What I talk about when I talk about Bowie

It was late 2006 when I first listened to Hunky Dory. I had just finished high school and – inspired by a particularly troubling memory of standing on the scales and watching the needle move above 110kgs – started running consistently.

I started back-cataloguing artists so that I would have plenty of music to last me for the exercise plan I made. Dylan; Simon and Garfunkle, Floyd, the Beatles – the names that appear most often on those “best artists of all time” lists. I came across a torrent containing the complete discography of David Bowie.

The file was ridiculous for my 256kb connection, so I chose what I had heard was his best album and went from there. On the first listen I didn’t think so much of it, at least not for the third of the space it took up on my mp3 player of very limited space.

Luckily, after initially hating Neatural Milk Hotel’s In the Airoplane Over the Sea and later falling in love with it, I instigated a staunch 5 listen rule before writing an album off. So I listened a second time, and a third. By the fifth listen I was running far enough that I could make it the whole way through without stopping, and as far as my impressions of the album went at that point, I was enthralled.

Songs that I disliked at first – Oh! You Pretty Things and Queen Bitch – I later found innovative and exciting. The tracks I liked to begin with  – Changes, Life On Mars – just seemed all the more incredible in context and after greater analysis.

I resolved to listen to the rest of the discography. I was getting faster, able to run longer distances – I figured it would be a breeze, and if I kept it up I’d lose tonnes of weight. So I set a target: I wanted to get to 70kgs. Why 70? Because someone I knew who was much cooler than I was weighed that much.

A few months went by. When I got to uni in early 2007, I’d lost about 20kgs. It got a lot slower after that, but after a couple of years and several more Bowie albums, I bottomed-out at 77kgs. After that I got pretty complacent about reaching that initial goal. It was arbitrary anyway, and nan was extremely vocal about her belief that I was wasting away (although she had started saying that when I broke 100).

I moved on with other parts of my life, taking solace in the fact that those who were arseholes during highschool pined for the “good old days”, according to facebook. I finished my degree, got a job, started working on writing and music.

But that arbitrary weight still eluded me, and – worse still – I wasn’t the Bowie aficionado I had dreamed I would be when I reached it. Then this year I heard some news that sparked an idea: Bowie was releasing another album – the first since I started listening to him.

An inkling begat a notion that begat a fully fledged idea – I should totally get back into running and listen to Bowie’s whole discography before his new album comes out. With just over a month until the release date, I grappled for a couple days with the idea that it might be too hard to go through all 26 studio albums. My body would probably hate me, as would my ears. But this morning I made a decision:  fuck it. I loaded up David Bowie onto my phone, fixed the metadata so that it didn’t split into multiple albums for no apparent reason, and headed out the door, committing myself to a project that I probably don’t have time for but am completely excited about.

The challenge

Here are the rules I’ll be following:

Listen to at least one album each run – just the studio albums – omitting any compilations, B-Sides or singles. This equates to 26 albums in total. Work through them chronologically, except for the two Tin Machine albums, because if I injure myself and have to take a couple of extra days out at any point, I’m not going to be one album short because of fucking Tin Machine.

The list of albums, in order, is as follows:

  • David Bowie
  • Space Oddity
  • The Man Who Sold the World
  • Hunky Dory (Fuckyeah)
  • The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  • Aladdin Sade
  • Pin Ups
  • Diamond Dogs
  • Young Americans
  • Station to Station
  • Low
  • Heroes
  • Lodger
  • Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
  • Let’s Dance
  • Tonight
  • Never Let Me Down
  • Black Tie White Noise
  • Outside
  • Earthling
  • Hours…
  • Reality
  • Tin Machine 1&2 (If I have time).

Exercise:

Run steadily longer distances each day until I get back up to my previous norm of 10ks, and then work on speed.

Documentation:

Review each album afterward. Get through them all before the American release date of The Next Day in March 2013. Listen to The Next Day, having reaching the goal my 17 year-old self had so emphatically wished for.

Starting with the Self Titled.

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