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Best of the B-sides: David Bowie

Editorial Staff

David Bowie died on Jan. 10, 2016, two days after his 69th birthday.

Written by Brian Gasparek

Jan. 8, 2016, not only marked David Bowie’s 69th year on this planet, but it was also the release day of his highly anticipated new album, Blackstar — his 25th LP! A Friday doesn’t get much bigger than that for Ziggy fans.

Bowie’s epic rock 'n' roll legacy is common knowledge for all music lovers. For more than 40 years, he’s stood out as one of popular music’s greatest innovators. He’s created groundbreaking trends, both sonically and aesthetically, that have gone on to inspire countless artists from a variety of genres, for almost half a century.

We all know know Bowie’s giant hits like “Heroes,” “Changes,” “Space Oddity,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “Young Americans,” “Rebel Rebel” and “Let’s Dance.” But what you may not know is that he’s got an unbelievably awesome back catalogue of hidden gems that casual fans have likely never heard. So let’s ch-ch-change that right now.

In honour of Bowie’s big day, bust out your make-up, glitter and turn your speakers up. It’s time to check out 10 of the Brit rock icon’s greatest deep cuts.

'Stay' (1976)

“Stay” is one of Bowie’s drug-fuelled deep cuts from his mid-'70s slow-growing LP, Station to Station. The six-minute masterpiece fuses funk, soul and what must have been some heavy cocaine use by the Thin White Duke. Station to Station is one of Bowie’s most underappreciated albums, and “Stay” is by far its best track. You need to hear Earl Slick’s guitar work on this tune. It’s just too good!

'Teenage Wildlife' (1980)

The dawn of the ‘80s and the emergence of new wave could not knock Bowie off of his rock 'n' roll throne. He made that clear with “Teenage Wildlife,” a hidden gem off of 1980’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). The catchy rock track lashes out at the young crop of Bowie imitators that were dominating the charts at that time. Bowie felt their repetitive electronic music was a bunch of hokum. Gary Numan has always been convinced that the song was inspired by him, but Bowie won’t admit it. Either way, it’s a buried treasure.

'Bring Me the Disco King' (2003)

One of Bowie’s coolest deep cuts is the closing track on his 2003 LP, Reality. He actually worked on “Bring Me the Disco King” for an entire decade, but couldn’t perfect it to his liking for inclusion on 1993's Black Tie White Noise or 1997’s Earthling. The nearly eight-minute chilled-out track features samba and jazz elements, and is the perfect way to finish Reality. Its long gestation period must have been fate.

'Quicksand' (1971)

“Quicksand” is a gorgeous acoustic ballad from Bowie’s 1971 LP Hunky Dory. Although it’s overshadowed by the album’s big hits like “Changes” and “Life on Mars,” its arrangement is true perfection.

'The Width of a Circle' (1970)

The most popular tune on Bowie’s 1970 LP, The Man Who Sold the World, was of course the title track. But the album’s opener, “The Width of a Circle,” is a back catalogue classic. It’s more than eight minutes of psych-rock bliss, which Bowie used to stretch into a 15-minute jam session and wardrobe change at live shows. It’s so good.

'Panic in Detroit' (1973)

Iggy Pop inspired this track from Bowie’s 1973 LP, Aladdin Sane. Pop told Bowie stories about all of the violent, radical characters he knew in growing up in Detroit as a kid. Bowie spun that inspiration into the catchy, hard-rocking “Panic in Detroit,” complete with a sweet Bo Diddley homage. It’s Sane’s hidden gem.

'Hallo Space Boy' (Petshop Boys Remix) (1995)

Bowie’s mainstream popularity was at an all-time low in the '90s, and a lot of his work went unnoticed. A solid track that was tragically ignored was “Hallo Space Boy” from 1995’s Outside. The album version of the song is a cool, industrial, hard rocker. But the Pet Shop Boys’ remix is even better. It’s catchy, danceable and very Bowie.

'Slip Away' (2002)

Bowie’s 2002 LP, Heathen, was seen as a return to form for the rock icon after his lacklustre mainstream run in the ‘90s. “Slip Away” is the album’s golden deep cut. It’s a beautifully written ballad that features Bowie mournfully singing about the passing of time. It will break your heart, and you will love every minute of it.

'Criminal World' (1983)

“Criminal World” is a hidden gem from Bowie’s huge 1983 LP, Let’s Dance. Because the song was located deep in the second half of the album, behind hit singles “Modern Love,” “China Girl,” Let’s Dance” and “Without You," casual fans never really listened to it. Bowie may not have written the song (it was a Metro cover), but he sure turned it into something special. Also, a young Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar work on the track is classic.

'Moonage Daydream' (1972)

One of Bowie’s most underappreciated tracks of all time was “Moonage Daydream” from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. Despite being present on one of the greatest LPs ever made, this song took a backseat to the album's big hits. A slower, rougher version of ”Moonage Daydream” was originally released as a single by Bowie’s short-lived side project, Arnold Corns, in 1971, but it found perfection on Ziggy. This deep cut is classic Bowie, through and through.