It’s fair to say that Noel Gallagher, the founding member and principal songwriter of iconic indie band Oasis, is a British institution in rock and roll. Fight as you might, Oasis remain one of the most important and potent outfits the British isles have produced in recent memory.
As the guitarist of the band, Noel Gallagher has crafted some of the most revered rock and roll songs were ever written. However, there’s one man in particular that Gallagher owes a debt to, the late great David Bowie. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he shared his five favourite songs from the Thin White Duke and the choices are nothing short of fantastic and worth showing off as perhaps the purest distillation of the Starman we’ve ever seen.
The 2016 interview was conducted just a few weeks after Bowie’s death on January 10th of that year and incorporates the raw emotion of losing one of Britain’s leading lights of music. It was a loss that reverberated around the entire country, “My wife burst into the bedroom crying, and I thought one of the children had died,” he tells RS. “She said, ‘David Bowie’s dead.’ I was like, ‘Fuckin’ hell.'”
Gallagher continued to share the massive inspiration Bowie had on both him and the rest of the rock world with his pioneering techniques and costuming. “He was quite fearless, which is one of the things that I will remember him for – taking his art, always moving it forward,” he says.
“For instance: You get up on the day that ‘Where Are We Now?’ hits the airwaves, and you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s another weird David Bowie song. I like it though, it’s great.’ Then the album The Next Day comes out, and it’s fucking stadium rock! And you’re like, ‘What the fuck? Wow, amazing.’
“Then you hear he’s made another album Blackstar, and you think ‘Well, are we gonna get two fucking accessible albums in a row?’ But we got a weird, dark album. And then of course, he dies, and you go back and listen to it and think, ‘Wow. Fuckin’ hell, man. This is amazing.'”
Let’s dive into Noel Gallagher’s five favourite David Bowie songs of all time.
Noel Gallagher’s favourite David Bowie songs:
‘In The Heat of the Morning’
Kicking things off in typically unconventional style, Gallagher opts for a number taken from David Bowie’s 1970 compilation album The World of David Bowie. “This is very obscure. I don’t know anybody else that knows it, but it’s fucking amazing,” Gallagher said.
Adding: “The first person ever to play it for me was Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, years and years ago. I was like, ‘What’s that?’ And he says, ‘It’s fuckin’ David Bowie’. People talk about Bowie’s guises, or his looks, or his personas, but it’s little-known that he started off as a Scott Walker-type dude. This song is very mid-Sixties Brit-pop. Great organ sound, brilliantly produced. You should check it out. “
‘In The Heat of the Morning’ would feature alongside the likes of ‘Love You till Tuesday’, ‘The London Boys’, ‘Rubber Band’ and more on a record that included contributions from the likes of Tony Visconti and John McLaughlin and released through Decca Records. It’s one track that is guaranteed to get you some approving nods from the Thin White Duke’s diehard fans.
Fast forward ten years and we have some iconic Bowie material in the shape of Scary Monsters‘ second single ‘Fashion’, one of the singer’s most recognisable tunes.
“Bowie surrounded himself with the best musicians,” Gallagher explained. “The guitars on ‘Fashion’ are fucking great. I love the discordant-ness of it all. It’s got a great stomp to it, and a great groove. Not blues, not jazz, not rock. It’s something else. It’s David Bowie.”
The song, along with its accompanying music video, is widely regarded as some of Bowie’s most celebrated works and remained a feature of his live set list for years to come.
“‘Fashion’ is a great title for a song,” Gallagher continued. “It’s one of those Bowie songs that doesn’t really have a chorus, but it’s all a chorus, you know what I mean? It must have been awful to have been one of his contemporaries in the late ’70s going into the ’80s, thinking, ‘Wow, I’ve done something really great here’, and then every single Bowie put out would be fuckin’ better than the last one.”
‘The Jean Genie’
Stepping back a couple of years int he career of Bowie, Gallagher opted from an effort from 1973 album Aladdin Sane with the quite brilliant ‘The Jean Genie’. It’s one of Bowie’s archetypal moments on record and remains a keen fan-favourite for the Manchester scene, with Johnny Marr also noting the track as a favourite.
“Why? Because Mick Ronson, really. The sound of it is amazing,” Noel said. “It’s maybe the most un-British-sounding song Bowie ever did. It’s very American, kind of blues-rock-based. It paints pictures of someone running away to New York City. He was taking a lead from Lou Reed.”
The song, which was recorded with Bowie’s backing band the Spiders from Mars which was famously made up of Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey, was once described by Bowie himself as “a smorgasbord of imagined Americana”.
“I didn’t know this until a couple of days ago, but this song was a take on some French fuckin’ political writer called Jean Genet,” Gallagher added. “But again, is the song about the fuckin’ French Revolution? No, I don’t think so.”
This was never going to miss out, was it?
A song that defines Bowie’s brilliance and remains one of his many lasting legacies, ‘Let’s Dance’ went on to become one of his biggest-selling tracks and stole remained an iconic moment of the 1980s music scene.
“This is arguably my all-time fucking favourite song by David Bowie,” Gallagher explained. “When it came out in the ’80s, I liked it, and I liked him,” Gallagher said. “But it was just a song that I listened to on the radio. How I really get inside a song is when I pick up a guitar and try to play it.
“A few years ago, I was on tour in a hotel room somewhere, and ‘Let’s Dance’ came on. I jumped on the guitar and worked out the chords and I thought, ‘What a fucking great song to play on guitar!'”
‘Heroes’, a song so synonymous with contemporary music that transcends a genre, musical penchant or, indeed, politics, is arguably Bowie’s most famous track.
Taken from his 12th studio album Heroes, the song was co-written by Bowie and the musical genius of Brian Eno and released first in 1977 as a single, and secondly, as a live release in 1978—it has become one of the shining moments of Bowie’s career and still to this day is favoured as one of his best.
“This is the first song that I ever heard by David Bowie,” the former Oasis man explained. “It was in 1981, I think, and I was sat in somebody’s flat late at night, and there used to be these things on British television called ‘Five-Minute Profile’. In between two crushingly boring programs about fucking farming and another one about politics would be a five-minute profile. This one happened to be on David Bowie, and it was a quick synopsis of his career. I’d never heard ‘Heroes’ before, and there was the video of him, looking clearly coked out of his fucking mind, singing this song with the light behind him. It totally fucking blew me away. I went down to my local second-hand record shop a couple of days later and got Best of Bowie and never looked back.
Discussing the track in more detail, he added: “The sentiment is amazing: We can be heroes, if only for one day. We all can’t make it in life, but we can feel like we make it, for one day at a time. That’s why it’s my favourite, today anyway.”
It’s an incredible list which not only includes some well-known tracks but some obscure ones too. It shows that Noel was most certainly the mega-fan he proclaimed himself to be.
Oasis even covered ‘Heroes’ during their time at the top of the pile, which you can hear below.