The Essential David Bowie Playlist

The Essential David Bowie Playlist

David Bowie Playlist: Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World, Station to Station, Ashes to Ashes, Young Americans, Moonage Daydream, As the World Falls Down and more

David Bowie put together seven or eight runs in one. Between 1969 and 1983, the man produced more classics than anyone can count. He had one of the longest creative streaks in rock history, somehow managing to work on projects with Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Marc Bolan along the way. The past few decades have been a bit bumpy for Ziggy Stardust, but we’re here to focus on Bowie when he was a shooting star. So, without further ado, here are the 20 artist essentials.

The Essential David Bowie Playlist
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Space Oddity (1969)

After spending six years as a relative unknown and playing unknown venues, Bowie found creative liftoff with this 1969 classic. He would go on to spend the next few years amidst the stars.

The Man Who Sold the World (1970)

The Man Who Sold the World was Bowie’s first single with the band Spider From Mars, which took him out of the folk era and into a more experimental space…outer space. This science fiction track is packed with references to Kubrick, Lovecraft, and Orwell, and remains one of his more spacey tunes.

Life on Mars? (1971)

Thanks to its killer harmonies and string section, Life on Mars was an instant smash for Bowie after its release in 1971. It’s a testament to his melody that we can all sing the lyrics, even if we don’t know what they mean.

Station to Station (1976)

Released in 1976, Bowie was well into his drug phase and doesn’t even remember recording this 10-minute ballad. Steeped in biblical mythology and disco instrumentation, it sounds like a trip into the pits of hell.

Ashes to Ashes (1980)

In 1980, Bowie wrote this track about his years as a drug addict. It’s not one of his more upbeat tracks, but it does have the power to take you somewhere new.

Changes (1971)

An early indication of Bowie’s powerhouse melodies and instrumentation, Changes was only his second song to reach the charts. The track is basically a shorter version of Kendrick Lamar’s Control: a mission statement that let everyone know who’s got next.

Young Americans (1975)

This upbeat track about an American girl saw Bowie leaving rock behind. Some fans were horrified, but most were happy to join in on the fun. How could you not dance along to those background vocals or that saxophone?

Moonage Daydream (1972)

If you want to introduce someone to the orchestral majesty of Bowie, start with Moonage Daydream. They’ll be blown away by the electric guitar, the sonic rhythms, the far-out lyrics, and the piano that floats through space like a satellite.

Starman (1972)

In 1972, Bowie shocked the world with a concept album that took listeners to space. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust is about an alien that comes to earth and takes the shape of a human being; that way, he can give us all hope. There had never been anything like it, and there hasn’t been anything like it since. Starman is a one-of-one.

Rebel Rebel (1974)

David Bowie does his best Rolling Stones impression on this 1974 classic. He had been spending a lot of time with Kieth Richards, and decided to write a rock anthem for teenage misfits. The result is a beast of burden.

Suffergate City (1972)

Released in 1972, Suffergate City is an excellent example of Bowie’s devotion to spiteful energy. It’s a punk classic, one with more attitude than a grounded teenager.

Golden Years (1976)

Appearing on 1976’s Station to Station, Golden Years marked a tonal shift for Bowie. After three years of darkness, the song bursts through the clouds like a ray of light. It never ceases to put a smile on my face.

Ziggy Stardust (1972)

Ziggy Stardust is another song about an alien who comes to earth. With a guitar, crooked eyes and a crush on eagles, Ziggy became the most popular fictional character in music history. He’s backed by an iconic chorus, some drum rolls, and one of the best vocal performances of Bowie’s career.

As the World Falls Down (1986)

In 1986, Bowie wrote five songs for the science fiction movie Labyrinth. The movie itself isn’t good, but the track that plays over the “peach scene” is really something.

Under Pressure (1981)

Written by Bowie, Taylor and Freddie Mercury, Under Pressure is one of the most covered songs in music history. It’s been riffed on more times than a Scorsese movie, used in everything from disco to country.

Heroes (1977)

Heroes tells the story of two lovers on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall. The song didn’t reach the Top 100, but is now considered one of the greatest songs of all time. It’s become so famous that kids have started using it on Tik Tok–proof that art can still penetrate the walls of commerce.

Oh! You Pretty Things (1971)

Released in 1971, this track is so melodic it could have been sung by the lead singer of The Hermits, yet so dark it could have been written by Samuel Beckett. Only Bowie could mix tones as he does here.

Sound and Vision (1977)

Only a genius sings about writer’s block at the most creative point in their career, because only a genius can articulate the fog of writer’s block at the top of their game. Bowie is that genius–he doesn’t sing a word until halfway through, as if to capture the lull of writing in music form.

John, I’m Only Dancing (1972)

Recorded in 1972, John, I’m Only Dancing was not released in the US for being too “sexually ambiguous.” That’s a shame: people could have used a dance song that was made for everyone.

Modern Love (1983)

This catchy, tongue-in-cheek song encourages us to reflect on romance in the modern age. Released in 1983, it sees Bowie at his most jazzy and upbeat, playing saxophone that makes you want to dance to the nearest club.

The Essential David Bowie Playlist

More must-reads:

The Essential Guns N’ Roses Playlist
The Essential Woodstock Playlist
The Essential Britney Spears Playlist
The Essential Led Zeppelin Playlist
The Essential Paul Simon Playlist

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