Blog 23: Absolute Beginners – the anatomy of a classic
Following our last blog which focused on just the one song, The Laughing Gnome, another new song that has entered our set list and which has become a very firm favourite is up next. Absolute Beginners is a rarity in that it didn’t appear on any of Bowie’s studio albums as it was written as the theme song for the film of the same name which was released in 1986. Whilst the film itself proved not to be a commercial success, the song faired significantly better reaching No.2 on the UK singles Chart, the top ten in ten other countries and it peaked at No.53 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the US.
Not only is Absolute Beginners a great song , it is also a long song and by far the longest song played in our set to date (will they ever do Station to Station or BlackStar we hear you ask). The full-length version of the song (the one we play because a. we can and b. we love it) clocks in at a little over eight minutes and even the shortened single version runs in at an impressive five and a half minutes in length. It’s such a joy to play and the song has garnered much positivity over the years and is frequently cited as Bowie’s last great composition of the 1980s, a song with great melodies and arguably the best sax solo to feature in any of his songs. To our minds, it is all of these and more.
The song follows a fairly standard structure with two verses followed by a chorus, a pattern that then repeats. For a standard pop song, the verses are pretty long with each over a minute in length so even on the shortened single, the chorus doesn’t appear until a good two minutes in. Despite it being a long song, from our perspective it never feels like it’s dragging its heels and when playing it, it seems to move along at a beautiful pace being either too hurried or too slow. It’s also the type of song that has plenty of opportunity to be shortened if needed as it would be relatively easy to remove or shorten certain parts (not the chorus, of course!) without this being to its detriment. Even in the event that we had to play a truncated version and our lives depended on it, we would be loathe to reduce Alex’s sax solo at the end which sounds absolutely terrific.
As it’s a new addition to our set list, there isn’t any footage available of us playing it so for now, immerse yourself in the great man himself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_cHvtPB2dY
Finally and on a sperate note, we have been tentatively arranging gigs for the remainder of 2021 but in relation to those that were due to take place in the near future, we remain unsure whether or not these will go ahead. We remain in contact with venues and will update our website and facebook page if gigs are re-scheduled. Please keep an eye out for these updates.
All the very best for now,
Alex, Jane, Mel, Allan, Andrew and Phil (The Tower of Power)