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.