Everyone I meet seems to have their own special relationship with music. It’s personal and unique, and they’ll likely tell you all about it before you even need to ask. When I started to get to know Joe, my friend and co-worker at Acme Comedy Company, I understood right away that he shared a similar obsession for music like the one I’ve so prominently displayed for bands like The Doors, Black Sabbath and Fleetwood Mac. Right away I knew that he knew more than me, in the sense that his catalog of favorite artists was different and perhaps much more complicated than mine. I for one get a great satisfaction from the classics, as they often lead me to dive into the deeper stuff. Joe seems to seek out the hidden gems initially, in a way that comes naturally to him, and it’s been wonderful learning about how his music has played such a critical role in his life, as it has for me and so many others.
Everyone I meet seems to have their own special relationship with music.
It makes total sense to me why Joe is crazy for David Bowie. They’re both out there, in the best way. Though I enjoy Bowie’s music and fully understand his remarkable role in rock and roll history, I don’t really know him like I know my other favorite artists. As I yearned to know more about the man who rode out so many changes in the music world, I asked Joe to select a record to start my education with. He recommended I start with the favorite piece of vinyl he owns — Bowie’s 14th studio album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). He knows that when it comes to my taste in music, the stranger the better, and this album perfectly represents the fantastical start to the eighties.
“I love the weirdness to it,” Joe said. “In the first track he’s screaming his head off and telling his band to ‘shut up.’ [Bowie] said he made a ton of mistakes on it and he just left them all in. It’s a really raw and aggressive sounding record.”
Venturing into the mind of David Bowie is overwhelming to say the least. With 27 studio albums,10 live albums and 51 compilation albums, his creativity has rocked itself through decades of change — not only through music, but through his own personal evolution. Scary Monsters was said to be Bowie’s “last great album,” and was praised highly for its originality and experimental sound. When I asked Joe why he picked it to be my first album he said simply, “I thought you’d like it the best.”
Scary Monsters perfectly represents the fantastical start to the eighties.
He was right. Just by the second song, also titled Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), my thirst thickened as I became eager to hear how the whole album was going to play out. I immediately turned to YouTube to find a live performance of the song from 1993. I felt enchanted; appropriately tuned into vibe of this specific chapter of David Bowie’s artistry. Much like most of his work, the songs off Scary Monsters has lyrics that are otherworldly. The first single off the album, Ashes to Ashes, reintroduces us to his first break out character/potential alter ego Major Tom developed in the opening track of Bowie’s second studio album David Bowie. I love how he always has a story to tell, and how he revisits the characters he’s created throughout his entire career. Bowie also references Major Tom in his last album, which was released on his 69th birthday, just two days before his death. His music career seemed to have depicted his life story — something Joe was most inspired by when he first started listening to him.
“I was going through a rough time,” he said. “I just lost my brother; he died a few years back. I was in a place where I was feeling kind of uninspired, and I think hearing his work really inspired me to push my own stories.”
Scary Monsters is next level introversion when compared to the other music styles revealing themselves at this time. Hearing Joe talk about some of his favorite songs off the album inadvertently made me like them best, especially the one I’ve found to be the most catchy: Up the Hill Backwards. Its lyrics are ballsy and direct, seemingly referring to the exposure of something Bowie wanted to keep private but couldn’t. Joe described some of my favorite songs as really great pop rock, and I’m not mad about that that. My favorite sounding song off the album is Teenage Wildlife. Its melody makes me want to sway with a boy into a crowd of even more boys. These are the songs that make this a really fun album. As a whole, Scary Monsters made me want to learn more about David Bowie and continue my musical relationship with him through his impressive collection of albums.
”He was able to really appeal to the masses while still pushing the envelope artistically, and so I thought, this is an album that gives you a look of him being very unique,” Joe said. “I don’t think anyone else was sounding like him at the time and yet it’s pretty accessible.”
By listening to Joe talk about his relationship with David Bowie’s music and this album in particular, I realized how essential it has been for him in finding himself. It helped him cope with the loss of his brother and made him feel inspired to express himself creatively. I can relate to that on many levels, and am so grateful I had my favorite music to help me cope with my own difficult situations. Music has the ability to have an individual connection with each and every person, and I think that that is the most amazing part about being a music fan. Millions of people love David Bowie; some for the same reasons and some for different ones. Getting to know him through one of his biggest fans has been incredibly fulfilling. I think most people can relate to losing someone and using music to help them get through it, and hearing Joe’s story definitely made me feel less alone in that. Constantly I’m reminded of music’s importance in my life, and to know that everyone is capable of having their own deep connection with it is comforting and reassuring. It’s nice to know that music in general doesn’t just affect me so heavily; it seems to affect all people in their own special way.