PENSIONER POP

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As has been widely reported this past week, 66 year old David Bowie has made the twelve-strong shortlist for the 2013 Mercury Prize.  It would therefore seem, as far as the critics and others who make up the Mercury judging panel that his latest LP, The Next Day, is one of the best 12 albums released in the UK this past year.

I can’t say whether this is the case, although I strongly suspect not.  I’m more inclined to think that his inclusion is more to do with giving a high media profile to this year’s award than the merits of what was his 26th studio LP.  The reason that I can’t say for sure is that I’ve given the LP a total bodyswerve, as I have all his new material ever since the travesty that was Tin Machine in the late 80s and early 90s.  If any of you have remained loyal and faithful to his output in recent years, please let me know if in fact the latest LP is worth investing in….after all, I’m going to be bombarded with it on displays any time I venture into any High Street music store between now and the awards ceremony at the end of October.

Bowie is a performer who I’ve long felt ran his course in the mid 80s.  Just about all of his albums from the 70s  have more than stood the test of time  – it should also be recognised just how prolific he was in that decade with an an album in every year except 1978 – but then again there had been two absolute classics in 1977 in the shape of Low and Heroes.  I also remain fond of parts of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) from 1980.  The worldwide phenomena of Let’s Dance in 1983 was truly something to behold with the production and sound capturing the popular music of the era quite perfectly, albeit it was a long long way away from the music I was listening to.  It’s a recod which made Bowie the #1 box office attraction for a few years – the royalties from the classic rock stations playing the hit singles from that era must still be mega given how often I stumbled upon them during my recent few weeks in Canada.

My admiration for Bowie began to fall away around the time of Live Aid.  Many have said that he was one of the outstanding performers that day but I was disturbed by the fact that out of all his back catalogue he chose to perform Heroes and in a way that seemed congratulatory to all the rock stars who had shown up that day in London and Philadelphia.

What I find interesting about his career, which now spans a jaw-dropping 46 years, is that so many modern musicians cite him as a huge influence and have covered his songs, either in concert or as b-sides or album tracks.  But almost inevitably, these covers are of songs from the 60s and 70s with scant regard to the later material.  And instead of me posting some great songs from the 70s which I’m sure are well-known to all readers of this blog, I thought I’d share some of the covers I’ve most enjoyed:-

mp3 : Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

mp3 : Vivian Girls – John, I’m Only Dancing

mp3 : Billy Mackenzie – Secret Life of Arabia

mp3 : Franz Ferdinand – Sound & Vision

mp3 : Bauhaus – Ziggy Stardust

Actually, the only reason I’ve included that FF cover is that the dooh-doohs at the start are supplied by Girls Aloud…..very bizarre!

And here’s a cracking acoustic C&W version from Mr Bowie himself:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (live and acoustic)

Enjoy.

15 thoughts on “PENSIONER POP

  1. Hi JC,
    as your title tells – Mr. Bowie’s a pensioner right now, who made a late work with his last record. I think it’s a good one because it is more stripped from his overproduced and ambient works throughout the last years. We should not make the mistake to compare this to the his high class records he did in the 70s or early 80s. Sorry to say, but none of the good songs on his latest record will be able to get classics like the cover songs you’ve postet

  2. Two things JC.
    First, it’s actually 49 years that Bowie has been recording (Lisa Jane by Davie Jones & The King Bees came out in June 1964).

    Secondly, there’s a great cover of Where Are We Now? By Momus

  3. 26 albums in 46 years, bit of a slacker.

    I love Chumbawamba’s description of him at Live Aid – Suit full of compasion and a gob full of shite.

  4. JC
    i’m firmly with you on this… i think the only reason he’s on the list is because everyone keeps saying that “it’s the best thing he’s done since scarey monsters”… which doesn’t make it a good album at all… it just highlights the crap he’s released since then… have you heard the cover he did of cactus by pixies…?

    anyway i really could rant on and on…

    but for me the best album on that list is awayland by villagers… definitely my favourite album of the year judging by the amount of plays it’s received… but you know awards and lists and all that… they’re never right are they…?

  5. Some agreement here, as it is worth noting the quality of the albums over the ’70s, which 1980’s onwards failed to continue. I have a soft spot of Tin Machine, partly because of the bloody-mindedness of the exercise. However i would recommend some of the later albums.”Outside” still sounds good (Heart’s Filthy Lesson as an example), Black Tie White Noise has some good bits, and I am still fond of the much derided Earthling. However the inclusion of The Next Dayin the Mercury shortlist smacks of tokenism – its good, but not that good – maybe reflecting that . Bowie may not release any more records (but since this one came as a surprise, who knows).
    Have got a couple of the covers, but looking forward to the rest. Must check but I am sure that over the years Uncut have included 2 CDs of Bowie covers.

  6. *deep breath*
    Calm Robster, calm…

    Right! ‘The Next Day’ IS one of the best albums of the year. Period. it practically rips 99% of everything else that’s come out in the last 12 months to shreds. Only Laura Marling, Nick Cave and Sigur Ros come close IMO. (Villagers just sound like Mercury Rev. No bad thing, but not exactly worthy of a Mercury).

    Comparing ‘The Next Day’ to Bowie’s 70s output is just crazy. No one could top that, not even Bowie. They were different times. OK, so he was crap in the 80s, but he has since made some really good records. ‘Outside’ was superb, ‘Earthling’ is dead good too (ignore the critics, they just didn’t want to get it), and ‘Heathen’ was by-and-large a good record too (and for the record, I like his version of ‘Cactus’ and I’m by far the biggest Pixies fan I know).

    So ‘The Next Day’ may be a track or two too long, but I am in no doubt his nomination for the Mercury Prize is purely on merit, not tokenism. It’s worthy of the prize, but so is Laura and, arguably, the Arctic Monkeys record which I haven’t listened to a great deal yet, but sounds pretty good.

    Rant over, I need to lie down. But first, my daily worship at the altar of Ziggy to thank Our Lord David for his gifts to mankind…

  7. Hi JC. I’m endorsing ‘The Next Day,’ especially the first half of the record. Those first six songs are a miracle. I had give up ever hearing anything new from Bowie again. The Robster is correct. I’m a huge fan, but even I believe the record gets a little long in the second half. If I told you to buy another Bowie album, post ’83, I would recommend ‘Heathen.’

  8. My favourite album of the year mbv wasn’t considered for the Mercury because it’s not available on Amazon or iTunes and to me the award has lost just about all its credibility in recent years with decisions like this, especially after Speech Debelle winning in 2009.

    As for The Next Day, I think it’s easily one of the top handful of albums released this year along with MBV, Boards of Canada, Primal Scream and Steve Mason, although for me Heathen just edges it as his best album since Scary Monsters. The Buddha of Suburbia is in there with a shout too for that accolade, very under-rated.

  9. Really appreciate the feedback folks. That Robster and Brian endorse is probably enough to make me put the LP on Santa’s list for the end of the year…unless I see a cheap(ish) copy on sale somewhere.

    Oh and in the interests of balance, tune in tomorrow for what I think you’ll find an interesting post.

  10. RE mbv – I didn’t know that. And it’s a disgraceful state of affairs. In fact its a fucking disgraceful state of affairs.

  11. Hmmm…top 12 albums of the year? The Next Day is up there, but it’s only September. Without comparing the album to Scary Monsters or Low or Station To Station, it is a prominent album in the Bowie canon. It wipes away, for me, everything from Let’s Dance to Heathen (which has grown on me, thank you Tony Visconti.)
    The Mercury Prize is a sponsorship prize which seems to be someone’s idea of a less embarrassing version of a Brit Award. In the end hardly anyone is ever satisfied with the winner and the record companies just get something more to use in advertising. Sorry for the cynical ramble.

  12. JC. Franz ferdinand covered a Girls Allowed song for the Radio 1 live lounge, a few years ago, i seem to recall it wasnt too bad. Maybe the girls are trying to repay the favour?

  13. FYI The Fall have now issued 30 studio LPs, and they’ve been doing for ? ten years less than Bowie. But I’d far rather live next door to Bowie than MES.

  14. Actually, one of my favorite Bowie covers [besides Billy MacKenzie’s scorching “The Secret Life Of Arabia,” is by Icehouse, who did manage to take on an 80s cut from “Tonight” and easily managed to put the original very much in the shade. Others have supported “Loving The Alien” as an indication that Bowie wasn’t quite dead from the neck up back in those awful EMI years, but really… his campy, overblown take on the song, which only superficially was Bowie-esque, was still off putting to my ears. I avoided that album, even after it was released as a single. It was not the “all clear” I was waiting for.

    Enter Icehouse, in their last released album, “The Berlin Tapes.” It’s a cover album of various tunes for a ballet as performed by Iva Davies along with minimal string accompaniment. What he does with the [admittedly good] song should make Bowie’s ears turn red from shame. All of the middle class chenille has been stripped from the arrangement and what’s left is a spartan, nuanced take which doesn’t try to sugarcoat the sentiments with knowing winks or campy gestures.

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