David Bowie – Closing Tracks Ranked

David Bowie performs at the Panathinaikos stadium in Athens during a rock festival, in this July 1, 1996 file photo. Singer Bowie has died after an 18-month battle with cancer, his official Twitter account announced on January 11, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

I knew Bowie’s openers were good, but the sheer quality of his album closers surprised me – while there aren’t as many “All-Time Greats” as in the “Openers” category, the majority of closing tracks are pretty outstanding.

Same rules apply as in the “Opening Tracks Ranked” list – I’ll definitely be looking at the quality of the song itself, but I’m also keeping in mind how well the song closes its respective album while making my ranking.

This was also one of my hardest lists for me to rank ever – the “hit” of the album is hardly ever at the end, so there aren’t any obvious winners like “Space Oddity” or “Young Americans”. Most of these tracks are quite underrated on the whole, so putting them in some sort of order felt almost impossible … I managed to do it in the end, though, so how would I rank all of Bowie’s closing tracks?

You can check out some of my other Bowie lists below:

Terrible

26 – Please Mr. Gravedigger (David Bowie 1967)

There are very few songs that I’d be confident enough putting in the “Bad” tier, and even fewer still that are so unequivocally rubbish that I can label them as “Terrible” with no repercussions – I mean, who’s gonna defend this track? One or two “David Bowie 1967” purists, maybe?

Bowie was trying way too hard to be edgy and artsy, and it ends up coming across as ridiculous and amateurish. It was like a student had been given a little bit of money to make an art project, except something went horribly wrong along the way.

Bad

25 – Ian Fish UK Heir (Buddha of Suburbia)

If you don’t count the Lenny Kravitz bonus track (which is just the title track with a few changes), then “Ian Fish UK Heir” is the final song … and Bowie songs don’t get much worse than this.

I understand that it’s just a soundtrack to a TV show, but this is one of the most boring ambient tracks I’ve ever heard. There’s nothing good about this at all in my eyes, and it’s 6 minutes I won’t be getting back.

Meh

24 – Bang Bang (Never Let Me Down)

You’ve completely lost all interest in “Never Let Me Down” by the time the final track rolls around, but even then “Bang Bang” could have done a more interesting job of ending the album with … a bang.

It isn’t as egregious as the previous two entries on the list, but it’s one of the most forgettable Bowie tracks in his whole discography, and it certainly didn’t hold up as a failed 80’s pop hit.

23 – Dancing with the Big Boys (Tonight)

Usually it’s a good idea to try to end the album with a bang, yet somehow Bowie decided to put the worst song on “Tonight” as the closer.

It’s one of the blandest songs I’ve ever heard – there’s no character to it at all, and the vocals are just a failed attempt at sounding large and anthemic. It’s a shame “Tonight” ends on such a limp note, as the album on the whole would have been much more palatable if Bowie nailed the finale.

OK

22 – The Dreamers (Hours…)

“The Dreamers” is one of the more notable songs off of “Hours…”, but even though I’d consider it to be an alright track I don’t think it does enough as an album closer.

It’s almost appropriate that this final track does nothing much new, as that’s quite reflective of the album as a whole. It’s slightly more intense and rocky than the previous songs, so at least it stands out a little.

Good

21 – Where Have All the Good Times Gone (PinUps)

The whole of the “PinUps” album is unremarkable to me, and 90% of the covers on there are uninspired rehashes of effectively the same song.

Other than “Sorrow”, the only track I like on this album is the closer “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”, a fun rocker with a good vocal performance. It’s hardly worth writing home about, but at least it ends the album with a sort of high note.

20 – Shake It (Let’s Dance)

While not anywhere near as good as some of the other songs on “Let’s Dance”, I still think “Shake It” is a decent track and a fun way to end the album.

It’s extremely danceable, and if you turned your brain off for four minutes you’d be bobbing your head along too.

19 – The Supermen (The Man Who Sold the World)

Possibly one of my most unpopular Bowie opinions, but I never really liked the hard rock style of “The Man Who Sold the World”, as I don’t think it really suits Bowie at all.

The closer is still pretty good though, and the thumping drums of “The Supermen” are enough to draw your attention straight away. It’s still just a hard rock Bowie song at the end of the day, and other tracks on the record do it better.

18 – Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family (Diamond Dogs)

The combo of “Big Brother” leading into this closer is a pretty legendary way of ending the album, but on its own “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family” isn’t the most remarkable finale.

It certainly packs a punch, and it hits you like a wall of noise when you first finish off “Diamond Dogs”. It also has one of the most ridiculous titles in Bowie’s discography, so points deducted for making me type it out multiple times.

Great

17 – Law (Earthlings on Fire) (Earthling)

This song is so zany, so ridiculous, so “un-Bowie” that I actually really like it. It’s something utterly unique in his catalogue, and it’s an explosive way of ending “Earthling”.

“Law (Earthlings on Fire)” may seem kind of tacky on the surface, but the thumping jungle synths and beats make the track unbelievably energetic. I’m glad Bowie didn’t do this style again in his career, but I’m also glad he nailed it on his first attempt.

16 – Heat (The Next Day)

Originally this was one of my least favourite tracks from “The Next Day” on account of it being so slow to build up, but “Heat” just gets better with every listen.

It’s extremely methodical and introspective in the way the lyrics gradually build up to the climax, and the ending part with the strings is one of the musical highlights of the whole album.

15 – It’s No Game (Pt. 2) (Scary Monsters & Super Creeps)

Starting and ending the album with the same song was a bold move, but Bowie pulled it off on “Scary Monsters” with both parts of “It’s No Game”.

Whilst Part One is frantic and crazed, Part Two is more mellow and full of swing – so if I had to pick one to listen to I’d choose the latter. It isn’t the grandest of closing tracks, but it makes up for it with flair.

14 – The Wedding Song (Black Tie White Noise)

“Black Tie White Noise” does exactly the same thing as “Scary Monsters” where the first and last songs are nearly identical, but I think it works better here.

Actually having vocals this time around makes it way better than the opening track “The Wedding”, and the wedding-themed lyrics and instrumentations are absolutely gorgeous.

13 – The Secret Life of Arabia (“Heroes”)

“The Secret Life of Arabia” is a godsend whenever you listen to “Heroes”, as before this song you would’ve had to put up with a trio of really mediocre ambient tracks.

Bowie’s vocals go all-out, and the song wouldn’t be the same without his belting delivery. The bassline is also hella groovy, so that obviously gives it a plethora of bonus points in my books.

12 – Red Money (Lodger)

One of Bowie’s most underrated songs, and easily one of my favourites off of “Lodger”. Carlos Alomar’s guitar part is the clear stand-out, and the groove of the track is enough to keep you hooked throughout the whole song until it climaxes at the end.

I never realised until recently, but this is actually a sort of “cover” (more of a re-working, really) of a track that Bowie and his good friend Iggy Pop co-wrote a few years previously – “Sister Midnight”. The first version of “China Girl” is on that album (The Idiot) as well, so it’s definitely worth a listen to see how Bowie evolved the sound for himself.

Amazing

Just as a bit of a side note – this tier was one of the hardest I’ve ever had to rank in a list. Ever. Every single song here is practically on the same level as the others, so I had a really hard time putting them in a sort of order. In the end, I had to just focus on how well the track concluded their respective albums.

11 – Wild Is The Wind (Station to Station)

It pains me to put the closer from my favourite Bowie album outside of the top 10, but if I’m being harsh then “Wild Is The Wind” isn’t as good a closer as the others higher up on the list.

Since “Station to Station” is already stacked with amazing tracks, “Wild Is The Wind” is just another pleasant song to add to the collection – not a crazy show-stopper, but it does the job nicely.

10 – Bring Me the Disco King (Reality)

“Reality” is an album that I could never get behind, despite a lot of Bowie fans considering it to be one of his most underrated. There are certainly a few good songs here and there, but the majority of tracks are just passable to me.

The best track on the album hits you like a ton of bricks right at the end of it all, and I wasn’t expecting “Bring Me the Disco King” to slap so hard. Bowie fully embraces the jazzy goodness (something we’ll get more accustomed to on “Blackstar”), and the end result is one of his best efforts this millenium.

9 – Strangers When We Meet (1.Outside)

Only two Bowie albums by my count end with one of the “hits” off the record, and “Strangers When We Meet” is easily one of the best tracks on “1.Outside”.

The crazy thing to me is that he already did this song previously on the “Buddha of Suburbia” soundtrack, but Brian Eno’s production here somehow makes it ten times better. It’s one of the most endearing and beautiful tracks Bowie ever made, and it’s up there as one of my favourites.

8 – I Can’t Give Everything Away (Blackstar)

The very last song on Bowie’s very last album, and that’s enough of a reason alone for “I Can’t Give Everything Away” to have a profound effect on me.

Everything from the production to the lyrics is just sublime, and Bowie’s aged vocals give the whole track a deeper level of meaning. It’s incredible that after hundreds of fantastic songs, he had time to leave us with one final gem.

7 – Subterraneans (Low)

It was a risky move to end “Low” with a series of ambient tracks, but Bowie and Eno managed to craft a selection of perfect tracks that flow into each other, culminating in the masterpiece that is “Subterraneans”.

The slow, plodding synth bassline conveys so much emotion with so little sound, and once Bowie’s vocals come in, the sonic landscape is complete.

6 – The Bewley Brothers (Hunky Dory)

“Hunky Dory” was Bowie’s first truly great album, and no truly great album would be complete without an equally jaw-dropping finale.

Bowie was always a master wordsmith, but the story he weaves on “The Bewley Brothers” will go down as one of his most comprehensive and immersive. The guitar work is also fab, and the crescendos into the choruses never fail to take my breath away.

5 – Memory of a Free Festival (Space Oddity)

I’ve always regarded “Space Oddity” as Bowie’s true debut album, and I actually really like it and consider it to be one of his most underrated records.

Other than the title track, the one song that never fails to blow me away on this album is the closer “Memory of a Free Festival”, an anthemic seven-minute romp that I always have a hard time not singing along to. It encapsulates the free-spirited vibe of the album, and as such it’s one of Bowie’s most memorable closers.

4 – Heathen (The Rays) (Heathen)

“Heathen (The Rays)” was a bit of a sleeper hit when I went through the album of the same name, as at first I thought it was fine but nothing more.

It seemingly gets better with each listen, and I don’t think Bowie could have come up with a more appropriate closer for the dark themes of “Heathen”. The lyrics and vocals are full of emotion in the rawest form, and the production is some of Visconti’s best ever work.

All-Time Great

3 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars)

“Five Years” kickstarts the Ziggy Stardust concept on Bowie’s most iconic album, and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” ends it with aplomb.

It escalates into one of Bowie’s most energetic and emotive songs ever, and the sheer gravitas of his performance is truly staggering. It was, and still is, the perfect way to end a perfect album.

2 – Lady Grinning Soul (Aladdin Sane)

One of Bowie’s most underrated songs ever, I’ve always considered “Lady Grinning Soul” to be the best track on “Aladdin Sane”, bar none.

The piano work is absolutely extraordinary, and Bowie’s vocals are both tender and sensual at the same time. It’s a track that sums up the appeal of “Aladdin Sane” perfectly, and there’s only one other closing number that I love just a little bit more.

1 – Fame (Young Americans)

Other than “Strangers When We Meet” (from “1.Outside”), Bowie albums tend not to end on the “hit”, but rather an underrated gem that packs a punch. That isn’t the case for “Young Americans”, though, as “Fame” was one of Bowie’s only number one singles in his career.

You can hear the Lennon-isms all over this track, and Bowie’s collaboration with the former Beatle had no right to be as good as it is. The guitar and saxophone licks are divine, and Bowie’s emphatic vocals really puts a neat little bow on the whole thing. Easily one of the best closing tracks in music history.

Aaaand that’s my list. You can check out some of my latest blog posts below:

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