Some time in the mid 1980s I was given a second-hand copy of David Bowie’s ‘David Live’ album on vinyl LP. I was still young and we didn’t have a great deal of money so I was happy with anything new to listen to.
I’ll be honest; I didn’t really get Bowie’s music at the time. To an 8 year-old Me he looked a bit like a blonde-haired version of Adam Ant (another artiste whose music I had on an LP).
But there was one song on the live album which stood out above all others; ‘Big Brother’. Slightly ironic that it would be the same name as the stupid British TV show on which his former wife, Angela Bowie, would learn of his death.
There are lots of reasons why I believe this song was one of his most underrated of all. First of all it was never a hit. I’ve never been interested in following everyone else in music and tend to keep away from chart music.
The second reason is that like the huge rock song ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, Big Brother was an amalgamation of different musical styles. You had a classic rock sound but also a mix of a bluegrass style (in the bridge), heavy harmonies and an important message to put over.
And then, just when we think the song is over, we’re introduced to breakdown of rock with jazz saxophone overlay. It’s a mix like no other song I’ve heard…and ends with a very similar sound to Queen’s ‘One Vision’.
Don’t talk of dust and roses
Or should we powder our noses?
Don’t live for last year’s capers
Give me steel, give me steel, give me pulsars unreal
He’ll build a glass asylum
With just a hint of mayhem
He’ll build a better whirlpool
We’ll be living from sin,
then we can really begin
Please saviour, saviour, show us
Hear me, I’m graphically yours
Someone to claim us, someone to follow
Someone to shame us, some brave Apollo
Someone to fool us, someone like you
We want you Big Brother, Big Brother
I know you think you’re awful square
But you made everyone and you’ve been every where
Lord, I’d take an overdose if you knew what’s going down
[CHORUS (3 times)]
We want you Big Brother