Song Stories

“Ashes to Ashes”

David Bowie | 1980

About a decade after David Bowie scored his first hit with "Space Oddity," "Ashes to Ashes" also focused on astronaut Major Tom, this time finding him a troubled junkie. The wobbly keyboard riff that serves as the song's hook was produced by putting a grand piano through a device called the Eventide Instant Flanger. In NME, Bowie called "Ashes to Ashes" an "ode to childhood, if you like, a popular nursery rhyme....about spacemen becoming junkies!" He also revealed the lyric about never doing good or bad things reflected "a continuing, returning feeling of inadequacy over what I've done."

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Song Stories


The Commodores | 1984

The year after soul legends Marvin Gaye and Jackie Wilson died, songwriter Dennis Lambert asked members of the Commodores to give him a tape of ideas. "And the one from Walter Orange has this wonderful bass line," said co-writer Franne Golde. "Plus the lyric, 'Marvin, he was a friend of mine' ... Within 10 minutes, we had decided it should be something like a modern R&B version of 'Rock 'n' Roll Heaven,' and I just said, 'Nightshift.'" This tribute to the recently deceased musicians was the band's only hit without Lionel Richie, who had left for a solo career.

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