David Bowie – My Top 100 Favorite Songs: 86

86 david bowie seven years in tibet 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.

“Are you OK?
You’ve been shot in the head
And I’m holding your brains”
The old woman said

By 1997 I was a dance club DJ who’s sets consisted almost entirely of electronica. You can imagine my delight with Bowie’s new direction towards jungle and drum and bass beats; it fit perfectly within the club culture I was a part of. Lyrically, David returned his focus to oft discussed themes of religion and politics, fear, madness and isolation. What’s interesting here is Bowie’s shift towards a more human, first person narrative. The view from space was replaced by more grounded observations, perhaps suggesting David’s increasing comfort within himself.  Rather than deal with otherworldly topics through the perspective of an alien, he uses his human voice to express outrage towards real world atrocities. David’s fondness for Buddhism and reverence for the Dalai Lama certainly contributed towards the personal nature of his lyrics.
“When you’re kind of young and idealist we were protesting the invasion of Tibet by China. And thirty years later they’re still there. Nothing has really moved. And more than anything else it was the lectures that the Dalai Lama has been doing over the last couple of years that really prodded me a bit. Made me feel quite guilty that I’ve known about this situation quite well and quite intimately for many, many years—that I hadn’t actually come out and made my stance on what I feel about it. So I guess that song in a way was to make some kind of amends.”
Bowie, radio interview, 1997
Bowie voices support for the plight of the Tibetan people while decrying evil done in the name of religion, power and politics.

“Are you OK?
You’ve been shot in the head
And I’m holding your brains”
The old woman said
So I drink in the shadows
Of an evening sky
See nothing at all

The song begins with an almost religious procession beat, combined snarled guitar bursts and electronically processed vocals.  People are being indiscriminately killed, with no one to help them but their own . Bowie chooses the character of an old woman to deliver his message. The people of Tibet are powerless against the empire. They suffer while the rest of the world sits and drinks, oblivious to their plight. After the verse is delivered, the chaos of aggressive guitars and hard driving rhythms ensue before returning to an almost funereal rhythm for the second verse. The rage and frustration is palpable, both lyrically and musically.

The stars look so special
And the snow looks so old
The frail form is drifting
Beyond the orc’s zone
Time to question the mountain
Why pigs can fly
It’s nothing at all

Here, Bowie seems to be observing how wildly varied people’s interpretations can be, despite experiencing the same empirical data. Earth’s most beautiful gifts are completely taken for granted, we don’t take the time to appreciate the world around us. David is questioning whether we are paying attention, searching for truth.

Why pigs can fly? It’s nothing at all!

May as well believe the impossible..
The third verse has Bowie repeatedly screaming his praise over a raging maelstrom of guitars. Despite the decidedly aggressive tone of the music, David still gives himself space to express feelings of sorrow and regret. It’s catch up time for him, time to speak to his higher power, that’s ALL that matters!
“The subtext of the song is really some of the desperation and agony felt by young Tibetans who have had their families killed and themselves have been reduced to mere ciphers in their own country.”
David Bowie, 1997
1997 represented a most confusing, tumultuous period in my life. I was drinking heavily and popping ecstasy like smarties during my DJ gigs. My need to escape from myself led me to work myself to exhaustion, during my day job as a hairdresser.  Any and all remaining moments of self-awareness were chased away with booze and pills.  I went looking for redemption but I found judgement…

READ 100, 99, 98… 90, 89, 88, 87

Seven Years In Tibet

“Are you OK?
You’ve been shot in the head
And I’m holding your brains”
The old woman said
So I drink in the shadows
Of an evening sky
See nothing at allThe stars look so special
And the snow looks so old
The frail form is drifting
Beyond the orc’s zone
Time to question the mountain
Why pigs can fly
It’s nothing at allI praise to you
Nothing ever goes away
I praise to you
Nothing ever goes
I praise to you
I praise to you
Nothing ever goes away
I praise to you
Nothing ever goes
I praise to you
Nothing ever goes away
I praise to you
Nothing ever goes, nothing ever goes
Nothing