Dystopian lyrics carried along by a driving cinematic funk score, the song sounds like it could be the theme to a 70’s Blaxploitation adaption of Orwell’s novel. Not surprising since musically, it was heavily influenced by the work of soul legend Isaac Hayes, specifically his work on “Theme from Shaft” from 1971. This trend towards R&B would foreshadow Bowie’s attempt to capture the “Philly Soul” sound in the coming months. The tumultuous year in which this transition took place is chronicled nicely in this NPR article from 2014.
Whether you view “1984” as a glimpse into the future of what Bowie would soon become, or as a relic of his past ambitions, one thing is for certain, it’s a great song.
Bonus Track: Check out Bowie's legendary live performance of "1984" from The Dick Cavett Show on December 5, 1974.
Banned Books Week 2016: Celebrating our Freedom to Read (September 29th – October 1st)