Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bowie & Bassey, Together At Last




They have given me a lifetime of listening love & they share a birthday today. Like your host, they are Capricorns, certainly the brightest birth sign. Unlike me, the pair of Brits have had decades long super careers in show biz. Shirley Bassey feeds my fantasies about growing old, epitomized in beautiful songs like Charles Aznavour's Yesterday, When I Was Young. David Bowie encourages me to stay a young American, bored with my external characters, daring to seek ideas within my alternative egos. He is an artist-hero who kills off his past roles - Ziggy Stardust, Spaceman, Bisexual, Rebel, like out dated clothing.

Both, too, are beyond normal criticism, defying purely musical assessment. Bassey over-sings, but thrillingly, & cannot perform except with total commitment. Bowie over-plays, but rivetingly, & demands attention by his extravagant idiosyncrasy, which is as professionally unrepentant as hers. She devours the listener; he incites the listener. Each powerfully proves the power of personality.

Funny, but I seem to really fully embrace artists when they are at their core fans’ & critic’s low ebb: The Beatles- The White Album, The Rolling Stones- Some Girls, U2- Achtung Baby, REM- Automatic For The People. I have listened to & collected David Bowie since 1969 with the release of Space Oddity (a song I still listen to). That is 40+ years of living with David Bowie in his many incarnations & personas. But, my favorite era for Bowie was not Ziggy Stardust, The Thin White Duke, Alladin Sane, or the Brian Eno lean years of Low. No, I love David Bowie of the Let’s Dance era of the mid-1980s. That album, along with the next year’s Tonight were the soundtrack of the very best time of my life. Modern Love, Let’s Dance, China Girl, songs that mixed blue-eyed soul with an Industrial edge & pop sensibilities. I thought Bowie was in his best voice & his sexiest during this time. I saw some serious moonlight in the 1980s.

Your Host & The Husband in the year of the release of Let's Dance, 1983

He always bristled, although I can't imagine why, but in the 1980s, The Husband was often told, sometimes by strangers, that he strongly resembled David Bowie. I still think he does, although The Husband always dismisses this suggestion.

There is a list of British acts that have eluded pure popularity in the USA: Celia Black, Dusty Springfield, Lulu, & Robbie Williams come to mind. But why hasn’t Shirley Bassey caught on in this country after 50+ years of recording great pop music & being the #1 Female Artist in Britain? Especially with American Gays? The Husband & I really dig her. We were zany for her cover of Pink's Get The Party Started in the party summer of 2007.

Shirley Bassey won an entirely new generation of fans when she guested on a 1997 song from British techno act, Propellerheads. The terrific tune, History Repeating, charted in both Europe & North America, & appeared on the soundtrack to the popular 1998 film There's Something About Mary. Yet Bassey had already enjoyed a long, 5 decade career as a performer before this point, recording a string of hit singles in the 1960s & garnering a devoted cult following for her torchy, often slightly risqué songs, glamorous looks, & compelling stage presence. Sometimes called "Bassey the Belter" for her strong alto, Bassey had previously enjoyed a huge international hit when she performed the title song to the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger. She went on to record 3 Bond themes songs, more than any other artist. Bassey possesses one of the most instantly recognizable voices in popular music.

Dame Shirley Bassey isn't just the biggest voice to come out of Wales, she remains Britain's most successful female artist. No wonder Rufus Wainwright, Pet Shop Boys & K.T. Tunstall are queuing up to write songs for her.

Bowie turns 66 years old today, January 8th, Bassey a fabulous 76 . What are your favorite Bowie & Bassey recordings? I go for Bassey's Yesterday, When I Was Young & Bowie's Ashes To Ashes.

3 comments:

  1. I danced to "History Repeating" in the hotel lobby bar, alone, in Venice while the gorgeous Italian bell boy asked me "you like Shirley Bassey?" It was pure heaven.

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  2. I think you should retract your statement saying that Dusty never made it big Stateside. Nonsense- she had a LOT of hits during the Sixties and into the early 70s! She was the FIRST solo artist to make the top ten in the British Invasion with "Wishin' & Hopin'" in early 1964, plus also hit the Top Ten with "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" and "Son of a Preacher Man". Also, she hit the Billboard Top 40 with "I Only Want To Be With You", "Stay Awhile", "All I See Is You", "I'll Try Anything", and "The Look of Love". Only Petula Clark did better among British divas in the U.S.! As a longtime Dusty Springfield fan I demand an apology!

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  3. I don't think "Automatic.." can be described as a critical low ebb. It sold monster amounts, had 6 singles, and remains one of the most important recordings of the 90's.

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