Amoeba's Favorite David Bowie Albums

Posted by Billy Gil, January 11, 2016 06:50pm | Post a Comment

There are few artists who unite music fans like David Bowie does. News of his passing hit us hard at Amoeba. As we're all still reeling and grieving the loss of this immeasurably influential and beloved artist, we've been sharing stories with each other about the first time we heard Bowie, and what his music and persona meant to us each individually. We've compiled anecdotes from some of the Amoeba staff about our favorite Bowie albums, and we hope you'll share with us your Bowie memories in the comments.

KAREN: It is nearly impossible to pick a "favorite" bowie record. He has always been in my life, and each new record would make me stop and listen. 
When i first took notice, it was probably the Hunky Dory record. I had seen his name and the albums in the record store before: Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World. I was 10 years old and already haunted record stores almost daily. That record was one in my collection amongst The Jackson 5's ABC, Simon & Garfunkel's Sounds of Silence, Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, Cat Stevens' Tea for the Tillerman, Rod Stewart's Gasoline Alley, Badfinger's Straight Up, The Beatles, Elton John, Aretha, The Who, Velvet Underground. He was part of the wallpaper of images and sounds that I was gobbling up voraciously. Exploring all of it.
But I would have to say Ziggy Stardust was the one that got me. I already felt like an outsider. I didn't know yet that we ALL did. And he spoke to that part of us. He gave that unique, creative, brave spirit inside of us a voice. A deep voice. A fearless, shocking, exhilarating, comforting voice.

Ziggy Stardust was the one that broke open my world more than any. Partly it was the time it came out and the age I was when I heard it. We all have those records. And for me, that was the one. At 11 years old, I felt it. It spoke to me.  HE spoke to me. And I know that millions of other people over many generations in a million different circumstances felt the exact same way. That was the gift he gave as an artist and a creative spirit. A place to be exactly yourself. To be brave in that visceral primal space. To be who we are.
Space Oddity was the first one which made me take notice. Hunky Dory will forever be a favorite, as is Station to Station, Scary Monsters, Low, Let's Dance! :)  And so many more. Already BLACKSTAR is amazing, and I can't wait to listen deeply. But The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust will forever hold that place in my heart. 

MARK B.: SCARY MONSTERS is far and away my favorite Bowie album. It came out during my senior year of high school, and I listened to it until the songs ran unbroken through my head (and still do).

I consider it his strangest, most angular, most daring work, and it put him at the forefront of all the trends that were beginning to emerge that we now refer to as "the '80s." Every other "'80s artist" was trying to catch up to that album for the rest of the decade.

ILENE: Station to Station. This record did change my life. It was the first time I heard anything like this, and I was just a young teen. With songs like "Station to Station" and "TVC15," this quickly became a lifetime favorite of mine. It opened me up to Bowie, and now I own all of his catalog. I also really love Scary Monsters, Low and Heathen. David Bowie, you are deeply missed!

AUDRA: If I’m going to be completely honest here, the first life-changing moment I had with David Bowie was seeing him and his magnificent bulge in the 1986 film Labyrinth when I was but 10 years old. Thank Gawd for mid-'80s HBO. I feel comfortable admitting the bulge obsession in a public forum because I know I’m not alone in this experience. Kids across the globe had a lot to think about after that movie. Labyrinth spurred a general and yet vague awareness of Bowie’s greatness, assisted by my older sister’s record collection. The first Bowie album I spent my own hard-earned allowance on was his 1972 glamtastic masterpiece The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which was my first exposure to a concept album. For me, it was a mind-blowing experience to realize that there is very little difference between the designations “rock star,” “actor” and “fiction author.” But then again, Bowie’s entire career played with identity in that way.

CAROL: I had a promo poster for Aladdin Sane up on my wall when I was in high school. BUT I would be hard pressed to name a favorite song or album – I loved them all but especially:

Station to Station for “Golden Years”

Hunky Dory for “Changes” and “Oh! You Pretty Things”

Low for “Sound and Vision”

Scary Monsters pretty much in its entirety, but especially all of side one.

Ziggy Stardust pretty much in its entirety, but I especially loved for “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City.”

Diamond Dogs for “Diamond Dogs” and “Rebel Rebel.”

Lodger for “Red Sails” and “Boys Keep Swinging.”

When CDs became the “new” thing, both ChangesOneBowie and ChangesTwoBowie basically lived in my CD player. I didn’t get to see Bowie live until “Let’s Dance Tour" – not exactly his most critically acclaimed album, but it was an amazing show. Worth the wait. Two other albums that Bowie was involved with that I played the grooves off of as a teenager were: Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life and The Idiot. Mick Ronson made me want to play guitar, so that was huge.

BRENT: For as long as I can remember, I've had David Bowie in my life. Some of my most fond and early memories are my grandmother playing his records as I sat there wide-eyed, listening to the stories she would tell me on how to play "correct" rock 'n' roll (Bowie was one of her prime examples), and how a performer SHOULD perform.

Raised primarily by her, I never really had a strong influence in my life of a "real" mother or father. Mr. Bowie became a sort of stand-in during the early years. As time went on, and I'm sure due to her influence, all I wanted to do was perform. To be in the spotlight and to not only put on a show, but to put on the best damn show that I could. Like David. She would dress me up and call her friends over to watch me lip sync his music.

When the '80s and MTV arrived, I was approaching my teenage years. In a time when being gay wasn't nearly (if at all) accepted as it is now, it's something I knew about myself early on. Again, David Bowie was showing me that it was OK to be a "freak" or to push gender boundaries. Later, when artists such as Prince and Madonna would come into my life, I would consider them my personal Holy Trinity, and the ever-growing puzzle of life seemed like it was falling into place.

His entire catalog of work reads to me like a how-to manual and always will. Grandma once asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I replied in a heartbeat: David Bowie.

IRENE: I was about 8 when I first heard "Life On Mars?" on 106.7 KROQ. In my 8-year-old mind, I imagined a lonely man floating into space, traveling to the red planet. His voice put me in a trance, seduced me. When the song was over, they announced the name of the artist … David Bowie.

I grabbed any pocket change I could find — birthday money and a couple dollars from my mom’s purse (sorry mom) — and went to my local record store, Yuri’s. I told the clerk that I wanted to find the song about “Mars” from David Bowie, he handed me Hunky Dory. I went home and straight to my room. I put my headphones on and didn’t take them off for maybe three full rotations of the entire album. Still imagining that man floating in space.

BILLY G.: My first Bowie album was the compilation Changesbowie. That became the driving soundtrack to my late teenage years, along with my Smiths and Cure best ofs. I'd listen while picking up my brother from middle school or driving around doing nothing with my friends. Bowie for me reminds me of time in which I stopped listening to whatever was on the radio and MTV and sought the classics, stuff that resonated with me and felt more attuned with who I was, or who I wanted to be.

"Heroes" was a radio hit in the late '90s, as covered by The Wallflowers, a band I liked at the time, for the soundtrack to a godawful Godzilla movie. I hadn't heard the Bowie original until I got Changesbowie, and that was the song that really blew me away. My friends and I would take turns imitating Bowie's ridiculous (but awesome) cries during that second verse. It wasn't until later that I read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and related a little too closely, as the characters were equally touched upon hearing the song for the first time. It's one of those things where you don't even really know what you're hearing, thanks to that otherwordly wall of sound created by Brian Eno's oscillating synths and Robert Fripp's careening guitar feedback. You just know it's something that hits you in the gut and speaks to something deeper about you and, as a teenager, the indescribable things you've yet to experience.

Album-wise, Ziggy Stardust was the first one that grabbed me. But l respond most deeply to the "Berlin trilogy" of albums produced by Eno: "Heroes", Lodger and, especially, Low.

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