by Steve Pafford / Record Collector
“I believe in Beatles,” he told us on 2002’s Afraid (from the album Heathen), but does David Bowie also believe in following their lead in opening up his back catalogue?
Steve Pafford, co-author of the BowieStyle book, delves deep into the Fort Knox of musical archives and attempts to come up with some answers of his own.
“EMI targets Bowie in new focus on back catalogue,” screamed The Times headline back in March. The broadsheet then went on to report that the British major’s revamped Catalogue, Compilations, Studios and Archives division (CCSA) is to “develop the success EMI has had in repackaging music from The Beatles and Queen.” New department head Stephen Alexander then admitted that they had “not universally applied” the treatment given to the likes of the Fab Four: “If you look at the recordings of David Bowie, it’s not clear that we have done them anything like justice.”
Considering the lack of genuine rarities made available in the 11 years since the label won a new 15-year contract to exploit the bulk of Bowie’s vast history, that’s a pretty encouraging development, though Alexander conceded that it might not be so easy to talk DB and RZO (the mysterious American Express-owned business management company that keeps a strong Dr. No-like grip on his closely-guarded vault) round: “I’m told that he is not always easy to persuade, but we’ll try to see if we can work up serious plans that have credibility.”
Let’s hope that includes the visuals. He’s been 45 years in the business, but for a major artist of such iconic stature, David is shockingly under-represented on DVD. EMI have released just three of his concerts in the format, while a fourth, taped for the VH-1 Storytellers programme in 1999, when he was signed to their Virgin subsidiary, was inexplicably pulled from the schedules a couple of years ago.
Intriguingly, all Tin Machine promos were excluded from 2002’s career-spanning Best Of Bowie double-disc (mercifully, some less charitable colleagues would say), while the raucous rock quartet’s live Oy Vey Baby video also awaits a DVD transfer, possibly packaged with its long-deleted concert compilation namesake. Studio set Tin Machine II is also out of print, but, unlike their debut, the band’s second ’91/’92 period isn’t covered by the EMI deal, though licensing opportunities are certainly up for grabs.
Of course, it’s no surprise that a certain landmark documentary aired by Auntie in 1975 is top of everybody’s DVD wants list, including, so it would appear, the artist himself, who took on the role as bearer of bad news in an online chat a decade ago:
“Cracked Actor is held hostage by the BBC, who own all rights in it, which is a real drag because I would love to have that show available.” Though, David did add, with an optimistic bent: “The good news is the guy who directed it thinks he has found a whole bunch of out-takes from that tour.
But despite EMI making further positive noises in 2004 that the project was “in the research stage” and then The Times announcing last June that, as part of a wider BBC/EMI deal, this piece of tantalising telly gold would indeed be released “in CD, DVD, and downloadable formats,” Bowie’s official VFM website was quick to quash the paper’s story, calling it “Wishful thinking. The classic Alan Yentob Omnibus documentary won’t be available commercially in the near or foreseeable future.”
Upon closer investigation, it appears that part of the ‘hostage’ situation is who owns the rights to the soundtrack of the Diamond Dogs concert the programme was based around. A complete show was filmed, the audio reels of which escaped from Television Centre – and the result was, according to a recent BowieNet poll, the Thin White one’s most celebrated bootleg by far, Strange Fascination. As well as, it seems, petty squabbling over royalty shares, which in the end satisfies absolutely no one.
EMI and Aunty also missed a trick with the emerging prominence of the DVD format when 2000’s Bowie At The Beeb was appended with a bonus CD of a specially recorded BBC Radio Theatre show. Many observers had expected the visual version, especially as the concert had been filmed and televised.
Another opportunity was seemingly lost when it was left to Universal Music to produce the only Bowie DVD that exclusively boasts three of his compositions never issued in any other form. The Lindsay Kemp 1970 Scottish TV special, The Looking Glass Murders, was a surprising but warmly-received extra on the Love You Till Tuesday release of 2005, which is all the more intriguing when you realise the programme was taped during a period covered by EMI’s current licence.
Also tied up in a mass of red tape is the unreleased 1978 concert film, Stage, directed by the late David Hemmings and now part-controlled by his estate. Not convinced of its merit at the time, a few years back Bowie posted that he thinks the footage “looks good,” and raised the prospect that the show “would make it out some time in the future.”
This year would have been perfect, actually, David. But with its 30th anniversary now in the past tense, one wonders if this valuable visual record is destined to stay locked away for all eternity like so many of his unissued gems. Outside of Ziggy, there’s scant decent footage of DB live in the ’70s, so it’s doubly annoying the relevant parties seem unable to reach an agreement. Potential DVD bonuses could include TV broadcast highlights from Dallas and Tokyo on the same tour, while the release rights to a mini Stage show for the German Musikladen Extra programme are available, having already reached promotional VHS and CD stage in 1996, entitled Rebel Rebel, until the Bowie camp stepped in and halted its low-key production by an obscure independent label.
Around the same time, there was court action preventing any more ‘Golden Years’ releases by MainMan. David’s former management company had started producing a series of semi-legal items concentrating mainly on material taped live in the ’70s, and first off the starting block was a pressing of Bowie’s most famous bootleg – a raucous radio recording from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on the first Ziggy Stardust US tour, while the follow-up compilation, RarestOneBowie, sported the debut of the Aladdin Sane studio remake of All The Young Dudes, though, maddeningly, at the wrong speed. An original master copy running at the correct speed is now in the hands of EMI, though it has yet to be made available.
Also of interest was a fascinatingly fragile take of My Death from New York’s Carnegie Hall, recorded by RCA on the same tour for a possible live album, while a version of Time taped at The 1980 Floor Show highlighted the fact that the Midnight Special TV special from the following year has still never been aired in the UK. David himself has said in an online chat that he had no idea who owns the release rights, though Space Oddity did subsequently show up on a multi-act compilation DVD a couple of years ago. Talking of which, another pair of various artists Dutch discs also boast the same song but performed by DB on European telly shows around the time of its original release in 1969. Here, they both offer something Best Of Bowie didn’t, and that’s extremely sought-after footage of the man in his poodle perm period. Vera Duckworth, eat your heart out!
This year, EMI eventually managed to put out the Live Santa Monica ’72 themselves a full five years after those dreaded words, “legal issues”, caused the announced 2003 release to be “indefinitely postponed.” Let’s hope the same fate doesn’t befall the bootleg “next on the EMI schedule” to receive official status – another vital and even more virulent American radio show, this time from Long Island’s Nassau Veteran’s Coliseum in 1976.
Of course, The Return Of The Thin White Duke would be a more relevant Bowie-centric moniker than Live Long Island ’76, given it was the title of an unpublished series of autobiographical short stories David was penning the same year, as well as a working title for the Station To Station album. Talking of which, a 30th anniversary Special Edition of the cabalistic classic was pulled from the schedules in 2006 due to cryptic “quality control issues.”
But why? STS remains DB’s highest charting album in the US, and if EMI’s newly transitioned strategy favouring upgraded Surround Sound sonics over bonus CDs is anything to go by, a Young Americans-style 5.1 overhaul of this seminal set would really take some beating. Especially when one recalls some of the period’s infamous spots on American telly staples such as The Cher Show and Soul Train – both transmissions worth the price of admission on an accompanying DVD all by themselves.
Of EMI’s publically stated intentions for studio album rehashes, only Special Editions of Hunky Dory and Low have yet to materialise, though I’m assured both are still on the cards (thankfully, producer Tony Visconti has already overseen a 5.1 sprucing up of the latter), and one would hope the Lodger and Scary Monsters 30th anniversaries in 2009/10 wouldn’t go unmarked. As with Station To Station, David certainly did the rounds of TV studios at the time, resulting in some wonderfully wacky transatlantic turn-of-the-decade promo performances on the Kenny Everett and Johnny Carson shows, topped by a legendary surreal-sound Saturday Night Live set-piece that simply demands an official outing.
No matter how rabid a fan, there are only so many times the faithful can be coaxed into being re-sold the same album over and over again. It’s telling that the best-received editions, aesthetically at least, of any Bowie studio reissues have been the Japanese-style ‘mini vinyl’s released last year, and that’s because, unlike the generic set of 17 rushed through in 1999 to coincide with DB’s latest work, these were thoughtfully and respectfully packaged to fully and faithfully capture each facet of the individual albums.
As the finer details of the current contract were still being thrashed out, EMI asked of David, “How can we sell these albums again?” And their concerns were valid, particularly as most of the titles had already been issued with extra rarities under a previous deal in the early ’90s. I’m told his reply was the reassuring charm offensive of “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ve got different bonus tracks you can use for each one, that no one’s ever heard!”
So what has actually been the case with the Duke and his real mean team? Here, reality catches up with the mythmaker, as since 1997, the year Bowie regained complete control of his RCA masters, just a handful of unissued live and alternate mixes have been put out, and not one single unreleased composition among them. By contrast, Bob Dylan’s Official Bootleg Series and the John Lennon Anthology, to name but two, are heavily slanted toward fascinating alternate and work-in-progress recordings, and they’re genuinely enjoyable because so many songs boast alternative lyrics or arrangements, while they’re also a success on a further level in that the sets actually served to enhance the reputations of the acts concerned.
Of course, fans don’t have a God-given right to hear an artist’s unreleased material, but it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence or dispel disappointment, or even anger, when, for instance, David himself revealed plans were underway for a mouth-watering box set of late ’70s Berlin-era out-takes as far back as a self-aggrandising 1987 press conference. Looking back, it’s not unreasonable to ask just why have the faithful been waiting so very long?
The first two CDs released under the new deal, the somewhat clumsily titled collections The Best Of David Bowie 1969/1974, and The Best Of David Bowie 1974/1979 were effectively DB’s cover versions of the classic decade-spanning ‘Red’ and ‘Blue’ Beatles albums – on an artwork budget of no more than 50 pence a piece. The comparison is all the more ironic in that history records that it was his own Aladdin Sane that kept this colourful pair of Fabby compilations off the No.1 spot in 1973.
A further volume, The Best Of David Bowie 1980/1987 was compiled in 1998, and all set to be boosted by a bonus CD featuring unheard jewels such as David’s much-talked about demos of Let’s Dance and Loving The Alien sitting side-by-side with long-deleted contemporaneous B-sides Julie and Girls. The album did eventually appear in reconfigured form a couple of years back, but sadly shorn of anything remotely rare.
But, mindful of the Duke’s declaration, EMI had still hoped to re-release every studio album with a second disc boasting exclusive audio and visual material, as well as, with artist consent, cherry-picking “over a thousand hours of live recordings” for further concert collections. Presumably, they quietly let it be known the projects were on the cards as they were under the impression they would come to fruition. Also, somewhat worryingly, DB hasn’t released a new album in over five years, so it’s not as if he couldn’t have found the time to ouvrez les archives. However, one source close to the man himself offers up an intriguing reason for the lack of unreleased gems. “The accountants are saying that the catalogue has sold well enough for David not to need to plunder the vaults… A lot of it he plans to hold back till the contract expires, and use as collateral to sell the catalogue again. And then there’s the stuff he only wants to be heard posthumously…”
But with the record industry in serious contraction, come 2012, will a major label or Artist Nation-type combo have the required mega-bucks to splurge out on another monster deal with an act in his mid sixties, whose touring days may well be, sadly, a thing of the past? It’s not looking likely. So with it all quiet on the recording front, in order to keep sparking interest in Bowie’s career there really does need to be an immediate rethink as to the best way to proceed with one of the richest back catalogues in musical history.
Whatever the politics of the situation, Stephen Alexander’s statement does seem to point the way to some cheering changes ahead, and taking our creative cue from his telling Beatles and Queen analogy, Record Collector hope to strike an agenda-setting chord in presenting over a dozen red hot suggestions of our own – themed accordingly as an outlet for much of the material that may otherwise not sit comfortably with regular studio albums, and using both of David’s Fab Four label-mates as the titular template…
QUEEN ROCK MONTREAL
BOWIE MERCI MONTREAL
Last year, the regal quartet’s Montreal Forum gig on The Game tour was offered up for public consumption, on both chart-topping DVD and Top 20 double CD. It’s of some interest to Bowiephiles for being the show that featured Queen’s live debut of Under Pressure – the studio-spar version of which sat atop the UK singles charts the very same third week of November 1981. Often thought of as much more the band’s composition than the Duke’s (its melody being recycled from earlier Queen demo, Feel Like for starters); that was, in no small part, down to the single being released by EMI, and not DB’s then record company, RCA. Furthermore, it’s widely accepted that during the recording (which had started out as nothing more than a drunken jam session featuring rambling covers of David’s ’70s hits as well as Cream classics like I Feel Free), Freddie Mercury enthused of the artistic and financial freedoms afforded to Queen by their label, and less than 18 months later Bowie had joined them at the EMI stable.
But even though Brian May has subsequently acknowledged that “David took over the song lyrically,” our man was slightly less effusive, claiming “it stands up better as a demo” (title: People On Streets – but have we been given the chance to make up our own minds? Tease!), and so it goes that it famously took Bowie a whole 14 years to consider performing it in his own concerts, and even then, initially added as a last-minute face-saving measure to counteract a hostile US press, not to mention much of an apathetic and downright aggressive audience who’d only come for joint headliners Nine Inch Nails.
David also taped a show at the same venue in the heart of French-speaking Canada on the Serious Moonlight Tour in July 1983, which was syndicated across radio stations the world over. Mixed by Let’s Dance engineer Bob Clearmountain, the plan was to issue the set as a double album in time for Christmas. In the end, only the Montreal Modern Love was issued, as a flipside, while a video of a later Vancouver concert from the other side of the country was deemed to be the de rigeur thing to deliver instead.
But when EMI finally issued the SM film on DVD in 2006, not only was a two-part video interview missing in non-action, but au fait fans hoped for an extra CD of the much-loved Montreal broadcast (the kind of thing the label did actually provide with their Glass Spider DVD a year later), especially as the aborted album would have boasted rare live outings for Red Sails and The Who’s I Can’t Explain, as well as five cuts (Stay, Star, The Jean Genie, TVC 15 and the aforementioned Modern Love) also performed and filmed in Vancouver but sadly not reinstated on the DVD edition. Third time lucky, maybe, but if such a set was given a belated third-time-lucky go-ahead, perhaps a bonus track of Imagine, played on the final night of the tour in Hong Kong (also the third anniversary of Lennon’s death) could be used as a possible extra. It must exist in Bowie’s archive as most of that show was filmed for the Ricochet documentary, which was released on stereo VHS in 1985, and bizarrely, in mono, as an extra with the Serious Moonlight disc.
The Glass Spider bonus aside, it’s a tad frustrating that not one of Bowie’s solo tours after 1978 has been commercially released as a standalone album, whereas if you look at Queen or even a solo Paul McCartney, they’ve both issued five apiece in the same period. Come on, EMI. You can help end thirty years of hurt, now!
BEATLES AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
QUEEN ON FIRE AT THE BOWL
BOWIE AT THE BOWL
In 1977, EMI belatedly released the only official concert album of The Beatles to date. Although an instant chart-topper, the set has yet to be granted a digital transfer, due to concerns over the sonic quality of the source tapes. However, no such problems need niggle David if he forged ahead with his own Bowie At The Bowl. That’s the Milton Keynes Bowl by the way – he never played the Californian ampitheatre, for some reason.
Back in the distant days when Robbie Williams was a mere schoolboy, David Bowie was a Milton Keynes record breaker – the performer who’d returned to the UK’s la-la land of concrete cows the most, playing a total of five gigs between 1983 and 1990 to an estimated 325,000 people. And if you’re wondering why I’d be as ridiculously retentive enough to know something as trivial as that, well (I’ll whisper this bit…) I was a resident of the New Town at the time. And just how many Bowie fans can say their first memories of witnessing him live were as a somewhat disinterested youth, three nights in a row, sitting in their parents’ back garden?
At the time, that trio of Serious Moonlight shows were pretty much the biggest ever staged in Britain by a solo act, but although his recent collaborators had Channel 4 film their full Bowl show the previous year (Queen On Fire – Live At The Bowl was issued as both a chart-topping DVD and a CD making the Top 20 in 2004), there was no such televisual treatment for the Duke, though some fabulous footage did emerge on an ITV programme taking viewers South Of Watford.
Although he is known to have soundboard recordings run off after every performance to listen back to, if there were to be a DB @ MK concert outing then pick of the pops would have to be an excellent Sound + Vision tour recording from the same venue, broadcast live on Radio 1 in August 1990, and memorable for his telling the audience it was the “last time in London” for the featured songs, despite being over 50 miles away from the capital!
Some of the lesser-known fan faves like Be My Wife and TVC 15 had been dropped by this third leg of the trek, but the set-list still boasts pared-down versions of 20 of Bowie’s best-known songs, making it a de facto live edition of the chart-topping ChangesBowie compilation from the same year. A long-overdue release would also bring Pretty Pink Rose, the shimmering, criminally ignored duet with guitarist and S+V MD Adrian Belew, officially into his own catalogue for the first time.
But a plain old vanilla CD would fail to convey the ingenious innovativeness of the complete Sound + Vision experience. It’s got to be enjoyed in all it’s many flavours, sprinklings and all. Literally, the Sound wasn’t ever going to be enough, and luckily Bowie had the Vision to film the tour earlier in its run. A tie-in DVD, sir? Here’s one he could have prepared earlier…
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS: QUEEN FINAL LIVE IN JAPAN
WE ARE THE DEAD: BOWIE ‘FINAL’ LIVE IN JAPAN
While Queen’s The Works concert was shot in the Jap capital in May 1985 and eventually released on VHS in 1992 (with a DVD following in 2004), Bowie’s Tokyo Dome show of May 1990 has, strangely, yet to be released at all, despite an expertly filmed TV broadcast being a highly regarded and much traded item amongst the bootleg brigade.
Of course, using the words ‘Dead’ and ‘Final’ in the title of a Sound + Vision release playfully wags a funereal finger at our Dave, who doggedly persisted with the claim throughout the year that he was killing off his greatest hits for good: “This tour is absolutely the last time I’ll sing any of these songs,” almost became a mantra, in fact. Inevitably, “Heroes” at the Freddie tribute Concert For Aids Awareness excepted for good causes, that mercurial promise lasted little more than five years. What a surprise!
Far from being Bowie’s own omnipresent show-boater in the same way as Fred and Co. returned to Champions, We Are The Dead is the only cut from the apocalyptic Diamond Dogs album never to be performed live in any capacity. Which would make its possible use in any DVD menu options even more deliciously ironic. But, a pathos-heavy Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide aside, the piece de resistance at David’s Dome show was a unique outing for Starman. It’s far from being a favourite of its composer, but due overwhelming popularity in a public telephone vote, he performed the song for the first time since… Japan in 1973!
With its majestic, monochromatic use of interactive projections (“the largest use of video ever,” announced Bowie, proudly), Sound + Vision really was an aesthetically prescient presentation – highly under-rated, and, according to fan polls, definitely present on their Most Wanted lists. Possible DVD extras could include two lesser-known and incomplete TV transmissions from the later Lisbon, Rio and Buenos Aires shows on the tour’s last leg, the latter being the final night of the tour in front of a 100,000-strong crowd.
There was also a promo video for Young Americans strongly rumoured to have been worked on during the tour, due to the studio version being briefly scheduled as an autumn sequel to the Fame 90 single released earlier that year. Also known to have been filmed are some highly entertaining press conferences, where David treated assembled dignitaries to various acoustic renditions, including an exclusive cover of Stan Kenton standard You And I And George, as well as a fluffed version of Space Oddity that was even broadcast on Radio 1’s Newsbeat, such was his sway back then!
With the recent release of the Santa Monica live album officially capturing Ziggy’s breakthrough in ’72, Sound + Vision is now the only subsequent Bowie tour not to have anything at all released from it. With a 20th anniversary of this technical tour-de-force less than two years away, hopefully the situation can be rectified before too long.
As an additional rewind, a fascinating 14-song showcase recorded live at the Aylesbury Friars Club in September 1971 has recently been unearthed. The recording is of wavering quality, though David is understood to be in possession of the master tape. Featuring several future Hunky Dory tracks seldom played since, as well as an unrecorded cover of Biff Rose’s Buzz The Fuzz, it’s historically priceless items such as this that could be an important intermediate link for any possible live anthology set spanning both the pre and post-Stardust years. It’s a similar story with two Sunday concerts recorded for Radio 1’s John Peel earlier still. Both exist in the Aunty/Bowie archives but, despite many unique or embryonic renditions, only 11 out of a total of 25 tracks performed were included on At The Beeb, so a standalone release paring both shows for a Live At The BBC-type outing would be extremely well thought of by the faithful.
QUEEN LIVE AT WEMBLEY ’86
BOWIE LIVE AT WEMBLEY ’95
Bigger isn’t always better. By the 1990s, Bowie had abandoned ever playing again on the hallowed turf of that so-called zenith of rock venues, Wembley Stadium – except for the odd charity appearance, that is – and fittingly, the Freddie Mercury tribute of ’92 being the most memorable.
While Queen’s 2-CD set, posthumously released the same year, was a grandstanding expansion of their Live Magic album of five years before (also released on DVD in ’03), by the time DB played the UK again, his artfully ambitious Outside tour took him, conversely, back inside to the Arena next door, for the first time in over a decade. From Moscow to Tel Aviv, several of the shows on this seemingly never-ending trek were recorded for radio, but the fourth and final London show of November 1995 is particularly poignant, being the last Bowie concert recorded by Radio 1 to date.
Of greater significance is an eccentrically eclectic selection of songs, which included a magnificently morbid My Death, as well as Lodger singles DJ and Boys Keep Swinging tackled on tour for the first time ever. Needless to say, they survived just a few short weeks and have never been heard of again!
If a live album of the full BBC recording should surface, it would certainly be no bad thing to pair it up and dust it down with a DVD of a German TV broadcast of a show-stealing Loreley Festival appearance the following June. It’s a valuable open air recording with a spectacular Rhineland backdrop much favoured by the faithful, especially as by that point, joining the likes of The Man Who Sold The World, Scary Monsters and Outside, further radical reinterpretations of several surprise title tracks had made it onto the playlist, from Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life to Mott The Hoople’s All The Young Dudes via The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, as well his own Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and “Heroes”. But David being Bowie, many of the selections didn’t exactly outstay their extremely warm welcome.
DVD bonuses could include a press conference held at the Kensington Roof Gardens (and already issued as a promo VHS), to launch the European leg, as well as a more impromptu gathering filmed from the Wembley stage, after the first show there. Intriguingly, DB told the assembled broadcast media he thought The Buddha Of Suburbia was his best album since Scary Monsters, and not Outside, the one he was actually promoting at the time!
LENNON LIVE IN NEW YORK CITY
BOWIE+ ONE TIME IN NEW YORK CITY
Staged in 1972, Lennon’s One To One concerts at Madison Square Garden featured star turns from, among others, Stevie Wonder and Roberta Flack, raising valuable dollars for a kid’s charity in the process. Supervised by David’s Manhattan neighbour and friend Yoko Ono, a heavily edited album and video were issued in 1986 and are both still awaiting a digital transfer. Rights issues concerning reinstating the many guest appearances would appear to be the most likely sticking point.
It’s a spookily similar story with DB’s one-off Very Special Birthday Celebration, staged at the venue a day after his 50th, and featuring a plethora of arcane alt.rock heavyweight mates from Robert Smith and Sonic Youth to Foo Fighters and “King of New York” himself, Mr. Lou Reed. The January ’97 jamboree was filmed in typically flashy fashion by director Tim Pope and televised on a pay-per-view channel in the US, with proceeds benefiting Save The Children.
But although the concert came in as the highly respectable runner-up in a recent BowieNet poll of Most Wanted official bootlegs, the website chose to put an immediate damper on any possible DVD speculation by stating, “It’s highly unlikely that a recording such as this would ever be officially released due to the licensing nightmare of all the other artists involved.” Though one would have thought that the acts concerned would have been required to sign contracts allowing their appearances to be used on TV in the first place. So surely it wouldn’t have taken an unfathomable amount of foresight to ensure all signatories were also in agreement that any potential commercial release could follow as long as all profits continued to go to charity?
QUEEN+ GREATEST HITS III
If David did decide to put on the green light for an all-star DVD, perhaps EMI might consider a tie-in album of his most celebrated and audible vocal collaborations. An epithetical example from The Hearts Filthy Lesson, how’s this for an irresistible clinquantroll-call of Dave’s Diamond Duets??
Gene Vincent Hang On To Yourself (1971, unreleased)
Mott The Hoople All The Young Dudes (1972 hybrid, mixed 1998)
Lulu The Man Who Sold The World (1973)
Marianne Faithfull I Got You Babe (TV recording, 1973)
Cher Can You Hear Me (TV recording, 1975)
Iggy Pop Funtime (1976)
Bing Crosby Peace On Earth-Little Drummer Boy (1977)
Tina Turner Tonight (live, 1985)
Mick Jagger Dancing In The Street (12″ Mix) (1985)
Queen Latifah (with John Lennon) Fame 90 (Rap Version) (1990)
Adrian Belew Pretty Pink Rose (1990)
Al B. Sure! Black Tie White Noise (Radio Edit) (1993)
Nine Inch Nails Hurt and Reptile (both live, 1995)
Pet Shop Boys Hallo Spaceboy (1996)
Philip Glass “Heroes” (Aphex Twin Remix) (1997)
Placebo Without You, I’m Nothing (1999)
Queen Under Pressure (Rah Mix) (1999)
Massive Attack Nature Boy (2001)
Lou Reed Hop Frog (2002)
Moby Cactus (TV recording, 2002)
Damon Albarn Fashion (TV recording, 2003)
Kristeen Young Saviour (2003)
The Arcade Fire Wake Up (TV recording, 2005)
TV On The Radio Province (2006)
David Gilmour Arnold Layne (TV recording, 2006)
Of the featured versions, only the delectable duel with the dynamic duo (PSB) has previously appeared on a Thin White album, although due to its belated chart-topping success in Holland and Belgium, the hook-up with tasty Tina did appear on the Benelux pressing of Best Of Bowie, where it remains, somewhat incongruously, one of DB’s best-loved songs.
Finally, flying porkers and rights issues aside, should David be feeling really generous, over 15 of the above are known to have accompanying video footage. Sadly left off of the Best Of DVD, the rarely seen inclusion of the besuited Bowie and Belew being assaulted by Julie T. ‘She Devil’ Wallace in full Russian dress would be worth the RRP alone!
BEATLES REEL MUSIC
BOWIE HOOKED TO THE SILVER SCREEN
Whereas the Fabs’ 1982 album consisted of a sterling selection of tunes as heard in their own movies, the Thin White one has taken great steps to ensure that, apart from his “call me an entertainer” period in the mid ’80s, there’s been precious little in the way of career crossover concerning his music and acting aspirations.
For much of the last decade, both Bowie’s back catalogue and specially-recorded newer revamps seem to have been an almost omnipresent status on both the small screen and its larger shinier cousin – the former’s appearances helped by EMI being given much more of a free reign to place his material across various film and television media until 2012.
The best-known and most memorable usage was undoubtedly a one-time under-valued 1971 album track (a mere ‘parody,’ thought its composer) recently lending its name to a transcendent time-travelling drama from the Beeb. No, not that one (see Bowie Universal later in this feature), I’m talking about Life On Mars? – these days Bowie’s best-loved song in Britain.
It also made quite an impression on the silver screen a couple of years earlier, when it joined several other early classics from the man often known as Sailor by his online acolytes in being given a brilliant Brazilian strip-down by Seu Jorge in 2004’s maritime movie The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
The track in question could also lend, if not its title, then a famous line from it, to a much-mooted collection that would round up some of David’s most significant on-screen audio contributions. Of course, the likes of This Is Not America (Falcon And The Snowman) and Pretty Woman’s Fame 90 (a longer four-minute version of the featured Gass Mix exists only on promo cassette) could easily snuggle up with much-loved title tracks such as Cat People, Absolute Beginners and Buddha Of Suburbia (the superior single version being long out of print), but there’s also a chance to gather together several soundtrack pieces never released on a Bowie album before, such as:
The Myth (with Giorgio Moroder) (Cat People, 1982)
That’s Motivation (Absolute Beginners, 1986)
Betty Wrong (Rough Mix) (The Crossing, 1990)
Baby Universal (Single Mix) (Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth, 1992)
The Man Who Sold The World (Brian Eno Mix) (The Deli, 1997)
I Can’t Read (solo version) (The Ice Storm, 1998)
Nature Boy (solo version) (Moulin Rouge, 2001)
American Dream (with P Diddy) (Training Day, 2001)
(She Can) Do That (with BT) (Stealth, 2005)
Bring Me The Disco King (Loner Mix) (Underworld, 2003)
Changes (with Butterfly Boucher) (Shrek 2, 2004)
From a collector’s POV, it’d be even better if there’s a chance the album could be bolstered by a few genuine rarities, such as the remaining half of 1982’s Baal EP (which acted as a soundtrack to the still-commercially unavailable BBC drama, starring Bowie in the title role) yet to be issued on CD. The same goes for Revolutionary Song, for which he was co-credited for ‘la-la’-ing with The Rebels on the briefly available soundtrack album of his second movie, 1979’s Just A Gigolo.
Finally, ’70s transatlantic hit Golden Years was used as the theme to the ’90s Stephen King mini-series of the same name in an exclusive instrumental version, which somehow emphasised the song’s inherent funkiness.
BEATLES YELLOW SUBMARINE SONGTRACK
BOWIE LABYRINTH SONGTRACK
Although the Sailor man included a version of the quintessential quartet’s title track in his colourful cabaret show of 1968 (alongside a run through When I’m Sixty-Four – and, by the way, there’s less than three years to go before he’ll have to think about revisiting that one), I have to concede I’m struggling a little to conjure up a relevant equivalent to 1999’s remixed and reconfigured soundtrack set that would really float the Bowie boat.
I guess a Labyrinth Songtrack wouldn’t be such a totally terrible idea. Would it? It’s remains his best-known film, and using the Fabs’ template, Trevor Jones’ score could be replaced by the various mixes of the Goblin King’s five original movie songs (I’ve counted 15, including a 7″ version of aborted single, As The World Falls Down, that’s only available on a DVD), though even if it was issued in glorious 5.1 it’s hard to imagine it ever being high on anyone’s list of essential revamps, especially as all Labyrinth musical material is co-owned by the Jim Henson estate and doesn’t form part of the current EMI license. Still, the existing Capitol CD has been on the shelves for over 22 years, and it hardly needs me to point out that the remastering process has certainly come on leaps and bounds in that time.
Turning the idea on its sweet head, with its eschewing instrumental interludes for fully-fledged songs and set-pieces, The Buddha Of Suburbia was essentially a songtrack to Hanif Kureishi’s 1993 TV drama rather than a proper soundtrack, with the album’s content being inspired by, and fleshed out from, the specially composed segments the BBC had commissioned DB to provide. And with an isolated music score on the recent DVD of the series not forthcoming, sadly it doesn’t appear to be major concern of David’s to let his original score be heard in its own right, which is a shame, particularly when appending some worthwhile extras to EMI’s CD upgrade last year would have meant that every Bowie studio set (bar Tin Machine II) has been re-released with bonus tracks at some point since the ’90s.
Ditto 1999 computer game Omikron: The Nomad Soul. The same year’s timely ‘hours…’ set was also, in part, its songtrack, and, despite the album subsequently available in extended 2-CD form, there’s still a handful of alternate versions and four instrumentals (Awaken 2; Jangir; Qualisar; Thrust) co-written and performed with erstwhile collaborator Reeves Gabrels that are still exclusive to the game, but far be it from me to suggest all they need is a little TLC…
BOWIE LOVE ON YA!
In the summer of 1996, when EMI and the Bowie camp were deep in negotiations to strike a new deal, the label were asked to come up with various ideas for repackaging the catalogue, and mindful of the sure-fire success of their Beatles Ballads (No.1 for seven weeks in Oz in 1981) and 1977’s Love Songs albums, a compilation of Bowie ballads called – yep, you guessed it – Love Songs, was top of their list.
Despite (or because of?) a potential tracklist containing saccharine slush like As The World Falls Down and The Wedding Song, as well as the peerlessly picturesque Wild Is The Wind, David wasn’t exactly enamoured with the soppy suggestion, but if we fast forward a decade, the creative construction of the Fabs’ 2006 World Chart-topping and Grammy award-winning Love collage has demonstrated it’s possible to put together a enchanting themed collection that’s a little more West Side Story than Westlife.
Post-Letter To Hermione, Julie and Janine certainly gave Rosalyn and that Lady Grinning Soul a run for their money, while Soul Love, Prisoner Of Love, Loving The Alien and a cocky cover of Love Missile F1-11 to name but a few, show that Bowie’s been surprisingly less than shy about using the L word in his work. Taking his Beatle boy bows, Ziggy was even known to slip into This Boy and a bit of Love Me Do on stage, which is a sore point, due to the latter’s Hammersmith ‘farewell’ version of 1973 still sadly unissued thanks to a long-running dispute with the night’s guest guitar man, Jeff Beck.
But in the same way that super Swedes Benny and Bjorn enticingly wedded together a 23-minute ABBA Undeleted medley of work-in-progress gems for a 1994 box set, it could also be the perfect vehicle to marry the most audibly appropriate sections of David’s unfinished leftovers that would otherwise be deemed too rough and not exactly ready to be issued in their own right.
Imagine a seamlessly segued Surround Sound-bed containing snatches of these ardent interludes, all of which have been left on the shelf:
Love Is Strange (1964)/So Near To Loving You (1965)/That’s A Promise (Baby) (1965)/Silly Boy Blue (demo with original lyrics, with The Lower Third, 1965)/Love You Till Tuesday (demo with middle eight left off finished piece, 1966)/Love Is Always (1967)/Summer Kind Of Love (1967)/Sadie (with The Riot Squad, 1967)/In The Heat Of The Morning (BBC session, 1967)/Even A Fool Learns To Love (1968)/An Occasional Dream, Lover To The Dawn and Love Song (all demos with John Hutchinson, 1969)/Kooks (promo version, 1971)/Drive-In Saturday (acoustic demo, 1972)/God Only Knows (1973)/It’s Gonna Be Me (without strings, 1974)/Can You Hear Me (first take, 1974)/Sleeping Next To You (duet with Marc Bolan, 1977)/Without You (Montreux demo, 1982)/Absolute Beginners (original Langer and Winstanley mix, 1985)/Lucille (1988)/Pretty Pink Rose (solo demo, 1988)/Strangers When We Meet (rough mix, 1993)/Survive (demo, 1999)/Modern Love (TV recording with Tina Turner, 1987).
Hmm, OK, perhaps I wasn’t being totally serious about that last one, which was a less than romantic remake of Bowie’s pre-nuptial 1983 hit for a tour-funding Pepsi commercial, but strangely lacked the chemistry of the original.
Actually, his involvement in questionable telly ads goes back a further two decades to the sweet-sounding Luv, a 30-second jingle for Lyons Maid ice cream screened in 1969. David was seen and heard climbing on board a double-decker while simultaneously doing his very best Beatles impersonation (sole lyric: “Luv, Luv, Luv”) as a guest member of short-lived beat combo Mint.
Inevitable rights issues aside, it would be a fascinating curio should Luv be somehow incorporated into Love On Ya! (the title refers to how Bowie would often sign autographs back in the ’70s), and if he wanted to open up the project to include non-relationship material then his 60-second Thomas Dolby-inspired instrumental composed for a Kodak ad in 1995 – known variously as Commercial or Picture More – would also be a very welcome gift.
There’s seemingly countless demos and early takes that he’s not exactly over-keen on letting out of his tightly zipped manbag, but given a project of this nature, David’s free to keep the odds and ditch the sods. The first example of this was his handing over to Sony of the original 1972 demo of All Young Dudes for a Mott The Hoople box set in 1998. But, worried he thought his chorus vocals were ‘too weak’, Bowie had them splice it with Ian Hunter’s rousing choruses from the more familiar version. It probably dismayed purists of both acts, but in the right context it does work.
Potential candidates for reconstructive surgery could be the snippets of abandoned early ’70s tracks that David announced he would finish off in time for Ziggy’s 30th, such as Black Hole Kids and the mysterious Don’t Be Afraid, which was aired just the once on a US radio show in 1972. In the end, just a re-recording of unreleased full-length leftover, Shadowman, rose from the ashes. And not a scrap of the period’s unreleased Mick Rock/MainMan video footage showed up for the scaled down anniversary project either. As well as unused promo videos for Starman and Moonage Daydream, the highlight would be an enlightening documentary recorded at the Rainbow Theatre (with the likes of Elton John interviewed on how much he loved the “really old” Bowie albums like The Man Who Sold The World. The footage was filmed in 1972). Also of note is a core-scraping lo-fi tape of a salacious Something Happens (choice lyric: “Something happens when you touch me there!”), and recently been outed as a mis-labelled Colin Blunstone BBC recording, containing zero Stardust in any capacity.
And let’s not forget the 2001 revamps from the unreleased Toy album, such as variants of the young Master Jones’s first single (with The King Bees) – a sonically superior swing vibe for Liza Jane, as well as one originally left in the can because his mother thought the lyrics dirty (and, interestingly, re-tackled the year she died) – Let Me Sleep Beside You, which is now in general circulation among fans.
Though the track that has become the Holy Grail of the collecting community is the Scary Monsters leftover, Is There Life After Marriage? It’s still not in circulation despite constant mis-labelling on bootlegs, and features Bowie’s spoken word narration as a third party observing his pal Iggy Pop being stalked by a mad fan. Laid down in the year of his divorce from Angie Bowie as well as Lennon’s murder, David was said to be so unnerved by the subject matter that it remains in the can for the foreseeable future.
Expertly helmed by mixmaster maestros Ken Scott (“my George Martin,” Bowie once remarked of the former Beatles engineer) and head knob-twiddling techie Tony Visconti, a project of this scope would be a clever conjugal collection of hymeneal sounds and fusions from a comely 45-year career, rescuing several discarded ditties from the vaults on the way, albeit in pruned fashion. In other words, more lusty and less dusty, please David!
THE CHURCH OF MAN-LOVE
Hallo Sailor! Dovetailing nicely from occasionally broken-hearted to a little light relief – would the Bowie camp get behind a fun-filled bonus disc devoted to the Dame’s more genre-bending homo-superiorly escapades?
Titularly and topically taking its cue from a line in Moonage Daydream, as well as, striking while the iron’s hot -Out magazine, which, with the help of over 100 all-star voters (Boy George and Rufus Wainwright, take a bow), has just named the album it comes from, 1972’sThe Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, as the greatest, gayest record of all time. But even more relevant are a stand-out pair left off the LP: filthy flipside Velvet Goldmine was originally titled He’s A Goldmine (work it out, boys), while the deliciously salty, saucy Sweet Head leaves little to the imagination. Both were included on the album’s 2-CD 30th anniversary edition, though that’s now out of print, and many of the following are just as tricky to pin down and get up:
John, I’m Only Dancing (B-side remix, 1972)
She’s Got Medals (demo, 1966, unreleased)
Over The Wall We Go (1966, unreleased)
The Width Of A Circle (1970)
Man In The Middle (demo, 1970, unreleased)
The Bewlay Brothers (Alternate Mix) (1971)
Queen Bitch (1971)
The Jean Genie (acoustic demo, 1972, unreleased)
Watch That Man (1973)
Time (Single Edit) (1973)
Let’s Spend The Night Together (1973)
Sweet Thing (acoustic demo, 1973 unreleased)
Rebel Rebel (re-recording, 1979, unreleased)
Boys Keep Swinging (Saturday Night Live 1979, unreleased)
Sex And The Church (TV instrumental, 1993)
Hallo Spaceboy (Pet Shop Boys 12″ remix, 1996)
Moonage Daydream (New Mix) (1998)
Five Years (TV recording with The Arcade Fire, 2005)
John I’m Only Dancing (Again) (7″ mix, 1974)
QUEEN THE 12″ COLLECTION
BOWIE THE 12″ COLLECTION
No, we’ve left the boy’s brigade and its incorrigible innuendo behind. This really does do what it says on the tin. The quintessential quartet’s set from 1992 gathered together a dozen extended versions for wider public consumption in one tidy package, so, concentrating on rarer mixes I’ve selected my own suitably elongated candidates for DB CD:
Beauty And The Beast (Extended Version) (1977)
“Heroes”/”Héros” (Long ‘Franglais’ Version) (1977)
Shake It (Remix) (1983)
Blue Jean (Extended Dance Mix) (1984)
Dancing With The Big Boys (Extended Dance Mix) (1984)
Absolute Beginners (Full Length Version) (1986)
Fame 90 (Dave Barratt 12″ Uncut Version) (1990, unreleased)
Sound + Vision (808 State Giftmix) (1991)
You Belong In Rock ‘N’ Roll (Extended) (with Tin Machine, 1991)
Baby Universal (Extended) (with Tin Machine, 1991)
Jump They Say (Leftfield 12″ Remix) (1993)
Under Pressure (Club 2000 Mix) (with Queen, 1999)
Bonus Track: Breaking Glass (Australian 7″ version, 1977)
OK, the additional extra doesn’t completely qualify, but this extremely scarce single does sport an extended studio version of the Low classic running to almost three minutes (!) that has never appeared anywhere else since. And if the powers that be should be mulling ideas for a suitable limited run bonus disc, may I politely suggest the unreleased Bowie Dance album from 1985? Well, someone had to.
Can I plea bargain for a touch of artistic licence here? I’m introducing a third Fab Four into the mix, and not an EMI act either, but in this inter-planetary instance, every bit as relevant. Released posthumously in the 1980s, ABBA International did a Nordic Continental Dusty by assembling various foreign-language collectibles but with additional appropriately assembled global-themed English recordings, creating a journey through a European canon (Waterloo in French? Who on earth said ABBA didn’t understand irony!), that was highly regarded and now much sought-after by the faithful.
As far as the world of David Bowie is concerned, he’s been fond of the odd China Girl, had It’s No Game (No.1) guest-narrated in Japanese, and with Americans he seems to like them Young or is just out-and-out Afraid Of them. The Universal title is pretty easy to understand in any vernacular, though admittedly I was tempted to use EMI’s original title for Best Of Bowie – the occasionally egocentric The Man Who Changed The World. But would the Earthling who described himself as an ‘Internationalist’ (Radio 1’s Simon Bates was asking him what he considered his nationality to be) really use his power of veto on such a uniting nations project? Especially as none of the following have never been issued on a studio album worldwide:
Let Me Sleep Beside You, Love You Till Tuesday and When I Live My Dream (German versions, all 1969, unreleased)
Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola (Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl in Italian to tune of Space Oddity, 1970)
“Helden” (original 7″ mix of the German “Heroes”, 1977)
“Héros” (French 7″ of “Heroes”, 1977)
Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu) (1986)
Girls (Japanese version, 1987)
Day-In Day-Out (Spanish version, 1987)
Amlapura (with Tin Machine) (Indonesian version, 1991)
Don’t Let Me Down And Down (Indonesian version, 1993)
Seven Years In Tibet (Mandarin version, 1997)
Looking For Satellites (ditto, unreleased)
Away from Chez Dave, his Olympian musical journeys have taken him on a Brilliant Adventure from Amsterdam to Warszawa via Neuköln and The Secret Life Of Arabia so there’s bound to be a veritable smorgasbord of site-specific tracks that could also be candidates for widening the remit. With Fantastic Voyage, Move On and African Night Flight top of the atypically tropical tree, Lodger is practically a triptychal travelogue in itself, but for the purposes of this set I’ll restrict the choices to those currently denied a place on any regular Bowie studio set. Oh, if only I could deny the recent ‘Bollywood’ remix of Let’s Dance is anything more than a fantasy figment of someone’s imbecilic imagination:
Silly Boy Blue (with The Riot Squad, 1967, unreleased)
London Bye Ta-Ta (Visconti version, 1968, unreleased)
It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City (first version, 1973)
Across The Universe (demo with John Lennon, 1974, unreleased)
Young Americans Medley (TV recording with Cher, 1975)
Station To Station (French 7″ edit, 1976)
Yassassin (Turkish for ‘Long Live’) (7″ edit, 1979)
Panic In Detroit (re-recording, 1979)
Alabama Song (1979)
I Pray, Olé (1979/1991)
Crystal Japan (1980)
Waiata (live 1983, unreleased)
Dancing In The Street (Clearmountain 7″/Dub) (with Mick Jagger, 1985)
Baby Universal (Single Mix) (with Tin Machine, 1991)
The Buddha Of Suburbia (Single Mix) (1993)
The King Of Stamford Hill (with Reeves Gabrels, 1995)
Battle For Britain (The Letter) (demo, 1996, unreleased)
Planet Of Dreams (with Gail Ann Dorsey, 1997)
A Foggy Day (In London Town) (with Angelo Badalamenti, 1998)
Waterloo Sunset (2003)
America (from The Concert For New York City CD, 2001)
Miss American High, The London Boys and Silly Boy Blue (all from Toy, 2001, unreleased)
Occasional use of Starman in the BBC’s award-winning New Series aside, the main Man Who Fell To Earth has unfathomably resisted all attempts to involve him in Doctor Who. And if ever there was a match of moondust made in heaven… In fact a whole album of Bowie’s alien Spaceboy epics and sci-fi lullabies could have quite easily provided the superlunary soundtrack to an entire season of the much-loved British institution. Space (ho, ho) prevents me from listing them all here, but just going by titles alone, we’ve got the Moon and Mars twice a piece, space three times, and the prettiest stars just way, way numerous to mention.
If any celestial collection was to be issued with, or as well as, a more earthbound excursion like the Universal collection above, then here’s a few cosmic curios worthy of being taken aboard, none of them being currently obtainable on any of David’s albums:
Life On Mars? (demo, 1970, unreleased)
Space Oddity (re-recording, 1979)
Cosmic Dancer (live with Morrissey, mixed at Abbey Road, 1991, unreleased)
Real Cool World (7″/video mix, 1992)
Hallo Spaceboy (Simenon Mix, 1995, unreleased)
Baby Universal (re-recording, 1996, unreleased)
Little Wonder (Todd Terry Mix, 1997, unreleased)
O Superman (with Gail Ann Dorsey, 1997, unreleased)
Sector Z (with Rustic Overtones, 2001)
I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship (Space Cowboy Remix) (2002)
Starman (Metrophonic Remix) (2003)
Life On Mars? (TV recording with The Arcade Fire, 2005)
BOWIE’S SEMI-ACOUSTIC LOVE AFFAIR
A compilation of the ex-Beatle’s demos, studio and live performances featuring his largely solo guitar work was issued in 2004, becoming the Fab One’s highest charting album in the US since the ’80s. And with half the content being unreleased, was warmly welcomed by fans and critics alike.
However, as we’re talking Bowie, it’d be wise to opt for less restrictive title, albeit only minimally, so the one I’ve used here is cribbed from the lyrics of Looking For A Friend, his yearning matey oddity from ’71. Only a rambling BBC session version of this song has been officially released, while the basic demo could be a logical inclusion on an album of this nature – the finished Arnold Corns studio master, while not exactly radically different, features David’s mysterious designer chum Freddi Burretti taking over on lead vocals, hence the track not being part of any remastering programme so far.
The same year, a sterling seven-song acoustic set for Bob Harris’s Sounds Of The Seventies radio show was also taped, and despite being trumpeted in the album sleevenotes as “a valuable record of a Bowie/Mick Ronson solo performance effected mainly around London in the summer and autumn of 1971,” only two of the tracks have been used on 2000’s Bowie At The Beeb.
A couple of years previously, David’s right-hand man had been on-off collaborator John Hutchinson (‘Hutch’), and in early 1969 the pair made a folky Simon and Garfunkel-style duo demo-tape showcasing ten acoustic tracks, a couple of which were excellent embryonic takes of more familiar titles, another couple were covers never attempted again, while a third pairing were renditions of earlier songs. Disappointingly, just a primitive version of Space Oddity has been released by EMI so far.
But I guess top of the Most Wanted list would be ChangesNowBowie, a stunning stripped-down set specially recorded in New York for a Radio 1 programme celebrating his 50th birthday in 1997. Highlights included a glittering, glorious take of Lady Stardust, still the only occasion it’s been performed since the early Ziggy shows.
Also, following on from Tin Machine’s little-visited Country Bus Stop flipside, an unlikely Johnny Cash-style country romp through Scary Monsters was included in several two-man acoustic sessions David recorded with Reeves Gabrels for North American radio stations in 1997, of which a radically remodelled rendering of that year’s Dead Man Walking is the only other track to have made it out so far; while a unique pared-down interpretation of “Heroes” was the sole released track from a 10-song strong appearance at Neil Young’s Bridge School Concerts the previous year.
Bringing things full circle, an appropriately primitive cover of Mother, recorded in 1998 for a shelved Lennon tribute album, is still awaiting release, though it has recently surfaced amongst collectors. Ultimately, a whole album rooted in the age-old acoustic tradition really would show the public a rarely heard more intimate side of David Bowie, one that only the hardcore get occasional dazzling flashes of.
BEATLES ROCK ‘N’ ROLL MUSIC
BOWIE ROCK ‘N’ ROLL WITH ME
Going from soft to hard – with the sharing of a common four-letter word, more than any other project in this faux-fantasy feature I’d hazard a guess that these album titles are sufficiently self-explanatory.But where Bowie trumps his former Manchester Square label-mates is he’s able to boast a killer title track here – and one that was actually a single (in the US at least), though it’s yet to appear on a compilation.
While a trio of ’90s singles have appeared in additional Rock Mix form (Jump They Say’s high-octane arrangement being successful enough to be replicated on the Outside tour), none of them are particularly difficult to obtain, unlike the long-deleted superior Single Mix of Tin Machine’s only UK hit, the vastly under-valued You Belong In Rock ‘N’ Roll, which has never been on an album. And if it’s good enough for Neil Tennant, who once told me: “The album version for some reason is different and I don’t like it as much, but the 7″ was great. I think the Pet Shop Boys should do a cover version of that, because it is actually a great song.”
Of course, as part of that squealing four-piece at the turn of the ’90s (no jokes about Din Machine, if you please!), a ton of turbo-charged and testosterone-fueled tunes were added to the Bowie repertoire, among them the savage overseas single One Shot (the punchier video/edit version therefore extremely hard to find), all joining a number of guitar greats from the golden age of earlier albums, headed by Scary Monsters, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust and The Man Who Sold The World (Black Country Rock and Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide being the obvious titular candidates).
But undoubtedly the rarest Rock of all would have to be Bowie and Mick Jagger’s basic demo for It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll, which Keith Richards has confirmed sits submerged under countless layers of Rolling Stones’ overdubs on the band’s finished master, so the chances of hearing the original article are pretty remote. Though one would hope that the likelihood of the following selection of heavy-duty donations, none of which have appeared on a regular Bowie album, up for consideration is less so:
Rebel Rebel (7″/video mix) (1974)
The Jean Genie (7″ mix) (1972)
Waiting For The Man (BBC session, 1970, unreleased)
Look Back In Anger (re-recording, 1988)
You’ve Been Around (demo as Tin Machine, 1989, unreleased)
Gunman (with Adrian Belew, 1990)
Maggie’s Farm (as Tin Machine, 1989)
Like A Rolling Stone (with Mick Ronson, 1994)
Hammerhead (with Tin Machine, 1991)
The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (For Judge Dredd) (with Tim Simenon, 1995, unreleased)
20th Century Boy (TV recording with Placebo, 1999, unreleased)
Isn’t It Evening (with Earl Slick, 2003)
The Cynic (with Kashmir, 2005)
Jewel (with Frank Black, Reeves Gabrels and Dave Grohl, 1999)
Rebel Never Gets Old (2004)
BOWIE ALL THOSE PRETTY THINGS
This set shares little with 2004’s regal Japanese import besides its shiny title, instead taking its clarion call from a mid-’70s odds and sods collection that was abandoned when David dramatically left the MainMan stable.
I’ve excluded several much discussed gems due to no official corroboration of Bowie’s involvement ever being forthcoming. For instance, he’s said to have contributed to recordings by Ringo Starr, Ron Wood and Keith Moon in the mid ’70s, though the stories may possibly have arose due to a jam session with the latter pair at Peter Seller’s birthday party in 1975.
There’s no doubt that whether as producer, mixer or musician, Bowie is featured on the following offerings, just not as a lead vocalist, none of which have been collected on a Bowie-focused compilation before:
Feathers: Back To Where You’ve Never Been (1968, unreleased)
George Underwood: Hole In The Ground (1970); Song For Bob Dylan (BBC, 1971) (both unreleased)
Peter Noone: Right On Mother (1971)
Dana Gillespie: Andy Warhol (BBC) and Mother Don’t Be Frightened (1971)
Lou Reed: Perfect Day and New York Telephone Conversation (1972)
Mott The Hoople: Honky Tonk Women (live, 1972)
Iggy and The Stooges: Search And Destroy (1973)
Lulu: Dodo (1973) and Can You Hear Me (1974) (both unreleased)
Steeleye Span: To Know Him Is To Love Him (1974)
The Rolling Stones: It’s Only Rock ‘N’ Roll (1974)
Iggy Pop: Drink To Me and Sell Your Love (1975, unreleased)
John Cale: Sabotage (live in New York, 1979, unreleased)
Iggy Pop: Play It Safe (1980)
Queen: Cool Cat (1981 test pressing, unreleased)
Paul McCartney, Alison Moyet and Bob Geldof: Let It Be (Live Aid, 1985)
Iggy Pop: Isolation and Real Wild Child (Wild One) (12″ version) (1986)
Adrian Belew: Pretty Pink Rose (instrumental remix, 1990)
Tin Machine: Sorry, Stateside, Go Now, I’ve Been Waiting For You, Debaser (all 1991/1992)
Ian Hunter, Mick Ronson and Queen: All The Young Dudes (live, 1992)
Mick Ronson: Colour Me (1994)
Zero Heroes: Heat Of The Flame (1998)
Rustic Overtones: Man Without A Mouth (1998)
Lou Reed: Satellite Of Love ’04 (2004)
Scarlet Johanson: Falling Down and Fannin Street (2008)
BEATLES LET IT BE… NAKED
BOWIE TONIGHT… NAKED
Well that certainly grabbed your attention!
While the Fab Four’s remixed and re-sequenced revamp featured in top tens across the globe in 2003, David’s never quite gone as far as disowning an album over its production in the way that a decidedly raw Paul McCartney effectively did with Let It Be. Well, almost…
Sure, there are ‘those two’ that DB’s least fond of (let’s be frank – hardly a unique opinion there) – and admittedly, having Bowie Tonight… Naked, and then Bowie Never Let Me Down… Naked would be fascinating enough if only for the fun Sun-like headline writers up and down the land could have with the smutty-sounding pair!
And, yeah, there’s always been major grumbles about the Tonight’s tepid, tinny sound, with its follow-up, Never Let Me Down, saddled with a typically mid-’80s mush of ‘bigger is better’ over-production. Raising the spectre of who was ultimately responsible, David carried the can, rightly so, and the albums are seen as his two complete artistic failures. But the crux of the matter is that, unlike Let It Be, it’s about a lot more than just a good mix and few producer embellishments completed after the artist has washed his hands of the project.
Although he’s often trumpeted the demos for both albums as being far superior to the finished articles, none of them have actually been granted a release so we can all witness just how good they supposedly are. Admittedly, it’d be a lot harder for Bowie to get it up for either album that may, by his own admission, have only one damn half-decent song on each. Funnily enough, Loving The Alien was rearranged in a haunting acoustic fashion on his last A Reality Tour, while, as if by magic, Time Will Crawl has indeed been revisited for the new iSelectBowie CD (see the review at the conclusion of this feature), but I’d be surprised if he’s seriously given much thought to getting back to the rest of the album in a similar fashion.
Personally, I’ve always been intrigued by the Duke’s comments to Lisa Robinson in 1976 that he’d not quite got the sound he really wanted on the landmark Station To Station: “All the way through the making of the album I was telling myself I’d do a dry mix – all the way through, no echo,” he sniffed. “And I gave in and added that extra commercial touch. I wish, I wish… I wish I hadn’t.”
Could Station To Station be re-presented, naked and wired, closer to David’s avowed original artistic vision? It’d be an extremely popular choice, especially in 5.1. And the only other really sensible candidate has already been repackaged more times than I’ve had hot dates – yep welcome back to earth, Ziggy Stardust – Bowie mentioned in 1990 that he didn’t like the sound on that, which was remarkably candid of him, especially as he was promoting Rykodisc’s first bonus-boosted edition back at the time!
I’d imagine that if Ziggy were to be given a significant sonic boom it would be in the vein of Alan Moulder’s highly regarded 1998remix of Moonage Daydream (briefly available on the album’s 2002 2-CD edition), which actually improved on the original by beefing the sound up, rather than stripping it back. Hey, has anyone ever fantasied about The Man Who Fell To Earth… Naked? Er, I’ll get my pants.
The success of the Scouse lads’ trio of mid-’90s Anthology albums speak for themselves: No.1s in the US and elsewhere every time. And that’s no mean feat when you consider that they were full priced double-discs containing a total of almost 150 tracks.One David Robert Jones was said to have sat up in sprightly fashion and excitedly took notes. Though he was less than lukewarm about releasing his BBC sessions when the idea was raised in the ’80s, the Fab’s Live At The BBC in 1994 was such a resounding hit that DB let it be known he was “very impressed” by the set’s commercial fortunes.
Likewise the sales figures for the Anthology albums must have pricked his finely tuned antennae, and by the time the current deal with EMI was officially announced in the summer of 1997, plans for a Bowie Anthology, which,I was informed by its curator, would compile “several volumes of unreleased and the rarest tracks” were already well underway.Much tape research was conducted, wants lists were collated, owners of significant private collections contacted (including myself), and potential track-listings were assembled, before various staff changes at EMI and concerns over fees, royalties, and ownership of certain acetates and demos started to rear their ugly head, and, sadly, the far-reaching project has been officially ‘on hold’ since the turn of the decade.
The admirably audacious plan was for a comprehensive collection to encompass David’s entire career for the first time ever -the Duke’s very own Crown Jewels collection would be the most appropriate analogy here -kicking off with his earliest known recordings (with Bromley beat combo The Kon-rads) in August 1963,right through to the present day and “a couple of newly completed tracks,” that could be considered as singles. And, initially at least, it seems to be the ’60s material being controlled by several companies and estates that has proved to be quite a sticking point. One source close to David told me at the time that trying to get so many track clearances and permissions was proving “a minefield.”
It does seem that one or two parties with vested interests may have had their noses put out of joint a little. The Bowie camp hadn’t exactly made many friends at Universal Music, for instance, when they put the mockers on a second disc of unissued material due for release with sixties set The Deram Anthology in 1997. They let it be known that their man had gone “ballistic” at the label’s intentions. Indeed, David did complain privately to friends that back then he’d “had a hard enough time getting them to put a hole in the middle of a record” so “why should they be allowed to put whatever like out thirty years later?” Three years later he recorded Toy.
As an interesting aside, when the 50-track version of the Deram album was being compiled, the EMI deal and its own Anthology plans hadn’t been officially announced, and one wonders if it was just a matter of Bowie wanting the material collated and controlled on his watch, especially as the label had just paid handsomely to retain his catalogue. However, when Tris Penna, EMI’s Anthology project chief, asked David directly about the Deram brouhaha, he claimed not to have been told anything about it!
It’s not as if our man didn’t have previous form though. Any release of demo recordings are ideally supposed to be authorised by both the artist and whichever label paid for the studio time. So when the late Shel Talmy dug out five nugatory nuggets for the US-only Rhino release Early On (1964-1966) without David’s knowledge you can understand why he was less than pleased.Likewise RCA’s not too well-done hotch-potch, Rare, from 1982 (the last album the company would release before his switch to EMI), he considered “horrendous”, “atrocious” and “offensive.” And although much (but not all) of its semi-rare content has been superseded by subsequent repackages, I still can’t help but mourn the loss of the wonderfully evocative cover, showing a remarkably relaxed Bowie at his best. Rare also serves as a potent reminder that there has been no comparative collection since.
With a four-way royalty split, Apple and The Beatles got through many licensing and legal difficulties to issue their Anthology as both a superlative audio and visual record of the quintessential quartet, so it’s by no means impossible for a solo artist to overcome theirs. In other words, Davy Jones’ Lucre Locker can be unlocked if the price is right. So, wearing my optimists’ cap, I’ve salvaged some of the draft tracklists from EMI’s Bowie project, together with a wealth of archive material also known to have been recorded, though the list is by no means complete.
Of course, there are countless alternate versions of familiar songs, mostly closely guarded – Reality’s Bring Me The Disco King, for instance, was previously tackled three times in the ’90s; or his first attempt at The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows in 1973 (very similar to the later Tonight arrangement), while some sneaked into the hands of collectors some years back – more authentically soulful versions of Sigma Sound songs such as Can Your Hear Me, for instance, which is complete with sweeping Visconti strings and an impeccable falsetto from the gouster, as well as a fascinating ballad version of the little-known leftover After Today. But keeping things nice and simple I’ve only included titles that have never been commercially released by David in any official studio-based form (although some did morph into work released under another name):
I Never Dreamed (with the Kon-rads, 1963)
Hello Stranger, Duke Of Earl and Love Is Strange (all with The Manish Boys, 1964)
Born Of The Night and I Lost My Confidence (both with The Lower Third, 1965)
You’ve Got It Made and Too Bad (both 1965)
Hung Up and It’s Getting Back (both with The Buzz, 1966)
Over The Wall We Go (1966)
Pussy Cat (1966)
Bunny Thing (1966)
Your Funny Smile (1966)
We Are Not Your Friends (1966)
Everything Is You (1967)
Social Kind Of Girl (1967)
Silver Treetop School For Boys (1967)
C’est La Vie (1967)
Waiting For The Man and Sadie/Little Toy Soldier (both with The Riot Squad, 1967)
Mother Grey (1968)
Angel Angel Grubby Face (1968)
April’s Tooth Of Gold (1968)
Ernie Johnson unrealised 35 min ‘rock opera’: Tiny Tim; Where’s The Loo; Season Folk; Just One Moment Sir; Early Morning; Noon-Lunchtime; Evening’ Ernie Boy; This Is My Day (all 1968)
Love Song, Life Is A Circus, I’m Not Quite and Lover To The Dawn (all demos with Hutch, 1969)
Tired Of My Life (1970)
Buzz The Fuzz (BBC session, 1970)
The Invader (1970/1973)
Lump On The Hill (1970)
Right On Mother (1971)
Rupert The Riley (solo, 1971)
Miss Peculiar (1971)
It’s Gonna Rain Again (1971)
Only One Paper Left (1971)
My Death (live in Boston, 1972) (pulled from Aladdin Sane 30th)
The Black Hole Kids (1973)
White Light/White Heat (instrumental, 1973)
Spirit In The Night (1973)
Take It In Right (1973)
Tragic Moments/Zion (1973)
People From Bad Homes (1973)
I Am A Laser (1973/1980)
I Am Divine (1973)
Things To Do (1973)
Shilling The Rubes (1973)
Growing Up And I’m Fine (1973)
Too Fat Polka (with John Lennon, 1974)
Do The Ruby (1974)
Moving On and Turn Blue (with Iggy Pop, 1975)
The Man Who Fell To Earth sessions (with Paul Buckmaster, 1975)
Both Guns Are Out There (with Keith Christmas, 1976)
The jammy Lodger demos: Portrait Of An Artist; Fury; Working Party; Emphasis On Repetition; I Bit You Back; The Tangled Web We Weave; Pope Brian; Eno’s Jungle Box; Burning Eyes; Aztec (all 1979)
The Scary Monsters demos: People Are Turning To Gold; It Happens Every Day; Cameras In Brooklyn; Is There Life After Marriage?; Fujimoto San; Jamaica; Because I’m Young (all 1980)
People On Streets (with Queen, 1981)
The Hansa Studios jam session (1987)
The Tin Machine II sessions: It’s Tough, But It’s Okay; Shock For One, I’m Pure and Exodus (1989/1991)
The ‘Punk Gone Haywire’ demos (with Nile Rodgers, 1992)
The ‘Leon’ Tape/Inside: The Nut Soldiers; The Enemy Is Fragile; I’d Rather Be Chrome; We’ll Creep Together (all 1994)
Moondust, Dummy and Robot Punk/We Fuck You (all 1994/1995)
Dead Men Don’t Talk (But They Do) (1996)
Fun/Funhouse/Is It Any Wonder? (1997)
Tryin’ To Get To Heaven (1998)
(Safe In This) Skylife (1998)
Uncle Floyd and Hole In The Ground (both from Toy, 2001)
One Night and I Feel So Bad (both live, 2002)
Comfortably Numb (TV recording with David Gilmour, 2006)
BEATLES PAST MASTERS
THE A-Z OF QUEEN
PAST MASTER: THE A-Z OF BOWIE
Lastly, as the focus of the Anthology was (is?) almost exclusively of tunes of the commercially unreleased variety, that just leaves a smattering of currently unavailable curios currently languishing in obscurity – the real random odds ‘n sods that have been out of print for far too long. Concentrating mainly on versions not already mentioned, as well as royally, not to mention literally, taking a cue from 2007’s alphabetic American double-disc,I’ve rounded things up in non-chronological order with further lesser-known alternates and album tracks, although one of them is still controversially missing in action…
Just like David, I’ve left off Too Dizzy – the subject of much angst on Bowie forums, due to its infamous dumping from all editions of Never Let Me Down post-1987. Even at the time of the song’s original release he had effectively disowned his own composition, admitting he was “unsettled” by the aggressive subject matter. So don’t hold your breath for its re-instatement any time soon. Responding to a suggestion he might want to dust it off for the album’s 1999 remaster, David refused and told an EMI staffer: “I never want to hear that fucking song again as long as I live.” I guess that’s one tailor-made for the posthumous set then? Conversely, top of the pile here has to be the original single recording of Holy Holy, which remains the only DB A-side still awaiting a long-overdue baptism onto CD:
All The Young Dudes (correct speed, 1973, unreleased)
Bombers-Andy Warhol (1971)
Conversation Piece (1969)
Drive-In Saturday (7″ edit, 1973) (pulled from Aladdin Sane 30th)
Eight Line Poem (promo version, 1971)
Fame (with John Lennon, original ‘flute’ version, 1974, unreleased)
Holy Holy (1970)
In The Heat Of The Morning (stereo version, 1968)
Kingdom Come (demo, 1980, unreleased)
Lightning Frightening (complete stereo version, 1971, unreleased)
Memory Of A Free Festival (Parts 1 and 2) (1970)
Needles On The Beach (with Tin Machine, 1989)
Oh! You Pretty Things (demo, 1970, unreleased)
Pictures Of Lily (2001)
Quicksand (demo, 1971)
Round And Round (B-side version, 1971)
Shakin’ All Over (as Tin Machine, live in Kilburn, 1989)
Truth (with Goldie, 1998)
Under Pressure (US Remix, with Queen, 1981/1992)
V-2 Schneider (1977)
Working Class Hero (as Tin Machine, 1989)
You’ve Been Around (with Reeves Gabrels and Gary Oldman, 1995)
Zeroes (promo edit, 1987)
Now, I hear there’s a new album to review…
Recently offered as a freebie with the Mail On Sunday newspaper in Britain, DB’s new iSB is now granted a full commercial release, with his additional track-by-track annotations and jewel-case packaging. But if we delve a little deeper, it becomes apparent that this welcome hand-picked artist collection is in fact an album David put together almost three decades ago.
The cover art immediately gives it away. The austere beauty of his very first compilation, 1976’s ChangesOneBowie, is replicated here, with the same unspaced uppercase red/grey (albeit faded to a lighter shade) typeface over a wonderfully moody, monochromatic portrait from the same period.
In 1981, DB set about compiling a sequel to COB. And as a way of avoiding duplication with that album (11 straight singles, chosen by him, but with a surprising US bias), as well as the Christiane F. soundtrack collection and K-Tel’s The Best Of Bowie the previous year, this time round he opted solely for abstruse album tracks.
Amusingly titled Twilight (his long contract with RCA was in its final year), the label’s advice was “We can’t sell this!” and promptly replaced it with the far less crepuscular ChangesTwoBowie, which David had no involvement in, apart from a suitably evocative video for the attendant single and his one of his personal faves, Wild Is The Wind, which was one of only two songs that were salvaged from the Twilight project, the other being Aladdin Sane.
Fast forward 27 years and that majestic duo are now absent from the updated tracklist, with the latter 1973 title track kicked off the Twilight redux by its own set-closer, the luscious Lady Grinning Soul, while, surprisingly, there’s nothing at all from Station To Station, nor the album always woefully under-represented on the Bowie compilation stage, The Man Who Sold The World – its unjustly under-appreciated After All was set to be the Twilight closing number, er, after all.
“Heroes” is also absent, as the major vocal gymnastics of Sons Of The Silent Age are given their marching orders. Just one further Twilight highlight didn’t make the grade here – the breezy Red Sails is replaced by Repetition, also from 1979’s Lodger opus, but the rest are all presciently present and correct: The Bewlay Brothers, Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing, Win, Fantastic Voyage and Teenage Wildlife all brilliantly bringing up the rear.
In 2008, Bowie’s personally chosen extras are, somewhat surprisingly, a couple of singles, Life On Mars? and Loving The Alien (oh, but what a beautiful pair they are), a live Hang On To Yourself (from Santa Monica ’72), and elegantly obscure ‘Low-period leftover’ Some Are. Interestingly, when I played the track to that album’s producer, Tony Visconti, a few years ago he told me he’d never heard it before!
Completing the reshuffle, the one solitary carrot here is a new guitar-boosted contemporary remix of 1987’s Time Will Crawl, but to these ears it’s still a less than tasty interminabilis. But my only real gripe would be that, unlike many of the recent albums given a full release after a newspaper’s freebie promo edition, there’s no additional bonus tracks to entice the faithful into obtaining a copy again just a few weeks later. And at 58 minutes running time there’s certainly room. Now, David, just what are we going to do with that Toy…