Not everything on Bowie’s self-consciously heavy album The Man Who Sold the World works, but its opening track is remarkable. One anomaly: the chugging distorted guitar, which suggests someone had taken note of grunge and which perhaps accounts for the subsequent cover by, of all people, the Deftones. There was an apocalyptic strain in Bowie’s songwriting almost from the start – see We Are Hungry Men from his 1967 debut – but it was never more beautifully expressed than on Oh! Katy Perry’s Never Really Over is an honorary Aussie song.
A relentless, intense drum loop decorated with squalls of sax, Tis Pity She Was a Whore was unlike anything Bowie had done before. A cheery bolt of daydream escapism, amongst a background of social upheaval. By his own account so out of control he couldn’t even remember recording it, Bowie somehow contrived to make Station to Station a work of awesome power and focus, as evidenced by the lengthy title track. Is it a harpsichord? Cash boosted it with the mariachi horns that give it its overriding, buoyant character. And one of the things that I discovered was that it’s a false dichotomy.
Inspired by the ongoing cold war and its attendant nuclear paranoia, its combination of anger and fatalism still sounds pertinent. From the frantic tumble of toms and urgent harmonies of the ten second intro onwards this track doesn’t mess about. RA: This is your third book, and in it you write a great deal about the influence on you of other writers. I'll Be Back A /11 - Beatles. As a career box set is released, which are their best songs of all? Gothic before “goth” existed. The greatest exponent of producer Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound technique, this sugar-sweet, heart-busting hit by The Ronettes was a true collaboration between producer and muse (singer Ronnie Bennett and Spector would later marry). Whether it inspired Cooke or not, ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ is infused with the belief and determination of the civil rights movement.
On which pounding drums, Jagger drawl and the first sitar to feature on a Number One record combine for an indie disco favourite for now and all time. Happy New Year.
Sade’s US debut single, and probably Diamond Life’s highlight, Hang on to Your Love is a beautiful song and the perfect demonstration of what a mature-sounding band Sade were on arrival, minting a sound that they’ve refined over the past 36 years. A Phil Spector co-write and production, it featured his legendary ‘Wall Of Sound’ stylings. Rumaan Alam: Whom do you consider your most important or most abiding aesthetic influences? But you’re thinking about it in words and I’m thinking in tones. JLA: Well, we live in a culture that’s in steep decline.
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