AS THEY PULLED YOU OUT OF THE OXYGEN TENT….

I’ve previously admitted that I was a fan of David Bowie, but not a devoted one. As a teenager, I liked his music although it would take many years to realise that what I had liked, I should have loved.

The single Diamond Dogs was released just a matter of days before my 11th birthday. I simply had no ability to have an understanding of lyrics that told of Halloween Jack living on top of Manhattan Chase nor could my young ears really pick up some of the other big words that I didn’t know the meaning of. The only reasons I liked listening to the song were the very sing-able two line chorus quickly followed by a tune that somehow reminded my young ears of another song (which in later years I would identify as Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones).

I knew nothing about Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane or any of the other complexities of David Bowie. He was just someone who made pop music whose stuff got played sometimes on BBC Radio 1 (247 Medium Wave) although I was more likely to hear him as I listened to Radio Luxembourg (208 Medium Wave) while pretending I was asleep, with a small pocket-radio under my pillow turned down as low as I thought I could get away with. Sometimes I would manage to stay awake till after 10pm……..

I didn’t like Diamond Dogs as much as The Jean Genie or Rebel Rebel, both of which were songs with memorable choruses and were my early favourites. It was OK to listen to, in the same way as Starman, Life On Mars and Drive-In Saturday had been but one thing for sure was that it was much preferable to the ghastly Space Oddity…..but before you judge me too harshly, just remember that the storyline of the latter and the way the song unfolds is the stuff of nightmares for a kid of my age with a vivid imagination. The very thought of a spaceman floating around out there and dying was the stuff of nightmares.

I didn’t buy any David Bowie records until Boys Keep Swinging while my first album would have been Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). But not long afterwards, and with some money given to me at Christmas 1980, I went out and bought The Best of Bowie, a budget-priced compilation album on budget label K-Tel, that offered up 16 tracks, most of which had been hit singles:-

Side A

Space Oddity
Life On Mars
Starman
Rock’n’Roll Suicide
John, I’m Only Dancing
The Jean Genie
Breaking Glass (live)
Sorrow

Side B

Diamond Dogs
Young Americans
Fame
Golden Years
TVC 15
Sound and Vision
Heroes
Boys Keep Swinging

I wouldn’t call it an introduction to Bowie as most of the songs were known to me (Breaking Glass and TVC 15 were the exceptions) but it was a great way to finally have so many songs to listen to without relying on a radio. What I didn’t know was that a number of the songs had been edited down from the original versions, so as to fit all 16 tracks on two sides of vinyl. I didn’t have any sort of sophisticated record player either, so the fact that the songs had been crammed onto the vinyl with a subsequent dip in quality wasn’t apparent either. I just loved the idea of listening to a fantastic album time after time after time…..

For some reason, Diamond Dogs became my new favourite Bowie song. Maybe it was the fact that it sounded more new wave than many of the others or perhaps it was that the nonsensical lyrics now seemed so real, meaningful and intriguing to someone whose favourite new author was George Orwell…….

What I didn’t know was that Diamond Dogs was one of the most edited tracks on the K-Tel compilation, so for many years, this was the version I was most familiar with:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (K-Tel edit)

It comes in at just over three-and-a-half minutes, more than two minutes shorter than the original version that had limped to #21 in the UK singles charts in 1974.

Years later, and myself and Mrs Villain move in together. I bring an extensive vinyl collection, hers is much more modest but was of the utmost quality – she had he decided to leave much of hers behind when she left her marital home but among those that made the move were all the Bowie, T-Rex and Iggy Pop albums that she had bought on the days of their release throughout the 70s. As a result I got to hear the whole album in its full glory, while staring at the sleeve that had caused controversy back in the day.

mp3 : David Bowie – Diamond Dogs (LP version)

And for completeness, here’s the b-side to the single:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Holy Holy

JC

11 thoughts on “AS THEY PULLED YOU OUT OF THE OXYGEN TENT….

  1. I bought that same K-Tel comp for a single reason: I knew and loved everything on it but ‘Sorrow’. Somehow I missed the Pin-Ups LP completely. I wonder if it was out of print? Anyway, I already had all the other songs but I love that version of the old McCoys tune.
    Fun fact: Bowie plays all the guitar on Diamond Dogs with the exception of ‘1984’.

  2. Ah, Radio Luxembourg…Paul Burnett, Stuart Henry, Kid Jensen and of course Tony Prince – ‘your royal ruler!’ Happy days.
    That K-Tel version of ‘Diamond Dogs’ really is savagely edited isn’t it? I assume the 30 second instrumental at the end of the track has sneaked in from another source!

  3. I have my big sister to thank for buying the K Tel album (followed by Scary Monsters) and introducing me to Bowie at a time just before my own musical awakenings.

    When I started getting into music on my own, I was quickly aware of the Bowie influence on a lot of my new favourite artists, so I guess he was kinda always there for me.

    I later got heavily into Scary Monsters and started buying the back catalogue, thinking all those great albums I had read about would be even better.

    It didn’t quite work out that way, and I still put Scary Monsters ahead of Ziggy Stardust and the others (great though they are) just because the sounds on that one were more cutting edge, more new wave-ish than on previous and subsequent albums.

    Incidentally , the only one that comes really close in my affections is Station to Station. I guess it’s that cold late 1970 s European feel that I am such a sucker for.

  4. I’ll also fess up to ownership of that K-Tel compilation. Sound And Vision was by far the most played track from it – if only because it ended up on every tape I ever made for someone. It did come as a bit of a shock to hear some of the longer versions as I began to accumulate the original albums.

  5. I bought the K-Tel album – just because – in the early 90s. I’ve never played it but I’m aware of the brutal edits. The Ronco/K-Tel albums I have [all UK LPs, incidentally] all sport unique edits of singles by many of my favorite bands. one day, I’ll digitize them when I don;t have anything better to do! We are all “of a certain age” since “Scary Monsters” was the first one I bought, too. It was one of the best of 1980 [though I’d rank peter gabriel III/melt above it…and all others], but the sick thing was that once we bought this, and worked our way backward, we had every expectation that David Bowie would continue to issue world-straddling albums. As we found out three years later, this was sadly no longer the case. So we were huge Bowie fans for three years before the harsh reality of The Drought® [aka – the EMI years] took its toll on our fandom.

  6. The corollary to that thought was that for the next 36 years, music writers had a key on their keyboards that when hit, would enter the phrase “_ _ _ _ is his best album since ‘Scary Monsters.'” Simple Minds also had a similar occurrence. By last count, Simple Minds had issued six albums that were their best since ‘Sparkle In The Rain’ following their own decade in the wilderness.

  7. Edits or not, the K-Tel comp was a great selection. If one were to list an RCA-era ICA I bet all 10 of the songs would be on it. Further research confirms ‘Sorrow’ was the only single from Pinups, with ‘Amsterdam’ on the b-side. Looks like the LP did go out of print in the US and was reissued when Let’s Dance rocketed Bowie to megastardom. I was surprised to find in looking at his chart history that Bowie’s only number 1 album over here was Blackstar.
    Damn, I loved Bowie.

  8. Blimey! How many copies of that Best of Bowie album were sold. It was the first Bowie album I owned – A christmas present? Maybe birthday. I’d been aware of him in the glam era – but not liked him as much as Slade, Sweet or (the horror) Mud. It was really with the release of Ashes to Ashes that I began to recognise his greatness. I’m going to plead not having any older siblings as my excuse for my tardiness. I played the album to death, replacing it with the individual albums over the next few years. Sadly, it fell victim to one of the periodic “We don’t have any more room, something’s got to go” purges. It’s one of the few things I really regret not keeping – not for the music, purely for the importance in my love of music. Sniff.

  9. I think if you are of a certain age eg less than 55 now then you got into Bowie in a weird way. My older brother had a 7″ of John I’m Only Dancing and the LP Heroes.
    After playing both to death I have a strange fondness for both above and beyond anything else in the Bowie canon. Whenever people talk about their fave Bowie track no-one seems to rate JIOD and I still think it’s brilliant!

  10. Mike, JIOD wasn’t released as a single in the US. It first appeared on the changesonebowie compilation in 1976, by which point all of us Bowie fans already owned the rest of the songs. We really didn’t buy singles in the US. So, yes, a great tune but not marketed nearly as much as Bowie’s other stuff and therefore less appreciated. Of course, no American radio play for the risqué song.

  11. I don’t own the K-Tel The Best of Bowie. I never bought any Bowie compilation albums, but I was gifted ChangesOneBowie for Xmas when I was 13. I was then gifted Nothing Has Changed for Xmas 38 years later. I generally dislike Greatest Hits albums, they are never accurate to me, well my idea of “greatest.”
    My first David Bowie single was The Jean Genie – it came from the Jukebox in my Dad’s bar. I still have it. Aladdin Sane was my first Bowie album, followed quickly by Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. As a kid I went from listening to The Partridge Family albums to Bowie and T. Rex in a matter of 2 years and all before I was 10. I imagine my parents may have been more worried than they ever let on.

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