After David Bowie passed away in January, Nothing Has Changed jumped to number five on the U.K. charts and number 57 on Billboard’s Top 200. Believe it or not, some people didn’t own much, if any, of Bowie’s music. Maybe they were just exercising nostalgia, or maybe they were under the age of 35 and the moment of his death was the most exposure they’d had to Bowie in their lives. Either way, this brings us to Legacy (Sony Legacy Recordings), a sort of definitive, budget-priced, final summation of his career.
There’s no way a two-CD compilation could comprehensively or satisfactorily celebrate the 50-year career of the world’s greatest, art-rock superstar. Even Nothing Has Changed, a three-CD set issued just more than a year before his death, was unable to take into account all of his hits and best work. Legacy has 19 fewer tracks with which to work, so there’s no trace of Never Let Me Down (considered by many the artistic low point of his career) or The Buddha of Suburbia (the soundtrack he did for a 1993 BBC television serial), while the majority of his records are represented by only one track each. On the other hand, you have to respect the set’s dedication to showing all sides of the artist. One could easily argue for leaving out “Sorrow” in favor of “Suffragette City” or “John, I’m Only Dancing,” but even Pin-Ups gets its moment in the sun. Let’s put it this way: if you’re a Bowie devotee, one of your top five favorites has been left out. That’s okay, though. If you’re a Bowie devotee, this set isn’t meant for you.
When I was 15 years old, all I had was Changes, and that was enough to rearrange my brain. For the next 25 years, I collected everything Bowie released as he continued to change my mind. I wonder how a young person will approach these 40 tracks. Will they treat the songs from Heathen with as much reverence as the ones from Aladdin Sane? I can only hope that they’ll find “Golden Years” compelling enough to lead them to the rest of Station to Station. I’m sad that my journey with Bowie is over, but it’s thrilling to imagine the surprises in store for any curious newcomer who presses play on “Space Oddity” and listens closely all the way to the end.