For somebody who has been more than an iconic rock pop start for over 40 years ... David Bowie sure can be termed as being under-rated. He is multi talented and can play many instruments, a strong confidence in his art indicated by his production and song writing abilities.
Bowie has stayed a few steps ahead of the pack in the early days. His iconic Space Oddity and Life On Mars came at a time when the race to space was paramount in the media. He humanise the aspirations. Not only that, the songs were gems as well.
He was deemed as freakish with his outlandish make up doing Ziggy Stardust in the mid 70s, something which was a precursor for the New Romantics and post-punk revolution a few years down the road.
He kept reinventing himself in the late 70s when he tried to break into the American market. He became a big hit in the US then. The main reason why his fame has not reached higher levels was his leaving the UK for the USA, causing many of his UK fans to be a pissed at him. Somehow he did not manage to win both sides all the same time.
In 1980 he got back into the good books of the British folk by coming out with Ashes to Ashes followed by a quintessential duet with Queen in Under Pressure.
His best move was to monetise his music by getting an upfront payment in 1997. Bowie got $55m in exchange for the current and future revenues of his 25 albums before 1990. The great thing was that Bowie only had to forego 10 years of his royalties to get the $55m. Judging by how the CDs and albums markets had been decimated in the 2000s ... David came out way ahead.
Bowie Bonds are asset-backed securities of current and future revenues of the 25 albums (287 songs) that David Bowie recorded before 1990. Bowie Bonds were pioneered in 1997 by rock and roll investment banker David Pullman. Issued in 1997, the bonds were bought for US$55 million by the Prudential Insurance Company of America. The bonds paid an interest rate of 7.9% and had an average life of ten years, a higher rate of return than a 10-year Treasury note (at the time, 6.37%). Royalties from the 25 albums generated the cash flow that secured the bonds' interest payments. Prudential also received guarantees from Bowie's label, EMI Records, which had recently signed a $30m deal with Bowie. By forfeiting ten years worth of royalties, David Bowie was able to receive a payment of US$55 million up front. Bowie used this income to buy songs owned by his former manager. Bowie's combined catalog of albums covered by this agreement sold more than 1 million copies annually at the time of the agreement.However, by March 2004, Moody's Investors Service lowered the bonds from an A3 rating (the seventh highest rating) to Baa3, one notch above junk status. The downgrade was prompted by lower-than-expected revenue "due to weakness in sales for recorded music" and that an unnamed company guaranteed the issue.
His adult contemporary pop rock never gets old. He kept churning hits after hits and no two ever sounded alike.
Here are my picks of his most important songs, and considering the number of hits he had, its tough to narrow them down (Life On Mars, Starman, Heroes, Sorrow, Rebel Rebel, Fame, Golden Years, Boys Keep Swinging, DJ, Under Pressure, Cat People, Let's Dance, Blue Jean, Jump They Say, Never Let Me Down, etc.)
#5 SOUND & VISION - This is probably my favourite Bowie song. Its half instrumental with delicious harmonies and vocals coming in in the second half of the song. The instrumentation again sublime - the over the top drums, simple lead guitar holding the melody again, and the clever use of synthesisers to bring it to the modern age.
#4 CHINA GIRL - Its enigmatic, suggestive and so danceable. Of course you can try to be a New Musical express writer and talk about post colonialism, domination and Westernization of Asian culture, oppression from the West about the song ... or just enjoy.
#3 MODERN LOVE - Its pop, its dance, its rock ... still relevant into the 80s.
#2 ASHES TO ASHES - The song came out in 1980 and heralded another reinvention from glam punk pop rock to adult contemporary dance. Exceptional instrumentations and still modern sounding even today.
#1 SPACE ODDITY - This song came out in 1969 and many did not know what to make of it. Its about an astronaut in space and the thoughts he had. Its about courage and fear and realising the epicentre of life, its vastness and the smallness of man. Bowie was inspired to write the song after watch Kubricks' 2001 A Space Odyssey. Those who are older than 65 would beware that the song came out 9 days before Apollo 11 landed on the moon - what a momentous coincidence. Its melodious and the song has been used in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and most spectacularly in the sic-fi HK movie The Midnight After (brilliant).