David Bowie

Five Years

Composed by David Bowie

Song Review by

Not merely one of David Bowie's best songs but easily one of the greatest album-opening songs ever, "Five Years" introduces Ziggy Stardust with a dramatic, powerful air, both musically and lyrically. Starting only with Woody Woodmansey's steady drums before Bowie starts to sing, backed by piano and bass, "Five Years" feels just like the start of a film or a stage production, the introduction to a larger piece. Given the quasi-concept album nature of the Ziggy Stardust album as a whole, that makes excellent sense, but it can work just as well on its own. Bowie's description of a world starting to crack at the seams, a series of fragmentary, apocalyptic images transforming into a search for connection while doom steadily draws nearer. His singing is among his best performances, in particular the line "I never thought there'd be so many people," delivered in the elegant demi-croon he would later make more prominent. The introduction of Mick Ronson's string arrangement adds to the cinematic edge of the song, as does some squalling guitar from Ronson, even as Bowie sounds more desperate and on the brink.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars 1972 Rhino
No Image 1973 4:41
Station to Station 1976 EMI Music Distribution
Stage 1978 EMI Digital / Parlophone / Warner Music 3:58
No Image 1991 Ryko Distribution
Bowie at the Beeb: The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 68-72 2000 Virgin 4:24
Rarest Live 2001 MF 4:16
The Best of Bowie [DVD] 2002 Virgin 5:14
A Reality Tour 2004 Friday Music
David Bowie: Music in Review 2007 Classic Rock Legends / Ultimate Review
Live in Santa Monica '72 2008 Atlantic / Elektra / Rhino / Warner Music
What We Do Is Secret [Soundtrack] 2008
Original Soundtrack
Lakeshore Records 4:43
Five Years 1969-1973 2015 Rhino 4:36
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) 2016 Parlophone
Live Nassau Coliseum '76 2017 Parlophone / Rhino / Warner Music 5:04
A New Career in a New Town (1977-1982) 2017 Rhino
Ziggy & the Spiders: Cleveland Music Hall Gold Standard Laboratories 4:16
blue highlight denotes editor's pick