Saturday, March 8, 2008

David Bowie - Fame

(RCA, 1975)

In 1975, David Bowie decided to surprise everyone, even those of us yet to be born, by ditching the glam racket, buying a suit, and recording an album of sleek, forgettable “soul” poop – a real cocaine soundtrack for swingers all across the land, even those of us yet to be born. But though it’s true I can only remember about three of its eight songs twenty minutes after taking it off the turntable (that hammy cover of “Across the Universe”…yech!), Young Americans gets bigtime kudos for including the deathless “Fame.” Now, is it underwritten? Sure. A little off-putting and whiny lyrically? Well, yes. Still, this is a truly dirty funk single that, unlike everything else on the LP from whence it comes, transcends distracting genre-dabbling to achieve GREATNESS on its own merits. Bowie and pals sound like they’re actually having a whole lotta fun in the studio, and there’s an easy, jammy looseness to this hard-edged ass-shaker that stands in contrast to the up-tightness I sense in too much of his music. Again: Dirty. Note that you’re better off with the LP version of “Fame,” since this single mix chops off about 45 seconds, making the track feel even less developed than it is.

The flip is “Right,” a sax-soaked bit of soul-funk that is a good example of the kind of shrug-worthy muzak that makes up most of Young Americans. Honestly, if I want to hear Bowie “do black,” I’d rather listen to his mid-’60s Pye singles (compiled on all sorts of LPs and CDs), which take a Motown-lite approach and are loads o’ laffs. Catchy, too, unlike this bloodless, expensive-sounding snoozer.

1 comment:

Donald Brown said...

Y'know every time I think about rounding out my Bowie CD collection by getting all the albums he released up to 1984, I find Young Americans stops me cold. I just can't do it because I know I won't suddenly "discover" the great album there that my teen ears, utterly annoyed, missed. Don't worry, it was someone's borrowed copy, I never shelled out a cent for that stuff, except for this song and "Young Americans" (which to me is a Bowie classic, campy in all the right ways) on The Singles CD comp.

I can't attest to the Pye stuff, but I think Bowie's at his best "black" on "Knock on Wood" on David Live, recorded at the Tower in Philly, I'm proud to say...