Sunday, February 3, 2019

"Absolute Beginners" by David Bowie

Song#:  2668
Date:  03/29/1986
Debut:  87
Peak:  53
Weeks:  9
Genre:  Rock, Soundtrack

Pop Bits:  Following the release of his 1984 album Tonight, Bowie got an intriguing offer. Filmmaker Julian Temple, with whom Bowie had worked with on his Jazzin' for Blue Jean music video short, was set to direct his first big budget flick Absolute Beginners. Based on the 1959 novel by Colin MacInnes, Temple's filmed version would be a musical. Temple asked Bowie if he would provide a song for the film. After reading the novel and thinking about it, Bowie said yes, but only if he could be in the movie as one of the book's characters. That seemed fine to Temple and Bowie then wrote two songs for the film including this title track tune that got issued out as a single. In the UK, the song would be a major hit for Bowie getting to #2. In the States, the tune would get solid airplay at Rock and would end up at #9 on that chart. However, when it crossed over over to Pop, its appeal wasn't as broad and it halted just shy of the halfway mark. With the single not doing all that great and the movie bombing, the best the soundtrack album could do was a weak #62.

ReduxReview:  I admit that even as a newbie Bowie fan at the time, I kind of missed this one. I know I had heard it a couple of times but since it was from a dud movie and wasn't as hooky and commercial as some of his recent hits, I kind of abandoned it. I have a feeling that a lot of US listeners did the same thing. Meanwhile, the song was a hit back in Bowie's UK homeland and in other countries. I grew an appreciation for the song later when it was part of a "best of" Bowie disc I got. It is a lovely tune with lingering passages that allows the song to breathe. Bowie does some excellent crooning on the track and of course the "bom-bom-ba-ooh's" add extra flavor as does the sax. It's too bad the tune wasn't more popular here.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  Double Shot!  1) It seems that Bowie's title song was the best and most critically acclaimed thing to come from Absolute Beginners. The movie would end up being a box office bomb that garnered terrible reviews. Temple's career as a film director took a big hit. While he would end up directing a few scripted movies over the years, he mainly became known as a go-to director for music videos. He would shoot videos for such high profile artists as Tom Petty, Janet Jackson, Sade, Whitney Houston, Bryan Adams, The Rolling Stones, Duran Duran, and many others. He also directed several rockumentary films as well.  2) UK band The Style Council was also asked to supply a song to the film and they came up with "Have You Ever Had It Blue?" The oddity is that Style Council member Paul Weller had previously written a song called "Absolute Beginners" in 1981 for his previous band The Jam. It was also based on the MacInnes novel. The tune was released as a single in the UK and it got to #4 on the chart.


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