Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Bowie Diddley

Among the many musical tropes that Bowie returned to throughout his long career, one he especially seemed to relish was the 3-2 clave tattoo known as the Bo Diddley beat. After spending weeks swimming in his catalogue, from its depths to its shallows, I can trace the line from his first real rock album, A Space Oddity, on which the beat recurs repeatedly, in the moving folk ballad "God Knows I'm Good," and in one memorable instrumental acoustic-guitar figure in the title track, but most forcefully in the beguiling jam "Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed" (beat starts at 1:10 and doesn't stop)...

...to the middle of his early Ziggy period, with the snaky "Panic in Detroit..."

...to the peak of his Berlin period, in the underlying feel of his great "Sound and Vision" (it's most pronounced on the "chorus," which first appears at 1:05)...

...to this amazing variation on the beat, retooled for 7/4, from Scary Monsters' "Up the Hill Backwards"...

...and finally to this hard-edged variation, from his last record ★, "Sue"...
And the beat goes on.

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