the jason shergold music collector site
Sunday, 16 October 2016
Hello there and welcome to the "Jason Shergold Music Collector Site".
This blog features articles about various bands and singers, and how to go (more or less) about collecting their records. In the main, the articles will be aimed at people trying to get a collection together from scratch, looking at shortcuts to doing so where they exist, but some articles will be a bit more specialised, with features of video releases, Japanese pressings, etc. As it's built using a Blogger template, it can - at times - look a bit DIY, just think of it as the internet version of "Sniffin' Glue".
As a UK based music fan, most of these articles will revolve around UK discographies, but not necessarily just for UK bands. Although, for some artists featured, their discographies will continue to grow, the post-iTunes scenario is that you can more or less guess what formats albums and singles will be released on nowadays, so these blogs in the main will help to fill in the gaps when multiple physical formats were all the rage.
The blog will be updated at least once every month - if you find that the homepage does not show the Tamla logo above, it will be that the site is being updated, and may not be available for viewing for an hour or two. The updates are expected to occur initially at the start of each month, any later blogs to be published that month will appear at random as the weeks progress. You will be able to click on older editions using the menu buttons in the top right.
The October 2016 edition is now online, with a look at The Beatles' "White Album".
The blog is also home to my "novel within a website", 'How I Learned To Hate Record Collecting', looking at the workings of the UK record industry. Click on any month from 2014 to view one of the twelve parts that form the whole article. And also check out my online photo collection of tour t-shirts, the accurately titled "Rock & Roll T Shirts" by clicking here: rockandrolltshirts.smugmug.com.
Please note: If you ever notice "newer" pages listed top right, this will be the new issue "in progress" - if you click on it, the whole page will not load. When the new issue is ready, it will be mentioned on this page. You can click on previous years tabs to get previous articles. Once you have selected that year, you can click on a different month to look at different acts.
The acts featured appear in the months listed below:
Adam And The Ants - October 2013
All Saints - February 2014
Lily Allen - August 2010
Ash - April 2014
Atomic Kitten - June 2013
Badly Drawn Boy - November 2014
The Beatles - September 2011 / March 2015 / October 2016
The Beautiful South - December 2014
Victoria Beckham - March 2016
Beyoncé - May 2013
Biffy Clyro - June 2014
Blondie - January 2011 / September 2013
Blur - August 2011 / July 2012 / October 2013
David Bowie - September 2010 / October 2010 / November 2010 / January 2011 / June 2012 / September 2014 / January 2016 / May 2016 / July 2016 / September 2016
Emma Bunton - March 2016
Kate Bush - July 2013
Buzzcocks - December 2011
Belinda Carlisle - October 2013
The Charlatans - February 2014
The Clash - May 2011
Elvis Costello - January 2013 / September 2013
Sheryl Crow - June 2013
The Cure - December 2011 / April 2016
Deep Purple - March 2010
Depeche Mode - May 2012
The Doors - December 2013
Bob Dylan - November 2013
Echobelly - February 2015
Sophie Ellis-Bextor - August 2011
Embrace - November 2013
The Flaming Lips - November 2011
Foo Fighters - May 2014
Peter Gabriel - August 2013
Genesis - April 2011 / January 2014
Girls Aloud - August 2010 / November 2013
Goldfrapp - August 2013
Green Day - June 2014
Geri Halliwell - March 2016
Deborah Harry - January 2011
Jimi Hendrix - September 2010
Inspiral Carpets - April 2012
The Jam - May 2013
Elton John - August 2012 / September 2012 / October 2012 / November 2012
Joy Division - March 2011
Kenickie - October 2010
The Kinks - November 2010 / April 2011 / May 2013
Led Zeppelin - November 2015
John Lennon - May 2013
Pixie Lott - February 2011
Madness - November 2011
Madonna - April 2010 / July 2010 / August 2010 / September 2010 / March 2011 / June 2011 / July 2011 / August 2011 / September 2011 / October 2011 / November 2011 / March 2012 / November 2012 / January 2013 / November 2013 / March 2014 / August 2015 / January 2016 / June 2016
Mansun - August 2011
Dannii Minogue - September 2011
The Moody Blues - October 2015
Morrissey - April 2014
Kate Nash - February 2011
New Order - October 2012
Nirvana - June 2011 / December 2012
Oasis - April 2013
Pet Shop Boys - May 2011 / June 2011
Pink Floyd - January 2011 / July 2011
P!nk - April 2012
Elvis Presley - March 2011 / October 2011 / November 2013 / December 2013 / January 2014
Prince - January 2015
Pulp - August 2011
Queen - December 2010 / September 2011
Lou Reed - September 2015
Cliff Richard & The Shadows - July 2011
Rolling Stones - July 2010 / October 2010 / March 2011
The Saturdays - April 2011
Siouxsie & The Banshees - March 2013 / July 2014
Slade - May 2012
Sleeper - December 2013
Smashing Pumpkins - June 2012
The Smiths - June 2010
Britney Spears - November 2010 / December 2010
Spice Girls - February 2016
Bruce Springsteen - February 2012
Status Quo - January 2012
Cat Stevens - February 2012
Rachel Stevens - July 2011
The Stranglers - February 2010 / December 2011 / May 2013 / September 2013 / December 2013 / July 2014 / October 2014 / May 2015 / December 2015
Suede - August 2011
Sugababes - August 2012
Super Furry Animals - September 2014
Supergrass - August 2014
TRex - December 2010
Theaudience - August 2011
Thin Lizzy - February 2013
The Thrills - June 2015
Tin Machine - December 2010
Tubeway Army - August 2016
U2 - March 2012 / December 2012
The Velvet Underground - October 2010
The Walker Brothers - June 2011
Scott Walker - September 2010 / February 2013
Paul Weller - December 2014
The Who - May 2010 / August 2012 / July 2013
Kim Wilde - October 2013
Yes - July 2015
Neil Young - April 2015
Blogger can have a mind of it's own at times, so if you click on a year and get NO menu, click on the arrow next to the year, and you should get the list of months for that year to help you navigate a bit easier. To return to the homepage, you can click on the tab for the current year. Several blogs are in production, with articles on Madonna and Bowie due over the next few months.
You can email me using the link above, and if you can add any information, you can add comments to the blog using the link at the bottom of the relevant page. Regards, Jason.
Frankie say NO to downloads!
It took me a while to discover The Beatles. My oldest sister was a fan of John Lennon and George Harrison, as they had launched their solo careers whilst she was still in her youth, and she liked them in the same way she was also liked other singer songwriters from the same time period, like Cat Stevens and Harry Chapin. She later told me that she was too young for the Fab 4, and after getting into Lennon, saw no real reason to go back and buy the old records he had made with his former band. She liked Lennon because he was Lennon - and not because he was “John out of The Beatles”. So, I too got into Lennon and Harrison via her LP‘s, and somewhere along the way, eventually fell in love with Wings, after somebody bought a copy of the live “Maybe I’m Amazed” 45 - but not, at that point, The Beatles.
My mum, for whatever reason, didn’t get them either - same with Elvis. She preferred Cliff and then Scott. My dad, though, did own some records by both The King and The Fabs, but my parents got divorced when I was about ten, so I didn’t really get to hear what he had. So, whilst I developed a love of Bowie by virtue of the fact that everybody in the house seemed to have one of his albums, The Beatles just didn’t happen to me, because there were no records in the Shergold household for me to discover them through.
In 1995, the broadcasting on TV of the “Anthology” series started to focus my attention. The Lennon connection was probably a starting point, whilst those dreadful Stars On 45 singles from the early eighties had, at least, made me aware of things like “Do You Want To Know A Secret”. I began to develop a fascination with this band, helped along by the fact that Oasis were name checking them left right and centre, a band I had recently fallen in love with. I figured that if I was going to be buying records by Liam and Co, then I should also be going to the original source. A bit like buying “Give Out But Don’t Give Up” by Primal Scream, but not buying “Let It Bleed”.
I got hold of the ‘Bread Bin’ boxset of the albums, lugging it home on the bus from HMV in Romford, causing my arms to ache the longer I carried it. I recall listening to each disc in order on a daily basis, and by the time I had got to “Let It Be” and the “Past Masters” sets, well, my jaw had dropped. Several times. This wasn’t just good music, this was ASTOUNDING music. Where had this band been all my life? I later accused my mother of child cruelty on the basis that she had never owned a copy of “Rubber Soul” that I could listen to, and that it had thus affected my development during my youth. “Scott 3” and “Scott 4” eased the pain though.
My favourite Beatles album changes from day to day, month to month. Sometimes it will be “Revolver”, thanks to the psychedelic buzz of “Tomorrow Never Knows”, or the guitar drenched power-pop of “And You Bird Can Sing”. Another day, it will be “Sgt Pepper” - too cool to be name checked by the Hoxton hipsters now, but home to both “She’s Leaving Home” AND “A Day In The Life”. Say no more. If I want to cheat, I might go for “Magical Mystery Tour”, which by housing both “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Am The Walrus”, is therefore home to two of the Beatles’ greatest ever recordings. And I have long had a love of “Abbey Road”, thanks to the masterful beauty of Harrison’s “Something”, the stoner rock thumping that closes “I Want You” and the proggy medley that fills up most of side 2.
But at the moment, my favourite is the 1968 self titled effort. “The White Album” as it is more commonly known. The first time you hear it, it might all be a bit too much to take in in one go, being a double album. But the more and more I listen to it, the more and more I love it. Sure, there is filler all over it, but the sheer diversity contained within is staggering, and the fact that it lasts for more than an hour and a half actually works in it’s favour, as listening to it becomes an immersive experience. Sure, it’s fun to listen to the snappy “Yesterday And Today” on the way home from work, but put “The White Album” on, and it’s time to prepare yourself for one hell of a ride.
It was recorded just as the band were beginning to fall out with one another. The beginning of the end. Ringo walked out at one point. The follow up album, the aborted “Get Back”, had started life as an attempt to go back to their roots, only for the band to more or less break up by the year’s end. And yet, rather than sounding like a band on the verge of collapse, “The White Album” is a masterpiece, a sprawling work admittedly, but one that contains some of the best work they ever committed to tape. Fair enough - several of the songs are notable for featuring at least one or more Beatles absent from the actual recording - but The Stones did the same, and of course, we already had “Yesterday”.
OK, so the likes of “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road” are throwaway bits of nonsense - but because of the way the LP is structured, these otherwise minor pieces of work are part of what makes “The White Album” so special. It is designed to flow, to be listened to in order, and in full. So, pull the minute long insanity of “Wild Honey Pie” from the album, and it would actually lose something. Strip out the bit where Lennon shouts out “Ehh up” in a Yorkshire account just before “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” kicks in, and the LP simply wouldn’t sound the same. Part of the brilliance of “The White Album” is it’s sometimes ramshackle nature.
The album was designed not as a collection of 30 songs, but as four sides of music, as many of the songs cross faded into each other, or started quickly after the previous song ended. As such, the quick fire feel of the album makes it feel akin to listening to a concept album, and as such, songs that might, in isolation, feel like filler, become quite important - they feel more like incidental music being used to link together other more substantial pieces, and the variety of musical influences on even these linking pieces, just add a greater colour and texture to the album. I am not going to sit here and claim that “Rocky Raccoon” is better than “Nowhere Man”, but in my opinion, it is a 100% essential ingredient to “The White Album”.
Once you start listening to this album, it’s hard to escape it. The opening rush of “Back In The USSR” kick starts it all perfectly, complete with it’s 1950s Rock N Roll vibe and Beach Boys style vocals in the middle eight. It segues into the gorgeous “Dear Prudence”, a song completely at the other end of the scale, all minimalist guitar parts, simple but effective drum patterns, beautiful key changes and sublime Lennon vocals. It probably helps that out of the four band members in the group, the band included, well, four vocalists, meaning that not only did the Fabs have the ability to approach songs without any view as to whether or not they were recording a “Beatles sounding” song, but the option of then featuring a different singer just helped to add to the kaleidoscope of sounds that they could get into an album. And with a double LP like “The White Album”, well, it just stretched the ’sound’ of the record even further than they’d gone before.
The album, at times, gets quite heavy musically. “Glass Onion” is a grizzly Lennon sung rocker, in which the band brilliantly quote their past in clever pop culture style (“I told you about Strawberry Fields“, “I told you about the fool on the hill”, “The Walrus was Paul”). Side three opens with the roaring “Birthday”, and continues with the grunge driven sludge of “Yer Blues”, hated by some, by to these ears, a magnificently vicious piece of stoner rock, years before the likes of Queens Of The Stone Age had even been born. And then we have the astounding “Helter Skelter”. Essentially, the beginning of heavy metal starts here (I‘m afraid). The brilliance of this song, of course, is that unlike most metal bands, who go down the idiotic route of playing their guitars louder and faster than everything else and assuming that makes you “the heaviest”, it’s really the bass here that makes this song what it is. There is a level of fury here no doubt, but that twanging of the bass, as if it is the lead instrument, coupled with Paul’s near psychotic vocal delivery, make this a truly standout moment on the record. What a shame it did, in the long run, gives us the likes of Slipknot and Guns N Roses. Furthermore, with it’s lengthy drawn out ending, it all feels absolutely gargantuan - further proof that maybe, just maybe, Paul’s contribution to this band has been unfairly overlooked in favour of the material we got from the “cooler to name check” John. Oh, and it ends of course with the famous "I've got blisters on my fingers" call from Ringo on the stereo version - another bit of seemingly pointless nonsense, but ultimately, another quite cool bit of pop art. What a shame it got left out of the mono mix entirely.
If you ever wanted proof of how George was also criminally underrated whilst in the band, then look no further than this LP. The wonky beauty that is the epic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” on side 1, with what sounds like a broken, out of tune organ battling the Harrison/Clapton double act. The magnificent Hammond fuelled majesty of “Long Long While” on side 3, complete with it’s slightly eerie, creaking, closing passage that sets you up perfectly for the shambolic brilliance of the following “Revolution 1”. And on side 4, the saxophone driven roar of “Savoy Truffle”, a magnificently upbeat and joyous rock & roll romp, one of the standout tracks made even more brilliant by Harrison’s “sweets” inspired totally nonsense lyrics (“Cool Cherry Cream, nice Apple Tart”). It is so much fun, so indescribably catchy, words can’t really do this moment of genius justice. All in, evidence that George’s songs were all killer, no filler.
But then, even some of the stuff long dismissed as filler, sounds utterly vital. The rambling hotpotch that is “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill” has a warm glow, everything from Yoko’s ‘vocal solo’ to the crowd terrace chant of the choruses, I wouldn’t want it to sound any other way. The music hall inspiration that drives the charming “Martha My Dear” or the 1920s 'flapper' stylings of “Honey Pie” might, on “Revolver”, have sounded daft, but here, sound completely at home amidst the myriad of styles that surround them. Even “Ob La Di Ob La Da”, routinely written off as ‘the worst song ever recorded’ sounds positively glorious here, the ska/reggae shuffle has a delightful bounce that is joyously good fun. If you think this is the worst reggae song ever, then may I redirect you instead to the works of post-"One In Ten" UB40 and ask you to rethink your position.
There is a lot of acoustic stuff on side 2, mainly as a lot of these songs were demoed as acoustic tracks originally. But far from sounding like unfinished sketches, or a band struggling to work out how to add any instrumentation to the bare bones, the likes of “Blackbird” have a simplistic beauty to them that doesn’t need anything more. This is particularly notable on Lennon’s affecting “Julia”, which ends the first half of the record, a tearful solo outing about his mother, who died when he was still a teenager. It is arguably more heartbreaking than any of the psychotherapy stuff that he put out on “Plastic Ono Band”. The opening lyric, “half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it just to reach you Julia”, followed by a monumental key change in the next line, just hits me every time. It is simple, but stunningly effective and seems to provide a fitting conclusion to the end of the first disc.
There are a couple of songs on here that do “sound” like “Classic Beatles”. Both Lennon vocals, the mesmerising “Sexy Sadie” opens with ‘that’ piano solo, and then settles down into a piece of flawless Fabs pop. Similarly, the beautiful “Cry Baby Cry” has ‘that’ piano sound again, the one that Oasis nicked for “Don‘t Look Back In Anger“. Both these songs are quite understated in their approach, but at the same time, seem to have a lot going on. That probably doesn’t make sense, but then again, if you know these songs, then perhaps you know what I mean. In their early days, The Beatles best moments were where they went for the spine tingling harmonies and hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck-key changes (“She Loves You“, “Please Please Me“), and these songs both flow in that classic tradition.
What else have we got? Oh yes, the brilliant Ringo starring rinky dink country stomp that is “Don’t Pass Me By”, a song he had first written in 1963 but which the band refused to record. Here, again, within the context of this album, it’s nigh on essential. The shape shifting rumble of “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”, a sign of how great the band were as musicians, something often overlooked in favour of their superstar Beatlemania popularity. The ‘upper class’ vocal delivery of the sneering “Piggies”, Harrison’s piece of social commentary complete with a musical backing that sounds like something from a period drama. The beautiful acoustic strum of “Mother Nature’s Son”. The raucous rock and roll rabble this is “Everybody’s Got Something To Hide Except Me And My Monkey”. Lennon’s laid back groove/noisy scowled anger of the slightly shambling “I’m So Tired”, like Badly Drawn Boy twenty years too early. By the time we have got to the end of side three, it’s already been one hell of a journey.
Because the sound collage that is “Revolution 9” is fast approaching at this point, I have always found that whenever I listen to “The Beatles”, that by this point, we are on a sort of final stretch. As if the album is building up to a big climax, and I find myself “preparing“ for the big ending, getting ready for that long bit of sonic surrealism. Each song that follows feels like it is providing a stepping stone to the next one, until we get to the “ultimate“ moment in the world of Beatles experimentation. So side 4 kicks in with the messy alternate version of the “Hey Jude” b-side “Revolution”, named here as “Revolution 1”, the high energy, distorted, punk rock vibe of the single version replaced with a Bo Diddley blues style shuffle, everything being slowed down but also being slightly roughed up a bit. The following fun of the aforementioned “Honey Pie” and “Savoy Truffle” lead us into “Cry Baby Cry”, which ends with a brief snippet of the unfinished “Can You Take Me Back”, where McCartney appears almost ghostlike from the ether, with his clipped acoustic guitar sound and fading out vocal. It was described recently by 6Music DJ Stuart Maconie as a moment that he feels is one of the “most disturbing ever” on record - and he’s right. As it disappears from view, in comes the “weird” sounds of “Revolution 9”. It feels as though, so simplistic is it’s nature, that it is leading you unaware into the madness that follows.
The first time you hear this ’song’, you will probably hate it. But after repeated listening, it becomes fascinating. Unashamedly avant garde, “Revolution 9” probably still remains one of the most unusual things ever released by a “big” pop act ever. It was, in 1968, sort of akin to Adele deciding to cover anything by Cannibal Corpse. An eight minute long barrage of sound, tape effects, somebody talking like Ringo who isn’t Ringo, shattered excerpts of Lennon screaming, Yoko muttering, backwards noises, it is terrifying at first. But listen to it again, and again, and you will find yourself trying to get “into” the recording, seeing what sounds you can hear that you might have missed before. It’s placement near the end of the album feels totally correct, as if the glorious genre mashing that has gone on in the previous eighty minutes was all leading up to this. As it ends, and the beautiful orchestral hum of the stunning “Good Night” starts up, the perfect end to the album especially with that title, it’s difficult not to feel as though you have been on some sort of ’experience’. This isn’t just an album, this really does feel like a work of art.
“The Beatles” was originally issued in November 1968. It was released in both mono and stereo, with the mono mix featuring numerous differences to the stereo one. “Revolution 9” was not mixed in mono, simply being a ’fold down’ from the stereo version, but everything else was mixed into mono especially, with more attention being paid to this LP as regards the mono mix than to any that had come before it. As such, if you get a mono copy of this album as well, I would suggest you listen to all of it, as at least half of the record has significant differences - most notably the aforementioned “missing“ false ending on “Helter Skelter“. It was, coincidentally, the last ’proper’ Beatles album to be issued in mono.
Original copies, famously, were housed in a simple white sleeve, with the band name embossed on the cover, and each copy numbered. The reason for the minimalist packaging was designed as a response to the OTT artwork for the “Sgt Pepper” album, whilst the numbering system was done ironically. Everybody knew the album would sell like hot cakes, and so the idea of having a “numbered” edition, normally used to denote a limited edition, but here being used on an album where the number of editions would run into the millions, was deliberately tongue in cheek. This hasn’t stopped Beatleheads the world over paying ridiculous sums of money for a “low numbered” copy, despite the fact that number 500 is really no rarer than number 99999. Seems that nobody got the joke.
The original LP was packaged quite brilliantly, aside from the “non” cover and number thing. The lyrics were printed on the back of a poster that was included inside, along with four now iconic portraits of each of the band members. In order to stop these photos from falling out, the gatefold album came with top opening slots, as opposed to side openings. Amazingly, I don’t think this simple idea has ever been repeated on any other album I own, indeed, Lennon’s own “Imagine”, which came with a free 6”x4” postcard, was housed in a normal (side opening) sleeve, meaning the photo could easily ’come out’ if you held the record to one side. The 2014 mono reissue of the LP was designed to replicate the ‘68 original, so was not only numbered, but also included the top opening design and the poster and postcards as well. The original catalogue number was even used (in part). Because LP’s nowadays need to have barcodes for sales reasons, copies were shrinkwrapped and had a sticker on the front, with the track listing, album details, and said barcode. That’s the image of one such copy at the top there. If you ripped off the wrap and binned the barcode, the album would look, more or less, like an original. I have already mentioned in an earlier blog, that the first CD pressing of the album in 1987 saw some artistic license take place, where the band name was printed in grey on the front of the cover just so people knew exactly what it was. The original free photos, and images on the poster, were reprinted throughout the enclosed booklet, along with the lyrics. The 2009 CD pressing, went for a similar approach, but this time around, the band name was printed “wonkily” on the front, just as the original vinyl embossed editions had been.
There were no singles lifted from the album, although “Hey Jude” was issued as a 45 some months before, with the aforementioned alternate version of “Revolution” on the flip. This single has been reissued, as have most Beatles singles, on numerous occasions since. First in 1976, as part of an EMI “cashing in” exercise following the end of Apple’s distribution contract with EMI, which allowed the label to flood the market with new “old” Beatles product. There was another reissue in 1982, one of several to mark the 20th anniversary of “Love Me Do”, and then another one in 1988, as part of the ongoing “It Was 20 Years Ago” reissue campaign. I mentioned in my first ever Beatles blog the various boxsets that were issued back in the day, and a 3” CD Singles Boxset was made which contained within, picture sleeved reissues of the band’s original singles, each of which were also sold separately - and so “Hey Jude“ appeared again in 1989. The subsequent 1992 reissue, as a standard 5” disc, emerged as part of it’s inclusion in a second CD Singles boxset. Last I heard, if you fancy owning these boxsets, the 3” one is worth a lot more than the 5” one.
It sometimes seems incredible that, soon, “The Beatles” will be fifty years old. Because it makes you wonder where music has gone since then. Yes, I know, we are just happening to be going through a particularly lean patch at the moment, like we did in the eighties, with only a few beacons of light from the “new” boys and girls (a quick name check here for Bat For Lashes, somebody who does seem to embody The Beatles‘ maverick spirit), but even so, it does feel as though bands today simply have nowhere new to explore. And so, they simply nick bits from what has gone before, and recycle it. There is nothing wrong with this, but it does mean that few people are making music that has the same power, gravitas, or sheer inventiveness of The Beatles. This LP in particular, showcases just how daring, bloody minded, and UNCOMMERCIAL they could be, despite being the biggest group in the world at the time. Go on Adele, I dare you to make an album this bold. Of course, it won’t happen. A lot of modern music is too safe, too polite, too much in awe of what the record company might say. Those acts shifting the units, are usually the ones whose music is the most bland. 1985 all over again.
But “The Beatles” transcends all of this. The biggest pop band in the world, making one of the most the left field, diverse, and experimental records of all time - and yet, coming up with something that was still mesmerisingly brilliant which then sold by the bucketload. It ticked all the boxes. I suppose it just happened to be that by the time we got to the noughties, everything you could do and say in music had been done, making it that much harder for somebody now to come up with something “new”. But in 1968, with pop music in it’s infancy still, perhaps that allowed The Beatles free reign to try anything they wanted. Still, the sheer scope and sound of this album is staggering, and whilst worshipping at it’s alter does make me sound, again, like a Mojo journalist, I can’t help it. It really is one of the greatest albums ever made.
The Beatles (1987, 2xCD, Apple CDS PCS 7067/8, Stereo mix, with booklet)
The Beatles (2014, 2xLP, Apple 6025 3773 4535, Mono mix, numbered, originally shrink-wrapped with sticker, plus poster, “Love” insert and 4 postcards, original cat numbers on vinyl [PMC 7067/8])
NOTABLE RELATED SINGLES
Hey Jude/Revolution (1968, 7”, Apple R 5722, company bag)
Hey Jude/Revolution (1976, 7” in “Singles Collection” p/s, Apple R 5722)
Hey Jude/Revolution (1982, 7” in “live” p/s, Apple R 5722)
Hey Jude/Revolution (1988, 7” in “parrot” p/s, Apple R 5722)
Hey Jude/Revolution (1988, 7” Picture Disc in clear sleeve, Apple RP 5722)
Hey Jude/Revolution (1988, 12” Picture Disc with backing insert, Apple 12 RP 5722)
Hey Jude/Revolution (1989, 3” CD Single, “parrot” p/s, Apple CD3R 5722)
Hey Jude/Revolution (1992, 5” CD Single, “live” p/s, Apple CDR 5722)
Saturday, 17 September 2016
Like several other of his contemporaries, the Bowie Videography is a bit of a mess. Well, maybe not a mess, but a bit scattergun. This is partly due to him starting his career at a time when pop videos didn’t exist, and TV shows would wipe their tapes to reuse them for other shows. Some concert tours were filmed officially, others weren’t. Best of releases have appeared at times when he was still making music, and thus became “incomplete” later on, and so whilst his death may now be a time for EMI or Sony or whoever to finish it all off, they currently seem to be more interested in issuing pointless rehashes of 40 year old hits albums like “ChangesOneBowie”. A nice release originally, but given that it stops before “Low”, and was thus actually revamped in 1990 as “ChangesBowie” to acknowledge this fact, it’s proof that the labels don’t quite yet seem to have worked out how best to preserve his legacy. In my opinion, that is.
This is a full list of all officially authorised (solo) Bowie Video/DVD releases thus far. We have avoided the “copyright bending” things like the 1990 “Tokyo Dome” film, and releases that were issued only outside the UK, including those whose existence is also slightly dubious (the 1978 TV special documenting the “Isolar 2” tour from Dallas was once issued on VHS in Italy) and are just looking at the sort of things that form the official discography. Various Artists sets are excluded, so no mention of “Live Aid” for now, but Wikipedia will help you with that in the meantime. And as you will see with the remainder, it’s all slightly hotch potch.
The releases are listed in the order in which they “could” have first been released had video or DVD existed in the 60s, simply because it nearly makes sense to do so, and it does mean the list is semi-chronological. But also, it’s a bit more fun that way. To avoid too much info, I have detailed catalogue numbers for only the most recent or essential releases, but if you want to, there are multiple variants from the VHS era of many of these releases available if that’s what floats your boat.
Now, given that video players didn’t even exist in the 60s, it’s no surprise to note that there is only one release that really covers that decade. And “Love You Till Tuesday” is a strange beast at that. Filmed after Bowie’s debut album on Deram had flopped, “LYTT” was some sort of extended showreel, designed to showcase Bowie’s love of music, film and mime. It was the brainchild of Bowie’s then manager Kenneth Pitt, and was presumably designed to be shipped around interested parties to see if anybody would take Bowie on - in any form. Widespread distribution of the film never happened, and it was locked back in the vaults, before appearing on VHS in 1984.
It is a half hour film, a sort of selection of promo videos for singles already released (“Rubber Band”), songs that would later, in re-recorded form, become singles themselves (“Space Oddity”) and clips for things that were neither (“Sell Me A Coat”). One song, “Ching A Ling”, is essentially a performance by Bowie’s short lived interim outfit Feathers, with Bowie reduced a la Tin Machine to the role of a sideman. It is strange, fascinating, and also slightly underwhelming - the version of “Space Oddity” here sounds a world away from the monumental version that Bowie would eventually create for the second LP. You can sort of see why nobody who saw the film had any real desire to sign Bowie to a label.
The definitive version came out on DVD in 2005 (Universal Music 06024 982 33603), when - housed in a new and improved sleeve - the set was expanded to include a TV show from 1970 called “The Looking Glass Murders”. This was a short film that saw an early appearance of Bowie’s “Pierrot Clown” interest, more widely seen circa “Ashes To Ashes“ - the TV film was a remake of a 1967 stage production Bowie had appeared in called “Pierrot In Turquoise“. As well as starring in the TV show, Bowie also provided the soundtrack, which includes several “officially unreleased” songs (such as “Threepenny Pierrot”, a reworking of the at the time unreleased “London Bye Ta Ta”). It too is a slightly surreal watch, the sort of thing that you might see on BBC2 at half eleven at night on a Monday, but these two films are a great venture into the world of Bowie pre-fame, and so whilst the overall quality of the disc is not exactly of “Hunky Dory” style brilliance, it’s of major interest to anybody who wants to see what exactly Bowie was getting up to before Ziggy landed.
We have already mentioned the history behind the 1973 “Ziggy Stardust” concert film in my “Bowie Live” feature, so I won’t repeat it in full here. But this concert film documented most of the final “Ziggy” gig at the Hammersmith Odeon on 3rd July that year, minus the Jeff Beck starring encore, and with a few bits of ’behind the scenes’ footage intercut into the proceedings. Originally issued on Betamax (I still have my copy, albeit with no functioning Betamax machine) and VHS, and also issued at some point on Laserdisc, it has been reissued on DVD a few times, most recently in 2003 to mark the 30th anniversary of the gig. There are no real major extras to speak of, but it’s the best you are going to get (EMI 492 9879). It comes housed in a see through slipcase, and includes both a booklet and poster. The gig has long been dismissed as a performance in which Bowie and his band were below par, especially since the release of the 1972 Santa Monica show, and the admission of just about everybody involved that the sound (and vision) that was captured were all of poor quality - but it is an essential release, because it is the only full blown video document of the Ziggy era. If you don’t like it, then you don’t really like music at all.
By 1983, Bowie was a genuine worldwide superstar. Mostly thanks to his new “mainstream” sound, but probably also helped a bit by the existence in the USA of MTV. Bowie had filmed videos for most of the singles taken from his new album, and thus provided perfect material for broadcast on the relatively new channel. As the promo campaign for the LP - his first album on EMI America - “Let’s Dance”, started to wind down, his label decided to cash in on his new found video-assisted fame. Hence the release of the helpfully titled “David Bowie Video EP” (EMI/Picture Music International MVT 990004 2) during the latter part of the year. It included the three clips Bowie had filmed for what were the three UK singles taken from the album, namely the title track, “China Girl” and “Modern Love”. The “China Girl” clip is the ‘X-Rated’ version in which Bowie’s posterior gets some screen time during the closing scene on the beach. One for the ladies, and indeed, several of the men as well I guess. In most instances later on when “China Girl” was included on an updated hits video collection, it was a censored version that was included instead.
The “megastar years” saw Bowie step up in terms of audience reach, and thus, the size of the concert venues he was now expected to fill. 1983’s “Serious Moonlight” tour was initially planned as another trawl around the arenas, but by the end of the European leg of the tour, he was playing the likes of the Milton Keynes Bowl - and not once, but three nights on the trot. That amounted to a lot of people.
By now, the home video revolution was in full swing, and so the powers that be decided to film a Bowie show, rather than just tape one. And so it was that in 1984, we saw a video release documenting the tour. Well, two actually. Bowie’s gig in Vancouver was the one that had been filmed, and the entire show (minus “Modern Love”, see the blog from the month before last as to why) was issued on VHS - and, Betamax as well. However, the show was split into two halves - one half appearing on the first video, and the second half on another. Why? Well, I think that when home videos first appeared, the officially released videotapes were VERY expensive - retailing for the same price that DVD’s used to when they first launched in the late 90s. However, if the video was made to be a bit shorter, then the production costs were thus reduced, and the price was able to come down. At least, I believe that’s why it happened.
Either way, the original VHS releases for the tour were spread across a 50 minute long “Vol 1” and a 50 minute long “Vol 2”. I picked up a 1995 VHS reissue, which did the honourable thing and merged the two volumes into one, used a new sleeve, and generally tidied this madness up.
The tour itself is of major interest. It does, of course, capture Bowie going stellar. He wears his nice suit, has a smart haircut, and doesn’t do “Warszawa”. If you look at the setlist of the video, many of the older songs had been brought in from earlier tours. So, “Station To Station” is still there, “Cracked Actor”, a relic of the 73 and 74 tours, is in there, and the only songs that are new to the stage are mostly either those from “Let’s Dance”, or songs from “Lodger” and “Scary Monsters”, two albums that were never supported by tours. Furthermore, the selections from these albums tend to be the singles, so you end up with a real crowd pleaser of a set - old favourites essentially interspersed with hit 45s. This explains why Bowie decided to retire most of this lot in 1990, as he had played the likes of “Rebel Rebel” and “Young Americans” far, far more times than he had “Joe The Lion” or “Teenage Wildlife”.
After “Reality” and Bowie’s disappearance from view, the label who by that point owned the rights to his “pre-Tin Machine” years were Parlophone, who set about on a slightly low key revamping of the back catalogue (well, either it was low key or I just wasn’t paying attention. When you have all this stuff, you don’t necessarily keep looking to see if it’s come out again!). Aside from the remixed versions of “David Live” and “Stage”, the mid noughties saw a DVD release for “Serious Moonlight”, again in another revised sleeve which used part of the original tour artwork, as opposed to a shot of The Dame on stage (EMI 0946 341539 9).
It included the (nearly) complete gig of course, but also included as a bonus feature, the slightly surreal “Ricochet” rockumentary, originally issued as a stand alone VHS in 1985. Billed as a look behind the scenes of Bowie’s tour of the far east at the end of 83, it is another excuse really for Bowie to do a bit of acting. It takes place in three countries, and so is divided into three segments. Each segment builds up to a performance of a song of two in said country by Dave from the tour itself. So, apart from some bits and bobs of Bowie being ferried around in a taxi, or being filmed doing interviews, there are also some vague “stories” going on at the same time. So in the first part, we also get to follow the trials and tribulations of one man who wants to see Bowie play, but can’t afford the ticket. So there are Bowie-less “TV movie” scenes involving this man, who after various approaches, manages to resolve his woes by simply asking somebody to lend him the money - and they do. Not exactly “It’s A Wonderful Life”. In another segment, Bowie escapes from his hotel and is seen pondering life whilst watching a street opera performance. How any of this can be classed as a behind the scenes ‘documentary’ is beyond me. Anyway, the bonus feature is a good 75 minutes long - this involves an hour of Bowie footage/drama nonsense and about 15 minutes of gig material, four live performances of complete songs from the shows in Hong Kong, Singapore and Bangkok.
Arguably just as bizarre is 1984’s “Jazzin’ For Blue Jean” (EMI/VMC PM 0017). Either the sign of a man trying to emulate the superstar actions of Michael Jackson, a man once again getting a chance to do a bit of acting on the side, a man heading off into a world of avant garde film making, or a combination of all three, this video is simply the full 22 minute long version of the “Blue Jean” promo. It presumably has a title to give it some movie-esque gravitas. It does have a plot, so you get 19 minutes of Bowie the actor, and 3 minutes of pop music in the middle where the bloke from Right Said Fred appears playing guitar. Again, there are no doubts that the intentions here are honourable, a desire to do something a bit left field - but “Blue Jean” is one of Bowie’s most mainstream pop songs, so that deadens the effect. Furthermore, Bowie’s own performance is regarded by some as being downright cheesy, so once more, this isn’t the music world’s equivalent of “Duel”. Most Bowie comps that later included “Blue Jean” went for the heavily shortened TV edit, which basically just features the performance of the song itself from the middle of the clip, and the original full length version has never been made available since, although “alternative” edits have been.
Not previously mentioned I think when I did my original Bowie blogs was 1987’s “Day In Day Out” (PMI MVR 9900682). On the face of it, this could be seen as an attempt by the label to carry on issuing video singles in order for them to put all of Bowie’s new promos out on the shelves (it includes “Loving The Alien”, meaning that all 6 clips Bowie had filmed for EMI singles taken from the studio LP’s up to this point had thus been made available officially) but I think it was more to do with the fact that the clip was quite controversial, and some TV stations refused to play it (it was, indeed, the final Video-Single). Hence, a VHS release (rated “18”) to allow people to get to see what all the fuss was about. The main thing that sticks out of me is the baffling scene where Bowie roller skates through a library.
You get two versions of the A-side, thus meaning you have to endure this nonsense for even longer in the “Extended Dance Version” clip. To be fair, “DIDO” isn’t too bad, it’s a pleasant enough bit of gated drum obsessed pop, but to have fallen this far from the likes of “Low” and “Lodger” within a decade or less is something that I still struggle to come to terms with. I recoiled in horror when “Classic Pop” responded to Bowie’s death by putting a photo of him from this period on the cover of their tribute issue - of all the aspects of his career that you could choose to remember him by, why pick this one?
We have covered Bowie’s 1987 “Glass Spider” releases in the live albums blog. Just to clarify, shows in Sydney were filmed, edited, then issued across a pair of VHS releases in early 88. The second VHS, simply because of the setlist and the removal of certain songs from the show, amounts to a sort of 50 minute long hits set, titled “More Of David Bowie - Glass Spider 2”. You do get to see Bowie attempting to reconnect with his past on a cover of “I Wanna Be Your Dog”, but the mullets and the “80s sound” make it quite hard to even enjoy seeing him rattle through “Time” and “White Light White Heat”. The most common release of the tour is the standard DVD release from 2007 (EMI 0946 3909 6497) which combines the two VHS releases into one single concert film.
By 1993, Bowie had got his career back on track. Ignore those obituaries that claim he did nothing of worth between 1983 and 2013 - I was there people, and “Black Tie White Noise” wasn’t just an improvement over “Never Let Me Down”, it more or less grabbed that thing, buried it, and then trampled all over it’s grave. This was a glorious comeback, written out of history now by the bandwagon jumpers who raved over “The Next Day”, but rightly regarded by Bowie-philes as the actual moment that The Dame started to make glorious music again.
He was newly signed to Arista, more specifically to a subsidiary label called Savage, and the rights to his “pre-Tin Machine”/”post-Laughing Gnome” stuff, ie. The years from 69 to 87, were now in the hands of EMI. EMI responded to the critical and commercial success of “Black Tie” by issuing, at the tail end of 93, the excellent “The Singles Collection” - which included large numbers of quite famous Bowie songs that were not actually singles. To accompany this, they also issued a promo video collection on their affiliate video imprint (Picture Music International) on VHS called, yep, “The Video Collection” (PMI 7243 4911863 9). It is, simply, a run through of most - but not all - of Bowie’s promo clips from “Space Oddity” to “Never Let Me Down” and the “Fame 90” clip. Most of these had thus never been issued before commercially, although the 1989 US boxset “Sound + Vision” had included “Ashes To Ashes” on the VCD bonus disc in the Compact Disc edition of the set.
It runs in ‘single release date’ chronological order, but this is not necessarily the order in which the clips were filmed. “Space Oddity”, for example, was filmed in late 72 to help plug RCA’s reissue of the Philips album from which it was taken, meaning the following “John I’m Only Dancing” is slightly out of place, but it makes sense to indulge in this bit of artistic license. Pop videos weren’t really the thing in the 70s, so the bulk of this video dates from the 80s onwards, which skews things quite a bit. It’s a bit awkward when it jumps from 1973 to 1977, but Bowie simply didn’t film videos for anything during the time, so the “Station To Station” LP is simply erased from history. From a collectors point of view, you get to see the never before released video for 1986’s “As The World Falls Down” - capturing Bowie’s 80s nadir at it’s over-produced peak, I’m afraid - but look at the genius of what else you get on here...”Be My Wife”, “Absolute Beginners”, “Boys Keep Swinging”, “Life On Mars”. It’s not Adele, put it that way.
Bowie had killed off Tin Machine by now, but for whatever reason, didn’t want to resume touring as a solo artist just yet. Instead, he did produce the slightly confusing “Black Tie White Noise” VHS (BMG Video 74321 16622 3) at round about the same time “The Video Collection” appeared. It features Bowie and his band MIMING to selected cuts from the LP, interspersed with David interview footage. It feels like an extended electronic press kit - perhaps that’s what it was? It then concludes with the promo clips for the three singles from the album. A nice souvenir, but a bit random. When the “Black Tie” album was reissued in 2003 to both celebrate it’s 10th birthday and to also get it back in the shops, it came with a DVD featuring this video release. The DVD was not housed in it’s own sleeve, so if you are a completist, you will need the original Video (or Laserdisc, they exist) in your life.
The period around 1999’s “Hours” album would eventually generate a fair amount of Bowie video releases, all a bit oddball to be fair, but video material nevertheless. Several late 90s/early 00s singles were issued as enhanced CD Singles with video material on the CD-Rom section. The release of an atrocious remixed version of “Under Pressure” in 1999 saw a new video created in which Bowie’s performance of the song from the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute gig was mashed up with footage of an earlier Queen stage performance of the song, and included on the CD1 edition of the “new“ single (Parlophone CDQUEENS 28). The CD1 version of the “Survive” single included the video (Virgin VSCDT 1767), whilst a live recording of the same song was included in video form on the CD2 edition (Virgin VSCDX 1767). A bit late, but the brilliant “Bowie being stalked by Trent Reznor” video for “I’m Afraid Of Americans” was included on the CD2 version of “Seven” (Virgin VSCDX 1776), presumably on the basis that being a US only single, some UK fans might not have seen the clip before.
There were some other enhanced CD releases thereafter - the Scumfrog remix of “Loving The Alien” also resulted in a new promo clip being made, and this was added to the enhanced section of the single that was issued by Positiva at the start of the millennium (Positiva CDTIV-172), whilst the accompanying “Club Bowie” album (Virgin VTCD 591) from 2003, a series of pointless remixes and “dance singles with Bowie samples”, came with a clip for the “Club Bolly” mix of “Let’s Dance”. I cannot for the life of me remember what either of these two videos look like. We have also mentioned before the 2009 release of the 1999 filmed “VH1 Storytellers” show (EMI DBVH1), an 8 track CD from the TV show accompanied by a 12 track DVD, which gives a basic overview of the setlist that Bowie was peddling for the handful of “Hours” gigs he played in 1999/2000. More about that tour in my “Bowie Live Part 2” blog in due course.
Let’s rewind a bit to “Survive” and the late 90s again. Bowie declined to film a video for “Seven”, and the promo campaign for “Hours” concluded, more or less, with the triumphant Glastonbury show in 2000. After the abandoned “Toy” project the following year, Bowie returned with 2002’s sublime “Heathen” album. He was now on another new label, having come full circle sort of by ending up on Sony (who did, at some point, have the RCA imprint under their wing). EMI, or now more accurately, Parlophone, thus now had the rights to everything from 1969 to 2001 - or at least, had the power to include material from this period altogether without too many licensing issues. And so, as Sony unleashed “Heathen” on Bowie’s own Isolar imprint, Parlophone unleashed “Best Of Bowie”, famously issued with variant tracklistings in each country, and an update of sorts of the “Singles Collection”. In the UK, “Slowburn” from “Heathen” was actually tacked onto the end, so it brought the story (post-Laughing Gnome) completely up to date.
There was an accompanying DVD release. This too was, in essence, an expanded version of the “Video Collection” but this time around, extra clips for missing singles, and missing “well known” album tracks were included, sourced from TV shows. The set opened with Bowie’s famous 1972 “Whistle Test” appearance, so “Oh You Pretty Things” starts things off. “Space Oddity” now appears after “Jean Genie” and before “Drive In Saturday”, itself taken from the ‘Russell Harty Plus Pop’ show.
Most of the extra clips this time around were either TV performances of at-the-time current singles (“Rebel Rebel”, on a loud sounding show called ‘Top Pop’ in Holland in 74) or were clips used to bring the story up to date. Every clip post-“Fame 90” is here (barring Tin Machine stuff, and the Bowie-less clip for “Real Cool World“, which instead cobbled together clips from the “Cool World“ film), and so the set concludes, slightly low key, with “Survive”. The decision to use TV shows second time around helps to fill in the gaps we had on “TVC” with the 70s stuff, as an example you get “Young Americans” here from the Dick Cavett show in late 74. Anybody who wants to see more of the same appearance will be advised to hunt down the 2007 reissue of “Young Americans”, which includes a DVD of Dave doing “1984” as well (EMI 0946 369 50921) or the “Dick Cavett Rock Icons“ DVD.
There are various easter egg bonuses - I am useless at doing these, but the Discogs page lists them somewhere. These give you extra alternate videos, but it does NOT give you the missing clips for, say, the original “Under Pressure” or “The Drowned Girl”. We shall come to that in a bit. As mentioned earlier, after Bowie went into hiding after “Reality”, Parlophone started to reissue material from the past. “Best Of Bowie” got a 2007 reissue, mainly a move to turn the original gatefold sleeved issue into a standard jewel case release, and this happens to be my copy (Parlophone 0946 3897 1191).
Slight rewind again. In 2003, Bowie launched the “Reality” album with the glorious 45 “New Killer Star”. With the DVD now successfully installed as the home video format of choice, Iso issued the single in the UK as a DVD Single only - no vinyl, no CD formats, and certainly no cassette release (Iso 674275 9). It included the promo clip and the EPK for the LP, along with an audio only version of “Love Missile F1-11”. “Reality” itself was also subjected to a DVD release when a late 2003 reissue of the LP saw a change in sleeve, change in bonus tracks, and the inclusion of a free DVD featuring Bowie performing the album in full (Iso 512555 3). This is an especially interesting release as a number of these songs simply didn’t feature on the tour that followed.
That tour was documented by the accurately titled “A Reality Tour”, filmed in 2003 and released the following year. After years of being wary of playing too many old hits, Bowie had by now settled on a setlist that mixed new songs, rarities (“Battle For Britain“, “Fantastic Voyage“) and crowd pleasing faves (“Hang Onto Yourself“ and “Ziggy“ closed the show). In 2008, it was one of several music videos that were reissued as part of a “Visual Milestones - On Stage” series, with each release using similar artwork designs, and this version may be of more interest as it thus uses a quite different looking sleeve to the audio edition that you might already own (Columbia 88697 278019).
By 2007, and Bowie had gone into hiding. EMI meanwhile were continuing to mine the back catalogue and since the late 90s, had been issuing a series of quite baffling best of releases, featuring what I can only refer to as having “eclectic” track listings, each covering a specific period of his career. In 2005, a 3 disc set called “The Platinum Collection” was issued which included the two discs released so far, and a third disc of stuff from the eighties. For continuity reasons, EMI decided to issue this disc in it’s own right in 07 as “The Best Of Bowie 1980/1987” (EMI 0946 3864782 9).
The CD itself is, of course, an awkward one. A mix of brilliant “Scary Monsters” material mashed up with some of the less exotic fluff that followed. Same goes, I guess, for the DVD. But as I once said before, Bowie’s 45s from this period are overall, not too bad, and this disc is thus a decent watch. It runs in chronological order, from “Ashes To Ashes” to “Time Will Crawl” (so no “Never Let Me Down”, apparently because it was never officially released at the time, and indeed a few other clips from “Best Of Bowie” are also missing). But it does include (the original) “Under Pressure”, included on various Queen best of collections over the years, but until now absent from any Bowie ones, either because it was available on the Queen sets or perhaps the absence of both Dave and Queen from the clip itself meant that the record label thought nobody would be interested in it. You also get “When The Wind Blows” and, from the “Baal” EP, “The Drowned Girl”, filmed at the same time as “Wild Is The Wind” and thus included here instead of that. Despite being issued as a single in 1982, “Peace On Earth” is also missing, I guess, because it really dates from 1977. But you can get hold of the clip officially, courtesy of a 1999 US CD Single which has the video of Bowie and Bing crooning away on Bing’s Christmas show on the enhanced CD-Rom element of the disc (Oglio OGL 85001-2).
As mentioned in an earlier blog, the expanded version of “The Next Day” at the tail end of 2013 came as a triple disc release, including a DVD of the four music videos made for the album by that point (Iso 88883 787812) - namely “Where Are We Now?”, “The Stars Are Out Tonight“, “The Next Day“ and “Valentines Day“. A video was made for “Love Is Lost” more or less at the same time this edition of the album was being released which meant that, unlike the “Black Tie” VHS, the “Next Day” DVD is a nice, but ultimately, incomplete item. Think of it as a Video EP, rather than any sort of box-ticking exercise.
And for now, that’s it I think. I was convinced Bowie’s 1978 “Musikladen” show was given an official (but unauthorised) release in the 90s, but I can’t find anything other than bootleg looking releases. Get in touch or add a comment below if you can help. There are promo clips still missing in action (“Slowburn” was apparently exhumed from the vaults years after it had been filmed) and there are of course the now famous clips from the “Blackstar” album, so maybe we will get another updated “Best Of Bowie” at some point. Not that I want to encourage the record companies to extract some more cash from me but it would make sense to somehow tie up these loose ends at some point.
Next Bowie blog the month after next.
Thursday, 11 August 2016
Despite the fact that the sound of Gary Numan’s debut solo LP was drawn from totally different influences than that of the first Tubeway Army album, you won’t find too many people who like one act and not the other. Indeed, as soon as Numan started touring as a solo artist, large numbers of old Tubeway Army songs were installed into the set, as Numan knew they would be crowd pleasers. And to this day, still are.
But it makes sense to look at his former band in isolation, simply because Numan’s own solo career has run on for years, with a back catalogue that is both lengthy and at times, quite complex. It probably needs covering in multiple blogs. So before we even think about going there, it makes sense to look at the band Numan was in beforehand.
Gary Webb had emerged during the punk scene of 76, and hooked up with bass player Paul Gardiner in a band called The Lasers, before the pair decided to form their own band. Recruiting a relative of his to be their drummer, Jess Lidyard, the trio formed Tubeway Army in 1977. A demo tape was recorded deliberately in the punk rock vein, as Numan later explained, to garner interest from record labels, and the band were dutifully signed to indie label Beggars Banquet. The band had an interest in science fiction, and each of the band members were initially referred to by single, almost “alien” type names - Webb was credited as “Valerian”.
The band’s first single was “That’s Too Bad”, backed with “Oh! Didn’t I Say”, both songs being given equal billing on the front cover. By all accounts, the single was issued in relatively small numbers, with just 4000 copies pressed, a combination of both the then obscure status of Beggars and the band themselves being virtually unknown. By the time the single was released, Lidyard had been temporarily replaced by Bob Simmonds, and the photo of the band used on the back cover featured the new line up instead of the line up that actually featured on the record itself.
When the band went into the studio to record a second single, the personnel had changed again, and “Bombers” featured the new 4-man line up of the band on it’s cover, although Webb’s image was far more prominent than those of his fellow band members. Although “Bombers” was still very much a guitar based track, it had a slightly more mainstream sound than it’s punky predecessor, which may well explain why it slotted into Numan’s solo setlists in the early 80s where it was performed in his, by-then, trademark synth style.
In late 1978, the band issued their self titled debut LP. The lineup had reverted back to the original trio, with Lidyard back in the group. Beggars only pressed 5000 copies of the album - again, seemingly because it was felt there was no demand for any more, and I guess the label might have gone under had they tried to press too many copies. It came in a sleeve which, you might think, looks like the sort of dodgy looking cover you’d expect to see on a budget compilation release, with a slightly tacky band logo filling up the entire front image - made all the more surprising when you realise that the superior and more common sleeve it gained when it was reissued was not the original cover, you’d have expected it to have been the other way round. All 5000 copies were pressed on blue vinyl. After the band found fame in 1979, Beggars reissued it in the new, far more stylish sleeve - a monochrome cover with a portrait of Numan on the cover, and a new, “professional” looking band logo printed at the top.
Although the album is still often thought of as being more aligned to their punk roots, the legend goes that some of the more electronic numbers on the album came about after Numan found a Minimoog synth lying about in the recording studio, and had a bit of a play on it. This would have something of a minor influence on the debut LP, but it was only really after the release of that album that Numan, who by now had dropped the Valerian moniker (after the release of “Bombers”), began to really push the band in a synth based direction, having been completely fascinated by the sounds he thought he could produce on it.
Seemingly also determined to move away from the band’s punk beginnings after being unhappy at the violence that sometimes erupted at punk gigs, Numan more or less reinvented the band overnight. In March 1979, the band issued their third single, the dark, brooding, electro pop of “Down In The Park”, an absolute age away from the rudimentary three chord thrash of the debut 45. On the front cover of the 7” was a new look Numan, dressed all in black whilst staring forlornly out of a room lit by a single light bulb and a lamp. It seemed to conjure up an air of isolation, the short blond hair adding to the almost robotic vision that Numan seemed to project. On the back, a close up of his eye, complete with Bowie-esque make up and eyeliner, and a pupil that looked quite space age. There was also a now rare 12” issued, with an extra bonus track and housed in a completely different sleeve. Some copies underwent an accident in the pressing plant, and produced a bizarre concoction which mixed up the image with that of a Leif Garrett album sleeve. The bonus track on the 12” was an alternate version of a song called “I Nearly Married A Human”, the original version of which was due to be featured on the band’s second LP. The title itself suggests a further fascination with the alien concept.
“Down In The Park” sold in meagre numbers again, although it would later become an almost permanent feature of Numan shows. It was the lead 45 from the band’s second LP, “Replicas”. The front cover used the same exact image as the 7" single, and even the rear cover of that 7” appeared on the back of the album - Beggars must have been too skint to take any more photos! But this time around, things were about to change.
After the album’s release, notable for featuring no photos of any of the band other than Numan, the second song from the LP was issued as a single. “Are ‘Friends’ Electric?” catapulted the band into the mainstream. With a sleeve depicting another alien-like image of Numan, the song itself concerned the themes of isolation and loneliness, and seemed to place Numan in a strange world where robots were his best companions, and not humans (“but are 'friends' electric? Mine’s broke down”). You can, perhaps, read into this the fact that Numan was many years later diagnosed as having a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome. He admitted in 2001 “polite conversation has never been one of my strong points...I have trouble interacting with people”. For anybody who, in 1979, felt as though they couldn’t relate to the world they lived in, then Numan must have made complete and utter sense.
Helped, most likely, by a 7” picture disc pressing that used the same photo as that featured on the sleeve of the black vinyl edition, “Friends” hit the number 1 spot, making Tubeway Army one of the more unlikely chart pop acts of the decade. Sales of “Replicas” started to pick up, and by July, it too had topped the charts. It is an undisputed classic, it’s synthetic electronic stylings predating the likes of Depeche Mode and Soft Cell, and getting the balance between mainstream pop and futuristic synth sounds just right.
For reasons that I have never fully understood, Numan decided to go one stage further. Having removed any traces of his bandmates from the artwork of “Replicas”, he now presented himself as a solo artist, and by the end of the year, had released his debut solo album “The Pleasure Principle”, which continued the alien/robot like image, and the electronic, Kraftwerk-esque sound. The idea of abandoning your band the minute they had had a hit record might have seemed odd, but it worked. His debut solo 45 “Cars” became an enormous hit just weeks after “Are 'Friends' Electric?” had hit the charts.
Numan later found himself being invited to perform both songs on the Christmas edition of “Top Of The Pops”. The result? The same backing band who appeared with Numan as Tubeway Army doing “Friends” were the same backing band backing a solo Numan when he came to do “Cars”. No wonder in later years, the two “artists” got lumped together.
As “Cars” went to the top of the chart in the UK, Beggars began to cash in - unsurprisingly - on the man who was now their new star signing. The first Tubeway Army singles were reissued as a double pack 7” in August 79, some copies using the original “That’s Too Bad” cover on the front, whilst others used the photo of the band that had appeared on the rear of the “Bombers” 45. Both variants were housed in a gatefold sleeve, and whichever one you bought, the front and rear covers of both singles were featured in the artwork somewhere. There was also the aforementioned reissue of the debut LP, issued second time around on Cassette as well as Vinyl, and pressed in considerably larger numbers.
As early as 1983, Numan’s newfound pop star status was being used to try and drum up interest in his old band. Reissues of the “Tubeway Army” album on EMI’s Fame imprint were rather tackily credited to “Tubeway Army featuring Gary Numan” - later reissues of both this and “Replicas” were similarly credited in this way. Expanded reissues of both albums were conducted in 1998/99, with the “Tubeway Army” name now correctly reinstated. The debut album appeared as a double CD set, with a live concert on disc 2, whilst “Replicas” was a single disc job, adding some outtakes from the album sessions along with the B-sides of “Are 'Friends' Electric?“ (“We Are So Fragile“) and the “Down In The Park” 12“ (“Do You Need The Service?” and “I Nearly Married A Human 2”). In 2008, the album was reissued again as a double disc release, credited to “Gary Numan + Tubeway Army”, and dubbed “Replicas Redux”. The three B-sides appeared on disc 1 with the original 10 track album, whilst disc 2 included an “alternate” version of the LP. The outtakes from the 1999 reissue were included second time around as well. To coincide with this reissue, a 7” picture disc was issued, a double A-side release of “Are 'Friends' Electric?” and “Down In The Park”.
Tubeway Army material continued to appear long after the band had ceased to exist. The demos that were recorded for Beggars were eventually issued on a 1984 album called “The Plan”, later reissued in expanded form on CD to include further outtakes along with the five tracks from the first two 45’s. And you will be hard pushed to find a Numan “best of” that doesn’t cover the Tubeway Army years. A 1987 reissue of “Cars”, remixed and dubbed the “E Reg Model” version, included the original “Are 'Friends' Electric?” as a B-side - credited simply to Numan, with no mention of the Tubeway Army name at all. Trying to detail these oddities isn’t easy, but future articles on Numan’s solo career that I hope to do will obviously identify the occasions when this happened. It is worth mentioning that many of the former members of the band during it’s final months later formed a group called Dramatis, who then backed Numan on a 1981 solo single called “Love Needs No Disguise”, which they included on their first LP. When the album later got reissued, the entire record was recredited - cheekily - to “Tubeway Army Featuring Gary Numan”. Probably one for completists only.
Anybody specifically hoping for a Tubeway Army reunion will be unlucky. Aside from the fact that “Replicas” was the subject of a Numan solo tour when the “Redux” release took place, the only other permanent member of the band other than Numan, was co-founding member Paul Gardiner, who died of a drugs overdose in 1984.
Now, anybody starting from scratch will only need a handful of releases to tick the boxes - the expanded debut album from 98, the “Redux” version of “Replicas”, the expanded “The Plan” and then one copy of each single. But to try and show you some of the other oddities that appeared, I have listed selected releases aside from these where the artwork or the band credits differ. There are more variants than listed below, but for anybody with money to burn, these are the most interesting ones. The 45s list is a fairly complete list, as the album reissues in the 90s took into account all the flipsides, so it almost doesn’t matter what version of “Are 'Friends' Electric?” you buy, you won’t be losing out in any way.
Tubeway Army (1978, Blue Vinyl LP, Beggars Banquet BEGA 4)
Tubeway Army (1983, LP, Fame FA 3060, “Numan” sleeve credited to “Tubeway Army Featuring Gary Numan”)
Tubeway Army (1983, Cassette, Fame TC-FA 3060, “Numan” sleeve credited to “Tubeway Army Featuring Gary Numan”)
Tubeway Army (1988, LP, Beggars Banquet BBL 4, “Numan” sleeve credited to “Tubeway Army Featuring Gary Numan”)
Tubeway Army (1988, Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBLC 4, “Numan” sleeve credited to “Tubeway Army Featuring Gary Numan”)
Tubeway Army (1998, 2 x CD, Beggars Banquet BBL 4 CD, “Numan” sleeve, expanded edition)
Tubeway Army (2010, Blue Vinyl LP, Vinyl 180 VIN180 LP026)
Replicas (1979, LP, Beggars Banquet BEGA 7)
Replicas (1979, Cassette, Beggars Banquet BEGC 7)
Replicas (1988, LP, Beggars Banquet BBL 7, credited to “Gary Numan + Tubeway Army“)
Replicas (1988, Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBLC 7)
Replicas (1995, Cassette, Music Club MUSMC 509, altered p/s without light bulb)
Replicas (1995, CD, Music Club MUSCD 509, altered p/s without light bulb)
Replicas (1998, CD, Beggars Banquet, BBL 7 CD, expanded edition)
Replicas Redux (2008, 2 x CD, Beggars Banquet BBQCD 2057, credited to “Gary Numan + Tubeway Army”, mail order copies include bonus CD with extra alternate mixes [GNCD 2008])
2 Original Albums On 1 Cassette (1982, Cassette, Beggars Banquet BEGD 1, credited to “Gary Numan And Tubeway Army”, with “Replicas” on side 1 and “The Pleasure Principle” on side 2)
The Plan (1984, LP, Beggars Banquet BEGA 55)
The Plan (1984, Picture Disc LP, Beggars Banquet BEGA 55 P)
The Plan (1984, Cassette, Beggars Banquet BEGC 55)
The Plan (1988, LP, Beggars Banquet BBL 55)
The Plan (1988, Cassette, Beggars Banquet BBLC 55)
The Plan (1999, CD, Beggars Banquet BBL 55 CD, expanded edition in new sleeve)
Replicas / The Plan (1987, CD, Beggars Banquet BEGA 7 CD)
Replicas / The Plan (1993, 2 x CD, Beggars Banquet BEG 152 CD, expanded editions of both albums, although “The Plan“ is missing 2 tracks when compared to 1999 edition)
Tubeway Army / Dance (1993, 2 x CD, Beggars Banquet BEG 151 CD, includes bonus tracks)
That’s Too Bad/Oh! Didn’t I Say (1978, 7”, Beggars Banquet BEG 5)
Bombers/Blue Eyes/O.D. Receiver (1978, 7”, Beggars Banquet, BEG 8)
Down In The Park/Do You Need The Service (1979, 7”, Beggars Banquet BEG 17)
Down In The Park/Do You Need The Service/I Nearly Married A Human 2 (1979, 12”, Beggars Banquet BEG 17T, unique p/s)
Are 'Friends' Electric?/We Are So Fragile (1979, 7”, Beggars Banquet BEG 18)
Are 'Friends' Electric?/We Are So Fragile (1979, 7” Picture Disc, Beggars Banquet BEG 18P, in clear sleeve with backing insert)
That’s Too Bad/Oh! Didn’t I Say/Bombers/Blue Eyes/O.D. Receiver (1979, 2 x 7”, Beggars Banquet BACK 2, some copies issued as 4 track releases without final track)
Are 'Friends' Electric?/Down In The Park (1981, AA-side Cassette, Beggars Banquet SPC 4, unique p/s)
The Peel Sessions EP: Me! I Disconnect From You (BBC Version)/Down In The Park (BBC Version)/I Nearly Married A Human (BBC Version) (1987, 12”, Strange Fruit SFPS 032)
Are 'Friends' Electric?/I Die You Die (1990, 7”, Old Gold OG 9917)
Are 'Friends' Electric?/Down In The Park (2008, AA-side 7” Picture Disc, Beggars Banquet GNS 2008)
Note: there are also a pair of boxsets issued by Vinyl 180 in 2010 - one houses “The Plan” along with the first album, and the other includes all three plus “The Pleasure Principle”. They were both pressed in very limited numbers, so may be quite hard to find.
Note 2: in 85, Beggars issued what seemed to be a Cassette only release credited to “Gary Numan” in big letters, with the words “Tubeway Army” in smaller lettering beneath (BEGC 7879). In addition to this, they released three singles dealing with Tubeway Army material, but all were also heavily credited to Numan as a solo artist. Only the first (BEG 92E) even bothered to mention the band name on the labels at all, with a curious credit stating “Gary Numan Tubeway Army 1978”. We shall list these in any future Numan solo articles in greater detail because of these quirks. I have also avoided any hits compilations that mix Numan solo material with Tubeway Army material, as these will also make more sense to include in a Numan solo article as they usually weigh heavily towards the solo stuff.
Sunday, 10 July 2016
When Bowie passed away, various experts came out of the woodwork to talk about how he was more than just a great singer, but also a great actor, a great painter, and also, a supreme stage performer. But in all honesty, Bowie was never a regular touring act, spending several periods of his career in a state of gig-less inactivity. There were no tours during the late 70s or early 80s, whilst live performances between 1991 and early 1995 were virtually non existent.
In addition to this, there were some tours that were nothing more than trawls around the festival circuit (2002’s “Heathen” shows), and other tours where getting tickets was a bit of a lottery as Bowie hit the clubs instead of the arenas (1997’s shows in support of “Earthling”). Technically, the only ’proper’ tour Bowie did after the shows for 1995’s “Outside” were the “Reality” shows in 2003/2004 - which turned out to be his last.
As such, the gaps between one tour and the next means that looking at Bowie’s gig life, post-”Space Oddity”, is not quite as daunting as you might think. This was not a man who played shows every year, unlike Dylan has post-1987. So I thought it would be fun to look at Bowie’s tours from the “Ziggy” days onwards, looking at what was officially released from each, and when. The early years haven’t really spawned anything official at all, the best you will get is the “In Concert” stuff on the “Bowie At The Beeb” album, so we are looking here at what happened after Arnold Corns had been abandoned, and “Hunky Dory” had started to prick up people’s ears. This is part 1, looking at the period from 1972 to 1988. There are a few releases in here not previously documented on earlier Bowie blogs I have done, so it’s not completely pointless, but I hope you enjoy it. Part 2, from 1995 to 2004 will appear early next year I think.
1972 - 1973
The Ziggy Stardust tour was, in reality, a series of smaller tours sort of “clumped” together, but were all presented as a showcase for Ziggy and the Spiders From Mars. The first handful of shows were now legendary, under attended, gigs in Aylesbury and at the Toby Jug pub in London, but by the time “Aladdin Sane” was out, Bowie was able to fill venues like Earls Court. For some years, there were no official releases of any of these shows, and by the time they finally did start to appear, they sort of appeared in ‘reverse’ chronological order.
In 1979, a film documenting the final gig of the tour, the now famous (second) show at Hammersmith Odeon on 3rd July 1973, was released, and generally became known as “Ziggy Stardust”. It had been filmed by D A Pennebaker, who had been asked to film about 20 minutes worth of footage on RCA’s behalf, but after seeing the previous night’s show, Pennebaker was so impressed, he decided to film it all. The film was, for the most part, a fully fledged document of the show, interspersed with bits of backstage footage, and some great “pre gig” scenes filmed outside the venue of the fans, which captured the whole Ziggy phenomenon. RCA also recorded the entire show, ostensibly because it was the last gig of that part of the tour, although it sometimes seems a bit of a coincidence that it would turn out to be the show during which Bowie killed Ziggy - Pennebaker has, in one interview, claimed that he was approached by RCA specifically because they thought ‘it might be the last show he will play’.
Eventually, Pennebaker’s film was given a proper theatrical release, and emerged in 1983, before making it onto home video soon after. RCA decided to issue a “soundtrack” album to coincide with the cinema release. Bowie, having moved away from music in the early 80s to concentrate more on his acting career, thus incurred the wrath of RCA who decided to fill the market with Bowie product whenever things went quiet. By 1981, Bowie was so convinced that RCA would dig the tapes out of the archives, that he made the decision to try and produce a decent sounding mix of the show himself with help from long time producer Tony Visconti. “Ziggy Stardust The Motion Picture” was thus issued, initially on LP and Cassette, in October 83, although it was later given a (now deleted) CD release (EMI CDEMD 1037) in 1992.
Neither the film nor the LP featured the full gig - the encore had included performances of “Jean Genie” and “Round And Round”, with Jeff Beck guesting on guitar - and even though these songs were shown in an hour long US TV special which documented the show in 1974 (available on Youtube), Beck refused to allow for either the LP or movie to include these songs when the “official“ release was being put together. Restrictions due to the logistics of vinyl saw “Changes” moved towards the end of the record, appearing at the start of side 4, whilst “Width Of A Circle” was heavily edited. “Cracked Actor” was actually longer than the version in the film, as Pennebaker declined to show the intro to the song in the movie.
In 2003, a 30th anniversary reissue was conducted. Not only did the film reappear on DVD in remixed form, but so did the soundtrack. The running order was revamped so that the songs appeared in the same order as the film, whilst “Width Of A Circle” was included in unedited form - with a running time some five minutes longer than the 1983 version. According to my notes, the version in the film is still slightly edited, but I could be wrong. The Beck tracks were still missing. The 2003 version was slightly retitled, appearing as “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars - The Motion Picture Soundtrack”, and appeared on both CD and Double Red Vinyl (EMI ZIGGYRIP 3773). 2014’s “Five Years” boxset includes not only albums originally issued in the 1969-1973 period, but live albums taped during the same time frame. The box thus includes the 2003 version of the LP. The box has been issued on both vinyl and a slightly more affordable CD set (Parlophone DBXL 1), and the LP itself is now available as a stand alone vinyl release for about £20.
Some of the songs have appeared on other occasions. “White Light White Heat” was issued as a 7” by RCA to promote the album (RCA 372), with the live version of “Cracked Actor” on the b-side, using the same front cover image as that on the album. The 1989 “Sound + Vision” boxset (technically only ever available in the UK on import) included three songs from the album - “Ziggy Stardust”, “White Light” and “Rock N Roll Suicide”, the latter minus it’s ’farewell speech’ ending. This track got yet another lease of life in 2014, when it appeared on the flip of a Record Store Day 7” picture disc reissue of the studio mix of “Rock N Roll Suicide“ itself (Parlophone DBROCK 40).
It was the CD edition of the “Sound + Vision” box which also provided the next bundle of official recordings from the Ziggy tour. The boxset came with a bonus disc, which included three previously unissued live recordings of “John I’m Only Dancing”, “Changes” and “The Supermen”, all taped at a show at Boston Music Hall on 1st October 1972 (Rykodisc RCS 90120). In 2003, an expanded 2-CD 30th anniversary edition of “Aladdin Sane” included all three tracks on the second disc of the package (in a different order) along with a previously unheard take of “Life On Mars” from the same show (EMI 583 0122). Then, in 2013, a 40th anniversary picture disc reissue of the “Life On Mars” 7” was issued, which included the live version of “Mars” from the Boston gig again on the flip (Parlophone DBMARS 40). So, four tracks, and a multitude of ways to get them. The “Aladdin Sane” reissue is probably the easiest approach.
The 2 disc “Aladdin Sane” also included two other live recordings from the tour. There was a “lo fi” recording of “Drive In Saturday” from the Cleveland Public Auditorium, taped on 25th November 1972. It must have been lifted straight from an audience recording, but no other songs from the same show have appeared officially yet. And there was also a recording of “Jean Genie” from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on 20th October 1972.
The Santa Monica gig had done the rounds on bootleg for years, having been originally taped for US radio. In 1994, Bowie’s former management company, Mainman, re-emerged with a new label entitled Golden Years. They would release three Bowie related releases over the next couple of years, all of which were issued without Bowie’s consent. “Santa Monica 72” (Golden Years GY 002) was the first such release, a good quality reissue of the full gig, complete with DJ introductions. The UK release looked good, and came with a free reproduction of the original ticket, although some of the overseas releases look more like bootlegs. The Mainman pressing eventually went out of print, and Bowie issued an official release in 2008, slightly retitled “Live Santa Monica 72”, which was more or less the same as the 1994 version. Of interest is that the front cover, whilst different from the Mainman one, includes as part of it’s artwork, a reprint of the ticket (again). It was almost as if Bowie and his team acknowledged the importance of the original release, and were simply retooling it to meet their own approval. The “Five Years” boxset includes this version of the album.
Several of the Santa Monica songs resurfaced on other Mainman releases. Aside from a slightly pointless reappearance for “Ziggy” on the next Golden Years Bowie release, 1995’s “RarestOneBowie” - more on this one in a bit - three tracks from the gig turned up on a CD EP at the same time, the first time “Ziggy Stardust” had appeared as a UK single (Golden Years GYCDS 002). The extra tracks were “Waiting For The Man” and “Jean Genie”. Meanwhile, the newspaper freebie album “iSelect” (EMI UPDB 001), a joint release between EMI and the Mail On Sunday, included “Hang On To Yourself”, as part of an attempt to promote the reissued 2008 version.
As for “RarestOneBowie” (Golden Years GY 014), this hotch potch of odds and sods also included other recordings from the Ziggy tour which, again, remain the only ‘official’ releases from these shows. The final two tracks on the album were a version of “My Death” taped at New York’s Carnegie Hall on 28.9.1972, and the album concluded with another lo-fi recording, “I Feel Free”, from the Kingston Polytechnic on 6.5.1972. Bowie had finally recorded a studio version of the track for 1993’s “Black Tie White Noise”, and it was obvious that this live version had again been snaffled from a bootleg, and included for it’s historical importance.
Bowie’s 1974 tour of America, often referred to somewhat generically as the “Diamond Dogs” tour, not only showed that Bowie was far from being ’retired’, but was a showcase of his new love of soul music. It has been claimed by some that this was the tour in which Bowie changed musical direction halfway through, but this is not strictly true. Yes, the final leg of the tour was dubbed “The Soul Tour”, which boasted a new stage lineup, altered setlist and simplified stage production, but even before the “Diamond Dogs” album had been completed, the first strains of Bowie’s “Plastic Soul” period were already in situ. Just watch the late ‘73 “1980 Floor Show”, a US TV special filmed - strangely - in London, where the likes of “1984” were given their first airing, and you can hear that the seeds were already being sown.
Bowie’s management had been lining up a US tour for the fall of 1973 after the Hammersmith shows, but the killing of Ziggy put a kibosh on that idea. That may or may not explain why “Diamond Dogs” was only promoted on the other side of the Atlantic - what is known is that at first, the tour was designed as a big, theatrical extravaganza, which would have made it difficult, logistically and financially, to cart around the globe. Seen as one of the earliest examples of the modern day ’stadium rock’ spectacle, the stage design saw Bowie inhabiting a place known as “Hunger City” - an idea floated early on was that the show would play for multiple nights in each city, thus giving the “Hunger City” backdrop a sort of home for the week, but this idea was never followed through. In certain cities, Bowie did play what were almost mini residencies, presumably due to healthy ticket sales, and this did at least give the road crew a rest, as the elaborate stage design reportedly took 36 hours to build.
As expected, the new album featured heavily in the setlists - but from day one, the “Plastic Soul” vibe was evident. “Rebel Rebel”, a glam, Ziggy-esque stomper on the LP, was retooled as a loose, funky, sax driven groove. It would take years before Bowie would ever get round to playing a version that sounded relatively faithful to the original. Songs from the Ziggy era remained in place, with the Hammersmith closer “Rock N Roll Suicide” routinely used to close the shows, but by now, had been redesigned as a slow and swaying piece of minimalist R&B, as opposed to the anthemic, rocking, call to arms it had been on the “Ziggy” tour.
Bowie used the tour to try out new material, including performances of a revamped “John I’m Only Dancing” and “It’s Gonna Be Me”, neither of which made it onto the next record. But by the time the tour had been rechristened for it’s final leg, songs from the forthcoming “Young Americans” album were being performed on stage, Bowie quite possibly having decided by this point exactly what was going to appear on the LP, and what was being put into the archives.
Bowie played in Philadelphia during both the first and third sections of the tour, and first time around, played six shows at the Tower Theater on the edge of the city. By all accounts, all of the shows were recorded for what would be Bowie’s first live album, the late 1974 release “David Live”. Initial copies in some countries cited that the album had been recorded over two nights, but with the wrong dates shown (Bowie had left Philadelphia before the first show was alleged to have occurred), and later editions listed two alternate dates, which did actually match the dates of gigs Bowie played there. But experts have stated that the album features material from at least three of the shows.
It was issued as a double album, and as such, was a reasonable document of a typical gig. Space constraints prevented every song that the band played on those nights from being included, but there was space for Bowie’s cover of “Knock On Wood”, which was issued as a 7” single to help promote the album. On the flipside was an outtake from the “David Live” tapes, a magnificently trumped up recording of “Panic In Detroit”, taking the one time Bo Diddley shuffle of a tune, and reinventing it as a piece of epic, thrilling, funk (RCA 2466).
“David Live” had it’s detractors. Be it the ghostly looking Bowie on the cover, or the ‘stilted’ performances, some critics had the knives out. But I have always thought it was a fascinating, and dare I say it, IMPORTANT album - rather than offer up facsimile versions of the studio recordings, Bowie here offered up an album of well known material, but presented it entirely in a form you wouldn’t have heard it in before. Not even The Beatles ever did that. It’s one of my favourite live albums ever.
In the late 70s, long before albums were pressed in the EU and then distributed across the whole of the European Union (that might be over post-Brexit), most countries had their own pressing plants, and this would result in selected European nations issuing albums for distribution exclusively within that country. And so, an edited highlights version of the album surfaced as “Rock Concert” in certain overseas locations. Dismissed as pointless by some, I think it is an essential release. Mainly because there are some unique mixes on it. Bowie and his band would often finish one song and race straight into another, but the “RC” album simply picks whatever it fancied, meaning that you get to hear the opening strains of the next song in the show just as that particular tracks fades out. Well, you might not be excited by that at all, but I love it for that reason. I know - you could just get the same effect by turning the volume down in the right places whilst playing your normal “David Live”. In 1982, this ’shortened’ album was reissued on LP in Holland as “At The Tower Philadelphia” (RCA PL 42993), which used a healthy looking image of Bowie on stage on the cover. They did this by using a picture from the 1978 tour. Still, I was thrilled when I bought this album as a kid, and still cherish it to this day. I was always intrigued as to why no effort was made to put either Bowie’s name nor the album title on the front cover though.
In 1990, as part of the EMI/Rykodisc reissue campaign, “David Live” got the expanded reissue treatment. For some reason, there was no place for the live “Panic In Detroit”. It had had a few second leases of life, appearing on the “Bowie Rare” LP in 1982 (RCA PL 45406), and on the B-side of the RCA Lifetimes picture sleeved 7” reissue of “Knock On Wood” the following year (RCA BOW 505), but not this time around. The expanded “David Live” was issued on vinyl, tape and CD (EMI CDDBLD 1) with previously unheard versions of “Time” and The Ohio Players’ “Here Today Gone Tomorrow” (thus providing you with further evidence that Bowie had already ‘gone soul’ long before the third leg of the tour). They were added at the end of the album, so you could sort of pretend they were the encores, but both would normally be performed midway through the show.
There are other releases of note. In 2005, “David Live” was reissued again (EMI 311 2482). This time around, the two bonus tracks were moved to their correct place in the running order, and “Panic In Detroit” was also restored. This left one song that had been played at the Philly gigs missing, “Space Oddity” - and so this too was included in the reissue. The whole gig was remixed to boot. Meanwhile, the title track of the “Young Americans” album was issued as a 7” in 1975, which included the live version of “Suffragette City” from the “DL” album on the flip (RCA 2523). There was also a Lifetimes reissue of this single as well in 83 (RCA BOW 506). The 40th anniversary picture disc reissue series has also seen mixes from the 2005 version appear on vinyl for the first time, with the reissue of “Diamond Dogs” including the live take of the same song from the LP on the flip (Parlophone DBDOGS 40), whilst the 2014 reissue of “Knock On Wood” was issued as a AA with the live recording of “Rock N Roll With Me” (Parlophone DBKOW 40). The “Sound + Vision” box included three selections from the album, namely “Suffragette City”, “Watch That Man” and “Cracked Actor”. An expanded 4-CD version of the boxset issued in 2003 was the first ‘official’ release in the UK for the set, and is now available in a more compact edition, courtesy of a charming 2014 reissue (Parlophone DBSAVX 1).
Any other recordings you might hear from the tour are boots. There is, in Australia, a release called “A Portrait in Flesh” which has been described by some as being semi-legal, as some state it’s source is from a radio broadcast, where copyright issues outside of the US for such releases can get quite “fuzzy“. More later. Taped at the Los Angeles Universal Ampitheatre, it has done the rounds on bootlegs for years, if it was me, I would just try and locate “a” copy of it, rather than pay through the nose for a release that, despite having a barcode, is still considered by some as a bootleg, rather than a “RarestOneBowie” style unauthorised release. My version is on a 2-CD release called “Strange Fascination” from 1990, and it does the job just fine.
Bowie’s 1976 tour, later named the “Isolar” tour after the moniker that appeared on the tour programme, remains one of Bowie’s most famous tours, and yet one of the least well documented in terms of audio material. From the surrealist imagery that appeared on film just before Bowie took to the stage, to the black and white lighting, and Bowie’s monochrome “Thin White Duke” stage character, the photos from the tour range from stylish to impossibly cool. And yet, only one live album officially exists - and even that is buried away as part of a boxset.
The tour was to promote 1976’s sublime “Station To Station”, and four of the six songs from the album were regularly performed. Most recent single “Golden Years” was rumoured to have been played at least once, but no more. In some respects, just as the 1974 tour had kept chunks of “Ziggy” material, the 1976 tour was not too far removed from the “Diamond Dogs” one, with “Panic In Detroit” once again appearing as a reworked piece of funk, whilst the cover of “Waiting For The Man” was back in the set, and re-invented as a piece of soul music. The shows would open, as the LP did, with “Station” and there was still some “Ziggy” era songs floating about, with “Suffragette City” usually being played second, and “Jean Genie” providing the climax to the encore. After declining to tour the UK in 74, Bowie returned to his homeland, playing six nights at the Empire Pool in London in May 76. They were his only shows in Britain.
Bowie once stated that he was disappointed that no official film was made, given that the shows had a very striking visual element - but footage of the gigs do exist in part, courtesy of at least one TV show, and parts of it were shown (in the background) during the lengthy rolling Sky News reports that were aired on the day of Bowie’s death. Rehearsal footage of complete songs also exist on Youtube.
In 1991, the EMI/Rykodisc reissue of “Station To Station” added two live recordings from a gig that Bowie had played in New York at the Nassau Coliseum on 23rd March. I picked this up on a US Cassette copy, which used a ’cut down’ front cover (Ryko RACS 0141-2), that differed not only to the vinyl and CD editions, but also slightly to the original UK tape edition as well. The two songs were both versions of songs from the original “STS” LP, “Word On A Wing” and “Stay”. In 1995, the “RarestOneBowie” set included a version of “Queen Bitch” from the same gig. Bowie had split from the Mainman management company in 1975, so it is interesting to see both a Bowie authorised release and an unauthorised one using the same gig as source material - achievable it seems because the recordings were conducted independently by RCA. The New York gig had been taped for broadcast on American radio, and had done the rounds as a bootleg for some time. Originally issued as “The Thin White Duke”, original bootlegs concluded with two songs Bowie performed on the Cher show in 1975.
Eventually, the entire Nassau gig was released officially in 2010 as part of the “Station To Station” boxset. Aside from the Super Deluxe box I mentioned in my original Bowie blog(s) from the same year, the gig was available as well in a slightly more affordable triple-disc CD set (EMI BOWSTSX 2010), which included the studio LP and the “LiveNassauColiseum’76” album in their own individual sleeves inside a clam shell box. “Panic In Detroit” was edited, I think, for space constraints - the Super Deluxe Edition included the Nassau gig on double vinyl as well as CD, so it would seem as though this mix was created in order to avoid groove cramming. Anybody wanting to hear the full, 10 minute long version, complete with unedited drum solo, will need to track down a bootleg. You was able to download it officially as well, at some point, but as you might know, downloading is not my forte. And that’s it for official releases.
Bowie didn’t tour as a solo artist in 1977, the year of “Low” and “Heroes”, choosing instead to play keyboards as part of Iggy Pop’s band as he toured the Bowie produced “The Idiot”. But he did end up belatedly promoting these albums the following summer, on the “Isolar 2” tour.
As mentioned, I think, on an earlier blog, it was rumoured that Bowie agreed to this tour to try and recover the “losses” he had incurred during the years when he was signed to the Mainman management group, where the financial deals he had signed up for were rumoured to have left him a bit skint. Even the title of the tour suggests that it was designed as a “second lap” of the original 1976 shows, with the stage design an extension of the original minimalist approach. However, in a now famous interview backstage with Janet Street Porter just before he took to the stage at one of the Earls Court gigs in June, he admitted that he was enjoying touring more, so even if he had agreed to the gigs as an attempt to gain some financial security, then at least he was now actually providing the audience with art that he had total involvement with. This was the polar opposite of what later happened in the 80s.
Just as it had been in 76, Bowie launched the tour in North America, and a number of shows were recorded for a planned live album. The reasoning behind this was to try and counteract the rampant bootlegging that had occurred of the Nassau gig on the last tour. For the first time since 1973, Bowie conducted UK shows outside of London, with gigs in Newcastle, Stafford, Glasgow and the capital. Multiple shows were conducted in each location.
Alongside songs that had (again) survived from the previous tour, including three of the four songs from “Station To Station” that had regularly been played in 76, Bowie played a number of the instrumental numbers that had appeared on “Low” and “Heroes”. On the likes of “Warszawa”, the performances were an almost note for note replication of the studio recordings, almost as if Bowie had brought the original synths with him onto the stage, creating versions that he later referred to as being ’ponderous’.
No attempt was made to try and recreate the atmospheric guitar sounds that Robert Fripp had brought to the studio versions of “Heroes” or “Beauty And The Beast” - instead, Bowie employed a violinist on the tour, and several of the songs featured the instrument quite prominently, meaning several songs found themselves being slightly reworked on stage. I’ll be honest, I haven’t heard a single live take of “Heroes” that comes anywhere near to the avant garde beauty of the original. Bowie also, just for fun, decided to play a big chunk of the “Ziggy” album on stage, and all 11 songs were reportedly rehearsed with many, but not all, being performed at different points on the tour.
Bowie would perform a big chunk of the ‘new’ material during the first half of the show, before hitting the audience with a 20 minute long bit of nostalgia by rattling through five or six “Ziggy” songs halfway through. The three “STS” tracks were usually used as the climax to the show. RCA taped the final gig in London, but despite this, there were seemingly no plans to do anything with those tapes, and when “Stage” appeared in the fall of 78, it was compiled exclusively from the US gigs previously recorded.
“Stage” was, like “David Live” before it, a double album. However, rather than using the format to give the listener a vague idea of what the gigs from the tour sounded like, the album was controversially split into sections, with each side of the LP being devoted to a different part of Bowie’s career. The “Low” and “Heroes” material took up the second half of the record, and the “Station To Station” stuff landed on side 2, alongside a version of 1975‘s “Fame“. Five tracks from the Ziggy days opened proceedings. I could be wrong, but I believe this may well have been done to not only place the songs in more or less chronological order, but also to act as a bit of a retro throwback. The opening numbers on the LP, “Hang Onto Yourself” and “Ziggy Stardust”, had been the routine openers on the 1972 and 1973 gigs.
Coloured vinyl was now also all the rage. Initial copies of the UK LP appeared on yellow vinyl, whilst the “Breaking Glass” 7”, issued late in 78 in an attempt to (re)promote the LP, appeared on blue vinyl when issued in Holland. The UK edition was pressed on black vinyl, and in a different sleeve (RCA BOW 1) and included two other songs from the “Stage” album, “Art Decade” and “Ziggy Stardust”. The 1983 “Lifetimes” reissue (RCA BOW 520) used a totally different picture sleeve as well.
In 1991, as part of the ongoing EMI/Ryko reissue campaign, “Stage” was reissued. It came with an extra track, Bowie’s psychotic take on “Alabama Song”. Despite being one of the more oddball concert choices, Bowie was obviously quite taken with this song - despite the fact that The Doors’ version from their first LP was superior, Bowie later even went into the studio to cut a new version for release as a single, making it one of the more ‘out there’ Bowie 45’s. In the UK, the reissue of "Stage" appeared on CD and Cassette (EMI TCEMD 1030).
In 2005, as with “David Live”, a revamped and remixed version of the album appeared. Overseen by Tony Visconti, the songs were first reordered to appear in the order in which they had originally been performed on stage. “Alabama Song” now thus appeared just before the “Station To Station” material. In addition to this, two songs that had been played at the gigs but never released were also included as bonus tracks (in the correct part of the show as well), “Be My Wife” and “Stay”. Even so, this version of the album was not as ‘complete’ as it could have been, as several songs performed during the gigs that had been recorded were still omitted from the new edition (EMI 7243 863 4362).
As for the Earls Court show, versions of “Be My Wife” and “Sound And Vision” were issued on “RarestOneBowie”. This show marked the first time that Bowie had ever played the latter, and decided to do so as it was the final night of the European tour, hence the shout of “this is all last night stuff folks” during the opening section. The aforementioned “Sound + Vision” boxset also included three songs from the original, unremixed, version of “Stage” - “Station To Station”, “Warszawa” and “Breaking Glass”.
You can count on one hand the amount of officially released (audio) songs - not gigs note, but songs - in the Bowie catalogue that have come from the “Serious Moonlight” tour. By 1983, we were now living in MTV land, and home video land. And so, rather than just record songs for a live album, why not just film a concert for a live video? And so, that’s what happened. We shall look at Bowie on Film in the next blog.
Only two songs seem to have surfaced with Bowie’s blessing. The third single from the album that the tour was promoting, “Let’s Dance”, was “Modern Love”. On the flipside was a live recording of the same song, lifted from a show that was taped for radio broadcast in Montreal on 13th July 1983. Original copies of the 12” (EMI America 12EA 158) came with a free poster, and general consensus is, that a large number of these have either been destroyed, or separated and kept from the single, so copies with one inside will be worth more than those without. One reason as to why this, and nothing else, from the tour was released in audio form is probably because the “Serious Moonlight” video that was released omitted this song entirely, which in itself was probably because footage of Bowie performing the song on stage had been used for the promo video. If you buy either the 2003 or 2014 version of the “Sound + Vision” boxset, this one-time rarity is now available in this expanded set.
The only other song to have been released in audio form is actually one lifted straight from the video. When “Sorrow” was reissued as a 7” 40th anniversary picture disc in 2013, the reissues in that series at that time were using ’alternate’ versions of the A-side as their B-sides, and so the live version of the same track appears on the flip (Parlophone DBSOZ 4030). This performance dates from Vancouver on 12th September 1983.
Bowie’s “Glass Spider” tour remains probably the most divisive moment of the man’s career. For some, it was the final straw, the sign of a man losing his way completely whilst playing to the biggest crowds of his career underneath the legs of what was apparently a big arthropod. For others, it was seen as a groundbreaking stadium spectacular, setting the way for future pop acts to approach the concert performance in a different way, as opposed to just holding a microphone and singing the hits.
In my opinion, it was flawed from the outset. Bowie’s new album, “Never Let Me Down”, had been written with the sole purpose of Bowie then being able to present most of it’s content on stage, which was a problem when said material was the weakest of the man’s career so far. Thus, Bowie found himself performing large numbers of so-so tracks like “87 And Cry” - had the new album been really good, then it wouldn’t have been a problem wheeling out most of the songs. But it wasn’t, and so it’s difficult to listen to or watch a show from this tour without feeling slightly bemused by it all. It’s Bowie, so you can still get some enjoyment out of it, but at times, as the late 80s gated drum sound hurts your ears, you will find yourself thinking “is this the same guy who was doing ‘Be My Wife’ ten years ago?”
If you accept that Bowie simply got better from this point on, then you can start to look at the more interesting parts of the show, accepting it as a tour which represented the start of the turning point. Bowie, determined to try and shake off the ‘mainstream pop’ tag he had found himself lumbered with post-”Let’s Dance”, dragged some obscure oldies out of the bag for this tour, playing several songs for the first time in years (“Big Brother”, “Time”) whilst others were seemingly being played for the first time ever, despite dating from the previous decade (“Sons Of The Silent Age”, “All The Madmen”). Early on, Bowie too seemed to realise that neither the album nor the tour were quite the return to form he had hoped they would be, and was dropping some of the new material as the tour approached it’s climax.
Like the 83 tour, gigs that Bowie played in Sydney in November were filmed and highlights were used for a video release (two actually, as the first half was on one VHS, and the second on another). Briefly mentioned on an earlier blog was the fact that a label called Immortal later dubbed these recordings, rather pointlessly, into audio form for use on an album simply called “Glass Spider” - they did a similar thing with an early 80s Who release as well.
However, in recent years, there have been some more interesting releases. First up, the two videos were released on DVD in 2007. The missing material was still missing. However, initial copies came with a free bonus album, a gig from Montreal taped on 30th August, spread across two CD’s (EMI 0946 391 00224). This show had previously been recorded for a radio broadcast, and was making it’s first official appearance here. Unlike the DVD, it featured the entire show. Trouble is, this release was done as a limited edition, and last time I looked, copies were selling for wildly inflated prices, so you might have more chance tracking down a bootleg as, being a radio recording, they should be easy to locate.
2015 meanwhile saw the release of an intriguing album on an obscure label called Laser Media, simply called “Day In Day Out”. I have mentioned on other blogs the strange world of the ’unauthorised’ live album, and this is one of those. A double disc set (LM 160), it purports to include a radio broadcast of another show that Bowie played in Sydney on 3rd November, a couple of days before the cameras were brought to the venue to film material for the official VHS. Some experts have stated that the sound suggests it’s a soundboard recording. But, if we assume it’s a radio broadcast, then there is apparently an EU loophole that allows for albums like this to appear in your local HMV or on Amazon. According to one reviewer on the latter, if a concert is recorded outside of the EU, it can then be released within the EU without the artist’s consent. Hence, this release. Not sure how copies are being made available on Amazon in the US though, as last time I looked it wasn’t in the EU.
It’s not perfect - the cover uses a photo of Bowie from the 76 tour, although at least that’s a better look than the mullet he wore in 87 - and the end of disc 1 fades out midway through “Fashion” (and disc 2 fades in midway through “Scary Monsters”) but if you can’t find the Montreal gig, then I’d go for this. Some will state it’s a bootleg, some will argue that being unofficial you should avoid it, but for me, it’s probably the easiest way you will be able to get hold of this show, so if you don’t already own a copy from more dubious sources, I recommend it, despite it’s flaws.