Wednesday, March 14, 2012

David Bowie, "Queen Bitch" (1971)


David Bowie calls out Bob Dylan and Andy Warhol by name elsewhere on the 1971 Hunky Dory album, but on "Queen Bitch," buried in the middle of the vinyl LP side 2, he more circumspectly absorbs the anthemic Velvet Underground from "I'm Waiting for the Man" through "Sweet Jane," setting guitarist Mick Ronson loose to rampage. Forty years later it sounds like history being made. Ronson does not let us down: he is efficient, sassy, economical, and brilliant, from the stuffed-up textures of his chords to the way he makes them move to the ease with which he switches over and peals off riffs. This has always been the rockin'est track on what is otherwise essentially a folk-rock album, though one with the future unmistakably stitched into its DNA, busy carrying glam-rock to term, as we see now. "Queen Bitch" is the lark, the place to vent energy; it's also where everything collapsed and crystallized into a vision of sound that would echo through T. Rex, Mott the Hoople, Slade, and a few hundred more. The song appears to be there on the album simply for the pleasure and the kick of cutting loose and somehow it became the embodiment of everything, spidery and nimble, caustic and gossipy, high-pitched with a bottom that moves like cartoon zoo animals, reveling in its outré even as it signals its limits, shrugs its shoulders, plays on. It leaps fully formed and wants to take you for a dance. It doesn't care how you dress, it's going to laugh at the way you dress. You can move or you can stand still in awe of it. Up to you.

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