Saturday, 24 December 2016
Listed below are the bands and singers featured for each month in 2016, including a look at both the career of the Spice Girls as a band and the solo work of several of their band members (above). The December 2016 blogs can be found due right, which feature Madonna Japanese EP releases and Bowie releases from 2014 until 2016. There are a number of Bowie blogs for this year, as a tribute to the single most important musician of all time.
The complete list for the year is shown below:
January 2016 - David Bowie / Madonna
February 2016 - Spice Girls
March 2016 - Victoria Beckham / Emma Bunton / Geri Halliwell
April 2016 - The Cure
May 2016 - David Bowie
June 2016 - Madonna
July 2016 - David Bowie
August 2016 - Tubeway Army
September 2016 - David Bowie
October 2016 - The Beatles
November 2016 - David Bowie
December 2016 - David Bowie / Madonna
To look at blogs from January to November, just click on the relevant month.
"Uncage the colours, unfurl the flag, luck just kissed you hello"
And so, we come to my final Bowie blog of 2016.
Since “The Next Day”, both Bowie’s current label (Iso) and his former paymasters at EMI (now buried under the Parlophone imprint) have been tossing out material at such a rate, you have to wonder how much of this seems like cash in material. But by all accounts, a lot of the stuff that has come out in recent years had to get the nod by the man himself before it was issued/reissued, although this hasn’t stopped critics griping about the content of this material. This year’s new boxset, “Who Can I Be Now?” is a nice thing to own, but is mostly full of material most of us already have. It’s timing, surfacing at the same time as a gargantuan Pink Floyd boxset which included mostly material that nobody owned, officially, saw Bowie’s team come in for some stick.
But, it seems as though we are in the middle of some sort of revamping of the back catalogue, so we shall see what 2017 brings. Until then, here’s what’s been happening since my last Bowie blog on the “new stuff” back on 2014.
Blackstar and Lazarus
Routinely now being referred to by an actual black coloured star shape in the press, I don’t have such a symbol on my keyboard, so I shall refer to Bowie’s last studio album as “Blackstar”. You don’t need me to tell you about the fact that it was released only days before his passing in January, or the lyrical references and symbolism that pointed towards the issue of mortality. This album, unlike any Bowie album in years, has been subsequently analysed and obsessed over unlike any other.
An album heavily influenced by Bowie’s life long love of jazz, Blackstar later drew parallels in one magazine article with “Station To Station”, which had been recorded 40 years earlier. Both had a running time of about 40 minutes, both featured a relatively small number of songs, and both opened with a lengthy, multi part title track. “Blackstar” was a seven track LP, although only five of the songs were ‘new’, as two were re-recordings of material Bowie had first released in connection with the “Nothing Has Changed” best of (more later). Whilst it might have seemed that this was the sign of a man who simply didn’t have the energy to produce anything more, this was seemingly not the case, as those close to him have stated that not only were there outtakes from the sessions, but that Bowie had even started work on material for another new LP.
Let’s get the hyper expensive clear vinyl edition out of the way first. 5000 of these were pressed in a special die cut sleeve, which were sold with Bowie lithographs and available from his official site only. Worried that my postman might leave it in my recycling bin, and that it could end up with the binman a day later, I opted against this one - which, of course, now sells for a fortune - and opted for the black vinyl edition (Iso 88875 173871). These were nowhere near as limited, but soon sold out after his death, resulting in a second batch being made available. There seems, nowadays, to be a fascination with first and second Bowie pressings, a la The Beatles, and so you will find that the first pressings (with a 2015 copyright date) sell for more than the second pressings (2016 copyright date). To avoid being damaged, the vinyl itself is housed in a clear inner sleeve, and copies came with a lyric booklet. For the full monty, there should also be a card inside with the download code on, and the sticker on the front of the sleeve should be intact.
The CD edition was housed in a totally different sleeve (Iso 88875 173862), a white cover with a black coloured star shape filling up the front. The track listing is the same as the vinyl edition. Unlike the first and second editions of the vinyl, the CD version was not initially limited to a certain number of copies, and the versions on sale in your local record shop are essentially later repressings of the original release. There is no difference between a copy bought in January 2016 and one bought now - it’s only the vinyl edition that sold out, and required a second batch of altered pressings. It’s worth noting that copies of the CD were originally shrinkwrapped, and also came with a sticker on the front detailing the artist’s name and album title, but it’s possible that once second hand copies start to surface, the stickers may well have been discarded along with the shrinkwrap.
October saw the release of “Lazarus”, a cast recording of a Bowie written play that takes it’s title from one of the key tracks on “Blackstar”. Bowie obsessives will undoubtedly be fascinated by the album, given that it consists purely of Bowie songs, but the main interest for me has to simply be the three new Bowie tracks that appear on the set, sung by the man himself. Aside from some fancy vinyl releases aimed squarely at the bearded hipster crowd, the set was also issued as a 2-CD set (Iso 88985 374912), the second CD being a sort of EP style job, consisting of four Bowie recordings - “Lazarus” and the three new songs. Bowie also pops up on CD1, as a strange 30 second edit of “Sound And Vision” is included mid way through proceedings.
Nothing Has Changed and Legacy
With “The Next Day” having put Bowie firmly back into the public eye, Parlophone issued a new career spanning best of that was designed to celebrate Bowie’s 50 year long recording career in 2014. “Nothing Has Changed” was a very high profile release, being hyped up long before anybody even knew what it would look like, or exactly what it was.
When it appeared, it appeared in three distinct editions in the UK, each of which featured a different photo of Bowie looking in a mirror on it‘s cover, each photo taken from a different part of his career. The vinyl edition featured an early 70s image, the 2-CD set one came from the mid 70s, and the 3-CD one a far more recent contemporary image.
The 3-CD set (Parlophone 82564 6205769) was notable for featuring material from Bowie’s entire career, all the way back to 1964, the first time any Bowie set had featured such a wide ranging batch of material. This edition of the album was an essential buy, as it included various unreleased tracks and a barrage of single mixes. Highlights had to be the inclusion of several tracks from the abandoned “Toy” album, “Your Turn To Drive” and a re-recording of “Let Me Sleep Beside You”. Although Tin Machine material was absent, tracks from Bowie’s earlier bands were included, including tracks from the time he was the leader in The Lower Third.
The set ran backwards, starting with a new song recorded for the set, “Sue”, a gargantuan jazzy strut that sounds like the theme tune for a 70s cop show (which might explain the “Or In A Season Of Crime“ subtitle - or not), and closing with Bowie’s 1964 debut 45, the Davie Jones And The King Bees’ “Liza Jane”. This isn’t the first time a greatest hits set has run backwards (see the Genesis “Platinum Collection” release) and I can only think this was done to sort of build up to a climax of the big RCA era stuff at the end. But I am not sure it completely works, because once you’ve had “Life On Mars”, and then “Space Oddity”, it obviously keeps going back to that early stuff, stuff that sometimes even Bowie was a bit embarrassed by in later years.
The 2-CD set (Parlophone 82564 6205745) is probably a more sensible listening experience, running as it does in chronological order, starting with “Space Oddity”, and climaxing with “Sue”. Given that, in my opinion, Bowie was routinely at the peak of his powers in the 90s and 00s, this one works a lot better, as the ending quartet of “New Killer Star”, “Love Is Lost”, “Where Are We Now” and “Sue” pack a real punch. It is also noticeable for completely ignoring anything from 1987’s “Never Let Me Down”.
If it has any flaws, it is the sense that it maybe moves too quickly. Remember, we were getting career spanning double-CD Bowie best of sets as far back as 1993, so to try and use the same format for another one 21 years down the line, obviously means something somewhere is going to fail to make the cut this time. So there’s no “Diamond Dogs” or “Be My Wife” on this one. “Fashion”, bizarrely, appears in a newly edited mix, an attempt apparently to try and ’re-create’ the original 7” mix, but which fails abysmally, and sounds quite horrific. This mix also appeared on the 3-CD set.
The vinyl edition (Parlophone DBLP 6414) is a bit of an odd release, as by being restricted to two slabs of vinyl, it was always going to have to be very selective. It opts for an, at first, random looking track listing, but which seems to have some vague thought process behind it. So, side 1 runs backwards from “Let’s Dance” to “Life On Mars?”, side 2 opens with “Space Oddity” (Bowie, when he used to play this in the 70s, always dropped it in midway through the show) and is then followed by three tracks of glam before concluding with “Rebel Rebel” (which was also the closing halfway point on “Diamond Dogs”). Side 3 runs forwards from “Golden Years” to “Sue”, and side 4 cherry picks from the 80s, 90s and beyond.
It wasn’t designed as such, but “Nothing Has Changed” has ended up as an overview of Bowie’s entire career in a way, as “Sue” was later re-recorded for “Blackstar”, meaning the 3-CD version has both Bowie’s first single, and a track from his last album. “Sue” was issued as a 10” single to help promote the set, featuring both the radio edit and the album mix along with another new song (and another one later taped for “Blackstar”) called “’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” (Parlophone 10 RDB 2014).
Bowie’s death did obviously make the record company think that a revised best of, taking in “Blackstar” material, would make sense and although it does have a feel of ’cash in’ about it, this year’s “Legacy” compilation makes a certain amount of sense. Issued on a single disc and also as a ’deluxe’ double CD set (Parlophone DB 69162), this is simply a revamped version of “Nothing Has Changed” - even the vinyl edition being planned for early 2017 replicates the ’random’ track listing of the 2014 LP.
It came in for some stick by online reviewers - including moaning about the packaging (although the booklet in which different Bowie album covers are spliced together to create alternative Bowie images is quite clever), and moaning about the track listing (“Dancing In The Street” is on here) but if you think of it a bit like the reissue Warners did of the first Madonna album, where it appeared two years after the original with a new title and new artwork, and was pitched specifically at new converts, then the existence of “Legacy” - and it’s choice of track listing - makes complete sense.
The main differences are that in order to cover “Blackstar”, a couple of newer songs from “NHC” have been removed, including “Sue”. Instead you get the ’never released in physical form’ radio edits of “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away”, the final song on “Blackstar” and the final song on “Legacy”. I quite like this idea, but again, you had the social media crowd banging on about “who cares about radio edits” - well, some of us do, and I was quite excited to add these to the collection.
More pointless though is the new mix of “Life On Mars” - in which the original version is turned into a more orchestral sounding affair by removing the drums and guitar parts. It does make it sound like a big, grand, sort of West End musical number by doing this, which I think was the idea, but there can be nobody who genuinely thinks this makes it better than the original. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Now. There is a part of me that isn’t even sure if this reissue is worth mentioning. Bowie’s 1976 best of collection, which for some reason, was reissued in 2016. But, officially, the album had been deleted from the Bowie catalogue some time ago, so this was not really a repressing of an existing album, the way vinyl albums used to get repressed back in the 70s and 80s, but a full blown, heavily hyped reissue of one of Bowie’s earliest hits sets. The question is - why?
And the answer is - I have no idea. It could be part of a new campaign to put back into the shops what might be considered important parts of the back catalogue, to tie in with the issuing of Bowie’s boxsets. The reissue came roughly midway between the release of the “Five Years” boxset, covering the 69-73 years, and “Who Can I Be Now?”, which covered 74-76. Or it could simply be that the decision was taken to issue it for no other reason than it is 40 years old. Thing is, where do you draw the line?
Don’t get me wrong, “ChangesOneBowie” is a crucial part of the Bowie story. Originally issued by RCA, who by that point had the rights to everything from “Space Oddity” onwards, it was therefore a mostly career spanning LP at the time of it’s release, containing Bowie’s big singles and a few key album tracks, along with the release of “John I’m Only Dancing” on an album for the first time.
It continued to make sense after the release of “ChangesTwoBowie”, the 1981 follow-up which brought the story up to date by including the likes of “Ashes To Ashes”, but did make the odd decision to include older material that could have been on the first LP but wasn’t (“Aladdin Sane”) in preference to newer, seemingly essential songs (there was no “Heroes”). But given that Bowie jumped ship soon after to EMI America, between them, they give you a decent overview of Bowie’s musical journey from 1969 to 1980, later seen by many as the key years.
1990’s “ChangesBowie” was essentially the officially revamped version of the album(s) after they got deleted in the 80s. Issued as part of Bowie’s retro-tinged “Sound + Vision” campaign, it used the same image on it’s front as “ChangesOneBowie” had done, but this time formed part of a collage full of other Bowie images from the years. The album featured a sizeable chunk of material from the first album, opened with “Space Oddity”, and used the same ‘block’ lettering typography that the originals had done (following on from the use of that style on “Station To Station”) but the compilation was rejigged to include a wider variety of material from the later years, including tracks from the EMI America period. Last time I looked, you could still pick this compilation up online.
Now, given that “Nothing Has Changed” was obviously designed as a definitive, career spanning best of, you have to ask why Parlophone are doing this. It seems to be nothing more than a slightly pointless cash in release. It was issued on vinyl and CD, with some of the vinyl copies pressed on clear vinyl, but with no indication as to whether or not, if you bought a new shrinkwrapped copy, what colour the vinyl would be (done to keep with the spirit of the original version, where the first pressings famously included the wrong version of “John I’m Only Dancing” by accident).
So, apart from it being 40 years, is this release simply being pitched at the newcomers? The people whose interest got reignited after “Blackstar”? Just another attempt, for the LP versions at least, to keep up with the often enjoyable, but sometimes baffling, vinyl revolution? Not sure. I am sure though, if you are desperate for a “ChangesOneBowie”, you would be able to find an original version, or a late 70s/early 80s reissue for not too much, although being able to click a few buttons on Amazon is obviously a bit easier. But if every hits collection that has been deleted over the years starts to get reissued, it would seem to me like overkill. Wherever these sets have included something unique or interesting, the original approach was to simply put said track on a newer release (so it was that “John I’m Only Dancing” made it onto “ChangesBowie”). Still, if you fancy a copy, I feel obliged to mention the catalogue number of the vinyl editions (Parlophone COBLP 2016).
The 40th Anniversary Reissues Continued
We left off last time by mentioning the then forthcoming release of the 40th anniversary version of “Knock On Wood”, which was breaking the tradition of the previous picture disc reissues by including a different song on the flipside, as opposed to using an “alternate” version of the A-side. “Knock On Wood” was thus issued as a AA-side release with “Rock N Roll With Me”.
From this point onwards, each of these reissues were to be issued by Parlophone as AA’s, meaning that a number of songs would, theoretically at least, be issued as a single for the first time ever in Bowie’s career, even though the stickers on the front of the sleeves would only make a point of plugging the ‘official’ A-side.
So, the follow up to “Knock On Wood” was 2015’s “Young Americans” (Parlophone DBYA 40), which appeared here in it’s ’2007 Tony Visconti Single Edit’ version. On the flipside was the alternate ’With Strings’ version of “It’s Gonna Be Me”, previously only available on the 2007 expanded edition of “Young Americans”. Because the track is quite long, the B-side has to play at 33rpm, and this, coupled with the poorer sound quality you get on picture discs, means that the sound - to these ears - is fairly awful, once again putting question marks over the quality control aspect of some of these new vinyl releases. It’s all very well bleating on about the “warm sound” of vinyl, but you will only get that sound by pressing the thing properly in the first place. Rant over.
Following a couple of RSD releases (more later), the next one in the series was “Fame”, which appeared in it’s original 7” edit form. The AA-side was “Right”, which had also appeared on the flipside of the original UK 7”. However, the version this time around was an alternative mix. Confusion reigned at the time as to what was so alternative about it, but as I understand it, the decision was taken to remix a number of tracks from the “Young Americans” album in preparation for it’s 1991 reissue by EMI and Rykodisc. The remix of “Right” that was done saw it mastered at the wrong speed, and the version that thus appears on the picture disc is the 1991 remix, but mastered at the correct speed. You can play spot the difference when you play it (Parlophone DBFAME 40).
I have already mentioned the “Space Oddity”/”Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” reissue in a blog earlier this year, but just to clarify, this is a strange reissue which commemorates the 1975 RCA Maxi-single release but which uses a track listing more in line with the 1969 Philips original - edited version of the A-side on side 1, acoustic version of “Freecloud” on side 2 (RCA used the standard album version of “Space Oddity“ when they put it out as a 45). Apparently, this picture disc uses a stereo mix of the edit of “Space Oddity” in preference to the mono original, but I’m not sure exactly how different it sounds. Similarly, there are two mixes in existence of “Freecloud”, one with a spoken word intro, and one without. The images are also more in line with the 1969 release than the 1975 one (Parlophone DBSO 40).
The last reissue from 2015 was “Golden Years” (Parlophone DBGOLD 40), which again used the original 7” edit on the A-side. This one was issued as a AA with “Station To Station”, which appeared in it’s single edit form, originally concocted for use on a French 7” in 1976, and later included on the “Single Edits” CD inside the Super Deluxe boxset reissue of the “Station To Station” album. Suffice to say, this was the first time the song had appeared as an A-side in the UK.
Now, this is where it gets a bit baffling. The first 2016 reissue should have been the first of two, if we follow the logic applied by EMI and Parlophone so far. “TVC 15” was originally issued as the follow up to “Golden Years” in April 1976, and thus it’s 40th anniversary coincided with Record Store Day (Parlophone DBTVC 40). So, the 40th anniversary reissue was done as an RSD release, complete with suitably stickered sleeve (and inflated price tag). On the A-side, you get the original edited version. On the AA-side, you get a Bowie track that had actually appeared as a single before, “Wild Is The Wind” (issued to plug “ChangesTwoBowie” in 1981). However, the version here seems to be a new edit of one of the Harry Maslin mixes done for the “STS” boxset in 2010, so completists will have to consider shelling out for a copy.
If the 40th anniversary logic is applied here, then summer 2016 should have seen the release of “Suffragette City”. RCA had issued confusing cash in singles before (see the 1974 release of “Rock N Roll Suicide”) but this one was slightly more acceptable, as it was included on “ChangesOneBowie” and RCA issued the song as an attempt to promote the LP. But as I type this, there has been no reissue for this one. Strange. Especially when you consider the 2016 reissue of the album it was used to plug.
As for the other RSD releases in the period, the picture disc one from 2015 was a reissue of “Changes”, which was never reissued as a 40th anniversary release, as EMI only started doing them from “Starman” onwards. It was issued as a AA with “Eight Line Poem”, appearing here in it’s ‘Gem Promo version’ mix (Parlophone DBRSD 2015). The history behind the latter is that Bowie’s manager in 1971, Tony Defries, was looking to find new record deals for two of his artists - Bowie and Dana Gillespie. So, he arranged for a 500-run set of vinyl albums, pressed by the Gem Record company, which were to be used as a showcase for the two acts. Seven Bowie songs appeared on side 1, and five Gillespie ones on side 2, including her version of “Andy Warhol”. This later became known as the BOWPROMO.
The Bowie tracks were mostly songs that did end up on “Hunky Dory”, albeit all in slightly different forms - “Eight Line Poem” resurfaced with a completely different vocal mix. Two songs didn’t make the cut, “Bombers” and “It Ain’t Easy”. By all accounts, the promo didn’t generate any interest at all, and Defries then produced an early copy of “Hunky Dory” on the Gem label which featured the finished album, which did attract the attention of RCA. Copies also came with a gatefold sleeve which featured a sepia toned version of the actual final “Hunky Dory” front cover, although I understand some copies over the years have surfaced without this sleeve. Suffice to say, the original BOWPROMO release and the Gem version of “Hunky Dory” are auction house collectors editions.
The other RSD release from 2015 was for Scary Monsters album track “Kingdom Come”. This was part of Rhino’s ’Side By Side’ series, where the same song would appear on either side of a 7”, performed by different artists on either side. So this release sees the Tom Verlaine original on one side, and the Bowie cover on the other (Rhino R7-547633). Copies were pressed on white vinyl, and the Bowie side came with a label designed to look like the black and white RCA labels that were in circulation in the early 1980s.
Issued in late 2015, “Five Years” (Parlophone DBX 1) is the first of a series of boxsets designed to sort of reinvigorate the Bowie back catalogue - or at least, the years from “Space Oddity” onwards. Ever since the deletion of the 1990s Rykodisc reissues, the Bowie catalogue has suffered from a slightly haphazard reissue program. A bonus track free reissue of “Hunky Dory” in 1999 remained the standard version of that album for the following fifteen years, whilst “Ziggy” got reissued not once but (at least) three times.
Whilst the boxset may seem like yet another cash in release - and to some extent, it is - it had Bowie’s blessing, and exists as an attempt to tidy up the back catalogue. Trouble is, this is all going to take some time, and at the same time as “Five Years” was being released, it was possible to buy new Parlophone branded versions of the old 1999 EMI reissues of the latter period albums - the sign of a catalogue nowhere near being tidied up yet.
So what exactly is in this first box? Well, you get reissues of the run of studio albums from “Space Oddity” through to “Pin Ups”. For both the vinyl and CD versions, attempts at recreating the original label designs have been made, but with a stylised “Bowie” logo in place of the original Philips, Mercury or RCA logo. Suffice to say, the bonus tracks from the old Ryko issues are absent. This was a deliberate move, to return the records to their original “state” - each of the studio albums in the set were later issued individually, and thus are now the new standard versions of those LP’s.
You also get - and this is likely to be a regular feature in each box - a bonus alternate album. In this case, it’s a second version of “Ziggy”, using an alternate cover shot (and alternate rear sleeve) and playing the 2003 remix of the album, which had only previously appeared on an SACD version of the album at the time, and later on the DVD included as part of the 2012 LP reissue. Live albums taped during the period are also included, so you get “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars - The Motion Picture Soundtrack” (the version here is a repress of the 2003 reissue), and “Live Santa Monica 72”, the authorised version of the earlier release on Mainman.
The big selling point really is the “Re:Call 1” disc of rarities. This gives a new home to some of the Ryko rarities, but is dealing only with material that had previously appeared on a commercial release at the time (along with the odd possibly-promo-only mix of early, highly obscure US singles, where question marks still remain as to the existence of stock copies). So, you get both sides of the UK “Space Oddity” single, all five rarities from the Mercury 45’s, “Ragazzo Solo”, both sides of the US “All The Madmen” 45, and the Arnold Corns 45.
The second disc deals with rarities from the RCA period, so you get mono single mixes, B-sides and overseas only edits. Repetition is allowed where the variant versions are noticeably different - so you do get both the original and “Sax” versions of “John I’m Only Dancing” - whilst tracks recorded in the period and only issued later on also make the cut, so you get the ’Spiders’ version of “Holy Holy” and “Velvet Goldmine”, taped in 71 but not issued until 74/75 respectively. What you don’t get are minor variations of existing tracks (so no US single versions of “Memory Of A Free Festival” or “Starman”) and, just to clarify one last time, none of the unreleased bonus tracks off the original Ryko reissues. Either Bowie had vetoed these things from ever appearing again, or there is a plan for a rarities boxset in the future.
Everything in the box, with the exception of the bonus “Ziggy” and “Re:Call” have now been made available individually, on both vinyl and CD. Generally, the CD editions were issued in 2015, and the vinyl ones in 2016. As somebody who struggles at times to keep up with this never ending recycling of people’s back catalogues, I would hope that these editions become the standard releases, and that any future reissues are simply repressings of these editions - if not, then the boxset will start to look like another record company exploitation job.
For clarification - the CD reissues from 2015 are in standard jewel cases, with the stylised Bowie logo once again used for the ‘label’ side of the CD. The vinyl reissues are effectively extracted from the boxset - however, these later copies were shrinkwrapped with a barcode attached to the back of the shrinkwrap for sales recording purposes, as the copies within the box were barcode free. Inserts that were included in the original boxset do seem to have survived for the repressings, as my “Aladdin Sane” comes with a reprint of the 1973 fan club application form that was included with the LP back when it was first released. On the form, you are asked to list the name of your school. Amusing, when you consider that this is the album where Bowie sings the line “falls wanking to the floor” on “Time” - I dread to think what was being shouted in the school playgrounds of the time. You will have missed the boat now, but anybody who ordered the box before it was released from Bowie's website, received a free "Pin Ups Radio Show" promo EP, although some CD editions were sold as individual items via Bowie's US website to get rid of the stock.
This year has seen the release of the second box, “Who Can I Be Now?” (Parlophone DBX 2), which runs from 1974 to 1976. So this one goes from “Diamond Dogs” to “Station To Station”, taking in “David Live” along the way. In comparison to the bonus “Ziggy” in the first box, this has two alternate albums in the form of the 2005 remix version of “David Live” (using a sleeve which is simply printed the opposite way) and the 2010 Harry Maslin mix of “Station To Station”, previously done for the super deluxe boxset (it comes in the 1991 colour sleeve version of the LP). You also get, for the first time, a sort of “new” album courtesy of “The Gouster”, an early version of “Young Americans”. The original concept was abandoned whilst Visconti was mixing the record, so the sleeve that is used simply seems to be a photo from the period, as opposed to it being any original proof sleeve.
The “Live Nassau Coliseum 76” album, previously only ever included in the deluxe versions of the 2010 reissue of “STS”, is also in here, along with an album of rarities, “Re:Call 2”. Bowie simply wasn’t as prolific as regards singles during this time, and mono mixes had ceased to be made, so this time around, it’s just a single disc. Again, a mix of UK, overseas and US single edits, the odd B-side (the live “Panic In Detroit”) and the 7” edit of “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)”. The full length version is on “The Gouster”, as is “Who Can I Be Now” and “It’s Gonna Be Me”, meaning that these one time Ryko bonus tracks are now officially part of the “standard” Bowie catalogue, I guess.
I have the CD version of this box, and so can confirm that the CD’s are designed like vinyl style pressings - gatefold sleeves, inner bags, and rear covers that show no barcodes. Tucked inside the “Station To Station” disc is a reprint of a mid 70s poster plugging the back catalogue, but I understand the vinyl box includes more inserts, including another fan club application form from the post-”David Live” period. Whilst the single disc “Re:Call” disc obviously seems a bit low key compared to the 2 disc one in the first box, especially when you consider that the last five songs are the contents of the “Single Edits” CD from the “Station To Station” deluxe box, it does at least do it’s job - and is worth listening to for the bizarre edits of “Diamond Dogs” (from Australia) and “Rock N Roll With Me” (from the USA), both of which just fade out halfway through proceedings. Yes I know, there is no “K-Tel” edit of “Diamond Dogs” in this set, but you can’t have everything.
You know, at the end of the day, it’s Bowie. And as pointless as this boxset may at times be, it has taken pride of place on my shelf. Let's not forget, the three studio records in this set are three of the best albums ever made. We shall have to wait and see what the next boxset produces, and how Parlophone are going to approach the missing rarities from the Ryko days - and whether or not they bother with the “Let’s Dance” to “Never Let Me Down” period.
There have been some official but "unauthorised" releases in recent times due to ongoing quirky copyright laws. It's debatable as to whether or not you should attempt to bother with these, especially as there seems to have been a flood of these live albums, sometimes duplicating material from other such releases, but being Bowie, I couldn't resist getting what I think are probably the three most interesting.
There have been two releases on the Laser Media label - "Day In Day Out", as mentioned in my Bowie Live blog earlier this year (LM 160) and the untruthfully titled "Space Oddity FM Broadcast 1983", which is actually nineteen tracks lifted from bootlegs of rehearsals held in Dallas before the start of the "Serious Moonlight" tour (LM 700), none of which took place anywhere near a radio station.
Also worth a mention is the "Back In Anger" release on Sonic Boom (SON 0330), a double CD set documenting a show from the 1995 "Outside" tour, a flawed release, but currently the only 'official' full length document of what I consider to be one of Bowie's most important tours. Next year, my next Bowie blog should be a look at Bowie live albums from the post-Tin Machine years.
Friday, 2 December 2016
As I may have once said in an earlier blog, the Japanese didn’t really “do” 12 inch singles. 7” singles, yes, and they did launch the 3” CD in it’s snap-pack sleeve - but the 12” format was something that, for Madonna at least, they only ever really dabbled in from time to time. There were 12” releases for “Papa Don’t Preach” and “Causing A Commotion”, but the likes of “Holiday”, “Open Your Heart” and “Express Yourself” were restricted to 7” releases only when it came to vinyl issues.
For any other artist, this might not have been a problem. But given that she had emerged from the New York Disco scene, Madonna’s singles in the UK and the US were being subjected to extended dance mixes, meaning that there was a danger of there being no way of issuing these reworkings in Japan. So, to resolve this, the Japanese - as they so often did - did things differently.
Between 1984 and 1995, the Japanese division of Sire issued a series of EP releases that were used, in the main, to compile these remixes. Not everything got collected, and some releases felt a bit more erratic than others, but they did appear with great regularity. Later releases were of lesser interest, as they were more like albums of multiple remixes of the same song, but even these were worth a look as they included, at times, mixes than were either unavailable on CD in the UK - or occasionally, not officially available at all. Thereafter, the Japanese releases reverted to “standard” CD single pressings, and the likes of “You’ll See” onwards were fairly similar to their UK counterparts. Completists will want these of course, but the EP stylings of the earlier releases was abandoned forever.
At first, these EP’s were rarely available outside of their native Japan, but in the early 1990s, new pressings were made to join the latest releases, with copies being exported to the UK. At the time, as somebody who had only just discovered Madonna, these releases were fascinating. They were widely available, my local HMV in Romford seemed to stock a lot of them on the assumption that somebody would want them (and yes, that somebody was me), and the London record stores had them as well. The fact that they included remixes that I either didn’t already have, or only had on vinyl, plus the sheer visual impact that these releases had (especially if they still retained their obi strips), made them amongst the more interesting releases in Madonna land.
When the earlier EPs were being released, vinyl was still the format of choice, and so the first few were issued as both 12” singles and on the new fangled CD format. There was one exception (which we shall come to in due course), and then, of course, the tide turned and vinyl pressings became non existent.
What we shall do here, to keep things simple, is look at the releases in their “original” order, without getting too bogged down in the formats they were available on (some of these appeared on Cassette as well). We shall look at what they offer the UK fan, and catalogue numbers for each release will appear at the end.
So, it all starts with the helpfully titled “Like A Virgin And Other Big Hits!”. The only one of these EP’s that I happen to have on both 12” and CD, it was housed in a sleeve which mirrored the UK release of the “Like A Virgin” 45, and included the extended mixes of “LAV”, “Borderline”, “Lucky Star” and - slightly pointlessly - the LP version of “Holiday”, included I guess to pad out the running time, but also, given that it was long enough to not need a 12” mix anyway, included here on the grounds of completeness. This EP was reissued this year as a European wide Record Store Day release on, randomly, pink vinyl, so that makes your chances of owning “a” copy of the EP that much greater, but being an RSD release, you may find it cheaper to just buy an original! It is certainly not a UK exclusive release, so don’t go worrying about thinking that you NEED this new pressing. Still, kind of interesting that it has now been issued again, but a bit random.
The next release was originally on 12” only, as it was almost more of a maxi single than an EP. Housed in the same sleeve as the UK single release of “Angel”, the “Material Girl” EP as it is sometimes called was eventually released, belatedly, on CD in 1992. The original release more or less just credits it’s three songs as if this was a AAA-side release, but the CD edition refers to it as the “Club Mix EP”. It includes the 12” mixes of “MG” and “Angel”, along with “Into The Groove” - again, widely available as it was issued as a 7” in Japan in it’s own right, but included here to ensure that, at the time, all of Madonna’s “major” single releases in Japan up to this point had therefore been compiled in their ‘full length form’ on these two releases. This approach would be mostly avoided on future releases, as the amount of material available courtesy of the 12” mixes were more than enough to fill these releases up. Because it was issued on CD “out of sync”, the 1992 reissue has a catalogue number which belies it’s original release date, but places it in line with the other EP‘s (of ‘new’ material) issued the same year.
By the start of 1986, the next EP had appeared under a title which more or less just told you what was on it, as opposed to it having a catchy name! “Dress You Up - Ain’t No Big Deal” was a reversion to the 4-track approach of the first EP, but for this one, we saw the first EP where repetition of songs were noted. This was because the instrumental version of “Dress You Up” was included alongside the 12” mix. The other two tracks were “Shoo Bee Doo” - an album track, used again for padding, as it had also appeared on the flip of the “Dress You Up” 7” in Japan - and also a proper rarity in the form of non-album track “Ain’t No Big Deal”, a track previously tossed away on the Warner Bros compilation “Revenge Of The Killer B’s Vol. 2”. The sleeve used for this was the same as that used for the US 7” release of “Dress You Up”.
Next up was the awkwardly titled “Super Club Mix”. Housed in the same sleeve as the “True Blue” (UK) single sleeve, this was a bit more of a hotpotch affair, as it not only attempted to fill in the gaps missed by the earlier releases, but also had to work out what to do with it’s attempts to include “Live To Tell” on the set. We got the 12” mix of “True Blue”, and the 12” mix of “Papa Don’t Preach”, along with BOTH sides of Madonna’s first US 12”, “Everybody”, with both the six-minute long 12” mix being joined by the even longer dub mix. Discogs claims that this version has been edited down from the original US single, but I can’t confirm if this is the case, as there are “issues” over the timings of this mix on other releases as well. As for “Live To Tell”, the instrumental version was included. This 5-track release had a running time in excess of half an hour, so even at this point, we were moving away really from EP lengths into the world of the mini album.
Now - if you only buy one of these EP’s, then really, 1987’s “La Isla Bonita Super Mix” is probably the one. Housed in the same sleeve as the UK 7”, it’s big selling point was the inclusion of not only “Crazy For You” but also “Gambler” - the only Madonna “compilation” upon which you will find this track. Even “Crazy For You” turned up on “The Immaculate Collection” in Q-Sound remixed form. The rest of the disc consisted of both the 12” and 12” instrumental versions of “La Isla” (again, claims on Discogs of this being an ‘alternate instrumental’) and also the 12” mix of “Open Your Heart”. The eagle eyed amongst you will notice that the “Dub” mix of “OYH” is missing. But really, the inclusion of Madonna’s two contributions to the “Vision Quest” soundtrack make this worth the price of admission alone, and with the world of the promo only remix madness just a few years away, the absence of an, admittedly, un-essential remix is not totally the end of the world.
1989’s “Like A Prayer” was a turning point. It was, of course, Madonna’s entry into the world of grown up pop. And yet, it also coincided with the insanity of multiple remixing. So, here we had an album of earthy, downbeat, and quite serious subject matter, all being put through the hands-in-the-air remix machine. Strange. In terms of the impact that it had on the Japanese EP, it was quite a big one. “Remixed Prayers”, housed in the same sleeve as the “Like A Prayer” 12”, does more or less what it says on the tin. It is an hour long barrage of mixes of “Like A Prayer” and “Express Yourself” and nothing else. This really was the point at which the EP approach of these releases started to get widened. Indeed, given that it has a running time longer than the then new Madonna album, means even claiming it as a mini album is a bit of a misnomer.
In terms of material, it includes the 12” Dance Mix, 12” Extended Remix, Churchapella, 12” Club Version and 7” Remix/Edit versions of “LAP”. To place this in context, these are the five remixes that were spread across the 12” and Limited 12” releases in the UK, and the five mixes that - along with “Act Of Contrition” - made up the US 12” release. The remaining three tracks are mixes of “Express Yourself” - the “Non Stop Express Mix”, “Stop + Go Dubs” and the “Local Mix”. Again, to place in context, these three mixes, plus “The Look Of Love”, made up the US 12”. In the UK, the “Local Mix” was never released, so that makes “Remixed Prayers” a worthy addition to the collection. Listening to it in one go just make you go a bit stir crazy, though.
The concept of these EP’s featuring lengthy running times, albeit with few actual “songs”, was now mostly set in stone. The next release, 1990’s “Keep It Together” was also notable for not even being given an odd title, it’s not even officially known as the “Keep It Together EP”. It looks, from a distance, exactly the same as the US 12” release. But it is the next in the EP series no doubt, as the first track is actually the 12” mix of “Cherish” - followed by 6 mixes of “KIT”. These are the 12” Remix, Dub, 12” Extended Mix, 12” Mix, Bonus Beats and Instrumental versions. Once more, to place in context, these are the same mixes that appeared on the UK 12” White Label SAM promo, and also, the US 12” release. A handful of these mixes were later issued as B-sides to the “Vogue” 45 in the UK, but most weren’t, so again, a worthy release to track down.
“Vogue” itself was the subject of the next EP release, and this time, was actually called the “Vogue EP”. Again, same front cover as the standard “Vogue” 45. It reverted, slightly, to the older style, consisting of three songs with variant versions of most of those songs. The first three tracks are remixes of “Vogue” - the 12” Mix, Bette Davis Dub and the Strike-A-Pose Dub. To place in context, the three mixes from the US 12” - the “Bette Davis Dub” was never officially released in the UK. The EP is finished off with the three tracks from the “Hanky Panky” UK CD/12” release, namely the 7” and 12” mixes of “Hanky Panky” and it’s accompanying B-side, “More”. Again, it’s inclusion both makes sense - it was the flipside, after all - and also makes no sense, as it’s easily found on “I’m Breathless”. But, given that Warners view that as a soundtrack album, I guess it was included on this EP to both pad out the running time, and also make it available on an ’official’ Madonna release.
We now come to 1991’s “Rescue Me - Alternate Mix”, which is overloaded with Shep Pettibone reworkings. It’s a 10 track, 66 minute long release, housed in the ‘standard’ “RM” sleeve - in other words, the non-UK sleeve using a still from the “Justify My Love” video where Madonna slides down the corridor wall. What do you get? Well, from a UK fan’s point of view, quite a bit. There are, to start with, two versions of “Justify My Love” as found on the UK 12” and CD single(s), the “Q Sound Mix” and the “Orbit 12” Mix”. What then follows are tracks never released in the UK, but which did appear previously on the US CD Single, namely the “Hip Hop Mix” of “JML”, the extended 1990 reworking of “Express Yourself” and the “Beast Within” version of “Justify“. Five versions of “Rescue Me” then conclude the set. These include three mixes lifted from the various UK single editions (the 7” Mix, the Titanic Mix and the Lifeboat Mix) along with two never released in the UK - the unedited “Houseboat Vocal” and the “SOS Mix”. Yet again, to place in context, these five mixes had previously been issued on the US CD Single. All of these mixes also appeared in Germany, where they were spread across two CD Single editions, and indeed, CD1 of this release featured a Dub mix not on the Japanese release, even though there would have been space to include it. But still, “Alternate Mix” probably has more than enough remixes than you need in one go, and the inclusion of five tracks never released in the UK again make it a decent buy. Especially with that stunning cover.
It is at this point in proceedings that the world of the mega-remixing starts to further dent the overall excitement of these EP’s. 1992’s “Erotica Remixes” is of interest if you only have UK copies of the “Erotica” single (as no remixes at all were included) or the “Bad Girl” 45, which had some, but not all, of the mixes available on this release. The mixes are the Album Edit, Kenlou B-Boy Mix, WO 12”, Underground Club Mix, Masters At Work Dub, Jeep Beats and Madonna’s In My Jeep. Although there was also a German CD single with the “Remixes” legend on the cover, it was only a five track release. But, it is worth pointing out that the US CD, which just has the regular “Erotica” cover, has an identical track listing to the Jap EP. So not only did we have an EP with just the one “song”, but a track listing that matched a more easily available overseas release. Overall then, one of the less exciting items in the set.
Another “mega” release came with the “Deeper And Deeper EP”, again housed in the standard single sleeve. It has no less than 12 tracks. More of a double album, let alone an EP. It starts with 6 mixes of “DAD” - the Shep’s Deep Makeover Mix, David’s Klub Mix, Shep’s Classic 12”, Shep’s Fierce Deeper Dub, David’s Love Dub and Shep’s Deep Beats. To place in context once more, these are the six mixes you will find on the UK 12” Picture Disc. Next up is the extended mix of “Bad Girl” (never released in the UK), followed by more mixes of “Erotica” - mixes are the Kenlou B-Boy Instrumental, Underground Tribal Beats, WO Dub, House Instrumental and Bass Dub. With the exception of the WO (William Orbit) Dub, none of the other mixes have ever been issued in the UK.
The “Rain” EP from 1993, housed in a sleeve which recalls the US version of the single as opposed to the UK one, is a similarly mixed bag. For reasons that are not totally clear, the extended mix of “Bad Girl” makes a second appearance here. The first four tracks are songs available on various versions of the “Rain” single, with the LP version joined by the “Radio Remix”, along with a remix of “Waiting” and the non-LP “Up Down Suite”. Again, placing in context, the four tracks here also made up the US CD Single. The rest of the disc includes mixes of “Fever” - the Extended 12”, Shep’s Remedy Dub, Murk Boys Miami Mix and Oscar G’s Dope Dub - and the “Video Edit” of “Rain”. All of the “Fever” mixes turned up in the UK - indeed, even the UK CD Single offers more than what you get here - but the remix of “Waiting” was never issued in the UK. The Video Edit of “Rain”, as far as I can make out, was never issued on any of the UK editions - at least, not under this name - but you can just watch the video on Youtube and it should have the same effect, I suppose. However, and I haven't had a chance to sit down and analyse the different edits of "Rain" to confirm, but it may actually be the same as the "Remix Edit" version that is on the UK CD Single. If anybody wants to clarify all of this, please get in touch.
The final Japanese EP’s were releases in relation to the “Bedtime Stories” album, reissued by Rhino on vinyl in the UK this year BTW. The first one was “Secret Remixes”, which used a unique cover shot from the album photo shoot. Like the “Erotica” EP, it consists purely of alternate versions of the same song. So, you get Junior’s Luscious Single Mix, Junior’s Extended Luscious Club Mix, Junior’s Luscious Dub, Junior’s Sound Factory Mix, Junior’s Sound Factory Dub, the Some Bizarre Mix, the Allstar Mix and the Edit. All of these have been issued in the UK - the Junior (Vasquez) mixes on the CD2 edition of the original “Secret” single, the Edit on CD1, whilst the other two mixes were B-sides on the CD2 edition of “Bedtime Story”. Still, a lovely front cover image, and if you don’t have the “Secret” CD2, it’s worth a punt.
And so we end with the “Take A Bow Remixes” set. This is of major interest, as no remixes of “TAB” were ever issued in the UK, not even ’after the event’, so this release is worth your cash. Housed, once more, in a sleeve which recalls the UK single, you get the edit and instrumental mixes that were issued in the UK, along with the InDaSoul Mix, InDaSoul Instrumental, Silky Soul Mix and the Silky Soul Instrumental that were not. To pad the set out, there are two versions of “Bedtime Story” at the end - the “Album Edit” and “Junior’s Wet Dream” mixes, both of which did get released in the UK.
With all these releases, if you want the full monty, then each of them featured the aforementioned obi strip around the left hand side of the box. In my HMV, they would unseal the CD’s, realise the obi would then fall off, so decided to tape them back on, with a little bit of sellotape on the front and back to “reattach it”. Can’t remember where I got it, but my “Deeper And Deeper” was purchased brand new - but the obi had already gone missing before I even got my hands on it, having obviously fallen off when unpacked, and then simply binned by the shop. So not every copy of these singles necessarily were sold with their obi’s intact, and over the years, a lot more have probably been lost. As such, copies with them intact often sell for more than those without. All should come with lyrics printed inside in both English and Japanese, usually on a separate booklet, but not always.
Following the “delayed” release of the “Club Mix” EP in 1992, a concerted reissue campaign of these EP’s was conducted in 1997. This time around, the CD’s were housed in slim line jewel cases, with new obis which showed they were being issued under the “Collectors Series” banner, with - of course - new catalogue numbers. By all accounts, despite being reissues, they don’t seem to be any easier to find than their early 1990’s counterparts, so anybody hoping to own all 14 on CD - twice - is going to have their work cut out.
There is, then, another bizarre situation. The Australian division of Warners have, at times, cheated a bit with some of their artists. I have, somewhere, a Faces album on CD that looks, to all intents and purposes, like a UK pressing (complete with UK catalogue number) but also has a second catalogue number, and a mention of “Made In Australia” somewhere on the packaging. Warners Music Australia, in 1993, issued a select number of these EP’s to coincide with Madonna’s first tour there, which seemed to simply involved “obtaining” some of these discs from Japan, adding an Aussie catalogue number on it somewhere, mentioning “Australia” again somewhere else in the pack, and issuing them as Australian EP’s - despite the fact that the Japanese catalogue number and Japanese writing on the spine remained in situ! By all accounts, the EP’s that are available as these strange Jap/Oz Hybrid releases are for the “Super Club Mix“, “La Isla Bonita Super Mix”, “Remixed Prayers“, “Keep It Together”, “Erotica Remixes”, “Deeper And Deeper EP” and “Rain EP” issues. Given that they obviously lack the obi strips, they don’t seem to have the same desirability as the Jap releases, but the track listings and covers are exactly the same. So, if it was me, I would consider filling in any of your gaps with at least one of these releases. “Rain” might be the best one to go for, as copies came with a sticker mentioning “includes Japanese Remixes”. This, of course, is not strictly correct - but I know what they meant!
And so, from then on, Japanese CD singles become quite “normal”, and even though some future releases followed the “Remix” path of things like the “Erotica Remixes” release, this was simply because each single released in the UK or US got one in Japan as well, and if something had been remixed to death, then those mixes got the nod. If it didn’t, then the release simply had less songs. The original Japanese approach, to cobble together extended versions of multiple old hits was over, and by all accounts, these “new” singles were released at the same time as their international counterparts. Worth hunting down if you have the money, but to be honest, a Japanese “Frozen” is not that far removed from a UK one. So, pay your money and take your choice.
Whilst, of course, other Warners acts were also the recipient of similar EP releases, I can only comment on Madonna, as these are the releases I have made the effort of collecting. Of course, if you were there from day 1, buying those 45’s as they came out, then perhaps these releases are no more than glorified, short, greatest hits sets. But as a way of discovering these 12” mixes for (usually) the first time, plus the colourful nature that many of them have, these releases always fascinated me. Furthermore, with the asking price nowadays usually being no more than what they were first selling for back in the 90s, getting hold of them is not quite as daunting as it might seem.
So, I have listed two sets of discographies. The first is, more or less, the catalogue numbers of the releases that you would have got had you bought them new in a UK shop in 1991 (or in the case of “Material Girl”, the catalogue number of the 12” edition you might have seen at a record fair, as this seems to have been the most common format for that release). I have then listed the releases in catalogue number order for their 1997 CD reissues, which seem to be far more difficult to find. I have also listed what I believe are all the Australian variants, as they too seem to be quite easy to find on the likes of eBay.
STANDARD RELEASES AS AT 1991
Like A Virgin And Other Big Hits! (CD, Sire WPCP 3437)
Material Girl (Extended Dance Remix)/Into The Groove/Angel (Extended Dance Mix) (12”, Sire P 5199)
Dress You Up / Ain’t No Big Deal (CD, Sire WPCP 3438)
True Blue Super Club Mix (CD, Sire WPCP 3439)
La Isla Bonita Super Mix (CD, Sire WPCP 3440)
Remixed Prayers (CD, Sire 20P2-2900)
Keep It Together (CD, Sire WPCP 3200)
Vogue EP (CD, Sire WPCP 3698)
Rescue Me Alternate Mix (CD, Sire WPCP 4100)
Erotica Remixes (CD, Maverick WPCP 5150)
Deeper And Deeper EP (CD, Maverick WPCP 5244)
Rain EP (CD, Maverick WPCP 5644)
Secret Remixes (CD, Maverick WPCR 170)
Take A Bow Remixes (CD, Maverick WPCR 191)
1997 COLLECTORS SERIES
Like A Virgin And Other Big Hits! (CD, Sire WPCR 1501)
Dress You Up / Ain’t No Big Deal (CD, Sire WPCR 1502)
True Blue Super Club Mix (CD, Sire WPCR 1503)
La Isla Bonita Super Mix (CD, Sire WPCR 1504)
Remixed Prayers (CD, Sire WPCR 1505)
Keep It Together (CD, Sire WPCR 1506)
Vogue EP (CD, Sire WPCR 1507)
Rescue Me Alternate Mix (CD, Sire WPCR 1508)
Material Girl Club Mix EP (CD, Sire WPCR 1509)
Erotica Remixes (CD, Maverick WPCR 1510)
Deeper And Deeper EP (CD, Maverick WPCR 1511)
Rain EP (CD, Maverick WPCR 1512)
Secret Remixes (CD, Maverick WPCR 1513)
Take A Bow Remixes (CD, Maverick WPCR 1514)
Super Club Mix (CD, Sire 7599 25533 2)
La Isla Bonita Super Mix (CD, Sire 7599 25451 2)
Remixed Prayers (CD, Sire 7599 26022 2)
Keep It Together (CD, Sire 7599 26177 2)
Erotica Remixes (CD, Maverick 9362 40585 2)
Deeper And Deeper EP (CD, Maverick 9362 45288 2)
Rain EP (CD, Maverick 9362 45491 2)
PS. There are a couple of websites which show nice images of the different pressings with their variant obi strips both here (http://www.madonnatribe.com/japan/japan5_1.htm) and here (http://www.madonnadiscography.pl/article/view/113/).