“Absolute Beginners” is one of my favourite Bowie songs, and one I fear gets unjustly overlooked in the general “everything after ‘Scary Monsters’ is bad” narrative that gets applied to his ’80s output. I mean, yes, his studio albums of the era aren’t great, but if you get into the singles and soundtrack contributions, there’s some of his best and most interesting work. I will eventually post more evidence to back this up and try to make a similar argument for his ’90s output, but for now, I’ll just share the original – taken from the 1986 Julien Temple film starring Bowie himself – and some very different covers of said tune.
First, Shearwater – or maybe Jonathan Meiburg solo – recorded an acoustic cover for Austin radio station KUTX for Valentine’s Day, 2013.
Next, Charlotte Hatherley – formerly of Ash, sometimes known as Sylver Tongue – included a slow, synth-y reading as part of her 2017 Night Vision EP.
And finally, one I didn’t even know existed until I started looking – Saint Etienne with a very Saint Etienne version that appeared in their 2008 box set, Boxette.
And no, I’ve never seen the film. I do have the soundtrack album on wax, however, as a friend found it in a curbside pile of trash and gave it to me, knowing I collected records. Also got a copy of The Fixx’s Reach The Beach that way.