David Bowie's "My Way"

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Doug M., Jul 6, 2008.

  1. Doug M. Well-Known Member

    Jul 3, 2007
    Yerevan, Armenia
    Little known fact: this could have happened. Sort of.

    Bowie and Paul Anka were both interested in a French song called "Comme d'Habitude", and both wrote songs based on it. But Anka acquired the rights and Bowie didn't, so Bowie's version disappeared. Anka's version was "My Way", which he wrote for Frank Sinatra.

    Okay, so the title is a bit of a tease, because Anka knew Sinatra and wrote the song just for him. Bowie had never met Sinatra at that point (and they probably wouldn't have liked each other much). So, Bowie wouldn't write a "My Way". OTL the song he wrote was the instantly forgettable "Even a Fool Learns to Love". Very likely, if he gained the rights, he'd write that... and it would immediately disappear.

    But! Two knock-ons. One, Bowie never writes "Life on Mars". LoM was his /second/ take at writing a song based on "Comme d'Habitude", and it uses the same chord structure as "My Way". You can sing the two in harmony, as seen in this remarkable video:


    -- starting around 1:45 but, hell, view the whole thing.

    Bowie -- who was miffed at missing out on the fortune that Anka made by buying the rights -- dedicated "Life on Mars" 'to Frankie'.

    I don't think removing this song will have a /huge/ knock-on effect on Bowie's career, but it might have some. IMS it came near the beginning of his early-70s explosion of hits, when his career -- which up until then had seemed stalled as the one-hit-wonder kid who did "Space Oddity" (you know, the 'Major Tom' song) -- suddenly went straight to the stratosphere, with something like five #1 hits in less than two years. I think taking one of his early hits out (second? third?) there'd be be some difference, though it would need a better Bowieologist than me to say just what.

    Oh, and we'd lose the song itself. Which would suck, because it's an awesome song.

    Second knock-on: no "My Way". Is this good or bad? Sinatra's career may never recover -- "My Way" was what gave him his second wind in the early '70s. On the other hand, the rest of us won't have to listen to "My Way" at funerals and testimonial dinners for the next forty years.

    And, hey! There would be no 'Sinatra Doctrine' for the Warsaw Pact countries in the last year or so of the Cold War. Poor old Gorbachev (who must have thought he was being very clever) would have to call it something else.


    Doug M.
  2. hammo1j Member

    Apr 29, 2005
    They are both great songs - I'm not sure I would like to lose either.

    The cultural impact of both is great. We have the Life on Mars TV Series in the UK with a cop who regresses to 1973, a less PC time. Then Sid Vicious has redeemed himself with his version of My Way - possibly one of the best.

    You have to remember that Bowie was a coked up paragon of androgony and therefore less likely to come up with the sentimental lyrics of Anka.

    Did "Comme d'Habitude" have the same tune as My Way or just the chords.

    Bowie might have done the same chorus but I think the verse would be different. A challenge for a Bowie expert out there to come up with the lyric of the man of the time!