Noel Gallagher picks his 5 favourite David Bowie songs ever
It’s fair to say that Noel Gallagher is a British institution in rock and roll. As the guitarist and main songwriter in Oasis he crafted some of the most revered rock and roll songs ever written but there’s one man in particular that Noel 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.
The 2016 interview was conducted just a few weeks after Bowie’s death on January 10th of that year and so incorporates the raw emotion of losing one Britain’s leading lights of music. “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. “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’
“This is very obscure. I don’t know anybody else that knows it, but it’s fucking amazing. 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.
“I was listening to ‘In the Heat of the Morning’ the other day, and I suddenly realised that I’ve used most of the lyrics in it for bits and bobs over the years! [Q: Which lyrics?] I’m not fuckin’ telling you!”
“Bowie surrounded himself with the best musicians. 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.
“When you listen to Bowie’s music, what are the songs about? ‘Life on Mars’ is not about pondering whether there’s fucking life on Mars. Nobody knows what it’s about. I think that’s why Bowie was such a special artist. You’re forced into listening to it on your own terms – unlike other artists, like Roger Waters for instance, who’s very quick to fucking hit you over the head with what the song’s about, so much that you listen to it, and you think, ‘It doesn’t mean anything to me anymore, because you fucking told me what it’s about already’. With this song, ‘Fashion’, is it about fashion? I would fucking doubt it very much. Some of the lyrics – ‘We’re the goon squad, and we’re coming to town! Beep-beep!’ You go, ‘What? What?’ That’s not about fucking scarves and shoes, is it? It can’t be.
“But ‘Fashion’ is a great title for a song. 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 Seventies going into the Eighties, 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’
“Why? Because Mick Ronson, really. The sound of it is amazing. 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.
“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. But again, is the song about the fuckin’ French Revolution? No, I don’t think so.”
“This is arguably my all-time fucking favorite song by David Bowie. When it came out in the Eighties, I liked it, and I liked him. 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!”
“Who doesn’t like jumping out of bed first thing in the morning and singing, “Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”? Everyone should be made to do that every fucking Monday morning. And anyway, can you dance the blues in red shoes? Is it possible? I don’t think it is. Maybe it is if you’re David Bowie. It’s not about dancing, do you know what I mean?
“I like the story that it started off as an acoustic song, but Nile Rodgers went, “No, no, no. This fucking will not do.” And I like that it’s got Nile Rodgers and Stevie Ray Vaughn – who else would have those two on the same record?”
“This is the first song that I ever heard by David Bowie. 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.
“And for all my talk of, “Well, what are his songs about? We don’t really know what they’re about,” I think ‘Heroes’ is quite straightforward. 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.