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David Bowie - Absolute Beginners (1986)

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  • 80's Score80's Score80's Score 80's score: 2.56
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"Absolute Beginners" is a song written and recorded by English singer-songwriter David Bowie. Released on 3 March 1986, it ...

"Absolute Beginners" is a song written and recorded by English singer-songwriter David Bowie. Released on 3 March 1986, it was the theme song to the 1986 film of the same name (itself an adaptation of the book Absolute Beginners).

Although the film was not a commercial success, the song was a big hit, reaching No. 2 on the UK Singles Chart. It also reached the top ten on the main singles charts in ten other countries. In the US, it peaked at No. 53 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Bowie performed "Absolute Beginners" live on his 1987 Glass Spider Tour, his 2000 "Mini" Tour, and his 2002 Heathen Tour. The song has been included on a number of Bowie's compilation and "Best-of" releases, and was included as a bonus track on the 1995 re-release of Tonight (1984).

Background and recording

Bowie was good friends with the film's director, Julien Temple (who had worked with him in 1984 on the Jazzin' for Blue Jean short film). Bowie agreed to Temple's request to write music for the film if he could also play the part of Vendice Partners.

It was recorded at Clive Langer & Alan Winstanley's Westside Studios, London. The sessions were completed rapidly, but the song was delayed due to the problems with completing the film. Virgin wanted the release to tie in with the film's opening. The song featured Rick Wakeman on piano, who had previously performed on Bowie's "Space Oddity" single and Hunky Dory album. Shortly after the sessions wrapped, Mick Jagger flew in to record the charity cover of "Dancing in the Street" with Bowie, which used many of the same musicians. Bowie recorded the lead vocal of "Absolute Beginners" at Westside Studios in August.

Reception

AllMusic described "Absolute Beginners" as "the gem of his post-Let's Dance '80s output, a big, breathtaking ballad allowing him to indulge the Sinatra croon that's driven many of his best performances". It was chosen by Jeremy Allen in The Guardian as one of Bowie's "ten of the best" songs. Biographer Paul Trynka described "Absolute Beginners" as "Bowie's last great composition of the 1980s", while rock critic Chris O'Leary described it as "gorgeous and valedictory," with "one of the great Bowie melodies" in its refrain. Mojo chose the song as number 61 in its countdown of Bowie's 100 greatest songs. Don Weller's saxophone solo has been described by musicOMH as "perhaps the best" saxophone solo in a Bowie song. They characterised it as "the sound of one man trying to violently expel his innards through the bell of his instrument" and "one of the most heartbreaking things put to record".

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