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Hear David Bowie's apocalyptic isolated vocals for 'Five Years'


Famed more so for his impeccable costuming and unrelenting artistic expression, David bowie: the singer, is often forgotten. Far from being a classically trained vocalist, Bowie relied heavily on his heart and mind to take him over the line. Where icons such as Freddie Mercury and Robert Plant were capable of ungodly wails and unprecedented high notes, Bowie had to use his swaggering style to become a star performer.

But, on almost every occasion, Bowie did just that. Using his enigmatic swashbuckling songwriting as grounds for the perfect launchpad, Bowie delivered performances, time and again, that would mark him out as an extraordinary talent. One such moment came in his brilliant song ‘Five Years’.

Arguably one of the greatest opening songs of all time, this track is beautiful for many reasons, and all of them are David Bowie’s magical and mystical lyrics. In it, he manages to authentically describe a scenario where the “earth is really dying”, and the world is in need of Ziggy and his Spiders. The landscape of the 1970s was a strange place to be, and Bowie seemed intent on capitalising on it. Using the speedy modernisation of the globe, Bowie set about his idea of the impending apocalypse. Somehow, he does it all with charm and wit.

The real moment of joy comes through when Bowie delivers a line that typifies the singer’s off-stage personality; he breaks the fourth wall and addresses his audience directly, “I think I saw you in an ice cream parlour”. It was this sentiment of connection that kept Bowie in the business for decades. He told the iconic Beat writer William S. Burroughs of the song’s intentions: “The time is five years to go before the end of the earth,” begins Bowie relishing telling his story. “It has been announced that the world will end because of lack of natural resources. [The album was released three years prior to the original interview.] Ziggy is in a position where all the kids have access to things that they thought they wanted. The older people have lost all touch with reality and the kids are left on their own to plunder anything.

“Ziggy was in a rock and roll band, and the kids no longer want rock and roll. There’s no electricity to play it. Ziggy’s adviser tells him to collect news and sing it, ’cause there is no news. So Ziggy does this, and there is terrible news. ‘All the Young Dudes’ is a song about this news. It is no hymn to the youth as people thought. It is completely the opposite.”

These extra-terrestrial sentiments can be heard not only throughout The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust but also tangibly felt within the isolated vocal track of ‘Five Years’. One of the best choruses he ever wrote, Bowie’s high-pitched vocals are classic. It sounds as if Bowie’s voice is about to break at any point, but it doesn’t – a real testament to the emotive nature of his vocals. His screams of “five years” at the end sound of the song like a man being consigned to prison for a crime he hasn’t committed. Powerful, emotive and semi-unhinged, this is Bowie at his rawest.

Listen below to David bowie’s isolated vocals for ‘Five Years’ and feel every note he sings.