Saturday, 13 January 2018

Bowie Week II: Saturday

As good as much of Bowie's 90s material is, it clearly hasn't been as influential as anything that went before it. Hence why there's so little in the way of cover versions of songs from that era. Even his early 2000 stuff has been largely overlooked. Which is why, for today's selection of tunes, we're fast-forwarding to this very decade and the great man's final two albums.

When Where Are We Now dropped at midnight on the 8th January 2013, it was big news. Bowie had not released anything for a decade and not made any public appearances for seven years. There was a lot of speculation about his health in this time, so it was a huge relief to us fans that our hero was very much alive and kicking. The comeback single, for me at least, was a little underwhelming - an introspective ballad in which he reminisced about his Berlin days. The comeback album 'The Next Day' though was superb. The same month, Villagers released their also rather excellent album '{Awayland}', an Irish number one and their biggest seller in the UK. As part of the record's promotion, they popped into the BBC Live Lounge and played Where Are They Now?. Personally, I think it works beautifully with just acoustic guitar and piano.

Three years later, Bowie released 'Blackstar' then died. A hole was left in our lives that will never be filled. But still his spirit lived on and the tributes came flooding out. Rising indie star Will Toledo records under the quite awful name of Car Seat Headrest. It hasn't stopped him from being one of the most written-about and musically prolific artists of the last couple of years though. In 2016 he included this cover of the first part of 'Blackstar''s title track in his set at the Pitchfork Festival.

A little later in the year, an intriguing release came in the form of 'Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute'. It was the work of American musician and composer Jherek Bischoff and Australian singer/musician Amanda Palmer. They roped in a few friends and recorded some of Bowie's biggest hits with a string section. Here, Palmer duets with the wonderful Anna Calvi on a full-length take on Blackstar. I love this but think I'll go for Villagers today, though it's a close call.

One final, special bonus instalment to come tomorrow...


  1. I'm familiar the 'Strung Out in Heaven' set, from which the version of 'Blackstar' is a highlight. Car Seat Headrest do little for me, in spite of Lamacq's best efforts and their take on 'Blackstar' does nothing to change my mind. The surprise of this bunch is Villagers, who I wouldn't claim to be a fan of. Their interpretation of 'Where Are They Now?' is very good indeed.

  2. A good selection of covers, but I have to put it out there that Momus' covers of Blackstar and Where Are We Now? Where Are We Now? is even more gently emotional, fragile than Bowie's. I look back on the song as the preface to Bowies last "book" of music. Momus manages to do one of his best (and he's tried for years) approximations of Bowie doing Momus...if that makes sense.

  3. This was such a good series, Robster. I heard quite a few new covers. I think my favorite of that group was from A Camp. I have listened to it many times the last couple of days.