90 songs of my Nineties youth : David Bowie – Little Wonder

If you read my intro to this series, you’ll know that it is based on a playlist I put together for a party amongst old school friends. So I’m cheating a bit this week, as this song was not on the playlist. But this week is all about David Bowie, so the normal rules don’t apply.

The Song

This is the Bowie song I remember more than any other from my teenage years, before I discovered his back catalogue. It was from the Earthling album, for which Bowie’s two main influences were, supposedly,  Goldie and Trent Reznor, and both are apparent on ‘Little Wonder’. The bulk of the song is backed with clattering drum n bass, and the “so far away” breakdown by industrial NIN-esque rock. Despite this incongrous pairing the track is held together by its’ main vocal, which is Bowie at his most playful, all chorus hardly any verse, with word association type lyrics such as “Mars happy nation, sit on my karma
Dame meditation, take me away”

Does it still sound good today?

Yeah, it kind of does. A bit dated certainly, but ultimately joyful, melodic and fun. I prefer the ‘Little Wonder’ bits to the ‘So far away’ bits (have a listen if you don’t know what I’m talking about). This era of Bowie was mainly panned at the time as an aging rockstar trying to stay relevant with the music of the kids. But he spent his whole career trying new things, with mixed but usually successful results. This is just another example.

What happened next?

5 more studio albums were to follow over the last 20 years of Bowie’s career, broadly speaking critically acclaimed, and including songs such “Where Are We Now?” which stand with the best of his career. Bowie stayed mainly out of the public eye, appearing live only occasionally. His final album ‘Blackstar’ he did not promote at all. On Monday we found out why.

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