Earlier this week I reviewed The Next Day, David Bowie’s 27th studio album, which owes a great aesthetic debt to some of Bowie’s earlier releases – especially his 1977 album “Heroes”. And so I’ve decided to post a song from “Heroes” whose style is emulated quite explicitly on The Next Day: the sorely underrated “Joe The Lion.”
I feel like there’s a faction of music listeners who think of David Bowie – and perhaps solo songwriters in general – as a lyricist, first and foremost. I, for one, believe that Bowie’s greatest strengths are his chord progressions (which Bowie has always been eager to congratulated himself on) and an impeccable sense of who to bring onto projects and how they should be utilized. On the song “Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?),” for example, Bowie coaxed a disturbingly perfect piano improvisation from keyboardist Mike Garson; though I don’t get the feeling that evil guitar genius Robert Fripp needed much coaxing, he gives a similarly perfect and similarly arresting show on “Joe The Lion.”
Fripp’s jagged krautrock-cum-sitcom-intro guitar riffs and George Murray’s resuscitated “Changes” bassline (a trick used multiple times on The Next Day) are simply amazing. Bowie’s lyrics, which reference performance artist Chris Burden’s having nailed himself to his car and being purposefully shot by his assistant, are – somehow – equally amazing. Though airy production and an aggressive, Germanic delivery have prevented it from becoming as canonical as at least 50 other Bowie songs, “Joe The Lion” is not a track to be missed by any means.
David Bowie – “Joe The Lion”