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Readers’ Poll: The Best David Bowie Albums

Your selections include ‘Young Americans,’ ‘Heroes’ and ‘Station to Station’

David Bowie

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This is hardly a revelatory statement, but David Bowie had a very good 1970s. Fueled by a heroic intake of drugs, the man worked like a machine and churned out masterpiece after masterpiece, pausing only to tour, produce amazing albums for other people and to ingest yet more drugs. This didn't do much for his physical or mental health (at one point he thought his TV was talking to him), but it did produce some of the greatest albums in rock history. We asked our readers to vote on their favorite Bowie albums, and the top 10 were all released between 1970 and 1980. Only Lodger failed to make the cut. Click through to see the results. 

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6. ‘Aladdin Sane’

The pressure was truly on David Bowie when he went into the studio in late 1972 to begin recording Aladdin Sane. Kids all across American has played Ziggy Stardust until the vinyl was worn down, and they wanted something new. Written during his first American tour, Bow labeled this album "Ziggy Goes to America." It was a worthy follow-up, and "The Jean Genie," "Panic in Detroit" and "Cracked Actor" all became instant Bowie classics. More important, it proved Bowie wasn't a One-Album Wonder. 

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5. ‘Diamond Dogs’

David Bowie was halfway through writing a concept album about George Orwell's classic novel 1984 when he ran into a tiny snag: Orwell's estate denied him the rights to the book. Rather than start from scratch, Bowie opted to put some of the songs on a more traditional glam rock album. Diamond Dogs is a farewell to the already fading glam scene. On the cover, Bowie still has his Ziggy hair, but he's already morphing into some other creature. This was his first album after parting ways with the Spiders from Mars backing band, and the beginning of his long association with Earl Slick. "Rebel Rebel" was the only real hit from the album, though it never went higher than number 64 in America. 

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4. ‘Low’

Many Bowie fans didn't quite know what to make of Low when it first appeared in January of 1977. "Sound and Vision" and "Be My Wife" were the only songs that even sounded somewhat like pop music, and the second side was filled with instrumentals. Clearly, Bowie wasn't aiming for the pop charts with this one. Instead, he took the experiments from Station to Station to a new level. The disc was produced by Tony Visconti, but Brian Eno played a large role in shaping the unique sound of the disc. While many of his peers were totally ignoring new music, Bowie was immersing himself in Krautrock and discovering entirely new ways to express himself. Low was underappreciated at the time, but now it's widely seen as a masterpiece. 

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3. ‘Station to Station’

It's possible to do so much cocaine over a long period of time that you enter into a state of "cocaine psychosis," meaning you suffer from intense paranoia and memory failure. That explains why David Bowie claims to have no memory of recording Station to Station. He was doing shocking amounts of the drug, and not sleeping for days at a time. This disc was recorded largely long after midnight in a Los Angeles studio. E Street Band keyboardist Roy Bittan was sober, but most everyone else in the studio was high as a spaceship. This usually leads to horrible music, but by some miracle it produced some of the greatest songs of Bowie's career. On the epic title track Bowie even sings about the "side effects of the cocaine." It's 10 minutes and 15 seconds of absolute madness. You can almost smell the drugs when you listen to it. The disc wraps with a cover of "Wild Is the Wind," featuring some of the greatest singing of Bowie's career. This is a deeply weird album that just gets better with age. 

Note: don't try this at home. When Elton John and Oasis tried to record on this much cocaine, the results were absolutely dismal. Just listen to Leather Jackets and Be Here Now if you don't believe us. 

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2. ‘Hunky Dory’

David Bowie began writing the music on Hunky Dory on his first visit to America in 1971. "The whole Hunky Dory album reflected my newfound enthusiasm for this new continent that had been opened up to me," Bowie said in 1999. "That was the first time a real outside situation affected me so 100 percent that it changed my way of writing and the way I look at things."

Traveling by bus from Washington, D.C., to California, Bowie fell in love with the country and was inspired to pen tributes to some of its most iconic artists ("Andy Warhol," "Song for Bob Dylan" and the Lou Reed tribute "Queen Bitch"). Inspired by folk-rock acts that were dominating the charts, Bowie began composing pretty acoustic tunes with surreal lyrics like "Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow," from "Life on Mars?" "When we were rehearsing songs for Hunky Dory, David was playing by himself at folk clubs in London to, like, 50 people," says Hunky Dory bassist Trevor Bolder, who also played on Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. "He had long hair and looked like a folkie."

On "Changes," which kicks off the album, Bowie offers a challenge to pop's reigning stars, singing, "Look out, you rock & rollers." "I guess it was more being sort of arrogant," Bowie said in 2002. "It's sort of baiting an audience, saying, 'Look, I'm going to be so fast you're not going to keep up with me.'" The album found a small audience, but flew up the charts later that year after the huge success of the follow-up, Ziggy Stardust

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1. ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’

The world has just five years left and it seems like there is no hope, but suddenly an alien rock star named Ziggy Stardust enters the body of a man and offers us salvation in our dying days. Sadly, he "took it all too far" and wound up killing himself in a "Rock and Roll Suicide." It's a story that virtually nobody has ever bothered to follow, but that hardly matters. The songs on Ziggy Stardust represent the high point of the entire glam movement. Also, Bowie was reborn onstage as Ziggy Stardust, providing a much-needed rock star in an otherwise bleak music landscape. Even better, parents hated him. Bowie has had bigger hits and more acclaimed albums, but never in his career did he seem quite as important or refreshing. This is the Bowie album that will be in the history books.