“Space Oddity” by David Bowie / Kristen Wiig from “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (2013) dir. Ben Stiller


From Ben Stiller’s flawed, but occasionally brilliant 2013 remake of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” this is a compilation of scenes set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” a song which plays a pivotal role in the film. I felt “Mitty” was severely underrated. The understated way that director Stiller shows the developing relationship between his character and Kristen Wiig’s is wonderful and one of the best and most natural portrayals of “a friendship growing into something more” ever put on film.

“The Man Who Sold the World” – Nirvana / David Bowie


When I first saw Nirvana’s MTV “Unplugged” appearance, I was pleasantly surprised by this really terrific cover of an otherwise obscure David Bowie song from 1971. I was VERY familiar with the song, being a big fan of Bowie’s pre-Ziggy Stardust album of the same name, which I remember buying on cassette from Fantasia Records in Charlottesville, VA in 1988. Bowie’s original album was quite trippy … and heavy … at the same time. To this day, a VERY underrated album. Thanks to Nirvana for giving the props to this extremely cool phase of Bowie’s career.

I’ve attached Bowie’s original here:

“Queen Bitch” – David Bowie


David Bowie’s 1971 homage to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, from the classic (and eclectic) “Hunky Dory” album. One of Bowie’s best balls-to-wall rock songs and one that never fails to have me bouncing around the room.  Brilliantly used on the trailer for Jason Reitman’s painful and acidic 2011 comedy “Young Adult.”

“All the Madmen” – David Bowie


From Bowie’s most severely underrated album, 1970’s “The Man Who Sold the World”, “All the Madmen” is Bowie letting his psychedelic freak flag fly high. Lots of cosmically heavy lead guitars on this one … with a very trippy middle section. Take it from me … do not listen to this under headphones in an altered state of mind.

“Quicksand” – David Bowie


With the exception of “Life on Mars?”, my other favorite ballad from Bowie’s 1971 “Hunky Dory” album is “Quicksand.” “Changes” may be the hit, and as great as this classic song is, “Hunky Dory” contains home run after home run. Why “Quicksand” isn’t a staple on classic rock radio is a major and sad oversight.

“Nightclubbing” – Iggy Pop


From the David Bowie produced 1977 album “The Idiot,” comes the stomping, quaalude-paced “Nightclubbing.” If there was ever an anthem for vampires, this would be it. You can definitely hear the influence on Goth music, yet “Nightclubbing” does the Goth thing so much better than what resulted later on.

The song was later covered by Grace Jones, whose version I’ve included below. While I like Pop’s original better, I do like Jones’s odd, stoner-funk cover. The song made also made an appearance in the 1996 Danny Boyle classic film “Trainspotting.”

“Basquiat” (1996) dir. Julian Schnabel


One of the best films about an artist’s life I’ve ever seen, as well as being one of the coolest films I’ve ever seen about any subject, “Basquiat” is a biopic chronicling the fast times and short life of legendary 1980s postmodernist/neo-expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat created some brilliant (and highly commercial) art and also ran with a lot of famous people (Andy Warhol, Madonna, Keith Haring) back in the day. However, personal demons and drug abuse wound up getting the better of him and Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988.

Jeffrey Wright does a terrific job in the lead role as Basquiat and leads an all-star cast that includes David Bowie as Andy Warhol, Gary Oldman playing a character based on director/artist Julian Schnabel, Michael Wincott as critic Rene Ricard, Dennis Hopper as art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, and Christopher Walken, Courtney Love, Claire Forlani, Benicio Del Toro, Tatum O’Neal in supporting roles.

“Basquiat” also boasts one of the coolest soundtracks of any film, featuring the Pogues, Public Image Ltd., Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Charlie Parker, Melle Mel, the Modern Lovers, and Peggy Lee among others.

This was director Julian Schnabel’s directorial debut, a career that has led to great films such as “Before Night Falls,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” and “Lou Reed’s Berlin.”

“Ballad of Maxwell Demon” – Shudder to Think (from the 1998 film “Velvet Goldmine” dir. Todd Haynes)


When Todd Haynes decided to make a film loosely based on the life of David Bowie, he took a similar approach to his idea that Allison Anders did when she wanted to make a film about a Carole King in “Grace of My Heart.” That approach was to use significant events from their subject’s lives, but make a fiction film and to change things enough to make their films more dramatically interesting. The approach was smart in both cases, because they didn’t have to worry about being factually accurate and could tell whatever story they wanted.

The result isn’t perfect, but Haynes’s film “Velvet Goldmine” is mesmerizing and he hired some great 1990s-era musicians to recreate the highlights from the English glam-rock era. “The Ballad of Maxwell Demon” is Shudder to Think’s variation on Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” and “All the Young Dudes” and it’s a damn good song. The lyrics even recall “Dudes” directly: “Six feet down when I’m 25” is similar to the first verse in “Dudes.”