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:-
Life On Mars
John, I’m Only Dancing
The Jean Genie
Breaking Glass (live)
Sound and Vision
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:-
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.
And for completeness, here’s the b-side to the single:-
mp3 : David Bowie – Holy Holy