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Bowie’s worst song? “Buzz the Fuzz” (1971)

I’ve been getting quite a bit out of listening to the multi-disc collection, Divine Symmetry and have been posting comments as I move from disc to disc. But I thought this song deserves special attention, because it is quite possibly Bowie’s worst song.

“Buzz the Fuzz” was written by the comedic (?) songwriter Biff Rose, who also wrote the better known Bowie song, “Fill Your Heart” (which made it to Hunky Dory). It’s supposed to be a funny song about a police officer who becomes a drug user and “pusher on the force.” It employs such humor as naming a seductive drug-using hippy, “Alice D” (which Bowie maybe articulates a little too well— its supposed sound like “LSD”).

Unlike other drug references in Bowie songs, which are often either made in a condemnatory or at least morally neutral way, this song makes light of drug use— all kinds of drug use. It manages to reference LSD, pot, pills, STP (which I had to look up) and “shots.” Some of these references might have been shocking enough to contemporary sensibilities, that lyrics-site Genius (maybe intentionally) gets them wrong. For instance, “He’s the pusher on the force” became, “He’s the pusher on the porch.” “Now they’re taking pills and shots” became “pills in shops.” It could be that the idea of a corrupt cop and heroin use was too much, or just that this is a bad song that didn’t merit enough attention to copy down the lyrics correctly (or maybe Bowie or Rose or someone else modified the lyrics in some other performance). In any case, in this version, Buzz becomes the pusher on the police force who takes all kinds of drugs including “shots.”

This is a terrible song, however it seems to be the last in a line of songs in which Bowie seemed to be going for groaner-humor. Perhaps the best known example of this is “The Laughing Gnome” (1967), but there’s also the lesser known (but still bad) “Over the Wall We Go” (1967) which is a supposedly funny story of a prison escape. In some ways the not-funny and very good song, “Space Oddity” (1969) was thought of as a novelty song at the time, and while the term “space oddity” does not appear in the song’s actual lyrics, it is obviously a play on words…like…Alice D.

What makes “Buzz the Fuzz” more paradoxical than “The Laughing Gnome” and “Over the Wall” is that Bowie’s musicianship had vastly improved over the previous few years. He sings this bad song well, and in that respect it’s worth hearing…once. That said, I think we can be glad that this is one song from the period that didn’t make it onto Hunky Dory or any other studio albums and remains largely forgotten.

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