1. Space Oddity – 1969
We walk onstage to this every night – like four astronauts.
2. The Man Who Sold the World – 1970
America fell in love with that song because of Kurt Cobain – a man who wouldn’t sell the world anything.
3. Changes – 1971
It’s not exaggerating to say, what Elvis meant to America, David Bowie meant to the U.K. and Ireland. It was that radical a shift in consiousness.
4. Five Years – 1972
This sounds likes it’s coming from the chanson tradition. Elsewhere on Ziggy Stardust, he talks about William Burroughs. I bought Naked Lunch, which is a hard read at 15. But Bowie made important introductions, just by talking about what turned him on.
5. Life on Mars – 1971
Bowie’s world was always full of intellectual and artistic static. Where he lived was a long way from where I lived in Dublin.
6. Starman – 1972
The first time I saw him was singing “Starman” on Top of the Pops. It was like a creature falling from the sky. Americans put a man on the moon. We had our own British guy from space — with an Irish mother.
7. Lady Grinning Soul 1973
This is a beguiling and unusual David Bowie song. It’s already there, the black influence that would be on the next album. I’d be interested to hear what Roy Bittan [of the E Street Band] would think of that operatic piano part. Bowie was a big fan of Springsteen.
8. The Jean Genie – 1973
Every so often, Bowie goes up against Jagger. I love his take on blues and R&B — the discipline, that swing beat. The Smiths are born in that song too.
9. John, I’m Only Dancing – 1972
Again, I love the economy, this rockabilly beat. It’s not enough to be a great songwriter. You have to turn that song into a record, and that requires production and arrangement of a high order.
10. Young Americans – 1975
The great moment in this is that beautifully out-of-tune guitar break. I loved that.
11. Fame – 1975
I was fascinated by Bowie’s predicament in this song. This was a precious and precocious talent, wanting not to die stupid.
12. Warzsawa – 1977
I have powerful memories of meeting with my friend Gavin Friday in his living room on Monday nights to play music. We created our own world, listening to this album and trying to find out what it was about.
13. Heros – 1977
It encapsulates the thought that all lovers go through: They’re not alone and can take on the world. And it has Robert Fripp’s furious contribution on guitar.
14. Ashes to Ashes – 1980
The sonic innovation of Low and Heroes is becoming more pop. I remember figuring out how they got that ping-ping-ping piano sound – we ended up using it on “Lemon.”
15. Up the Hill Backwards – 1980
I chose this because it’s like my life.
What I’ve chosen from David Bowie is very strict. It’s my teenage life as a Bowie fan. I am still a Bowie fan. But this was when my heart and mind were very vulnerable to music. And these songs had a real impact. U2 owe him a lot. He introduced us to Berlin and Hansa Studios, to collaborating with Brian Eno. It’s the high singing, beyond your ‘man’ voice into the feminine. And there’s the staging, the attempt to be innovative. It has been pointed out that the Claw [the 360 stage] looks like the Glass Spider. Bowie wasn’t afraid to use scale, to dramatize things. His set list was not just a jukebox he could run through. It was drama.