David Bowie – My Top 100 Favorite Songs: 84

84 The pretty things are going to hell david bowie top 100 songs vinyl junkies vj

I recently 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 really cool happened over those 100 days.

I’d like to share that countdown with you. Read along, embark upon Niall Colgan’s personal journey while he narrates some of the most intimate aspects of his life with his undying passion for the art of David Bowie. The vid below is a short intro, scroll directly beneath to read the countdown.

Number 84: The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell

Taken From: Hours (1999)

Thursdays Child was the first entry taken from Hours, but there’s so much more. During a 1999 interview in support of this album, David Bowie made a most unusual statement:

“I don’t have regrets. If I am cajoled into looking at the past, which I do very infrequently, I tend not to look on it as baggage but as wings.”

What could he have possibly meant? Not only is a large portion of his recorded catalog steeped in regret, fear and isolation, but these are topics he revisited frequently. The contradiction is fairly evident.

Don’t hold your breath but the pretty things are going to hell

Who are the pretty things? They are Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane, The Thin White Duke and Pierrot the clown. Scary Monsters spelled the end of the David who hid behind masks.   Hours reveals the man behind the characters, finally using his first person voice to sing his story.  Now 50, this shedding of skins led Bowie to reflect upon his life, confront his own mortality. This newfound maturity carried great regret, melancholy and in some cases derision toward the man he was and the characters he became.
Now that he’s buried the costumes, Bowie is left with unanswered questions.

What to do

What to say

What to wear on a sunny day

Who to phone

Who to fight

Who to dance with on a Sunday night

Personal experience leads me to believe David struggled in his own company, uncomfortable and likely terrified of what he’d hear inside his own head. Make calls, keep busy, plan everything! I also believe this first verse is a reference to his time spent in L.A., living the life that nearly did him in.

Reaching the very edge, you know

Reaching the very edge

Going to the other side this time

Reaching the very edge

At times it became overwhelming; was he pushing it too far? Is the other side another reference to his dabbling with the occult, while in LA ? Whatever the case, Bowie is clearly telling us how far he went.

You’re still breathing but you don’t know why

Life’s a bitch and sometimes you die

You’re still breathing but you just can’t tell

Don’t hold your breath but the pretty things are going to hell

The meaning of the song begins revealing itself. Addicts experience many instances where they question how they made it through. You wake up thankful for getting through because you are keenly aware of every instance your addictions nearly killed you.

I am a drug

I am a dragon

I am the best jazz you’ve ever seen

I am a dragon

I am the sky

I am the blood at the corner of your eye

I found the secrets, I found gold

I find you out before you grow old

I find you out before you grow old

Bowie takes brutal stock of himself before announcing that he knows the truth. His first person voice has been found, he is now his true self.

What is eternal?

What is damned?

What is clay and what is sand?

Who to dis?

Who to truss?

Who to listen to?

Who to suss?

Questions abound. Now that he’s taken control, what does it all mean and how will he navigate through it?  During a 1999 interview, David candidly admitted his addiction to alcohol and drugs. He attributed the drastic changes in his life, towards the better, to having chosen a life of sobriety.  Within this context, one can view Hours as David Bowie’s fourth step in a twelve step program towards recovery.  Within that same context, putting together this list is mine.

Step 4: Truth

READ 100, 99, 98… 90, 89, 88, 87, 86, 85


The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell

What to do
What to say
What to wear on a sunny day
Who to phone
Who to fight
Who to dance with on a Sunday night

Reaching the very edge, you know
Reaching the very edge
Going to the other side this time
Reaching the very edge

You’re still breathing but you don’t know why
Life’s a bit and sometimes you die
You’re still breathing but you just can’t tell
Don’t hold your breath but the pretty things are going to hell

I am a drug
I am a dragon
I am the best jazz you’ve ever seen
I am a dragon
I am the sky
I am the blood at the corner of your eye
I found the secrets, I found gold
I find you out before you grow old
I find you out before you grow old

What is eternal?
What is damned?
What is clay and what is sand?
Who to dis?
Who to truss?
Who to listen to?
Who to suss?

I’m reaching the very edge, you know
I’m reaching the very edge
I’m going to the other side this time
I’m reaching the very edge

You’re still breathing but you don’t know why
Life’s a bit and sometimes you die
You’re still breathing but you just can’t tell
Don’t hold your breath but the pretty things are going to hell

I am a dragon
I am a drug
I am the best jazz you’ve ever heard
I am a dragon
I am the sky
I am the blood at the corner of your eye
I found the secrets, I found gold
I find you out before you grow old
I find you out before you grow old

The pretty things are going to hell
They wore it out but they wore it well

You’re still breathing but you don’t know why
You’re still breathing but you just can’t tell
Don’t hold your breath but the pretty things are going to hell