David Bowie – My Top 100 Favorite Songs: 100

The World's Biggest David Bowie Fan's Top 100 Songs: 100 Vinyl Junkies

Over a 3 month period, I witnessed the biggest David Bowie fan I know count down his top 100 favorite songs. These were private posts, meant solely for his facebook family and friends. Something cool happened over those 100 days.

We’d like to share that countdown with you. Read along, see for yourself. It’s amazing. Watch the vid below if you want a short intro, scroll directly beneath to read the countdown.

Number 100 – I’ve Not Been To Oxford Town

So here I go…. I had more trouble doing 90-100 than I had doing 1-10 !! Number 100 in my favorite Bowie songs of all time is a song from my second favorite Bowie album: Outside.

Before I traveled to the Point Depot on the 24/11/95 I was having difficulty wrapping my head around this album. Six or seven songs in, I was mesmerized!! Kind of an upbeat song for a chap on death row… The band on this album were just sublime!!

Outside is a concept album about the murder of the 14 year old baby Grace, told by the suspect Leon Blank and Detective Nathan Adler.  This album followed the brilliant Buddha Of Suburbia and the equally brilliant Black Tie White Noise. It’s a true return to Bowie as we knew him.

Oxford Town was the final song to be recorded. It would also mark the final time we would see the collaboration of Brian Eno, Carlos Alomar and Bowie together on record. During one of the last recording sessions Eno, Alomar and drummer Joey Baron came up with the rhythm track while jamming, which they named ‘Trio’. David would often leave his musicians waiting in the recording studio, with instruction for them to jam away right up until he got there. It often yielded brilliant results, as evidenced by The Man Who Sold The World, Station To Station, Young Americans and Low. When David heard ‘Trio’ he knew they were on to something and began writing the lyrics on the spot. As Eno wrote in his diary, “…then he went into the vocal booth and sang the most obscure thing imaginable—long spaces, little incomplete lines. He unfolded the whole thing in reverse, keeping us in suspense for the main song. Within half an hour he’d substantially finished what may be the most infectious song we’ve ever written together, currently called ‘Toll the Bell.’” Bowie proves his genius here, showing he was back to his creative best . His vocal delivery and crafting of the lyrics is just perfect for the chugging beat. They render parts of the song curt and abrupt while other parts were jovial and uplifting, even though the song is told from the mouth of the murder suspect! The character Bowie gives voice to is awaiting the trial of the murder of the young girl in an American prison cell, where he is most likely facing the death penalty.

Reeves Gabrels and Carlos Alomar work brilliantly with Eno’s synths and Erdal Kizilcay’s bass. Once Eno mixes in his trademark studio treatments, bells, chants, hums and backing vocals…. it’s a fucking gem!

The town crier in I Have Not Been To Oxford Town is both declaiming and disclaiming. He is both in the news and reporting it from the outside. He reports the murder of Baby Grace while simultaneously reporting that he himself is implicated. He then offers his alibi: “I have not been to Oxford Town”. The town crier often called the hours of the night, offering townsfolk a reassuring “2 o’clock and all’s well”, before running through the recent news headlines. In this case, Bowie is both news carrier and news maker, declaimer and disclaimer. His “all’s well” serves to reassure both the sleepy populace and himself. Don’t worry, all that’s happening here is that the 20th century is dying, peacefully. It makes for a funny or at least ironic situation. A town crier has committed a crime. He tells world he didn’t do it, couldn’t have done it. As the song unfolds he begins to admit suspicious flashback memories. He ripped the fabric, time stood still, he met Ramona… A declaimed disclaimer slowly becomes a public confession. The camera lens zooms out, the listener is transported to his prison cell. A bunk, two sheets, priests, a lawyer, foul food. And the crier crying about what could have been, to anyone who will listen. He was outside, and now he’s inside, the story teller became the story.

Leon Blank, the accused killer, doesn’t hold back when finally given a chance to have his say! Bowie sings the condemned mans song, his last words spoken from his cell before he hangs himself. It’s like he’s crossing off his list in his final note to the world.

It isn’t often pointed out that the album could be described as generally optimistic. Despite all the darkness and murder, life still comes out on top. In that way, Outside is just as much a product of its time as any of the apocalyptic 70s albums were. In this case, it’s not always clear whether the world would survive or not. In 1995 the future was certain- doomsaying was the novelty and that’s where Outside sits.

I’m lucky I got to tell him that! I was lucky enough to see David on the Outside Tour . He was back to his not giving a fuck best. Gone were the hits; the performance was self indulgent and spectacular!

Baby Grace is the victim
She was 14 years of age
And the wheels are turning, turning
For the finger points at me
All’s well
But I have not been to Oxford Town
All’s well
No I have not been to Oxford Town

Toll the bell
Pay the private eye
All’s well
20th century dies

And the prison priests are decent
My attorney seems sincere
I fear my days are numbered
Lord get me out of here
All’s well
But I have not been to Oxford Town
All’s well
But I have not been to Oxford Town

This is your shadow on my wall
This is my flesh and blood
This is what I could’ve been

And the wheels are turning and turning
As the 20th century dies

If I had not ripped the fabric
If time had not stood still
If I had not met Ramona
If I’d only paid my bill
All’s well
But I have not been to Oxford Town
All’s well
But I have not been to Oxford Town

This is my bunk with two sheets
This is my food though foul
This is what I could have been

[CHORUS (ad lib.)]

 READ: #99