesting to note some rises and falls in fashion: album #4 likely would have been atop any Bowie LP survey until, maybe, 1995? As late as 1990, some critics considered the top-ranked album akin to The Buddha of Suburbia. And #9 wouldn’t have made the list as recently as five years ago, I’m betting.

Presenting: the Top 10 Favorite Bowie Albums, as determined by about 350 people at the end of 2015.

dblodg

10. Lodger (207 points, 179 votes, 7 #1 votes).

The true ‘lodger,’ the refugee from everywhere, would have more to say, more at stake, and could never be so passionless, so facile. There is still good music here, well-played, unusual, once in a while excellent. The LP is easy to listen to because it rarely challenges the listener; it only baits you with slick and highly embossed surfaces. It is not really a departure from Low and ‘Heroes’, but a rejection of their serious nature.

Paul Yamada, LP review, New York Rocker, 1979.

The oft-overlooked Lodger…is slight to the point of invisibility, ten tracks in 35 minutes with nary a grand statement in sight. And upon its release, everyone—Bowie, Eno, Adrian Belew, Carlos Alomar, the record label—was underwhelmed.  I come, however, not to bury Lodger but to praise it. We’ve had decades for the album to ingratiate itself to our ears, and it has been (partially) successful—Belew, for example, now dubs it “the greatest thing Bowie has given to the world”. It is perhaps the great lost Bowie album, with not a single dud to be found in the ten songs and maybe the finest second half of any of his efforts.

Ian Mathers, 2004.

And here’s the only post-1980 album to crack the Top 10. Your latter-day canonical pick is…

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9. 1. Outside (234 points, 162 votes, 18 #1 votes).

The new album is called Outside and what Brian and I were trying to achieve more than anything else was an album that was made up of components that were bitten off from the periphery of the mainstream, rather than jumping into the middle of what’s kind of artistically and commercially known.

Bowie, 1995.

If we were proper fine artists, we would be terribly concerned about which school we belonged to. The advantage the popular arts have is that they are not ideologically proud.

Eno, 1995.

I don’t think it’s easily accessible at all [laughs], and it’s 75 minutes, which is extremely long by most current CD standards, but, frankly, I don’t think accessibility was something that was at the top of our list when we were making it. I think, as always, when Brian and I work together, we tend to work very much for our own enjoyment and for whatever fulfillment we get out of it. We just hope and presume that somebody else will also like the things we find interesting.

Bowie, 1995.

from Oxford Town back to Hunger City…

bowietour

8.  Diamond Dogs (259 points, 215 votes, 11 #1 votes).

Diamond Dogs useta make me laugh; right now it scares the shit out of me.

Charles Shaar Murray, 1975.

A guitar chimes in, another churns the rhythm along, and a sax section blows a storm. All played by D. Bowie.  “Angie bought me a baritone sax, so I’ve got the whole set now and I can do a brass section,” David later informs me, “and I play all the guitars on this one, except for one bit on ‘1984’ which is Alan Parker.” He’s also playing a series of mellotrons and moog synthesizers, which give the first side of the album a ghostly mechanical effect. Between tracks you can hear those machines whirring and clicking away. They create the impression of a machine society, and yet it’s still strange that an album which is about the break-down of an over-mechanized society should rely so heavily upon machines. None of this album would be possible without 16-track tape machines, sophisticated recording studios, mellotrons, and moogs.

Rock, 1974.

His favorite album of his own – and always has been, no matter what he says in interviews – is Diamond Dogs.

A source familiar with Bowie.

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7. Aladdin Sane (276 points, 232 votes, 11 #1 votes).

Aladdin Sane was a result of my paranoia with America at the time. I hadn’t come to terms with it, then. I have now, I know the areas I like best in America…And I’m quite happy over here. I found different people.

But I ran into a very strange type of paranoid person when I was doing Aladdin. Very mixed up people, and I got very upset. It resulted in Aladdin … And I know I didn’t have very much more to say about rock’n’roll. I mean Ziggy really said as much as I meant to say all along. Aladdin was really Ziggy in America. Again, it was just looking around, seeing what’s in my head.

Bowie, 1974.

Besides the fact we were in a different country, city, studio and I couldn’t touch the board, the general feel of the [Aladdin Sane] sessions in New York was a bit strange as well. For whatever reasons, it happens frequently that some members of English bands touring the States for the first time get involved in cults or religions.

Ken Scott.

Now, a set of albums that fought like scrappy (diamond) dogs for the 6-4 slots (they were often tied during the vote tallying):

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6. Scary Monsters (342 points, 258 votes, 21 #1 votes).

[Scary Monsters is] Bowie’s decision to take his work in rock & roll seriously. Anyone who goes to New York takes his work seriously — the city certainly has that effect. So his return to a degree of involvement with New York, I think, is very healthy.

Robert Fripp, 1980.

There are an awful lot of mistakes on that album that I went with, rather than cut them out. As much as possible, [one wants] to put oneself on the line artistically, ever since the Dadaists, who pronounced that art is dead. Once you’ve said art is dead, it’s very hard to get more radical then that. Since 1924 it’s been dead, so what the hell can we do with it from there on? One tries to at least keep readdressing the thing and looking at it from a very different point of view.

Bowie, 1980.

dbhres

5. “Heroes” (349 points, 253 votes, 24 #1 votes).

[Bowie] writes them in the studio now. He goes in with about four words and a few guys, and starts laying all this stuff down and he has virtually nothing—he’s making it up in the studio.

John Lennon, 1980.

I listened to the record for 72 hours. Day and night. Watching tv and in my sleep. Like Station To Station and Low, Heroes is a cryptic product of a high order of intelligence. Committed to survival….His new work is not immediately accessible but neither was Exile on Main Street. Beauty and the Beast is a shock that is eventually absorbed into shining acceptance. Joe the Lion is startling too, and stretched out by some great guitar. It takes some time to get under the skin…Records sound different in Europe. I think the turntables are faster. There’s more treble.

Patti Smith, 1978.

smith

4. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (352 points, 256 votes, 24 #1 votes).

Ziggy was this kind of megalomaniac little prophet figure who came down to tell us it was all over. We never quite sure whether he meant it or not, whether he was from outer space or not.

Bowie, 1980.

What you have there on that album, when it does finally come out, is a story which doesn’t really take place…it’s just a few little scenes from the life of a band called Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars…who could feasibly be the last band on Earth. It could be within the last five years of Earth…I’m not at all sure. Because I wrote it in such a way that I just dropped the numbers into the album in any order that they cropped up. It depends in which state you listen to it in. The times that I’ve listened to it—I’ve had a number of meanings out of the album…but I always do. Once I’ve written an album, my interpretations of the numbers in that album are totally different afterwards than the time that I wrote them, and I find that I learn a lot from my own albums about me.

Bowie, US radio interview, early 1972.

Before reaching the throne room, we pass through a small conservatory…

dbhunky

3. Hunky Dory (389 points, 265 votes, 31 #1 votes).

He really started to think about how he was going to have a kid. That was interesting to him. He got along very well with his father, so from that relationship, he had an optimistic prognosis on what it was going to be like. It wasn’t a scary thing for him. ‘Changes’ and ‘Eight Line Poem’ were about that. And of course, ‘Kooks’.

Angela Bowie.

The songs were more structured. Honestly, I didn’t think he had these songs in him.

Woody Woodmansey.

When Hunky Dory came out, I took one look at the album cover – a soft, vague picture of the artist looking soft and vague – and anticipated a soft, vague sensibility. Instead, Bowie turned out to be an intelligent, disciplined, wry Lou Reed freak.

Ellen Willis, 1972.

Which leaves us with…what you might have expected. The mid-1970s were Bowie’s golden age, at least according to this poll. Check out the numbers!

stat

2. Station to Station (593 points, 293 votes, 75 #1 votes).

If Bowie was James Brown he could well have entitled the second, up-tempo half of Station To StationDiamond Dogs ’76.” The dominant sound of this album overdubs the claustrophobic guitar-strangling garage band chording of Dogs (plus, to a lesser extent, the howling, wrenching lead guitar of The Man Who Sold The World) over the itchy-disco rhythms of the Young Americans album, while Bowie’s vocals evoke the lugubrious, heavily melodramatic vibratoed almost-crooning of Scott Walker.

Charles Shaar Murray, LP review, NME, 1976.

I love this record. I love it because it rocks like a bitch, because it has stupid lines like “It’s not the side effects of her [sic] cocaine. I’m thinking that it must be love”, and because Bowie has the sense of humour to not only mumble half the songs, but mix them so low down it’s impossible to make out a word.

John Ingham, LP review, Sounds, 1976.

We tried to keep [Station to Station] on a private basis…We started at 10 or 11 at night and went to anywhere from eight in the morning to whatever, 36 hours later. David knows exactly what he wants, it’s just a matter of sitting there and doing it till it’s done…David knows a great deal about technical things. He doesn’t know everything, he’s not an engineer, but he knows more about arranging a song, he knows more about how to relate to people and get what he wants out of them…If you listen to the rhythms specifically on this album, there are very strange things going on rhythmically between all the instruments… If nothing else, David’s a genius when it comes to working out rhythmic feels. He was the mainstay behind it all.

Harry Maslin.

and lastly, your all-time #1 (at least for today).

lo

1. Low (621 points, 305 votes, 79 #1 votes).

On this album David Bowie achieves the ultimate image-illusion available to an individual working within the existing cultural forms of the West. He vanishes. The first impression Low imparts to the listener is that he is somehow hearing it sideways.

Ian MacDonald, LP review, NME, 1977.

I loaded the second side of Bowie’s Low onto the cassette deck. Those ominous Berlin synthesizer sounds were probably never imagined as a soundtrack for a dawning stretch of highway on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, but they seemed perfect for my alien mood.

Elvis Costello, Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink.

When you say ‘avant-garde’, you fall into a category of no melodies, very bizarre-sounding stuff, and [Low] is not like that at all. Some of it is very pretty, some of it is very up…

RCA PR exec to Wesley Strick, Circus, 1977.

It was a dangerous period for me. I was at the end of my tether physically and emotionally and had serious doubts about my sanity. But this was in France. Overall, I get a sense of real optimism through the veils of despair from Low. I can hear myself really struggling to get well.

Bowie, 1999.

And that’s it. Thanks to all who voted. No more polls! (Never again: my hat’s off to anyone who works in data entry.) We’ll be back with an open thread for Blackstar on Friday. I also should be on Norman B‘s radio show on Sunday to talk about my first impressions.

My ballot (I didn’t vote in the poll, though).

Photos: Mostly Discogs. Bowie holding “Heroes” (Claude Vanheye); Robert Smith and Ziggy (couldn’t find photog credit: via a Cure Tumblr); Bowie and Hunky Dory (Mick Rock).

101 Responses to Album Poll, Day 3: 10-1

  1. i didn’t vote but, had i voted, it would have been for ‘LOW’.

  2. gcreptile says:

    Thank you for your work!
    I might be a bit disappointed that Scary Monsters polls relatively “low”, and would have been content to see it in the place of Ziggy Stardust, even if it was my #1, if I recall correctly. Still, at the top, my favorite album depends on the day. With Low and Station to Station always in the mix. Station to Station is the Bowie cult-album, isn’t it? A bit like Pink Floyd’s Animals, the one that the fans get more than others. Low was the artistic breakthrough that put Bowie into favour with the avantgarde. He did not glam-rock himself into oblivion, did not go down the plastic soul route into eventual Scott Walker-esque ballad-covering by the dozen. He did not overdose on an even icier version of Station to Station, but instead calmed down, oozed out the poison, and let his overstimulated mind on withdrawal do the music.

  3. alex says:

    I was so enthralled by reading this list that I’d actually forgot Low existed until I scrolled and saw it at #1. Ever the contrarian, my top three are Diamond Dogs, Outside, and Hunky Dory, and I wished they’d ranked higher, but I’m happy with this.

    Noting the high rank of both Low and Outside here, I wonder how many voters came to Bowie by way of Reznor?

    • Waki says:

      i am not sure what you mean. i dont listen to rock or pop for decades and heard of Raznor after Bowie passed away. LOW is yet for me great classical universal music. I mean the B side.
      But i agree that his work can be confusing.
      I think it is not meant to be pondered about but received raw in our system.
      And yet analysing it sometimes helps getting in.
      yep … confusing too.

  4. Thank you for doing this, Chris. Low is a very worthy winner, but so would be any album from the top 11. Outiside did well. Who’d have thought it? For a while it was my least favourite 90s album, but time has happily changed that.

  5. fantailfan says:

    With apologies to Momus.
    1. My draft list had Station to Station, but I switched to Low. My predicted list from yesterday was wrong except for 1, 6 and 7, but generally right. My predicted top 5 and “bottom” 5 were correct, if in different order.
    2. Acclaimed Music has Ziggy (#16 overall, #2 for the year behind the obvious) as the most recommended Bowie album, followed by Hunky Dory (#66), then Low (#100).
    3. Every 1969-1983 Bowie album is on their list (top 100 for each year), plus The Next Day (which is #11 for 2013).
    4. Bowie is the most recommended 1970s artiste, and #4 overall, behind the usual suspects. Those three are also ranked in the same order for the 1960s, which tells you just how ossified rock/pop criticism is. Only one band started after 1980 is amongst the top ten most recommended.

  6. audiophd says:

    I went with Low as my #1, but it just as easily could have been Hunky, Ziggy, or Station. Along with the Top 100 Songs, I would submit to these rankings over any previously published “expert” lists, they’re that good. Kudos!

  7. V2David says:

    Great poll. The remarks on top were spot on. I remember going to a Bowienet concert in NY where he played the entire Low album and half the crowd didn’t know what to do with themselves (and this was presumely die-hard Bowie fans)! My how times have changed! But hard to argue with any of these and I wouldn’t have been too surprised to see numerous titles #1 because these albums are that great, and in many cases, very different.

    Ziggy, Hunky Dory (my #1), Low, Station to Station, Diamond Dogs … They all could easily have been #1.

    P.S. I am embarrassed I left Station to Station off my Top 10. Even though my Top 10 was in the Top 12, I had no business leaving Station to Station off my list.

  8. Low is in the top spot and, at least for a moment, everything is right in my world. I expected the top 3 to be Ziggy, Hunky Dory and Low, I was pleasantly surprised by Station To Station having such a strong showing! Overall I think the albums list turned out great, my only disappointment was seeing Hours chart so low.

    Chris, you’ve done a titan’s work, both with the poll and with the blog in general, my hat goes off to you! And even though I guess you’re looking to take a well-deserved break from it once you wrap TND up, I hope there is more new Bowie music on the horizon for a long time to keep you coming back every now and then!

  9. Patrick says:

    I still cant get any affection for Lodger, though it has some decent tracks too many just wash over me and leave me cold. I now appreciate some tracks on Outside due to this blog’s coverage but the actual original album when I heard it on release I found tedious and distracting with its segues. Biggest surprise to me in the songs poll was the popularity of Always Crashing in the Same Car, a track I usually completely forget about from Low.
    I agonised over my top album: Was it Hunky Dory, where the DNA of virtually everything that came after was set and a great 70s “piano” album? Or Scary Monsters, when the stakes seemed so much higher , the old musical establishment pedestals increasingly wobbly , would he become obsolete or did he still have it in him? Or an album I more recently grew to know better, STS, with his most compelling yet ambiguous persona?
    As said, it can depend what day it is.

    My 10 albums
    Station to Station (my top album (that day at least) the rest in random order)

    Hunky Dory
    Rise and fall of Ziggy Stardust
    Aladdin Sane
    Heroes
    Low
    Scary Monsters
    Lets Dance
    Diamond Dogs
    Young Americans

    • ecsongbysong says:

      Weird timing, given that you bring it up: on the subject of “Almost Crashing,” I went to see “Lazarus” last night and felt similarly about its appearance there. Most of the show’s songs are extremely familiar, but that one feels like a curveball, and harrowing as the song is, it’s used in the show almost as comic relief. It comes out of nowhere and, as sung by Cristin Milioti, it’s oddly hilarious. (Her entire plotline is kind of Bottom’s from “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” with a blue dress instead of an ass’s head.) All this is to say that it’s strange to think that Bowie himself might think of that song as a comedy. I suspect sometimes that if he was really put to the screws and had to name his favorite of his songs — we could, I suppose, always ask that “source familiar with Bowie” — he would say “Always Crashing” is the one.

      But while I’m commenting, can I ask Chris where that Lennon quote comes from?

      • col1234 says:

        the last-ever interview, with Peebles: http://bowiegoldenyears.com/articles/801206-lennon.html

        quote was in reference to Young Americans but it applies just as well to Heroes, so i used it

        also, Milioti having Bottom’s storyline in Lazarus is absolutely on the money! it’s a really bizarre performance that borders on farce at times

      • ecsongbysong says:

        Got it. That’s the one where he seems almost — and rightly — embarrassed by “Across The Universe,” right? I wondered if by any chance he’d poked his head in on “Scary Monsters” sessions and I’d never heard about it.

  10. crayontocrayon says:

    Diamond Dogs was my top pick, it’s the album that is most Bowie, most personal and leaning the least on his fellow musicians – with all the strain and struggle that comes with that. Also I’m not sure if anyone else feels it, but we’re living in a kind of dystopian future, so in my head it’s the soundtrack of modern times.

    • MC says:

      Agreed on the personal thing and the soundtrack of modern times thing, CtoC. I love Diamond Dogs, and it would definitely have made my top 10 had DB not come out of retirement. In the way it overlaps personal and social breakdown, it anticipates later dystopian masterpieces like Closer and Ok Computer, while still including in its ranks one of the most infectious slabs of classic rock of all time. (I mean Rebel Rebel, of course.)

  11. Robert says:

    Interesting you should say that. My first reaction to “The Next Day” was that it was a very frightened record from someone who felt the world of “Diamond Dogs” had become all too real.

  12. Maj says:

    Didn’t vote for Aladdin and Heroes (bc. I just don’t like them quite as much…probably less than Heathen and Hours which also didn’t make my top 10), and was a bit should I shouldn’t I about Ziggy (I just never listen to it any more, songs yes, not the whole album) – so consider Ziggy my no. 10 but otherwise….look how in tune with my fellow Bowie fans I am! Frightening.

    Low was my no 1 album. It was between it and Scary Monsters, but decided for Low in the end (that wouldn’t be the case even probably 5 years ago). Low is my play-it-while-doing-noise-less-housework-activities album. So of all of Bowie’s albums, I listen to it, in full, the most often.
    I didn’t vote for any Low songs in the song poll…bc. a) was a good way to spare myself some of the agony b) it really does work for me as a whole, rather than just the sum of its parts.

    I’d like to see Scary Monsters higher, esp above bloody Heroes (of the so called Berlin trilogy my least favourite), but hey. Otherwise I agree, and am happy with the results.

  13. Gozomoto says:

    “(at least for today)” indeed. I couldn’t even bring myself to order my albums or song picks when I sent them, offering a #1 and “all the rest” for both lists, and even then my #1 was subject to change if I were caffeinated or not, working on it at night or in the morning, manic or sedated, listening to something in particular or just my own thoughts….

    Best use of my time in 2015 for sure, though. Thanks to Chris (poll and blog in general) for such an enjoyable way to spend my free time.

    • BenJ says:

      Yeah, I couldn’t order mine either. If Chris had weighted list rankings so that the #1 got 30 points and #30 got only one, I never would have been able to vote.

      BTW, I love the Costello quote for Low.

  14. Zach Hoskins says:

    I didn’t vote, but so happy to see Diamond Dogs and Station to Station rank so highly. The more I think about it, that weird no man’s land between Ziggy and Eno is probably my favorite era.

  15. MC says:

    Ok, it’s interesting to see how much my picks fall in the mainstream of fan opinion. My top 8, in ascending order: Lodger, Aladdin Sane, Scary Monsters, Hunky Dory, Low, Ziggy Stardust, Heroes, and my number one, Station To Station.

    Some thoughts on the polling:

    1) I’m really glad that Lodger and Heroes ranked as high as they did. Lodger is often cited as one of DB’s most underrated, but Heroes is possibly even more unappreciated, an unusual case of an album dwarfed by its most famous track, so good to see it coming in so far up the list.

    2) While we’re on the subject of dystopian albums, I guess the one top 10 choice I’m iffy on is 1. Outside. For me, half that album is absolutely brilliant, and half falls squarely in the admirable but unlistenable category. Still, I’m glad it’s in there, and I’m certainly willing to concede how important it is to younger generations of Bowie fans. I’m someone who got into Bowie in a big way right before Scary Monsters came out, so that could explain why the late 70’s era is the benchmark for me, just as glam-era fans might rate Ziggy more.

    3) That being said, I guess the overall consensus is that the two Imperial phases are, roughly, ’71-’73 and ’76-’80. Again, I would not disagree with said consensus.

    4) Very curious where Blackstar will rank in DB album polls to come!

    P.S. Chris, were you inclined to do a Chapter End for 2000-2014, where everyone submits their favourite songs for the era? Could be interesting to see the results of that, though I understand if you don’t want to look at more lists for a while.

  16. fluxkit says:

    Maybe I was just not thinking clearly, but I’m surprised to see Low at number 1. I figured it would be close between Scary Monsters and Station to Station. Low is a nice record, but I don’t find it very “favorite” material. I probably do listen to Buddha of Suburbia more. Anyhow, interesting stuff. The top 11 is probably what I would have figured, in some order.

    • steven says:

      for reasons I can’t fathom Low, Heroes, Ziggy and Aladdin Sane have never quite clicked with me. I’ve heard Tin Machine II more times than those albums combined. I’ve tried, dear god I’ve tried.

      • Frank says:

        Works a bit similar for me: Ziggy – did not really work for me (though I loved Hunky Dory!).

        Aladdin Sane: Ok, but only 2 songs really touch me (the title track and Lady Grinning Soul).

        Heroes: I really like it, especially all the “sung” songs, and I feel very much ashamed that “Heroes” ranks at the last place for me among them – can anyone please explain that? I do recognize it is unique with its feedback guitar wall of sound, but anyway…

        Low… is a masterpiece. My No. 2 of his records, after Hunky Dory. And even before Diamond Dogs… but then: He made so many brilliant records and songs!

        Well, in the end it does not really work similar for me, sorry. Especially since I did not listen more to Tin Machine II than to the albums mentioned above, but I did get your point….

      • Paul O says:

        I feel very much ashamed that “Heroes” ranks at the last place for me among them – can anyone please explain that?

        “Heroes” is just too overplayed and overpraised for me. I never thought it was as good a “sung” song as “Life on Mars” or “Lady Grinning Soul” and not as powerful an anthem as “Rebel Rebel” or “Changes.” And when the similar but more potent “Teenage Wildlife” appeared a few years later, “Heroes” receded further into the background for me.

      • steven says:

        Share your thoughts on the title track and Lady Grinning Soul being the picks from Aladdin Sane Frank. AL didn’t trouble my top 10 but Lady Grinning Soul was my number 1 pick.

        Prefer the David Live version of Aladdin Sane though

      • Anonymous says:

        Same for me, but Ziggy was in my top 5 probably.

        I don’t get all the fuss about Station to Station though, I mean the title track is amazing, but only ‘Word on a Wing’ and ‘Stay’ are memorable.

      • Vinnie says:

        Anonymous, I’ll give you “TVC15”, but I will *not* give you “Golden Years.” Come on, Golden Years! It’s perfect!

      • rob thomas says:

        ooh- can’t bear that David Live version of Aladdin Sane! (not that you should care, just sayin’…)

  17. billter says:

    Just a random anecdote, while we’re talking about Bowie albums…last weekend I had to make a long drive with two restless teenage girls in the back seat. (My stepdaughter and her BFF, get your minds out of the gutter.) Things were getting a little tense until I remembered the CD of “Hunky Dory” and “Ziggy” that I always keep in the car for emergencies (“Kooks” has to go in this configuration, I’m sorry about that, but the album does flow nicely without it). For the next 80 minutes everybody was calm and happy and singing along, and next thing I knew we were almost there.

    “Station to Station” and “Low” wouldn’t have done that. Don’t get me wrong, I love them both; on any given day, “Station” has an even chance of being named my favorite Bowie album. But in terms of cultural impact and universality, it’s “Hunky” and “Ziggy” all the way.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Station to Station, Second Place, Silver Medal, similar to the song…

  19. cansorian says:

    I know it was hard work Chris, but this poll has been an absolute blast!

    When you first announced it on the blog I thought, “Hmm, a poll, I guess that might be interesting, when I have a chance a I’ll just knock off a quick couple of lists”. Possibly one of the more delusional thoughts I’ve had in a while. When I finally got around to the task it was three weeks of absolute torment agonizing over what song/album to cut. And so while it was torture whittling down my initial song list of 150 to a qualifying 30 and then finally deciding to kick off Ziggy to get to 10 for the album pole, I have to say it was the most fun torture I’ve had in a long while.

    When the results finally started coming in I couldn’t believe how much unexpected utter delight I had in reading each set of results. From the one-vote wonders in the song poll to the final crowning of Low in the album poll, each blog post has put a huge smile on my face. Thanks for the wonderful Holiday treats!

    The album I kicked Ziggy off for was Pin Ups, mainly for two sentimental reasons. One, it’s seems just so unloved, even by the fans, for an album that I think is just great fun and two, my grandmother bought it for me. She knew I liked Bowie’s music but I never told her that I wanted that album, just one day in 1973 she happened to see it in the record store window by her home, walked in and bought it for me. I really wish I could have been there to see the clerk’s reaction when my dear sweet 65 year old grandmother brought an album with one the strangest covers of it’s time up to the counter for purchase. I really hope she didn’t tell him it was for her grandson.

    Aladdin Sane was my top album pick, also for sentimental reasons. Being a 14 year old boy in macho America in 1973 you really took a lot of grief for being a David Bowie fan. When he releases an album with a that shows him with a face full of make-up and centerfold that has him naked with missing genitalia it doesn’t get any better. But you do what you should do; you defiantly wear your peer’s scorn as a badge of honor, while trying to avoid getting your ass kicked. This past Thanksgiving while in the midst of thinking about the poll I walked past my 17 year old daughter’s bedroom and there on the wall was a new poster sized image of the Aladdin Sane album cover. I had no idea she even liked Bowie. So that cinched it, my number one album pick.

  20. Damn, I lost my bet. It was one or the other, and I chose the other. But the top 3 (1-2-3) is my top three (3-1-2).

  21. Vinnie says:

    Low? Swoon.

    With David Bowie fans, there are no losers, we’re all winners here.

    “Deep in your room, you never leave your room…”

  22. Sky-Possessing Spider says:

    Disappointing, but not at all surprising.

  23. Matthew says:

    I have to agree with much of cansorian’s comments above, the music has such a strong emotional tie that has a lot to do with when we first heard these albums. If you had asked my mid teenaged self for a favorite Bowie album it would have been a straight fight between Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory but then I got more into science fiction (esp. Phillip K Dick and Micheal Moorcock) and so Diamond Dogs would have taken their place.
    Then the massive excitement of Scary Monsters. Heavily into Bowie, Eno, Talking Heads, Patti Smith etc. and with my mate a massive Robert Fripp fan the stakes couldn’t get any higher. So what did I get? An album with 4 tracks on side one and 3 on side two that tried to shoehorn their way straight into my top ten favorite Bowie tracks.
    So today if I’m asked, my heart says Diamond Dogs but my head says Scary Monsters – Masterpiece from beginning to end

    Now a question; Stationtostation – would it still rate so high without that awesome title track?
    I’ve really tried with this album but I only like that track and TVC15 and then I prefer the Stage versions, stick on side 2 and you get those and Fame as well! I feel like I’ve missed out on some secret knowledge here – Help needed!

    Thanks to Chris on an amazing effort, we all need to show support and buy the book(s). When family ask what I want for my birthday…..

    • Vinnie says:

      Don’t let me hear you say life’s, leading you nowhere (Angel!)

      —yes, always, forever

      Imagine if Bowie replaced the title track with another STS-period song, e.g. “Sister Midnight” – still perfect.

      • Matthew says:

        Thanks for your suggestion Vinnie, I listened to STS twice through today and can’t stop humming Word on a wing. Now i’ve just listened to Sister Midnight (Bowie, rehearsal, 1976 STS tour) which must be as close to a Bowie studio version as we can get, I only previously knew Iggy’s version from The Idiot and I totally agree it would fit perfectly on STS.
        I now have a fantasy version of STS on which Sister Midnight replaces Golden Years (too Young Americans for STS) to add to my other fantasy versions of Bowie albums.

    • Gozomoto says:

      Speaking of Patti Smith, I happened to see her last night in Portland, OR performing “Horses” in its entirety. I hadn’t seen her since I was in my 20s and was just amazed at her continued presence. She was in superb form (the band was a bit too much cheese, though). The fact that she turned 69 a week(ish) ago made me long for a Bowie return to live performance — especially if were in a small venue in Portland🙂

      • Matthew says:

        Lucky! if she’s on the road maybe she’ll come to England, I’d love to hear Horses live. We can all live in hope Bowie will do some live concerts but I fear it’s a small hope, last time I saw him was Glass Spider in London.

    • rob thomas says:

      Man, how can you resist the lyrical, rhythmic and vocal delights of ‘Stay’?🙂

  24. Paul O says:

    Thanks for doing (all of) this, Chris. Fascinating list. For now, while I digest it, I’ll just post my own Top 10 ballot:

    01. David Live at the Tower Philadelphia
    I used to hate live albums. I preferred the more pristine sound of studio recordings until I started to going to concerts on a regular basis, which was also when I bought this record. Not only was I never bothered by the sound quality, I loved hearing the new arrangements of the “classics.” And that band! Also doesn’t hurt that I caught the tail end of this tour in Boston. And I’ve never understood the rancor this album engendered.

    02. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
    Best and favorite studio album.

    03. (tie) Diamond Dogs / Hunky Dory (tie) / Young Americans
    No way for me to place one of these above the others.

    06. (tie) Aladdin Sane / Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) / Station to Station
    Ditto. But they’re a (short) step below the previous three.

    09. The Idiot
    “Why you’d want to include an Iggy Pop album in your Bowie Top 10 is another story.” (Chris, October 28, 2015)
    In my case, it’s because The Idiot is more “Bowie-like” to me than most of the actual Bowie albums released in the ’80s; and because I just prefer it to all of his albums except the eight preceding it on my list — even the “returns to form” of the ’90s and beyond.

    10. Low
    I get it, I get it. But no. Give me glam, give me blue-eyed soul over art any day. (And I say that an erstwhile Berliner.)

    HONORABLE MENTION (#11)
    Stage
    This could actually be #10, with Low in this position, because this live set made me truly appreciate the music of Low.

    • Vinnie says:

      I did not take part in either poll – I took a break from the blog for a while and must have totally missed the call – I know my votes alone would have swayed things differently for the “Songs” poll – but! But! The Idiot is very much a Bowie album, and it places snuggly in my top 10 Bowie albums as well. I imagine, in an alternate universe, there’s Bowie guide vocals for all of The Idiot, and maybe the 100th Anniversary Extra-Deluxe Edition of Low will unearth them.. maybe.

      (The Glove’s Blue Sunshine is my only argument toward this absurd idea. But let’s not start rumors..)

  25. s.t. says:

    Thanks so much for taking the time to do these polls, Chris!
    Very heartening to see how these albums have ranked. Y’all got good taste!

  26. Steven S says:

    Very enjoyable and interesting to get these poll results. There was obviously more room for surprises in the tracks poll, but even among the albums there are odd results.

    I’m still surprised by how low Heroes (the album) is rated. I had it as my #1, while not listing the title track at all among the tracks. In fact, I skip Heroes the track most of the time I listen to the LP. Those other four songs on Side 1 are perfect Bowie for me – the best sequence on any of his albums – and I prefer the Side 2 instrumentals to those on Low.

    I love the image of the eight-track tracklisting for Scary Monsters above. So weird. How did they come up with that bizarre running order? It’s not like it even fits, with a few songs having to continue on other sides(?).

  27. Jason Das says:

    Prompted by these results, I’m dutifully listening to Outside in full (for maybe the second time ever?) and it’s just as bad as I remember it. Don’t think it would even make my top 30 Bowie albums! Bless us all for our diverse taste.

    • Jason Das says:

      OK, fine, it ends decently. I like “We Prick You” and “I’m Deranged”.

    • Ramzi says:

      Outside has some terrific songs and it would have been in my top 10 were it not for how difficult it is to listen to in full

      • Jason Das says:

        Which is an important aspect of an album, isn’t it? I agree there are a handful of great songs! But several of those my preferred versions are elsewhere (Spaceboy, Strangers).

      • steven says:

        I think an album being consistently good is less an important aspect for Bowie than almost anyone else – his failures being so interesting is what makes him him. There’s something alchemic about how endlessly listenable some of the awful music he’s made is.

        I think Outside places so high for me (it was my number 2 pick) because having mystifyingly bad tracks on it just makes it representative of Bowie’s output somehow, and cements its place on those grounds. I mean, Young Americans is a near-perfect album for me, that has a hilariously bad cover slapped in the middle. I wouldn’t have it any other way either.

        Part of me thinks Bowie must know that some of these songs are terrible, but he puts them out anyway, just because he loves his misshapen children.

        Much as I love him, and I don’t tend to skip tracks, basically Lodger and Station to Station are the two albums he’s made that I can hand on heart say are consistently amazing.

  28. Great job from our writer. Thank you.

    While I voted for “Heroes” at no.1 these are more than worthy winners.

    I would place Young Americans in the top 10 at the expense of Outside.

    Surprisingly Earthing ended up quite high up.

    I would also place Space Oddity much higher.

    Great reading as always.

  29. And great to see my beloved Stage even made the list.

    • Paul O says:

      My little nephew (now aged 39) used to sing along with the Stage version of “TVC15.” When he heard the opening notes, he would start screaming: “Trameshum, trameshum.” Now he’s old enough to say “transmission.”

    • col1234 says:

      i like Stage a lot. I think its problem is the Ziggy Stardust songs, which the band can’t quite deliver & DB seems utterly bored by. A Stage of just ’76-’78 songs would be great.

      • Stolen Guitar says:

        You lot have got great taste, which I suspect, we already knew and your devotion to the later records has helped me to finally get my head around the fact that Bowie was still making a vital contribution, albeit less startling and ‘new’, after Scary Monsters.

        But I can’t, and I’m sure I never will, get my head around Young Americans not being placed in the top ten by such a learned and astute audience. I mean, I know democracy isn’t perfect, but when it produces a result such as this, well, then it’s no wonder benign dictatorships become so alluring! I’d be that dictator, just for one day, and Young Americans would rightfully sit amongst its peers and Station to Station would, inevitably, rule the roost!

        You’re bang on the money about Stage, Chris, as I recall that show being most exciting when he was performing the Station to Station and Low stuff. The Ziggy numbers were an undeniable treat for us but they paled in comparison to the later songs. Bowie’s typically inspired and brave opening with Warszwa kind of summed up his preference for the newer material, too, and we were completely awe struck by him just standing behind a keyboard, not singing or anything until well into the song and the wailing began…!

        That was a great band, too, but not, as you’ve noted, best suited for the older songs. They came into their own with the newer songs, though and Belew, especially, was just mental on Station to Station; I’d never seen his like before. It nearly made me re-consider punk’s manifesto of less is more but Belew was, if anything, punkier than any of the young turk guitar tyros that were emerging into the light in the late 1970s.

        The Idiot was one of the Stage tours pre-show records and one very loud and vociferous Scottish fan, standing right next to me, constantly bellowed, as if on a loop tape, for Mass Production; it wasn’t pretty and it put me off the song for a good long while! In fact, I much prefer Lust for Life now, but I do see why The Idiot feels much more Bowie than Lust .

        Great effort and, as I don’t believe you can ever say ‘thank you’ too often, especially for the effort and thought that you’ve quite clearly put into this gargantuan and impressive work, I’ll repeat myself to the point of tedium. Thanks, Chris; I’ll certainly be sad to reach the end of this.

      • dm says:

        Stage is probably one of the best mid-to-late 70s overviews for new fans. All the best-ofs suck, basically. Bowie’s vocal performances are pretty amazing- I don’t even think the Ziggy tracks are that bad.

        For my money, the Nassau “Five Years” is probably the most passionate post-glam performance of a glam era track that he did in the 70s.

      • billter says:

        Stolen Guitar, thanks so much for standing up for “Young Americans.” I mean, it’s actually kind of cool that people heart “Outside” so much – I admire it, but can’t love it that way. The lack of love for “YA” kind of broke my brain – but the people have spoken.

      • I disagree. The electronic re-fashioning of the Ziggy songs is a revelation, and he is in career best form as a vocalist too.

      • Paul O says:

        I recall people hating YA back in the day (see “glam betrayal”), but I ate it up.

      • Paul O says:

        We are talking about the 2005 remaster of Stage, which put the tracks in the actual concert order and finally included “Alabama Song,” “Be My Wife” and “Stay” (!), right? The original vinyl version was important, but the remaster is outstanding in every way.

      • rob thomas says:

        good to see Stage getting respect. Shaar Murray dismissed it quite wrongly, imo…

  30. BenJ says:

    As someone who does work in data entry, I congratulate you on putting the tools of the trade to such stimulating use.

  31. dm says:

    1.Outside is such a staggering artistic achievement, very happy about its showing here, and its relatively high number on #1 Votes (not mine- I went with Heroes). Such a neglected work outside (sorry) of these little obsessive communities.

    To those who can’t get into it, my tip is to listen to it once through intact, to get a feel for it. Then, make a playlist that is the full album minus the segues. Listen to that until you realise it’s a classic, then trash that playlist and reinstate the segues for all future listens.

  32. Bruised Passivity says:

    Okay, well I did show and tell in the songs section of the poll, I might as well do the same with the albums.

    My top 10 Bowie albums are:

    1. Heathen (#12, 150 points)
    2. Diamond Dogs (#8, 259 points)
    3. Lodger (#10, 207 points)
    4. 1. Outside (#9, 234 points)
    5. Hunky Dory (#3, 389 points)
    6. Station to Station (#2, 593 points)
    7. Low (#1, 621 points)
    8. The Next Day (#14, 98 points)
    9. A Reality Tour (1 vote)
    10. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (#4, 352)

    After all the polling results I have come to the conclusion that the nostalgia factor is important when developing certain favourites in the Bowie cannon but it isn’t everything. I came to Bowie late in his career (in 2012 I set myself the challenge of listening to (and watching) every single bit of Bowie I could get my hands on. (I’m still not done, not only is there Blackstar to digest but a many bootlegs that I still haven’t listened to.) That being said, I think the condensed nature of my Bowie exposure has allowed me a generally nostalgia free palate that has allowed for a slightly more varied appreciation for his body of work. (Except for The Next Day which is my personal nostalgia nugget – for obvious reasons.) Not that I’m negating anyone’s personal favourites because I love the assorted tastes that come along with being a Bowie connoisseur. It also makes me feel less guilty about NOT choosing a particular album/song knowing that many of my fellow Bowiephiles will love in my stead.

    • Paul O says:

      I know what you mean about the nostalgia factor, but I don’t think I agree that it’s important or crucial. Bowie fans are as varied as the music and the musician and we all responded differently to each album when we first heard it, whether at the time of its release or years later. And some albums do grow on you or away from you. The fact that my entire Top 10 was recorded before 1981 speaks more to the enduring potency of those albums more than to nostalgia. (I’m listening to Stage right now and it is very fresh. Yesterday I was listening to Heathen, less fresh but not horrible. Still, tomorrow I won’t be listening to Let’s Dance.)

      • Bruised Passivity says:

        Wholeheartedly agree about the grow-on-me factor, I found that to be the case with most of my favourites. I I just think that nostalgia add that extra bit of emotional spice when when listening. 🙂

      • Paul O says:

        Is there a word for negative nostalgia? By that I mean not the bittersweet “those were the good old days” feeling, but the unpleasant “those were the bad old days” one. Whatever you want to call it, some albums are remembered as being a lifeline during those times and others as being representative of them. And those albums in the latter group may have slim chances of ever becoming favorites, no matter how amazing they might actually be.

        So I guess you’re right.😉

  33. jopasso says:

    So I nailed both number #1, song and album.
    It was easy

  34. DarrenB says:

    Chris, did you vote? If you did, any change we can see your list…

  35. roobin101 says:

    Very pleased Low is the best album😉 OK, that out of the way, here’s the other mental project I sometimes lapse into because of this wonderful blog: Rescuing 1.Outside.

    There is a very fine album in there (btw – whoever said it is right, we must start referring to ‘Bowie’s Best Album Since Outside’) but I’ve come to the conclusion Bowie sifted out and/or left in the wrong bits. The best running order (in my opine…):

    Leon Takes Us…
    Outside
    The Enemy Is Fragile
    She Should Be There
    OK Riot/I’d Rather Be Chrome/We’ll Creep Together
    Hearts Filthy Lesson
    Small Plot
    Hallo Spaceboy
    No Control
    Motel
    Oxford Town

    • Bruised Passivity says:

      That’s interesting, I’ll have to put that playlist together and see how that works.

      • col1234 says:

        thoughts after stewing over this for a while:

        at times, I wish DB had taken advantage of the mania of the high CD age (think the Pumpkins “Mellon Collie” or “69 Love Songs”) to have put out a 2-CD Outside. One disc would be the Leon suites and would be aggressively chaotic and odd; the other would be concise and song-oriented: Strangers, No Control, Oxford Town, and so on. People could just simply enjoy the “pop” disc; avant-garde types could enjoy the weirdo disc, and the thing would exist as one huge bounty of Bowie music, unsurpassed (length & diversity wise) in his career. His Sandinista, basically.

      • roobin101 says:

        It roughly follows a narrative arc, Leon meets Ramona and/or the Minotaur, submits to their will, is pursued by Nathan Adler, commits the murder, is caught, confesses, then awaits the end… It’s also decent sequencing for an album too but VERY rough though.

      • s.t. says:

        Totally agree, Chris. In fact, I may have said something to that effect on one of the Outside posts.

  36. mrbelm says:

    Heroic work, Chris, in pulling this al together.

    My top six were very close to the final result:

    Low (1)
    Station to Station (2)
    The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (4)
    Hunky Dory (3)
    Scary Monsters (6)
    Heroes (5)
    Lodger (10)
    Reality (19)
    Heathen (12)
    The Next Day (14)

  37. Sky-Possessing Spider says:

    On a different note, living in the Southern Hemisphere where it’s January 8th already, I’ve just had the pleasure of listening to black star in its entirety for the first time, and I have to say you are all in for a real treat. Cheers.

  38. Chris says:

    Just listening to Blackstar – I think we need to re-open the poll!

  39. Phil Obbard says:

    Chris, thanks for doing this. I aggregate data for a living — so I know it’s a lot of work (especially when dealing with hundreds of emails, typos, notes, etc). These have made for great reading and reflecting.

    One observation: the two post-1980s LPs to rank highest (OUTSIDE and HEATHEN — both in my top 10) are both LPs where Bowie does a lot of what we call “fan service” these days. For OUTSIDE, he brought back Brian Eno and Carlos Alomar and made a conscious effort to revive the experimentalism of LODGER and even gave us a sort of sonic “son of ‘Heroes'” to close the LP. In interviews at the time, he talked about the Berlin era-connections regularly. For HEATHEN, he brought back Tony Visconti and another Pete Townsend cameo on a lead-off single (“Slow Burn”) that could have been an outtake from HEROES. Not to mention harvesting some key TOY leftovers as b-side fans were bound to appreciate (“Shadow Man”, “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving”, etc).

    It leaves me wondering: do fans like me unconsciously appreciate Bowie best when he consciously echoes/recreates his prime period (1971-1980), or is just that OUTSIDE and HEATHEN are two great LPs and that’s why they are ranked so high?

    Finally, I must say that ranking Bowie LPs is a lot like picking your favorite child.

  40. Matthew says:

    Remember Jan 23rd 2016. 40 years since Stationtostation was released, we better all be playing it.

  41. sonofsteel says:

    This post emerged just a few days after I was reflecting how, when I was discovering Bowie and his back catalogue c1992, “Low” was considered to be a bit iffy and ZS was his masterpiece. And how this had changed, particularly over the last ten years.

    So it’s rather surprising today to read this in Popbitch:

    Highest charting Bowie catalogue
    expected to be Rise And Fall Of
    Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From
    Mars (album) and Heroes (single).

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