David Bowie By the Threes: A 50-Year Retrospective, Part 1

David Bowie's career has been one filled with unparalleled changes, and no, that's not a pun on his hit song. The man has literally undergone so many career diversions and redirections that it's almost impossible to keep up with where he has been at any one point in time.


2013 RULES: David Bowie Announces New Album and Single

2013 marks the beginning of a new era for Bowie, a decade on from the end of the previous one. Not only is the release of his new record The Next Day and his reemergence into the public spotlight a momentous occasion, but that ten-year gap is a strange and unprecedented occurrence in Bowie's career.

Still, that got me thinking. Where was Bowie ten years ago? Where was he ten years before that? It seems that he stands in a wildly different position every ten years, and since decade-long increments seem to be the ones Bowie likes to employ lately, I thought it would be interesting to look at these snapshots in time from 1963 to 1973, from 1973 to 1983, and so on.

1963: Bowie's Beginnings

1963 marked a major turning point in the life of the man then known as David Jones. Just one year prior, a 15-year-old Bowie had picked up his first guitar and formed his first band, the Konrads. They were a rock and roll band in the old style, similar to the early days of the Beatles. This only lasted a short time and some stray gigs, however.

1963 was the turning point when Bowie left the Konrads because they didn't share his ambitious spirit, decided he was going to become a star, and formed Davie Jones and the King Bees. Separate from the King Bees, Bowie picked up a personal manager to promote his work.

This would all lead to the very first recordings of Bowie's life when he was still fronting the King Bees. Having picked up enough success in the year of '63 to move into the studio in '64, the band cut their first record: "Liza Jane" b/w "Louie, Louie Go Home."

Though it was a commercial failure and prompted Bowie to leave the band shortly after, "Liza Jane" is a stellar example of Bowie's early talent.

His screamed rock and roll vocals recall not only the early Beatles, but would have sat perfectly alongside Van Morrison and Roky Erickson just a few years later. The track is raucous and rowdy, and could have probably been a hit if it hadn't been released so early in the '60s.

Bowie would cycle through a few other bands before striking out as a solo artist, but even looking at these early recordings, one gets the distinct sense that he's just about to blow up if he can just find the right sound.

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I like this, but man you glossed over his Berlin period?


@idylwino Admittedly, I may not have given it its fair shake, but I was trying to focus on the specific years while giving only as much preamble to them as absolutely necessary to explain why and how Bowie was where he was in the third year of each decade. In terms of 1983, the Berlin period's influence was reflected very little on Let's Dance. It was something that took place after 1973 and was decidedly over by 1983, so it didn't fit into the parameters of this article's intentions. Besides, whole articles can and have been written specifically focusing on that period as a separate entity from the greater sum of Bowie's career. I almost feel like it deserves a lot more than even two or three paragraphs here. It deserves its own full, deep examination. So maybe in the future? But here, it was not entirely appropriate, which is unfortunate because I could talk about those albums all day.

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