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

38 YEARS AGO TODAY

8 August 1980. The date for the release of the song which would give David Bowie his second ever #1 hit in the UK, a full five years after Space Oddity.

mp3 : David Bowie – Ashes to Ashes (single edit)

The 17-year old me loved this. I hadn’t been all that much of a Bowie fan up until this point, admiring him more than adoring him, but this came out just as the point when it all began to make sense. My interest in electronica was beginning to grow at a rapid rate as my tastes expanded dramatically beyond the cut’n’thrust of new wave/post punk guitars.

I began to borrow Bowie albums from the 70s from friends who had either latched on to him earlier or who elder siblings who had been apostles from the earliest days. I didn’t embrace everything fully and indeed didn’t at the time feel any of his previous albums were as good as Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) which had been the first purchase of my own, followed by a budget price compilation album which was released just before Christmas 1980. I’ve changed my mind since then…..

I didn’t care much for the b-side to the single. It mentioned that it was from the album Lodger, a record I had listened to thanks to a friend buying it and playing it, but other than Boys Keep Swinging hadn’t done anything for me.

mp3 : David Bowie – Move On

I haven’t changed my mind on it track or its parent album over the years.

The US release of Ashes to Ashes had an absolute belter of a b-side:-

mp3 : David Bowie – It’s No Game (No.1)

The opening track of the Scary Monsters album remains one of my favourite Bowie numbers of them all, probably for as much as it being such an astonishing and different introduction to his wider work beyond the singles.

One bizarre thing I learned in doing a bit of research for this post. David Bowie would only enjoy one more solo #1 single in the UK with Let’s Dance in 1983. His total of three has been matched by a further three on which he was a co-vocalist or contributor (Under Pressure, Dancing In The Streets and Perfect Day, recorded with a myriad of others for a charity single in 1997). That’s some good pub quiz knowledge there for you…..

JC

WHAM-BAM THANK YOU MA’AM

One of my favourites from the Ziggy Stardust LP, I hadn’t realised it has been a flop single a few years later in 1976 when it was issued to accompany the release of the Changesonebowie compilation.

mp3 : David Bowie – Suffragette City

I still love getting up on the dance floor if this ever gets aired at an indie-type disco…which doesn’t happen often enough if you wany my tuppence worth on the subject matter. The Little Richard-style boogie-woogie piano bit is courtesy of the multi-talented Mick Ronson.

The b-side of the 1976 single was an edited version of Stay, a track originally been released on Station to Station the previous year. Again, until looking it up for this posting, I wasn’t aware that the shortened version of Stay had been a single in the USA. It’s some three minutes shorter than the album version.

mp3 : David Bowie – Stay (US single edit)

JC

CHARGED PARTICLES (6)

A GUEST SERIES FROM JONNY THE FRIENDLY LAWYER

I’ve been a Bowie fan for ages. I got to see him as the lead in The Elephant Man on Broadway in 1980, and live at Madison Square Garden during the ‘Serious Moonlight’ tour. Goldie The Friendly Therapist teases me that her first ever concert was the legendary 1976 StationtoStation tour at the L.A. Forum, but only I got to see the man play one of the following three live. Guess which?

Fascination

Fashion

Repetition

Bonus: Zion. Also known as ‘Aladdan Vein’ and other working titles, ‘Zion’ is a favorite lost Bowie track for true devotees. Here’s the wiki info.

And here’s a youtube video with the somewhat completed track

JTFL

DELIBERATELY LATE

There were many fine tributes paid to David Bowie a few weeks back on the first anniversary of his death and/or what would have been his 70th birthday. Some of the best could be found within the pages of the blogs listed over on the right hand side and knowing this would be the case I decided to hold off paying my own small tribute until now.

Many of the tributes rightly focussed on the incredibly diverse styles adopted by Bowie throughout his stellar career and it was fascinating to read so many lovingly crafted words paying homage to a fan’s favourite song or album. I don’t ever expect to see a David Bowie ICA in the long-running series as it genuinely is impossible to narrow things down to ten tracks to make up the perfect sounding LP. I was tempted to have a go myself and wait with interest what the likes of The Robster and Echorich (among others) would say in response, but in the end I came to my senses.

Instead, I thought I’d settle for posting a song that I’m rather fond of along with a reasonably rare cover version taken straight from my vinyl copy (albeit I’m willing to admit it is far removed from being one of the essential Tindersticks recordings).

mp3 : David Bowie – Kooks
mp3 : Tindersticks – Kooks

The well-known story behind its composition back in 1971 is that Bowie wanted to write a song especially for his new-born son, one which would capture his feelings of excitement and nervousness about becoming a dad. It seemingly ended up being a pastiche of the sort of songs Neil Young was writing and recording at that time for the simple reason that Bowie was listening to the great Canadian when he learned his son had been born. Now I appreciate that very few folk would say that Kooks is one of his greatest compositions in the grand scheme of things but there’s just something very touching about the lyric that over the years must have put smiles on the faces of many new sets of parents.

Enjoy.

ONE FINAL PIECE ON DAVID BOWIE

David Bowie and Mick Ronson's infamous Starman performance.

My best mate Jacques is a tremendous writer who keeps his talents far too well hidden for my liking. Occasionally, he will leave behind a nugget of a comment but more often his best stuff comes in texts and e-mails.

This morning he posted a comment in response to the original piece on David Bowie that I typed up as I heard the news yesterday morning. It is far too good to be left there in the hope that some readers may stumble on it and so I’m reproducing it is a stand-alone piece. I think it will resonate with many.

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I found it tough to write anything sensible about the passing of DB yesterday. I was truly stunned by the suddenness of it, just as we’d been discussing elsewhere his 69th birthday and the merits of another new album. As with everything the great man did, he moved on to some other cosmos with both style and dignity.

Musically he touched me deeply over the years and he was responsible for a, probably the, genuinely seminal event in my musical education. Starman truly was a magical moment that night it appeared on TOTP. So weird and wonderful that it had many of us kids arguing about it as we played in Primary School the next day. (So memorable, this is one of only 3 or 4 moments I can vividly recall from school in those early years). Of course it wasn’t so much the music we analysed, it was essentially the acceptability of a man looking a bit like a woman, the bending of gender. Fair to say that the argument split along the line of me and the girls versus the farmer boys. The die was cast for me – being a bit weird was okay. (And for the record, if ever I really was doing a Desert Island Discs, Starman is in there first, because that’s where the music began for me.)

It was a formative moment, but I’m not going to pretend that I totally “got” the music then or suddenly became a devotee. Hey, I was seven. But it had made a big impression and I always looked out for that weirdo over the next few years, buying the odd single and wishing the north of Scotland of the time was just a bit (well, a lot) more cosmopolitan.

During the punk years, I made a new friend, let’s call him Graham. He was a music collector the likes of which I had never known before, and he had copies of all the Bowie albums. For the first time, I could enjoy the full breadth of his back catalogue. And what breadth. Genuine pop majesty.

Again though, I still wasn’t a devotee. Loved pretty much all that he’d done at that point, but was ever keen to broaden my musical knowledge and experience, and wasn’t going to waste my life listening to the same old stuff over and over. It’s only now that I look back that I realise just how much of my record/cd collection is influenced directly and indirectly by Bowie. Without whom and all that. He’s always been there – a friendly uncle to turn to in times when you need something reliable, something you can trust to still be the friend you always knew. Something, let’s be honest, brilliant.

I never saw him live. I’m not sad about that. By the time I could, he was mostly playing to massive barns or stadia. Not for me.

And I’ll happily stand by the fact that, FOR ME, he hasn’t made a decent album in 30 years. But those 1970s ones are pretty much perfect. And for that I will always truly love him.

The Queen is dead, long live the Queen.

 

DAVID BOWIE

David Bowie in 1973

It was a stunning and wholly unexpected start to the morning to wake up to the news that David Bowie had passed away at the age of 69.  There will be many more people better qualified than I am to pen an appropriate tribute including many of those whose blogs are listed on the right hand side of this corner of the internet but I want to give it a go.

I was a fan, but not a devoted one. As a teenager, I liked his music….as I got older I came to realise that what I had liked I should have loved.  The first album of his that I was musically mature enough in my own development to appreciate was Scary Monsters and that LP remains my favourite to this day.

I did get to see him play live once in the 90s when he was touring the release of a greatest hits effort. It was in a dreadful venue at Ingliston in Edinburgh – a barn of a place with dreadful acoustics – but it did mean that another musical ambition had been realised.  Mrs V was with me, but by then she was a veteran of seeing the cracked actor, with her first being as a mere 14 year-old back in 1972 at the old Green’s Playhouse in Glasgow.  Between the great tours of the 70s and the stadium/arena things she went to in later years (not forgetting she was also at Live Aid) she was in his presence on maybe eight or so occasions and she remained a fan for life.  Indeed, we were only talking some 48 hours ago about her being at the Ziggy Stardust tour and how the memories of that gig were still so fresh in her mind.  She’s pretty shaken up today.

His was a body of work that surpassed just about everyone who is/was part of the modern music industry.  Of course it is not without flaw – no-one who makes music for almost 50 years will be any different – but right now it is much much easier to recall the great songs rather than the few clunkers.  The fact that in the first few hours since the announcement that so many different tributes on social media have highlighted so many different songs is testament to the quality of his work.

It is a very sad day.

PS : BBC Radio 6 is a doing a tremendous job with the tributes being paid.

PPS : I mentioned that many other members of the blogging fraternity would likely make their own personal tributes…here’s some links (which I will endeavour to update as and when I can)

Drew : http://acrossthekitchentable.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/and-scattered-stardust-trails-between.html
Swiss Adam : https://baggingarea.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/freak-out-in-a-moonage-daydream/
CC : http://www.charitychicmusic.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/starman.html
The Robster : http://isthis-thelife.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/bowie.html
Kaggsy : https://kaggsysbookishramblings.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/goodbye-david/
Post Punk Monk : https://postpunkmonk.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/david-bowie-1947-2016/
The Swede : http://unthoughtofthoughsomehow.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/nothing-to-say-blue-blue.html
Alex G : https://wewillhavesalad.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/dave-bowie-the-chameleon-of-rock/
Rol : http://histopten.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/my-top-ten-david-bowie-songs_23.html
Jonny G : https://myvinyldreams.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/david-bowie-1947-2016/
Phil Spector : http://plainorpan.com/2016/01/11/a-crack-in-the-sky-and-a-hand-reaching-down-to-me/
GBU : http://goodbadunknown.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/the-111-best-dreams-by-david-bowie.html
Jamie : https://formalcontentsonly.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/goodbye-david-bowie/
singing bear : http://flyingdownzedalley.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/david-bowie-rip.html
Andrea : https://conventionalrecords.wordpress.com/2016/01/12/david-bowie-1969-2016/
Ed : http://17seconds.co.uk/blog/2016/01/12/david-bowie-remembered/
Andrew : http://www.armagideon-time.com/?p=11165
London Lee : http://www.londonlee.com/2016/01/goodbye-spaceboy.html

And a special mention to Echorich, a really dear friend of this and many other blogs who is one of the biggest Bowie fans there is and for whom today must have been awful and difficult to get through. He wasn’t alone mind you…Mrs Villain ended up working from home today so that she could shed tears as and when she needed. She tells me that BBC Radio 6 continued to surpass itself all day.

Tomorrow will be another difficult day for many.  I’ve decided however, to make it business as usual and to stick with the post as I had scheduled and to do likewise for the rest of the week and beyond.  Will understand if folk can’t be bothered to read and/or comment.

JC