The Bowie Canon Really Begins in 1986

Seeing Labyrinth again last night reminded me that that movie was my formal introduction to the music of David Bowie.... Now that you're done gasping in disdain, I have to explain to you that, sure, I had seen "Let's Dance" on MTV, but like that really mattered to a 14-year-old kid whose highlight of the year would be when Weird Al Yankovic would take over the station for a whole day. (ALTV, anyone? Anyone? Anyone?)

Only after wearing out the Labyrinth soundtrack with its unmistakeably 80s pop and lush ballads (which Bowie devotees shunned as a step into artistic hell) did I dig into Bowie's back catalog and discover the wonders of his diverse and expansive oeuvre, from which Ziggy Stardust remains one of my favorite albums of all time. ("I never thought I'd need so many people," and my heart would break.)

The first real album that Bowie released after Labyrinth was Never Let Me Down, which Bowie fans mark as a horrible stain in his discography. Speaking in hushed tones about that album, they'll point to the synth rock and cheesy slow songs as signs of selling out to a god that wouldn't even grant him a single that didn't grate on the ears.

Well, in 1999, I loved every single track on Never Let Me Down and played it every day for a very long time. It was also the album that prompted me to write a fan letter to David Bowie, explaining to him in remarkable detail why I loved each song. Of course, he never wrote back, and the album doesn't hold up as well nowadays, but, if you don't even consider "Time Will Crawl" as an minor overlooked gem, then you are not really a Bowie fan at all:

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