58. David Bowie - Golden Years

David Bowie is one of those people in popular rock music who almost seems timeless. You look at pictures of him today and he looks uncannily like the guy that stormed onto the music scene in the late sixties. Throughout the years, he's changed styles of music not at the whim of popular music, but at whatever musical style he wanted to explore. He's gone from eclectic rock to fashion rock to popular rock to electronic rock all the while remaining true to his own style. He's got that great voice that can hit multiple octaves, giving him tremendous versatility with what he can do in any given song. And he's devilishly handsome to boot.

"Golden Years" comes from his 1975 album Station to Station, but it sounds much more akin to the music that appeared on his previous album Young Americans. It's almost as if "Golden Years" didn't make the cut for Young Americans but then Bowie rethought it. Actually, "Golden Years" was the first song he wrote for Station to Station, so it's understandable that it has a lot in common with the earlier album. It has that soul and funk infused feel to it that many songs on Young Americans have, but "Golden Years" is their superior.

It starts with that great rock/funk riff that longtime Bowie collaborator Carlsos Alomar came up with during the studio sessions. There's that quirky horn that just randomly pops up, adding to the feel that the whole song was just made up on the spot. Same with the "whop, whop, whop" vocals. They add to the casual nature of both the pacing of the song and the playing of it, as do the hand claps. But don't be fooled. There's some great musicianship here, with Alomar continuing derivations of the original riff. Throughout the song, there are two guitar parts playing at the same time, doing a great job of complimenting each other. And the drums play a more rock beat than a complicated funk/soul beat, helping give the other musicians the freedom to shine.

The lyrics address the theme that so many great songs deal with - missed opportunities and taking what you have for granted. Early in the song, Bowie talks to his "angel" about appreciating what you have and enjoying the life that's going on around you.

Don't let me hear you say life's taking you nowhere, angel
Come get up my baby
Look at that sky, life's begun
Nights are warm and the days are young

Later on, though, it's clear that the urging went unheeded.

Last night they loved you, opening doors and pulling some strings, angel

Come get up my baby
In walked luck and you looked in time
Never look back, walk tall, act fine
Come get up my baby

He's still trying to encourage his angel, even when his warnings were ignored. So many people in relationships try to get the other to appreciate the things that they have in life instead of overreaching for unattainable things and focusing on the negative. Most of us have probably been there, which gives the lyrics of "Golden Years" that universality that so many great songs have. We can all relate to it because it's happened to us.

We've all had friends or lovers who were lost but ignored the help we tried to give them. But it doesn't stop David Bowie from trying again and again in "Golden Years," just like we keep trying with those we love. That's what makes great songs like this great. Lyrics you can relate to and music you just can't stop humming. "Whop Whop Whop."

(Fun Fact #84 - David Bowie originally wrote the song to be recorded by another artist whose voice he thought would work well with the melody he came up with. You may even hear the influence of the artist in the way Bowie sings the song. The artist? None other than Elvis Presley. The King rejected the song, and Bowie went on to make it his own US Top 10 hit.)

(Fun Fact #51 - There's a great scene in the movie A Knight's Tale, where they have a dance scene that has a chamber music version of "Golden Years" that morphs into the regular version of the song. The dancing also morphs from the chamber dancing of the middle ages to a much more modern choreographed feel. I love the way they mixed the music and transitioned the dancing. I couldn't help but put the video here so you could enjoy it too. Here you go...)

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