100 Days Project

Ben: 100 Writings / 100 Opening Guitar Hooks

various, random creative expressions / writings, inspired partially by 100 popular songs (songs that somewhat begin with a leading hook of a guitar.)

Day 82:

“Golden Years” (1975) by David Bowie

“Golden Years” (1975) by David Bowie

 

“Golden Years” by David Bowie is one of the greatest songs ever written, but moreover, the most important song of Bowie’s career.  Because it allowed him to completely change his image from a zany Stardust’ed ambiguous alien, into the funkiest white boy to hit Harlem.  And it paid off for him.  He continued to change images successfully thereafter.

But little is known of the fact that Bowie offered the song to Elvis first, who declined it. 

But what if Elvis did accept it?

One thing that might not have happened: Bowie may not have had that ‘Thin White Duke’ phase or that spectacular new image.  But knowing his brilliant production team of himself, Tony Visconti, Harry Maslin and Carlos Alomar, he would’ve come up with something brilliant regardless.  Who knows?  He could’ve pulled off a cactus Mariachi band image and it still would’ve worked.

One thing we predict might have happened: If Elvis sung it he would’ve been accepted by a brand new younger audience.  But Elvis declined most songs anyway near the end.  I guess he was just happy with his pizzas and Doritos.

Did history work out for the best?  Yes.  Bowie continued an unbelievable string of hits out of his funky whiteboy phase, which this song was incredibly vital in.  And Elvis would’ve minded anyway.  Elvis could still sell out more shows than Bowie ever could.  Plus his royalties from the 1950’s were never dented.  Why would Elvis care about the new generation?

Another person who wrote a song for the King, which was declined, was Roy Orbison’s (1963) “In Dreams”: a hypnotizing homage to the beauty that is Sleep.

But what if Elvis did accept it?

One thing that might not have happened: Like Bowie, Orbison may not have had the successes he had later.  Before this song, the big ‘O’ sang the typical 12-bar guitar rock and roll standards.  How boring!  It was only with this song, and what a beautiful song!, that he found his ultimate niche – wistful songs that play on those easy listening stations.  This song, ‘Only the Lonely’, and ‘Crying’ not only extended his audience to the ‘older’ type, but also got to show off his brilliant vocal range.  No one could hit those high notes with such passion like him.  He could never do that with those other songs.

One thing we predict might have happened: David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’ would not be as creepy.

Did history work out for the best?  Yes.  The Big ‘O’’s audience grew and he was able to stretch his amazing writing skills.   The King?  He was doing fine already – with ‘Return to Sender’ and ‘Devil in Disguise.’  If Elvis sang this, it wouldn’t have been as successful.  His audience would’ve thought it strange.  Also, Elvis wouldn’t have been able to hit those glorious vocal heights that Roy reaches.  There is only one Roy Orbison.

I’ma keep going!  Guess what else was written for Elvis?  Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Fire’ (1977).  If you know the Boss, you can tell instantly this song was far too poppy for him to release – it’s far too raunchy.  No wonder he wanted Elvis to sing it, who unfortunately died before the demo could reach him.

But what if Elvis did accept it, provided he lived longer?

One thing that might not have happened: No one would know who the Pointer Sisters were.

One thing we predict might have happened: Maybe it’s because he died, but from the other two songs mentioned, I truly believe that only this song would’ve kicked the King back onto the charts respectfully and undoubtedly.  It’s raunchy, deep, sexy, confident, rockabilly and it’s set at the perfect baritone for Elvis.  It would’ve worked flawlessly for the King.  But who knows?  No one will ever know, I guess.

Did history work out for the best?  No.  Of course, the Boss had to reject it from the remarkable ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’ album as it didn’t fit thematically with it, which was a morose and beautiful record.  So he should’ve just released it as a single, but instead the record company gave it to the Pointer Sisters.  The Boss should’ve axed some skulls, whereas the Pointer Sisters’ career just got bigger.  Another thing is that Boss fans are pretty much the same as King fans.  They’re both in the American Rock circles, as compared to the Big ‘O’, who’s in the softer middle of the road scene or Bowie, who’s audience is avant-garde and experimental.  Springsteen and Elvis would’ve fit perfectly.

And I can keep going!  Someone else died before being offered a song to record.  The Bee Gee’s wanted Otis Redding to record ‘To Love Somebody’ (1967), before he passed away.

But what if Otis did accept it, provided he lived longer?

One thing that might not have happened: Nothing.  The Bee Gee’s were gonna be a big success anyway.  They had enough great songs in the bag to last them til the end.  And more so, if Otis did record this, many other artists would’ve turned to them to write them songs.  The Gibbs could have easily chosen to give up the touring schedule and just sit at home and write songs for everyone else.  But the Bee Gee’s loved the stage.  Even for Otis, unfortunately cut short.  Otis already had a string of hits and likewise had a brilliant songwriting team behind him.  It would’ve added to his unbreakable legacy already.

One thing we predict might have happened: Nothing.  It’s a brilliant record regardless of who sang it.  Let me divert here.  The only reason I watch American Idol … or even The Voice or Factor is because of its true stars.  And I’m not talking about the mean quotes that come outta Simon Callow’s trap.  I’m not even talking about the contestants.  The true stars of those shows, episode after episode, are the songs themselves.  And I’ve heard this song in so many incarnations on those shows.  But every time, it sounds crisp and as gorgeous as when it was first written.  That’s the power of songwriting at its best.

Did history work out for the best?  whose to say – only if Otis were alive.

Okay.  I’ma end now.  Let’s reverse it.  Prince wrote “Manic Monday” (1986) for the Bangles, who did accept it.  

But what if the Bangles didn’t accept it?

One thing that might not have happened: People wouldn't know who the Bangles were.

One thing we predict might have happened: No one would know who the Bangles were.

Did history work out for the best?  Yes, we know who the Bangles are.