As 2024 dawns, I am finally approaching a major personal milestone: reaching the end of Chris O’Leary’s Ashes to Ashes, which I have been working my way through for longer than I care to admit. Around the same time I will finish adding all of David Bowie’s albums to my computer’s music library, which has also been a long time coming.
In commemoration of these great events, I will be posting about David’s last ten songs over the next ten days, in the runup to our observations of his birth and then his death. After that the Bowie thread will be done. For now. It will never really be over as long as I’m living and writing.
The first song on the list is “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime),” a song that I respect more than I like it. I think it’s great that Bowie finally fulfilled his ambition of playing with a jazz band, and that he clearly seemed to enjoy playing with his new toy. But the result was not anything I would listen to for pleasure.
In its original form “Sue” is almost seven and a half minutes of energetically played but offputting Art. Judging from the comments, some people quite enjoy it. De gustibus non disputandum.
The single edit is a little more palatable, and this video is well done:
When it came time to make the Blackstar album, David decided to cut another version with some of the same players. This one is more streamlined, more rock’n’roll-adjacent, though with a strong flavor of drum’n’bass in the rhythm:
The two versions can seem like a handmade hardback edition of a book and its mass-produced paperback — if some subtleties are gone in the remake… the thing now moves faster and packs a harder hit.
If I were forced to choose, I’d take the Blackstar version. But since I’m not, and given that this is a day generally oriented toward rest and recovery, I’m not going to torture myself anymore. Chris O’L writes well about “Sue” — he really gets into the weeds with Bowie’s elliptical lyric — both in his book and on his blog. That’s a wrap from here for now.