“Site Maintenance” is my series of videos found while fixing links to earlier videos of the same song. “Golden Years” has come up a few times recently— I posted the strange James Murphy cover a few days ago, and several days before that mentioned that Bowie originally wrote the song with Elvis in mind to sing it. Instead of the song going to the King, it became a Bowie mainstay, transcending its origins from the Thin White Duke period into Bowie’s more accessible pop period, as demonstrated here in this clip from the Serious Moonlight tour. While my sister and mother went to a concert from that tour in 1983, it wasn’t until 1987 that I attended my first Bowie concert when Glass Spider came to Toronto. Once again, “Golden Years” fit nicely into the set. That was either the first time I heard the song, or the first time I really noticed it, but I liked it instantly. Some Bowie songs take multiple exposures to truly appreciate— not this one, though.
I can’t help noticing that Bowie and his band are dressed in updated versions of 1940s fashions. The distance between that concert and now is 39 years— 39 years earlier was 1944, when swing bands may have been similarly attired. The retro look Bowie was trying to invoke would be the equivalent of a band today trying to have an 80s feel, which to me would be nostalgic. If I was the age I am now, 53, at the time of this concert, I would have been born in 1930.
“Golden Years,” even in its name, is a naturally nostalgic song. If Bowie had Elvis in mind, he succeeded in creating a kind of 50s feel. Maybe this exact song wouldn’t have come out of the 50s, but it certainly calls back to doo wop (which, I think of as of the 50s, but actually had its origins in the 40s, making the attire even more appropriate).
Bowie performs the song much as it appeared on “Station to Station” in 1975, so in performing it here, Bowie was being somewhat nostalgic about his own past, which, while relatively recent must have seemed like a long time ago even in 1983. And even then, when the song was new, it represented a link to Bowie’s immediate past album, “Young Americans,” which much of the rest of the album served as a harbinger to Bowie’s Berlin period.
So, “Golden Years” belongs, in all sorts of ways, in the series of Bowie songs about time and the passage of time. But you don’t need to know any of that. Its fun and easy to appreciate.