Well, we all know David Bowie would have been 70 years old today had he still been with us. Sadly, he isn’t though his music remains with us forever and that cannon of albums attached to his name is certainly something special. And over the years we have all gone through our favourite records from his back catalogue and, in many instances, attempted to decipher our most desired releases from his body of work. No easy task at the best of times.
I’ve decided to give it my best shot in selecting my seven favourite Bowie albums to commemorate seventy years since his birth in just seven days. And what better way to start than on January 8 2017? I can assure you now that five of these choices have always been on the list since I began offering my views and opinions on his best as far back as the mid 90’s when I first began discussing this definitive first world problem. Actually, the first time I belted out my TOP 10 Bowie albums in earnest was with a guy behind the counter at Galaxy Music in 1994, I almost came to landing a blow to the face of the then old and probably now dead fella as he argued the point perhaps a little too feverishly as to why Bowie’s post Scary Monsters output was all shite.
So, without further or do, here is number 7…..
LODGER: Released 18 May 1979
Highest UK chart entry: 4
Highest US chart entry: 20
Perhaps one could regard Lodger as Bowie’s travel diary on vinyl. Right from the opening notes of Fantastic Voyage on side one, we learn of his disenfranchised views of capitalism and how those in far flung places are suffering at the hand of the west. By track three, we realise Bowie needs to “Move On” which is a clear indication that he is already tiring of the 1970’s and is looking to set the tone of the pending decade of decadence which rests just over the horizon. It’s at this point where I need to mention a series of video clips made to compliment the album. Boys Keep Swinging, DJ and Look Back In Anger are three of Bowie’s most adventurous and crafty videos. Each one openly deals its subject in a harsh yet bold manner. All three videos were premiered at an album launch in New York during the final days of April 1979. In effect, they were so far removed, left field and avant garde that they left some journalists scratching their heads as to what message Bowie was trying to get across after returning from his sojourn in Berlin. MTV had yet to latch onto our lives and most American television networks refused to air the videos due to their homoerotic content.
My very own first encounter with Lodger occurred on a wet and grey Tuesday evening in early 1993, some sixteen years after it’s release. I had hired a CD copy from Red Dog Entertainment in Red Hill, a small CD rental shop in the inner northern suburbs of Brisbane. I instantly fell in love with the storytelling content of the album which left you dreaming of far flung destinations involving African tribes and Burlesque shows in the seedy districts of Berlin. I guess the album actually planted seeds in my head that travel was going to be my main ambition in life. As a then young and curious fifteen year old, I conjured visions of China and other detached worlds where English was not the first language the people were fascinating and somewhat random.
When I listen to Lodger in 2017, it rekindles my dreams of 1993 when I had the world at my then ever so inexperienced feet. I had yet to set foot outside of Australia. I was still in school. I had not yet even kissed a girl let alone fucked one. I was still eating my mothers home cooked meals and trying to come to terms with not fitting in at school. Lodger gave me a sense of escapism into another world of adventure. Perhaps it was the same affect that Charles Dickens and Jack Kerouac had given to previous youthful generations who were looking for an escape route from the mundane drivel of day to day suburban life?
Lodger, like it did then, still strikes a rich chord with me. A chord that was very much unlike that of which bestowed me when I first heard Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust. Maybe one could label Lodger as my awakening record. It did indeed lead me to the music of Talking Heads, Wire, XTC, Joy Divison and Japan. And it most certainly became an inspiration to break the suburban grind of Australian life to live and travel abroad and explore the options my own country never afforded me.
Lodger would be the end of the Bowie/Eno “trip-tych” as it is referred to and the last time Eno would be present in the studio until 1994 when they began recording 1. Outside. On the ensuing tour to promote 1. Outside, Bowie would resurrect a handful of Lodger tracks for a live airing, some for the very first time. More than a decade and a half on, they fitted in with the dire landscape of his industrial sound and set the accompanied the tour through America and Europe.
Lodger was an album that closed the door on the 70’s and laid the foundation stones of Scary Monsters the following year which would become, for a very long time, regarded as Bowie last great moment of studio work. Only in recent years has Lodger garnered the critical respect it so deserves. My only request is that one day down the track we get a re-issue with some of the much vaunted out-takes and alternative versions of songs contained within. For now however, I am more than happy for Lodger to stand tall in my own list of favourite albums.