Blog 7: Iconic Songs and Iconic Covers
Before we look at each of the songs that are in our second set, it is worth spending a moment or two considering the key decisions that we have to make as we go along. By far and away the most challenging of these was the choice of band name (we nearly imploded before we got started!). The “Miss Bowie” part of our name was an easy choice and neatly conveys two messages. Firstly, that the great man will always be missed and secondly, that we have a female lead singer. So Miss Bowie and the (insert name here) seemed redolent of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars but could we agree on the rest? In a word, no! We ummed and ahhed, we all chipped in our thoughts, Allan tried to impose discipline on us (he failed – it’s easier at times to herd cats!) but eventually, we settled on our name – it is one of our favourite songs so heaven knows what took us so long.
Jane would like to add here that Jane Genie was vetoed by Jane, and Homo and the Superiors (Jane’s genius suggestion) was vetoed by the rest of the band minus Mel… and they say I get my own way!
The second most challenging decision is running order. Jane tends to take the lead on this as the flow of the songs needs to be comfortable for her and we have grouped certain songs where we believe they sit well together. We also take guitar changes into consideration, so that we group, for example, ones played by Mel on acoustic together so as to avoid more change-overs. It is something that constantly morphs, and has also morphed since we started writing this blog, based on the order as of February 2019, to take in new songs/different set times, and so on, but it is something we do all put a lot of thought into.
We chose to start with Life on Mars for many of our 2019 sets because it is a bold statement and we wanted something similar for the second set. We, therefore, chose Ziggy Stardust for this role. Its iconic starting riff is a way of showing the second set has started without the need to say anything and it immediately gets people going again after the break. It’s worked so well that as of the time of reviewing this blog for release in October 2019, we have started using it for the start of whole sets that run all the way through, and as the complete start of set for our next gig at the Latch Lifter on October 19th 2019!
What more can be said about Ziggy Stardust? Title track of the sublime Rise and Fall… album, one of his most instantly recognizable songs. This was also one of the songs we recorded back in February 2018 at ROFL studios, which can be heard here: https://youtu.be/Nv0GXfClL2c. This was essentially recorded live and the video done afterwards, and although it’s still a good version, when listening to it back, it definitely shows how far we have come as a band because our live version of this now is better. We will get to the studio to record some more stuff at some point early next year.
It’s fitting to talk about this song in the same blog as China Girl, when thinking about the theme of cover songs. Jane says: One of the earliest memories I would have had about all things Bowie is the great cover of this song by Bauhaus in 1982, with its very rock n roll video to boot: https://youtu.be/rhJZrRV5YKo, that tends to meld in my head of young memories with the video for Wild Boys by Duran Duran that came two years later. Reading the comments to this youtube video, there would seem to be some other people who, like me, wouldn’t have necessarily heard the original version of the song and, although I was aware vaguely of who Bowie was from Ashes to Ashes (released when I was 3 though!), I didn’t associate this song with the same person. This cover, therefore, occupies a very special place in my Bowie timeline… from Pierrot (at 3) to Bauhaus’ Ziggy (at 5), to Jareth (at 9), to going to get Bowie’s albums from the library and having that “bloody hell THAT’s the original” moment (at 11/12).
China Girl, obviously is a cover in itself. It first appeared on Iggy Pop’s debut solo album, The Idiot, in 1977 having been written by him and David Bowie during their Berlin years https://youtu.be/GrR-TFZmwuk.
The song becomes much more widely recognised a few years later when it was released as the second single from Let’s Dance. The song was written at the time Iggy Pop was having an affair with a Vietnamese woman and neither could speak the other’s language and so resorted to gestures, expressions and sign language. Having been recorded in 1976, the original version of the song is set against a denser more immediate musical backdrop but Bowie’s reworked version reflected the glossier MTV era with added hooks, including the oh-oh-oh-oh vocal in the intro, the opening guitar riff and Stevie Ray Vaughan’s awesome guitar solo.
Our version is very much based on the Bowie version as would seem normal! The lead guitar parts on this one are handled by Andrew with Mel taking on rhythm guitar duties with the song propelled forward by our “rhythm section”, Allan and Phil. It’s one of the more challenging songs to sing as its register is low (probably to suit Iggy’s vocal style) but Jane, as always, delivers the lyrics in her own inimitable style and it’s a great song to play. For those of us a certain age, it certainly evokes fond memories of the 1980’s!
It’s such a great and popular song that it has become a mainstay of our set and here is a video of us performing it back in June 2018: https://youtu.be/VKOnVMFCfZo. For those anoraks of setlists, the only time we haven’t played it in the last year or so is when we did it at The Hairy Dog on the 4th of October 2019, and then left it out the next night at The Lion at Basford on the 5th. I wonder who noticed!!!