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Bowie’s worst song? Part 2: “Too Dizzy” (1987)

The other day, when I posted about “Buzz the Fuzz,” I speculated as to whether or not that was Bowie’s worst song. For the heck of it, I Googled the phrase, “Bowie’s worst song,” and, as you might imagine got a variety of results (some of which, I’m going to say right here, are WRONG!) Maybe the most interesting old boot to come up in the fishing net was this one, late of the first printing of Never Let Me Down. That’s right— the song appears on the initial issue of what might be Bowie’s most infamous album, but was scrubbed from subsequent issues. Fellow Bowie blogger Chris O’Leary put it this way: the song was “notorious for being so bad that it was recalled.” Meanwhile, Nicholas Pegg wrote in his comprehensive The Complete David Bowie, “‘Too Dizzy’ is quite simply one of the feeblest tracks on even this album, a shabby mid-eighties pop-rocker laying a tiresome guitar break and a yakkety-yak saxophone over a chord sequence almost identical to ‘Zeroes.’” On top of that, the lyrics, if you bother to discern them, are a sexist expression of jealous rage. Bowie himself trashed-talked the song and was personally responsible from removing it from all future issues of the album, which in itself Bowie never tapped for songs in his live shows after the Glass Spider tour in 1987.

So is this Bowie’s worst song? I’m going to go with, no. First of all, see my post about “Buzz the Fuzz.” Second, while I’m not going to defend this song, I will say that if you listen to it and imagine it was on in the background somewhere, think about how you’d react to it. You might think to yourself, “Hey, is that David Bowie?” Or you might just ignore it entirely. For me, the song just doesn’t make too much of an impact or leave much of an impression. Bowie’s voice doesn’t sound bad, and he does a few interesting things with it. It’s fast paced and it doesn’t drag. There’s little about it that I could see inspiring the type of rage some fans feel toward songs such as, “Stateside” (1991), the long Tin Machine song in which Bowie is a backup singer, or “Shining Star (Making My Love)” (1987) the song, also from Never Let Me Down, on which Bowie raps with actor Mickey Rourke, or his cover of “God Only Knows” (1984), which, though I kind of like, is Pegg’s nominee for “perhaps the worst track he ever recorded.” No, there’s just not enough to “Too Dizzy” to inspire that strong of a reaction.

The other thing I’ll add on the topic of bad Bowie is that commentators and hardcore fans let him off the hook for his genuinely awful pre-“Space Oddity” songs, especially those included on his relatively obscure self-titled debut album, David Bowie. If Bowie purged “Too Dizzy” from Never Let Me Down, he hardly acknowledged that David Bowie existed at all, at least until he attempted to update some of the songs from that album on, Toy, which Bowie couldn’t get released in his lifetime. I kind of think the supposed admiration for Bowie’s very early material is fake. Or he’s graded on a curve because before he was famous, there were no expectations that his output would be staggering works of genius. Still, Pegg, who has all the credibility in the world and who, I trust was being earnest, wrote that Bowie’s 1966 song, “Silly Boy Blue” was “outstanding,” “Rubber Band” (1966) “represents a creative breakthrough” and “The Maid of Bond Street” (1966) is “quietly superb.” But I’d defy you to listen to any of these songs, or almost anything Bowie released during the 1960s (with a couple of exceptions, notably “Space Oddity”) and truthfully say you find any of them more pleasant to hear than “Too Dizzy.”

So, no, “Too Dizzy” is not Bowie’s worst song. But that’s probably the highest praise I can muster for it.

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