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Music

The 10 best David Bowie deep cuts

There is no doubt that David Bowie paved the way for the present music industry. His experimentation and pure artistry meant that he could create things that no one else could even dream of. From his first album in 1967 to his final in 2016, hits have seemed to follow him as he continued to surprise the harshest of critics, with every album having a different style, aesthetic and feeling attached.

These differences in Bowie’s different songs mean you have a never-ending selection for whatever mood you find yourself in, whether you are motivated, happy or sad; there is no doubt that Bowie has a song to match, making him stick out like a welcomed sore thumb when thinking about all the icons of the past.

All these incredible songs meant that it was an inevitability that some absolute bangers would fly under the radar, making them a deep cut in Bowie’s extensive collection. However, this doesn’t stop the Starman’s devotees from diving into the forgotten works of Bowie and some of the songs from his early music career that could easily compete with some of his more well-known classics.

His personas are what rocketed him to his rockstar status. Not only did they turn him into the icon he is today, but they also allowed for a plethora of different genres unparalleled by any other artist. This is what this list will do; it will let you see Bowie’s artistic range and the massively underrated tracks dug out from the past, from the tenth to the best. 

David Bowie’s 10 best deep cuts:

‘Please Mr. Gravedigger’

From his first and possibly most controversial album, Bowie tried to break into the music industry with a unique viewpoint, especially when you consider what he would release. His EP David Bowie, released in 1967, consisted of 14 songs, all of which are definitely deep cuts.

The album featured a folk-like Bowie with flute and acoustic guitar. It’s fair to say it’s a very ‘marmite’ album; you either love it or hate it. ‘Please, Mr. Gravedigger’ is possibly the most unique, though; listeners can hear church bells above a rough backtrack with footsteps. The footsteps stop, and Bowie starts singing a story about a capella above the storm in the background. Leaves begin to rustle between the story, suggesting Bowie was outside altering his position.

The unique thing about this beautifully haunting piece is halfway through, Bowie sneezes, followed by a polite “excuse me”, submerging the listener into a scene that can only be described as disturbingly beautiful. Bowie is almost conversing with us, saying, “oh, it’s tipping it down,” as the rain continues in the background; remember, it’s all completely a capella. The song ends with Bowie seemingly having a conversation as the rain gets quieter and quieter until silent.

‘Dollar Days’

From Bowie’s first album to his last, this song featured on 2016’s Black Star. Bowie thought it was right to end his music career with this album. Despite the artistry displayed by Bowie even in his final weeks, some songs went unnoticed, one of them being the incredible ‘Dollar Days’.

Dollar Days begins with the rustling of money and deep sighs from who we can only assume is Bowie himself. That doesn’t last long; however, when a piano starts as well as an orchestra, a saxophone begins playing when Bowie abruptly begins singing in a far more upbeat style than the previous ‘Mr. Gravedigger’. The song continues with a fast-paced, ‘poppy’ rhythm as an acoustic guitar strums behind him, with the occasional saxophone solo, something quite unique for Bowie.

‘Heat’

From the 2013 EP The Next Day, Bowie yet again displays incredible artistry as he continues to release music despite his old age. ‘Heat’ is one of the lesser-known tracks on his EP; with the beginning having an ominous tone with a slow drum beat, Bowie begins in an equally sinister manner, with the rest of the song following suit in a hallucination of a song.

“Well, that’s the closer of the album and it’s very dramatic,” recalled producer Tony Visconti. Bowie gave no interviews around the time f the record and, instead, asked Visconti to deliver his messages whenever needed. “I’m not quite sure what he’s singing about on it, but it’s a classic Bowie ballad. He’s singing in his handsomest voice, a very deep, very sonorous voice. And I can’t give too much away about it because honestly, I don’t know exactly what it’s about, if it’s about being in a real prison or being imprisoned in your mind. Again, it’s certainly not about him; he’s singing as the voice of somebody.”

‘Panic in Detroit’

Bowie’s 1973 album Aladdin Sane is up there with one of his best, which is why it’s so surprising that ‘Panic in Detroit’ is not very well known among casual Bowie listeners but it deserves some more attention whenever possible as it is a barnstorming track.

The entire album is definitely more rock than the previous records on this list, with the song beginning with an electric guitar riff, followed by a Queen-like track relatively untouched by everyone other than the die-hard fans of this legend.

Picking out a person who, in the song, Bowie describes as looking “a lot like Che Guevara”, the singer recalled: “It was somebody who I used to go to school with who ended up as a very big drugs dealer in South America. And he flew in to see one of the shows and reintroduced himself. ‘I don’t believe it,’ I said, ‘Is this what you are now?’ He was the full bit, with the clothes and the piece and everything, and I thought, my God – him?”

‘Quicksand’

From the album Honky Dory, 1971, ‘Quicksand’ has been overlooked by far too many people. The song featured alongside some of Bowie’s most famous songs to date, including ‘Changes’ and ‘Life on Mars’, which may be the reason this song hasn’t got the recognition it deserves. 

The primary instrument throughout the song is Bowie’s acoustic guitar, a binary opposite to powerful songs like Life on Mars. The relaxing melody makes you feel all the more connected to the music, one of the many things Bowie could do, that others couldn’t.

Bowie wrote on ‘Quicksand’ within the liner notes: “The chain reaction of moving around throughout the bliss and then the calamity of America produced this epic of confusion – Anyway, with my esoteric problems I could have written it in Plainview – or Dulwich. There is a time and space level just before you go to sleep when all about you are losing theirs and whoosh void gets you with its cacophony of thought – that’s when I like to write my songs.”

‘Teenage Wildlife’

From the album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), ‘Teenage Wildlife’ is yet another masterpiece overlooked by so many of Bowie’s less diligent fans.

Featuring ‘Ashes to Ashes’, the album was another iconic triumph from the late artist, with every song appealing to die-hard Bowie fans everywhere. ‘Teenage Wildlife’ was no exception; with electric guitar solos and Bowie’s uniquely beautiful voice, the track featured female backing vocals and an upbeat rhythm.

Bowie recalled of the song: “I definitely set out to write an archetype, yeah. I’ve always been impressed with that kind of song, and I’ve from time to time attempted to write those kinds of songs. I think this is one of the more successful. I guess it would be addressed to a mythical teenage brother, if I had one. Or maybe it’s addressed to my latter-day adolescent self, I’m not sure. Trying to correct all those things that one thinks one’s done wrong, you know.”

‘Stay’

‘Stay’ appeared on Station to Station, Bowie’s tenth album featuring alongside ‘Golden Years’. The six-minute long track somehow flew under the radar for most casual listeners, a surprising discovery for fans who instantly fell in love with the song.

The one-minute guitar solo at the beginning is reminiscent of a crime thriller where criminals are pulling off a much-anticipated bank robbery and is effective in drawing in any listener. Bowie then appears abruptly in a far more poppy way, a seemingly classic Bowie style in the late 1970s.

Featuring Carlos Alomar as the man with the guitar, the song is an essential listen. alomar said of the track: “‘Stay’ was fabulous! We had a field day with that one. That was recorded very much in our cocaine frenzy. ‘Stay’ was basically done with the rhythm section. It was pretty funky and pretty much straight ahead. I wrote out a chart and said this was pretty much what we wanted to do. That song I think David did on the guitar. He strummed a few chords for me, and then we gave it back to him. The rhythm section really liked that one, and then Earl Slick covered some of the lines I had laid down with a thicker sound.”

‘The Width of a Circle’

From the album Metrobolist (aka The Man Who Sold the World), ‘Width of a Circle’ is yet another rock masterpiece. This time, Bowie tells a story in quick bursts over a backing track that wouldn’t look out of place in a Foo Fighters tune. 

In the middle of the song, an excentric guitar solo flares from the riff played throughout, accompanied by a basic rhythm that provides the base for this impeccably written song. Between the rock elements, an acoustic guitar creeps through, something that seems a must for any of Bowie’s masterpieces.

“‘Width Of A Circle’ covers a period from when I was about 17 to just before I recorded this album,” recalled Bowie at the time. “Jesus, my next album is going to be totally different from either of these two. I can’t relate to Man very easily because I’m still pretty near to it and I’m still having something of a difficult time at the moment. It’s much calmer again and it’s back to that, but with a different edge because now I’m happy, and I really mean it now, I’m happier than I’ve ever been.

‘Cygnet Committee’

While I’d be more than happy to espouse the ingenuity of ‘Cygnet Committee’ myself, the highest praise for the song comes from Bowie himself. “I wanted this track out as a single but nobody else thought it was a good idea,” he told Disc and Music Echo upon the release of the record.

Adding: “Well, it is a bit long I suppose. It’s basically three separate points of view about the more militant section of the hippy movement. The movement was a great ideal but something’s gone wrong with it now. I’m not really attacking it but pointing out that the militants have still got to be helped as people – human beings – even if they are going about things all the wrong way.” He eventually concluded that his poignant societal lambast was even better than ‘Space Oddity’.

‘Five Years’

There is no doubt that ‘Five Years’ is by far the best deep cut in Bowie’s collection. The triumph, featuring alongside the likes of ‘Moonage Daydream’ and ‘Lady Stardust’, is featured in The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Spiders from Mars.

The song begins when drums fade into the forefront, closely followed by a flurry of instruments with Bowie singing over the top. Bowie tells a tale of the world ending and the panic that ensues, with the chorus warning we have five years. While there are many candidates for the top spot, there is no doubting that this song has a striking resemblance to the modern world, making it not only a portal to escape (with its hypnotic instrumentals) but forces the listener to think about the present day.