Blog 12: Ramping it up!

In this blog, we take a look at two more upbeat songs both of which have become staples in our set despite one of them being dropped for a short time before being recalled by popular demand. Being in a band (well, at least in our band), there are two things that cause the most disagreement – the band name and the running order of songs. It took us so long to come up with our band name that we had almost disbanded before we agreed on Miss Bowie and the New Killer Stars! On a more serious note, trying to order the set list so that it flows properly and builds tempo can be an interesting challenge especially when songs are moved in an out on a fairly regular basis.

We are very conscious that not everyone who comes to see us is a dyed in the wool Bowie fan and as such, we can and do adjust our setlists in an attempt to suit our potential audience. Conventions will see us playing the less well known songs whereas in venues that have bands playing a wide variety of music, we will load the set with the better known songs. Now, not all of the songs that we play are upbeat as we do include slower songs like Lady Grinning Soul, Lady Stardust, a stripped back version of Loving The Alien and You Feel So Lonely You Could Die. These are usually placed between the more up-tempo songs but as we progress towards the end of our second set, we do like to finish with the songs that get everyone on their feet.

Which brings us neatly on to the two songs which are the subject of this blog, Suffragette City and Boys Keep Swinging. Suffragette City is a song that we rehearsed relatively early on and played at our first few gigs before it was dropped to make way for a new song which had a similar feel, Cracked Actor. Having dropped Suffragette, we started to get numerous requests to play it, so we re-introduced it and it now features regularly as one of a cluster of songs that close out our second set. Suffragette City is a barnstormer of a song that once you get into it, flies along at a cracking pace. No contrast in this one between acoustic and electric guitars, its good old rock ‘n’ roll all the way. Interestingly, when doing a bit of research on this one, it appears that Bowie originally offered the song to Mott the Hoople, but they declined it and opted to take All the Young Dudes instead.

For some time, Jane attempted to persuade the male factions of the band to don wigs on this next song but we concluded (with huge sighs of relief from Allan, Phil and Andrew!) that gimmicks were not needed on Boys Keep Swinging. From the 1979 Lodger album, this song shares the same chord sequence as Fantastic Voyage which we played many times before set list rotation got the better of it. In a way, we were able to learn two songs for the price of one with these two. Boys Keep Swinging is the up-tempo version of the chord progressions in Voyage, and it’s a great song to play. Listen out for Allan’s cowbell counting us in before we all dive into this rollicking track. A great song and a fabulous example of the direction of late 1970’s music was taking as the disco era drew to a close.