The Glass Spider – David Bowie

It’s time for something of a reappraisal. The Glass Spider and it’s parent album Never Let Me Down are considered by many as the nadir of David Bowie records, tours, eras, personas, timelines, variants, creepy fairytales about mystical creatures and ventures into prog rock.

Consider this, it was released the same year Guns N’ Roses put out Appetite For Destruction, Def Leppard release Hysteria and Whitesnake did 1987 (it was foretold)… 1987 may not have been quite the sea change of the summer grunge broke but it was still a pretty impressive year for stars guitars and whammy bars.

Thrash metal got up and running with Anthrax and Testament joining the ranks of bands who are changing rock. Aerosmith broke big for the second time with Permanent Vacation. Faith No More Introduced themselves properly. The Cult went Electric, INXS dropped Kick and Prince defined the Sign O’ The Times.

I became a teenager that year. Bowie was a big deal. Never Let Me Down… Was hard to love. In the face of Faster Pussycat, Motörhead and The Cure this made no sense. Now 30 plus year later. It still makes no sense whatsoever and yet, it feels really Bowie. Really out there. Really fun.

Many a band trying on a new direction has gone for the Stonehenge style spoken word intro over atmospheric synth. Aerosmith had been there just a Crespo ago themselves with Prelude To Joanie/ Joanies Butterfly on the Henge faced Rock In A Hard Place. That album gets written about more than it gets listened to (unless you’re a teenage me. Then you cane it). Kiss sort of went there on The Elder and everyone from Gorillaz to Kaiser Chiefs have tried their hand at a Stairway To Heaven meets King Arthur on Ice for a new generation before deciding that a covers album and a greatest hits tour is the bridge to the next phase of the band after all.

Never Let Me Down would be a career best for most bands. If you’d seen it supporting Marillion in ‘87 played by some guys dressed like gypsy pirates you’d have flipped your Flock Of Seagulls. Alas. The Glass Spider Tour went on forever and weirded people out even further. It was too high concept, too theatrical. Not enough hits and too much mime.

Tell you what though, we’d all pay through the eyes to go and see it now wouldn’t we? Relisten to this album in 2021 and realise people considered this his worst (Tin Machine was still to come). After the 60’s stuff, the immaculate run with Ronson, The Berlin period and Let’s Dance all playing out before going into soundtrack ambiance, drum and bass and bringing it all back with The Next Day and then writing his own eulogy with Blackstar. What a guy!

The Glass Spider (the track) plays out as if a young cabin boy adrift on the canal boats of merry old Avalon had listened to Alice Cooper’s couplet from Welcome To My Nightmare of The Black Widow and Devil’s Food and thought “Pah! What lightweights this Preacher’s Son & Hammer Horror Actor are! That idea could use an excess of the old theatricals to really vajazzle it all up! And dagnammit! I’m just the laughing gnome to do it by Jingo!”

So, from Jareth the Goblin King comes this inexplicable bunkum. It’s delicious and it was wasted on us while we were listening to Girls Girls Girls.

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8 thoughts on “The Glass Spider – David Bowie

  1. Ooof! Funny you should mention this as my wife and I just re-watched “Gimme Danger” last weekend. We’d seen it in a cinema when it was released. Maybe it’s just on the DVD but neither of us could remember seeing clips of the Glass Spider performance of “I Wanna Be Your Dog.” Wow. That was incredibly harsh! Either the DVD was a different edit…or our brains repressed the memory to save us!

    Ostensibly, David Bowie was Iggy’s friend. Viewing that brief clip, I’d be hard pressed to tell.

    I’ll still take even “Tin Machine II” over a “Glass Spider” or “Never Let Me Down.” And I’m getting sick and tired of all of the Tin Machine cracks, 32 years on. The first Tin Machine album was my favorite of 1989. It was the Rock Colonic® that Bowie desperately needed. My two cents, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You know. I cannot argue with that. It’s an immense and prophetic piece of rock music. He showed us how the 90’s were going to go and beyond on that track and most people took the piss out of their suits

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  2. The “Glass Spider” concert is interesting. What at first looks like an 80s musical turns into a great rock concert. The show is typical Bowie, but that makes this concert so special.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love your description of the times. When it was all happening, I was listening to Louis Armstrong, Glenn Miller and all the dusty old blues farts. Passed me by completely, this. My Bowie appreciation came YEARS later and I still haven’t heard this! Lol. Guess I should, for education, if nothing else.

    Liked by 1 person

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