1 ‘Crystal Japan’ (1979)

This melancholic electronic instrumental was only ever a single in Japan, where it also featured alongside a suave Bowie in a sake advert. It didn’t make the cut for Scary Monsters where, given the crazy abrasive guitar splattered all over the rest of that album, it would have sounded a bit odd. The chords and melody were lifted wholesale by Trent Reznor for ‘A Warm Place’ on the 1994 Nine Inch Nails album The Downward Spiral. They became pals later, so he must have let it go.

2 ‘Dead Against It’ (1994)

Rather than taking the overblown Black Tie White Noise album on the road in 1994, Bowie stayed in the studio and made the understated ‘lost’ album The Buddha of Suburbia, which accompanied the TV adaptation of Hanif Kureishi’s novel. A catalyst for the next decade of work, it features this, one of the best fizzy pop songs of his career, and some ambient instrumental pieces along the lines of the much-lauded stuff on the Berlin albums.

3 ‘I Can’t Read’ (1989)

Tin Machine. There, we said it. Known more for the derision levelled at them than for their music (some of which is actually pretty good) Bowie’s noisy garage band made two albums before he retook the wheel of his solo career. Three years later, we were all listening to grunge (maybe it was the suits). Tin Machine shared the rhythm section with Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life album – which curiously does make the hipster list (perhaps this is like the similarly-overlooked fact that the drummer on Brian Eno’s ‘cool’ 70s albums was Phil Collins).

4 ‘Amsterdam’ (1970)

Bowie has recorded dozens of covers, including songs originally written by the Pixies, Morrissey and Springsteen. OK, his hit rate is variable, but now and again – as with his take on Nina Simone’s ‘Wild is the Wind’ – he nails it. This version of Jacques Brel’s impassioned ‘Amsterdam’ not only survives the translation into English, it reminds us just what he can do with a 12-string guitar and his voice.

5 ‘Peter and The Wolf’ (1978)

Not strictly a song, this recording of Prokofiev’s classic with The Philadelphia Orchestra and Bowie as narrator needs to be heard by everybody. Later talking of it as a Christmas gift for his then 7-year-old son – yep, Duncan Jones of Moon and Source Code fame – listeners expecting OTT ‘visions of swastikas in my head’ vocal acrobatics will leave disappointed. Instead it’s a measured narration by someone who knows how to tell a good story.

Spotify playlist: The best David Bowie tracks you've never heard


1. Norma Stitz21 Feb 2013, 4:19pm Report

Meh. "Crystal Japan" is interesting but there's a REASON people have never heard many of these. For my Bowie rarities I prefer:

1. Space Oddity Bonus Track: Re-Recorded single B-side, 1979- More isolated and stark than the original and more affecting.

2. Pretty Pink Rose- A one off with Adrian Belew's frenetic guitar playing leading the way.

3. Baby Universal- Perhaps Tin Machine's most accessible song. Sounds like something Ziggy would have thought of.

4. Lady Stardust (Original Demo)- Bowie's captivating piano flavored demo reveals Ziggy Stardust in embryonic stage.

5. Station To Station- Live bootleg Recorded at Nassau Coliseum in Long Island 1976. The sound quality is excellent- Bowie and band are in fine form and guitarist Carlos Alomar has never sounded better. Concert can be heard in it's entirety here: http://djcraigsblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-thin-white-dukes-return.html

Bonus tracks: Just about any song from the bootleg double album of rehearsals of David Bowie & Stevie Ray Vaughan as they prepared for The Serious Moonlight Tour, recorded in Las Colinas, Dallas 27-04-83.

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