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

DAVID BOWIE – THE CASE FOR THE DEFENCE

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Following my less than flattering words of yesterday, it would be remiss of me not to allow an opposite point of view to be articulated. In this case, the words are supplied by Friend of Rachel Worth:-

Okay case for the defence – I think you’ve missed some great stuff.

There seems to have been before the last LP a bit of view of Bowie that echoed the “What have the Romans Ever done for Us”, but in his case it is “He’s been shit since Lets Dance and in fact that wasn’t that good anyway”. Admittedly there have been some misfires and glass spiders , duets with Tina Turner , gurning with Mick Jagger , Tin Machine , stabs at Techno were all pretty horrendous. However, there have been moments of magic which , whilst not up there with the best of his 70s output still knocks socks off a lot of what else was around at the time. So here are my 10 for you to give a go or revisit without the ghosts of Ziggy, Aladdin etc.

1) Absolute Beginners – a fantastic song ruined by an awful film. Sinatra crossed with his own Heroes (I didn’t read Heroes at Live Aid at all like you did, I saw it as being much more universal – but then I still maybe naively view the whole thing as magical , flawed yes but magical still). Among lots of stuff that sounds like he was treading water for once a vocal that sounded like he meant it

2) Loving the Alien – I was so disappointed with the LP this came from. The awful Police-lite type reggae on a couple of tracks, a going-through-the- motions Beach Boys cover and that awful Tina Turner duet of the title track Tonight. However the opening track is majestic, hypnotic and epic. Starting the LP off with it only made what was to follow even more of a disappointment.

3) Thursdays Child – He has a habit with later LPs to include one lush ballad on each of them and here is another one from 1999’s Hours (another recording that was referenced as a return to form) . The best song Morrissey never wrote. The rest of the LP is okay even if a bit stodgy in its backing but this is one long melancholic sigh.

4) Pablo Picasso – he can spot a good cover and this is a bit of a mess , but it is a fun mess. The album it came from (2003 Reality his last before the new one) is a mixed bag of sounds and styles from buzzing guitars to jazzy piano.

5) Everyone Says ‘Hi’ – Heathen is probably the best of his later records and if you were going to give one a go it would be this one. Whereas Reality is a an interesting mess, Heathen is one of those proper grown up LPs – adult without ever being AOR. The one bit of light is Everyone Say Hi, a song to his son and the older brother of Kooks.

6) Buddha of Suburbia – I’m sure the BBC couldn’t believe it when he agreed to do the soundtrack for the tv adaptation of Hanif Kureishi’s novel. Often overlooked and little heard it is the sound of someone rediscovering his mojo.

7) Outside – first thing you have to strip away the annoying concept dialogue tracks – wonder how many people who bought the CD have recut it on their mp3 players. There is a sense that in the 90s Bowie has been looking back , seeking out old collaborators to rediscover something. This was Brian Eno’s turn. It has some great songs on it (the industrial slab of Heart’s Filthy Lesson , the jittery We Prick You , the straight forward Strangers When We Meet, the pre-Pet Shop Boys Hello Spaceboy , the frankly- odd Have Not Been To Oxford Town, all of which can hold their heads high in the company of his 70s output) all with interesting backing.

8) Jump They Say – Nile Rogers is all over this slab of polished pop

9) This is Not America – it’s with a jazz fusion guitarist , its got one of those naff pointless key changes to keep things going – but I love it

10) The new LP is a strange one.  It has some great moments (Stars Are Out , Dirty Boys , Where Are We Now especially). Maybe not one of the best 12 LPs of the year ( but then not sure any of the nominations can give claim to that any year). What was odd was the complete lack of hype has led to it being over-hyped.  I love the fact that relatively no one knew it was coming, an announcement just appeared.

The press then had 2 choices.  Having been caught out they could either slag it or praise it hell.  Whichever choice they made the column inches and airtime grew and grew. It’s pretty good, runs out of steam a bit  – no better than Heathen , but much better than what most other pensioner pop stars have been churning out, and if it had come from a bunch of skinny white boys playing guitars then they would be being hailed as the next big thing.

The best thing are his lyrics and his voice , both of which are dark enough to feel dangerous , well as dangerous as a 66 year old can make you feel.  Listen to the LP and you do start to worry about his state of mind… ever the frustrated actor

So there you go , trying not to and failing to damn with the faint praise of “its good but not as good as his old stuff”. There is enough here for a mighty fine spotify playlist, and re-listening to these songs has been much more enjoyable than the work I should be doing.

FoTR

Note from JC

It was unfair of me to dismiss Absolute Beginners as it’s one of the 6,000 odd tracks on the i-phone.  Of the others mentioned, I’m only familiar with a handful – none of Loving The Alien, Buddha of Suburbia and Jump They Say do anything for me.

However FoTR, as much as you had me thinking you had made a decent case you make a very bad error of judgement with the inclusion of This Is Not America.  Next thing you’ll be saying Under Pressure is a work of genius!!

Have tracked down some of the tracks you mention:-

mp3 : David Bowie – Everyone Says ‘Hi’

mp3 : David Bowie – Thursday’s Child

mp3 : David Bowie – I Have Not Been To Oxford Town

Enjoy.

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.