Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prince - The Hits/The B-Sides (3-disc set)

**sigh**. . . shit.

Another icon lost . . . He had so much left in the tank - creatively, personally and professionally. I know that time is finite for us all . . . but this one smarts.

Nothing much else left to say . . .  Here's something by someone well-known, who succinctly expressed the overall feeling of Prince's passing today a lot better than I ever could:

All I can do in tribute to this great artist is to provide his music to you - so here you are: Prince's The Hits/The B-Sides three-disc compilation, released by Paisley Park Records and Warner Brothers Records on September 10th, 1993. I bought mine at the old Echo Records in Christchurch shortly after it came out - just looked at it; it still has the price tag on it all these years later: NZ$87.95. Worth every penny I spent on it, and then some.

My favorite song off of this set is "Erotic City" - this song was the JAM during the summer of '84:

Anyway, have a listen to this set tonight, enjoy, and remember this gifted, innovative and prolific artist as he transitions into the realm of legend. Rest well, Prince.

(Man, but I'm tired of writing these eulogy posts . . .)

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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Beatles - Yellow Submarine (2009 Stereo Remaster)

(Seems like I'm writing more and more of these "tribute" posts nowadays . . .)

I was sorry to hear this morning of the death of Beatles producer Sir George Martin at age 90. The man was quite possibly the most famous record producer who ever lived . . . but he was more than just a guy working the mixing board controls behind the glass. Martin was a true collaborator with the group, helping John, Paul, George and Ringo hone and polish their sometimes rough and sketchy ideas and musical doodles into the legendary Beatles hits we all know and love. Without George Martin's influence, support and quiet guidance, there would BE no Beatles.

My words of respect for Martin's work and my regret at his passing will no doubt be inadequate . . . so I'll enlist some assistance. My friend, the writer and Beatles expert Colin Fleming, penned a piece for Rolling Stone earlier today in remembrance of Mr. Martin - it superbly and succinctly sums up the man's life and the nature and importance of his interactions with the most influential rock band of all time. Check out Colin's article here.

I can't add much more to that, so I'll leave you all with this: The Beatles' Yellow Submarine, the soundtrack album to the animated film of the same name, issued by Apple Records on January 13th, 1969. In addition to the previously released songs "Yellow Submarine" and "All You Need Is Love", this album includes four other Beatles tunes of second-rate quality that the band admittedly put minimum effort into, to satisfy their contractual obligation of United Artists for new music to use in the film (still, you've got to admit - "second-rate" Beatles music is still pretty doggone good).

The last half of the album is a re-recording of the incidental orchestral music used in the film, composed by George Martin himself. At first listen, the Martin songs seem lightweight and out of place on this disc. But further listening reveals hidden gems and surprises Sir George placed in his music, like his references to other Beatles songs (for instance, "Sea Of Time" briefly and quietly quotes "Within You Without You") and tucking in nods to works by Stravinsky and Bach.

Since its release, Yellow Submarine has generally been slagged by critics as a "meh", mostly inconsequential album, and it really isn't considered a major or important addition to The Beatles' overall canon, due to the inclusion of older and/or "filler" material like the Martin orchestral tracks (Magical Mystery Tour is another Beatles release that gets slammed for similar reasons). Some have gone so far to say that this album would have made a superb 4-song EP, with the other songs left off entirely or perhaps relegated to a separate release.

But I think by now that the Yellow Submarine album, as it is, has been with us so long that most people are sort of used to the juxtapositions inherent within it. For example, I recall how
appalled I was when Yellow Submarine Songtrack was released in 1999 - the album was being promoted as a remixed "movie soundtrack" album, when in actuality it was little more than a compilation of Beatles music from that period. It just looked like a crass Beatles money-grab . . . plus, it just didn't sound "right" - like the Yellow Submarine album I grew up with. I own Songtrack, but I rarely if ever play it. For good or ill, warts and all, I'm sticking with the original album, if only to hear George Martin's music which can be found nowhere else. And I don't think I'm alone in that attitude; in regards to Yellow Submarine, David Gassman at PopMatters magazine wrote: "No matter how you get them, though, the otherwise unavailable songs on this album ought to be part of any thinking Beatles fan's collection."

Yup - I agree wholeheartedly. And I KNOW you're ALL thinking Beatles fans. So, here ya go. Enjoy this version of the original Yellow Submarine (remastered and reissued on September 9th, 2009), and as always, let me know what you think.

R.I.P., Sir George.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

The Clash - Clash On Broadway (The Interviews)

Here's a Leap Day quickie (and a way for me to keep up my monthly quota of posts as well . . .): a disc of interviews of various members of The Clash, put together as a promotion for the 1991 release of the Clash On Broadway compilation. These interviews, conducted by former band manager/associate Kosmo Vinyl in New York City and London in late 1991, provides info on the origins and operations, stresses and successes of the group from the 'horse's mouths' themselves. Mick Jones, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon detail their thoughts and inspirations behind some of the most important and popular Clash songs. While there is mostly just talk on this disc, there IS some music on here as well.

Here's the track lineup:
  1. Interview (Mick Jones on the beginnings of The Clash)
  2. Interview (Joe Strummer on the beginnings of The Clash)
  3. Interview (Mick Jones on the beginnings of The Clash)
  4. Interview (Paul Simonon on the beginnings of The Clash)
  5. Interview (Mick Jones on the beginnings of The Clash)
  6. Interview (Paul Simonon on the beginnings of The Clash)
  7. Interview (Joe Strummer on the beginnings of The Clash)
  8. Interview (Mick Jones on the beginnings of The Clash)
  9. Interview (Joe Strummer on the beginnings of The Clash)
  10. Interview (Mick Jones on the beginnings of The Clash)
  11. White Riot
  12. Interview (Paul Simonon; Joe Strummer; Mick Jones; on the transition from Terry Chimes to Topper Headon as Clash Drummer, and the writing of the song Complete Control)
  13. Complete Control
  14. Interview (Mick Jones; Joe Strummer on writing (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais)
  15. White Man In Hammersmith Palais
  16. Interview (Joe Strummer on the inspiration for Julie's Working For The Drug Squad)
  17. Julie's Been Working For The Drug Squad
  18. Interview (Paul Simonon; Joe Strummer on writing One Emotion)
  19. One Emotion
  20. Interview (Joe Strummer; Mick Jones on covering the song I Fought The Law)
  21. I Fought The Law (Live)
  22. Interview (Mick Jones; Paul Simonon; Joe Strummer on writing the song and album London Calling)
  23. London Calling
  24. Interview (Joe Strummer; Mick Jones on writing Lost In The Supermarket)
  25. Lost In The Supermarket
  26. Interview (Paul Simonon on writing The Guns Of Brixton)
  27. The Guns Of Brixton
  28. Interview (Paul Simonon; Mick Jones on writing Train In Vain)
  29. Train In Vain
  30. Interview (Joe Strummer on writing Rock The Casbah)
  31. Rock The Casbah
  32. Interview (Mick Jones; Joe Strummer; Paul Simonon on writing Should I Stay Or Should I Go)
  33. Should I Stay Or Should I Go
  34. Interview (Paul Simonon, Mick Jones; Joe Strummer on recording Every Little Bit Hurts)
  35. Every Little Bit Hurts
  36. Interview (Mick Jones; Paul Simonon; Joe Strummer on the legacy of The Clash)
I ran this one down only a couple of years back, in my constant search for any and all noises related to The Clash. I had no idea it existed prior to then, else I would have acquired it at the same time I bought the compilation all those years ago. This mostly-interview disc may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I always find it interesting to know a band's roots, and how/why they came up with their hit songs. This album is a great complement to the original box set and the Clash On Broadway (The Outtakes, a.k.a. Disc 4) I posted earlier. If you have any interest in the history of The Clash, this is a must-have.

So here for your edification and listening pleasure, is Clash On Broadway (The Interviews), released by Epic Records in late 1991.  Enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

Happy Leap Day!

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Friday, February 26, 2016

Shoes This High - Shoes This High EP and Live at Billy The Club (1980)

I love-love-LOVE New Zealand music!  I wish I could have lived there back in the early 1980's, when it seemed like there was interesting stuff happening all over the country, and great bands - The Clean, Toy Love, The Chills, and many, many more - were popping up left and right.  I've been an aficionado and collector of Kiwi punk and alternative music for donkey's years.  Here's a real obscurity I got into almost a decade ago . . .

Shoes This High has its origins in the New Zealand punk/post-punk music emerging from Wellington in the late '70s. The band was specifically part of what was called the city's "Terrace Scene", a group of cheap, ramshackle houses on a street hard by Kelburn Park (and just down the street from Victoria University and Massey University) occupied mainly at the time by young students, artists and musicians. Lacking funds to partake in other local entertainment, the residents of The Terrace began throwing underground house parties with instruments available for participants to jam together on. From these jam sessions, several bands began forming, but none of them - including Beat Rhythm Fashion, 52, Life In The Fridge Exists, and Naked Spots Dance - lasted beyond 1982.

Of all of the short-lived Terrace Scene bands, Shoes This High was probably the most interesting of the lot. The band came together in the early fall of 1979, when Kevin Hawkins (lead guitarist) met Jessica Walker (bassist) at one of those impromptu gigs and they decided to join forces (Jessica came from a family that already had deep connections in the New Zealand post-punk scene; her sister Jane was a member of the legendary Toy Love). Vocalist Brent Hayward joined the group that November, and after running through a couple of drummers, the band finally settled on Chris Plummer. Shoes This High honed their chops on the Wellington scene, branching out from Terrace parties and playing more established city venues like Thistle Hall and The Last Resort. The band's name came from a conversation overheard in the street: “Jessica heard some transsexual people getting on a big red bus and they were gossiping. “And how high did you say her shoes were?” “Those shoes were this high.”"

The sound this group put together was far and away from what was going on elsewhere in the city, and country, at that time - scabrous, slashing guitar rhythms; Gang Of Four-style propulsive, almost funk-based bass lines; crash-and-bang drumming . . . all backing Hayward's aggressive vocals. Here's a good summary description of what the Shoes This High was about, taken from Wade Ronald Churton's book Have You Checked The Children?:
“The band were plainly punk-based (though influences like funk and even disco were coming through) but shared little of the form's clichés. Plummer and Walker locked together to form one of the country's finest post-punk rhythm-sections; taut, slippery, staccato and even funky (and remarkably reminiscent of 1980s' Features). Fused with Hawkins' menacing jangle and unusual melody-lines, the three were exemplary improvisers who could extemporise on a theme on a par with most jazz-rock hotel outfits. Shoes This High were working with much more exciting rhythms, however.”
However, while the band was carving its own space in the local music scene, they were doing so at the expense of establishing a more extensive audience or with an eye towards greater commercial acceptance. New Zealanders just didn't 'get' Shoes This High in the early '80s. In addition to the jagged, abrasive, angular music, Hayward would spend much of his time during the group's gigs spitting venom, hurling insults and abuse on their audience. All of this made it difficult to be a dedicated fan of this group back then - pissing off your audience is rarely a recipe for success. The situation got so bad for Shoes This High in Wellington that the group decamped for Auckland in the austral winter (July) of 1980, although things them up in that city, in terms of audience reception, weren't appreciably better.

Still, the band was provided one shot at immortalizing their legacy. In late 1980, they entered a local studio to lay down tracks for a four-song EP; here's the track list:
1. The Nose One
2. Foot's Dream
3. A Mess
4. Not Weighting
The EP was released on the band's own STH Records label, but sold very poorly (usually at the group's poorly attended gigs) and quickly faded away . . . as did the group itself.  Shoes This High soldiered on in the North Island punk scene, but broke up before the middle of 1981 (rumor has it that Jessica's affair with a member of The Gordons - who Shoes This High gigged with extensively and lived with in Auckland for a time -  was the final straw that did the band in).

I didn't know a thing about this band or its music until nearly a decade ago, when I came across their hard-to-find EP via Detailed Twang, a superb music blog that sadly ceased operations in 2009. The write-up they did for this band and its music really whetted my appetite:
“.....Think it was all whimsical happy-go-lucky goofball pop music down there in New Zealand twenty-some-odd years ago? Songs about sheep and fish and heartbreak? You gotta hear SHOES THIS HIGH, a quick-lived 1980 Auckland-by-way-of-Wellington quartet who are by far one of the best lost post-punk bands I’ve had the pleasure of finding out about. Think a more jagged Minutemen, The Gordons, Seems Twice, Pere Ubu, some Beefheart-like deconstructed stabs at atonality – or, as Gary Steel’s liner notes for the reissued 7” EP exclaim, “killer-riffing-angry-in-your-guts-avant-garde-pin-pricking punk funk". The lead track on their sole four-song single, “The Nose One”, has a real spastic stop/start structure which successfully masks some great weary, disengaged vocals. Guitars chime in and chop out of all four tracks, some of which are pretty biting and aggressive (hence the GORDONS comparison). The greatness of this thing again reminds me of the strong influence of The Fall in NZ, where “Totally Wired” went actually into the Top 5. Not that Shoes This High sound much like The Fall, but there’s gotta be a hook there somewhere. Recorded December 1980, released in 1981, reissued on Raw Power records in 2002. Please do yourself a favor and begin a tireless, unyielding quest for the Shoes This High EP forthwith.....”
I downloaded the music directly from the site, and immediately fell in love with it. Here's my favorite song off of the EP, the lead track, "The Nose One":

After being exposed to this fantastic stuff, I began searching for more offerings by this great band . . . only to quickly discover to my disappointment that apparently there was no more to be had; Shoes This High made no other official recordings, and it seemed that there was nothing else available . . .

Until about four-five years ago, when out of nowhere, a live recording of the group playing a June 1980 gig at Billy The Club popped up on the Web. There's a guy by the name of Bob Sutton who, back in the day, used to go around recording the shows of the various groups that came through his town. And over the years, he had collected a pretty extensive archive of live sets by some of the country's most obscure, short-lived bands - including Shoes This High. Here's the set list from their gig that night:
1. Monodrone
2. Living Hell
3. The Nose One
4. Sop Pong
5. Mental Whiff
6. Tic Toc
7. Ain’t 1/2 Right
8. Fatman
9. Gifted?
10. Stuk
11. Christian Song
12. Menace In Yer Head
13. Tunnel Vision
14. ——–
15. You Sold Out
16. Small
17. For Too Long
18. Scab
19. Catshit
20. Bull-fight
21. Cretin Time
22. Beach Muscle
23. Don’t Wanna
24. R U Happy?
Of course, I quickly snapped this offering up as well. For a bootleg concert recording in a dodgy venue, it has a remarkably clear sound and presentation. And it greatly expands the band's previously limited musical legacy. All in all, it's a great recording.

The reason I'm posting this stuff now is that, while browsing around the Web the other day, I came across a site selling a "limited edition" release (only 500 copies available) of live Shoes This High music along with "bonus cuts", called Straight To Hell (link to the site is here). I quickly realized that what these guys were offering up for sale was the Billy The Club gig I already owned, along with the original EP tracks as the "bonus" songs! And to add insult to injury, they weren't even offering the complete show - only about half of the original 1980 show tracks are on the album (I assume they're saving the remaining twelve for another "limited edition' release to gouge people with later on down the line).

As I've said before, blatant money-grubbing like that pisses me off. So in order to counter that, and to make available some great, mostly unheard music to you all, here's:
  • The Shoes This High self-titled EP, recorded at Mascot Studios in Auckland by Gerard Carr on December 21st, 1980 and self-released by the band in January 1981; and
  • The Live at Billy The Club (22 June 1980) set, from Bob Sutton's personal stash.
Enjoy this flashback to a mostly-unknown but influential and fondly remembered scene - and as always, let me know what you think.
Shoes This High EP: Send Email

Live At Billy The Club (22 June 1980): Send Email

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Beatles Haikus

As (apparently) a small number of you are aware, for the past couple of years, to amuse myself (and hopefully you as well), I've hidden links to a few (about four or five) "secret posts" throughout this blog within already-existing posts. The posts are mostly for Beatles-related stuff I didn't feel like making fully available to casual visitors, but only to intrepid, observant, regular visitors to this site who actually take the time to read my verbose narratives - hopefully in the course of which they'll stumble over some pretty cool and amazing stuff. Usually, there's a special phrase or password that requestors have to send along in their email request, to confirm their discovery.
(And no - I'm not going to give out any clues as to any of their locations in this post . . . you're just gonna have to track them down yourself! *)
For one of my better "secret posts", in addition to forwarding a password, I had folks jump through one more hoop - they had to provide in their email an original Beatles-related haiku. I've collected some of the better ones here for your amusement (some people were inspired enough to submit more than one):
Sergent Pepper's Band
They hope you enjoy the show
Your evening well spent

- Andrew Siegel

Welcome to Hamburg
Preludin makes music fast
We should poach Ringo.

- Ted Roberts

Who’s this George Martin?
Peter Sellers fancied him
But not Peter Best…

- Ted Roberts

John, Paul, George, Ringo
All together or solo
Music I follow
(Comment: I like poems that rhyme so came up with this one first.)

- Adrian Lewis
Plastic Ono Band
James Paul McCartney and Wings
Ringo's All Starr Band

Plastic Ono Band
The Traveling Wilburys
McCartney & Wings

McCartney & Wings
The Traveling Wilburys
Ringo's All Starr Band
(Comment: Four solo Beatle bands don't fit into three lines, so I have three different combination versions.)

- Adrian Lewis
Purple Chick bootlegs
iTunes-friendlier mpegs
Download “Scrambled Eggs”?!
(Comment: Working title and substitute opening verse lyrics of “Yesterday” had "Scrambled Eggs/Oh, my baby how I love your legs".)

- Adrian Lewis
Yellow Submarine
The Hunt for Red October
The Spy Who Loved Me

(Comment: Three submarine films.)

- Adrian Lewis

Help me if you can,
Seek and you shall find," said he,
Hey, you've got to hide . . .

- Buddy Woodward
Adjusting my specs:
(Damnable dyslexia!)
All you need is luck!

- Buddy Woodward

Sixth time's the charm, eh?
A puzzle worthy of John;
Jai guru deva

- Buddy Woodward

John, Paul, George, Ringo
Sang many songs long ago
Hidden from their fans

- Jeffrey Cellers
From a tiny club,
To a record-breaking crowd;
The Beatles live on.

- Robert Harrison

Hopes for affection
Possesses nothing but love
Eight days in a week

- Robert Harrison
Mop top to long hair
Clean cut lads to hippie men
Eight short years of change

- Daniel T Monk Pelfrey
As I receive additional verses from new finders, I'll continue adding the best ones here. Congratulations and thanks to everyone who have discovered them and participated so far - I look forward to greeting and publishing the works here of more observant souls!

I hope that you enjoy these, and thanks for continuing to visit and support my blog. More music to come!

* - OK, OK - I'm just kidding . . . I kinda/sorta WANT people to find them.  For example, you might want to take a close look at this old post. But this is absolutely, positively the only secret post clue I'm giving out - it's up to you to find the rest!  Happy hunting!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

David Bowie - Love You Till Tuesday ("Soundtrack" & Film)

It's been a week-plus now since David Bowie's death . . . and it still feels weird. I don't want to overplay the "end of a era" thing, but that's sort of the way his passing feels. And most of the tributes and commentaries that followed in the wake of his death have all, either overtly or not, mentioned the same feeling. The man was one of a kind, and it may be a long time before someone with his creative gifts, innate intelligence, and puckish wit ever passes this way again.

In the past week, Bowie's latest album Blackstar has shot to the top of the U.S. and several international charts, and NINE of his earlier albums also reentered the Billboard 200, including two more in the Top 40: The Best Of Bowie at #4 and The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars at #21. Radio stations around the world have held week-long tributes - since last Monday, Radio NZ has played nothing but Bowie hits. And music bloggers all over the Internet (myself included) have fallen all over themselves writing about the man and artist and trying to come up with obscure, hard-to-find tidbits of Bowie-ibilia to make themselves stand out from their peers.

I was going to try to avoid doing that . . . but in reviewing the artist's offerings made available on various sites over the past few days, I noted that one interesting artifact appeared to be missing - an artifact that I happen to have in my possession.

In the mid-60s, a teenaged David Jones passed through a series of unsuccessful bands - The Konrads, The King Bees, The Manish Boys, The Lower 3rd, The Riot Squad - most of which recorded non-charting, poorly-received singles. With the emergence of another English David (Davy) Jones, a member of the American pop group The Monkees, Jones
changed his name to David Bowie in late 1966 to differentiate himself. Not that the change in moniker did him any good; he released a solo single in April 1967 (the weird and wonderful/embarrassing (depending on who you ask) children's song "The Laughing Gnome") and his debut album, David Bowie, that June (the same day Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was released), both on Deram Records.

The problem with David Bowie especially, in my opinion, is that it's all over the map - on it, Bowie does folk tunes, Anthony Newley-type show tunes, baroque pop, etc.; none of them written especially well. Buyers just didn't know what to make of him; was he 'for real', or just a novelty artist? The result was that they stayed away in droves - neither the single nor the album charted. This would be the last music Bowie released for more than two years (Deram dropped him a couple of months later).

In the interim, Bowie began an intensive course of study in dance and the dramatic arts under renowned choreographer Lindsey Kemp. He immersed himself in lessons in mime, Medieval Italian comedy and avant-garde performance, and began his first serious exploration into creating a distinct persona/personae for himself. David also started performing again, in a folk/Merseybeat combo with mime interludes and poetry readings mixed in, with his new girlfriend Hermione Farthingale (God, how 'English' a name can you get?) and friend John Hutchinson. And through his connection with Kemp, he got a couple of small uncredited parts in British movie and TV productions. Here he is (blink and you'll miss him) as an extra in the 1969 movie The Virgin Soldiers:

Around the same period, Bowie got a new manager, Kenneth Pitt, who believed in David's talent but was annoyed and frustrated by his lack of wider recognition. Pitt wracked his brains to figure out some way to bring Bowie's gifts to the masses. A chance encounter with a West German television producer in late 1968 provided him with what he thought was an answer: Pitt would put together a short promotional film showcasing Bowie's talents. The professionally-produced short would include not only music from David's 1967 album, but also dramatic and mime bits. The German producer broadly hinted that, once completed, he would air the film on Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF), the country's public broadcasting station, the equivalent to the American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Pitt figured that that sort of exposure might break Bowie out in Europe, with that fame subsequently translating back to Britain. He suggested his plan to Bowie, who also thought it was a boffo idea.

In choosing which songs to feature and dramatize in the film, Pitt and Bowie selected four from David Bowie, along with two new songs David had recently written with Farthingale and Hutchinson, "Ching-A-Ling" and "When I'm Five". Added to these selections was "Let Me Sleep Beside You", a single recorded and rejected by Deram shortly after the 1967 album was released and shortly before the label released him (Bowie wrote this song with a new friend of his, a young American expat record producer named Tony Visconti). Pitt enlisted a Scottish friend who had spent considerable time in the U.S., Malcolm Thomson, as the director, and arranged for a week's shooting at a studio in Greenwich in late January 1969; the schedule was delayed due to Bowie's participation in The Virgin Soldiers, shooting earlier that month.

David arrived at the Greenwich studios that January 26th ready to go in every aspect but one; his hair was unfashionably short, cut to regulation Army length for the war film. Pitt and Thomson were aghast, but quickly improvised by finding a suitable long-haired wig for Bowie to wear throughout the shoot. Bowie also arrived with another piece to include in the production; an unfinished outer space-themed song that he and John Hutchinson had been working on during the prior week called "Space Oddity".

The filming ran into difficulties from nearly the very beginning. Pitt and Thomson began to clash over content, quality and subject matter. I think that Pitt was looking for more of a quickie showreel done relatively cheaply, where Bowie's songs were the standout/featured attraction. Thomson, on the other hand, wanted to add more costumes, camera movement, and artistic nuances into the production. A major point of contention between the two centered on plans for "Space Oddity"; in particular, Thomson wanted to make the part where Major Tom cavorts with the "space maidens" considerably more
sexy and risque than what may have been permitted for German television. Also, a considerable amount of time and effort was expended on Bowie's mime segment, titled "The Mask". As a result of all of this, studio time had to be extended, and the overall cost of the film began to mount.

Finally, after nearly two weeks of filming, the film (entitled Love You Till Tuesday) wrapped on February 7th. Here's a list of the performance pieces on it:
  1. "Love You Till Tuesday"
  2. "Sell Me a Coat"
  3. "When I'm Five"
  4. "Rubber Band"
  5. "The Mask (A Mime)"
  6. "Let Me Sleep Beside You"
  7. "Ching-a-Ling"
  8. "Space Oddity"
  9. "When I Live My Dream"
Pitt immediately contacted his West German friend, to let him know the short was ready for airing . . . but found that the producer had moved on from ZDF, and no one else there was interested in showing a music film by some unknown English artist. Bowie's manager found he had spent all of his money for seemingly nought. Desperate now, Pitt began shopping the showreel around to various British networks and record labels, but no one was interested in anything about it . . .

Well, that is, ALMOST no one.

Ken Pitt was given an audience with representatives from Mercury Records' British subsidiary Philips in the early spring of 1969. The reps found little of interest in the film . . . except for "Space Oddity". From that modicum of interest, Pitt was then able to negotiate a one album deal (with an option for another one or two albums) for Bowie with the label. David was rushed into the studio; "Space Oddity" was recorded that June 20th, and released as a single on July 11th, 1969, just in time to take advantage of the Apollo 11 mission (the first lunar landing) nine days later. The single proved to be a hit in Britain, where after a slow start it peaked at #5 (it did nothing in America on its initial release, stalling at #124 - but on its re-release in 1973 in the wake of Ziggy Stardust, it reached #15, his first U.S. hit single).
This song, and the subsequent album David Bowie (aka Man Of Words/Man Of Music in the States) released in November 1969, launched David's career.

As for the film: apart from its use to secure the Mercury/Philips deal, Pitt found no immediate further use for it and filed it away, where it sat unseen for years. But in the early '80s, with the advent of home video, Bowie's former producer (the two split in 1971) realized he may have something golden on his hands. He contacted Polygram (by
then the holding company for Philips) and made a deal for its release; Love You Till Tuesday went on sale in VHS format in May 1984. Not to be outdone, Deram Records, the label holding most of the material used in the movie, released a "soundtrack album" (actually, just the versions of film songs recorded for David Bowie, along with non-film singles from the same period) that same month. Here's the song lineup:
1. Space Oddity
2. Love You Till Tuesday
3. When I'm Five
4. Ching-A-Ling
5. The Laughing Gnome
6. Rubber Band
7. Sell Me A Coat
8. Liza Jane
9. When I Live My Dream
10. Let Me Sleep Beside You
11. The London Boys
Looking at the film nowadays, it's hard to properly consider it for its standalone artistic and musical merits in the context of its time. It's very much a time capsule of late '60s "Swinging London" styles and attitudes, and as such, in this day and age it's an effort to take it all seriously. For example, it is difficult to watch Bowie, the dapper young puka-beaded gentleman, lounge suggestively on pillows while warbling the title track and resist the urge to shout "Yeah, baby!" in a cheesy Austin Powers accent:

(Did you hear him briefly snicker halfway through the video?  David knew full well what the story was, and what he was doing . . .)
All in all, there's nothing in Love You Till Tuesday, either the album or the film, that's particularly deathless or essential in Bowie's career. Other than "Space Oddity", which was considerably revamped for its summer 1969 release, most of the other tunes here are either lightweight or forgettable. But both works of art stand as interesting artifacts in the early design and development of David's sound and vision of himself to come. The seeds of Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, Pierrot from Scary Monsters, and the otherworldly/alien Bowie can be found in his performances here.

And what's also great to see and hear here is Bowie as a young man - full of energy, life and happiness, presenting his compositions and ideas to the world with a knowing smile on his face and absolutely no fear whatsoever. No matter what other changes he brought to his act and career, that part of him always stayed consistent and true. Thank God for that.

So, for your consideration, here's:
  • The album Love You Till Tuesday, released by Deram Records on vinyl and cassette in May 1984 (not released on CD until 1991);
  • The film Love You Till Tuesday, produced in 1969 but released by Polygram in May 1984. The complete 30-minute film is exceedingly difficult to find on the Web; so here it is, in .mp4 format.
I promise that this will be my last Bowie post for the foreseeable future. So enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:
Love You Till Tuesday (album): Send Email

Love You Till Tuesday (film): Send Email

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie - Station To Station (Deluxe Edition) (3 Discs) (RS500 - #323)

I was up fairly late last night - I've recently been having a little trouble falling asleep before midnight. At around two a.m., I received a Skype call from my old buddy Rob, who'd just returned to Christchurch after spending the past few days mountain biking near Arthur's Pass. I've mentioned Rob on occasion in this blog; he's been one of my best friends for over twenty years now, and in that time we've had some hilarious adventures and fun experiences together in both New Zealand and America.

In addition to being my friend, Rob is one of the most rabid, knowledgeable David Bowie fans I know. He was into Bowie before he reached his teens; the first album he ever owned was Changesonebowie, given to him by his mother on his birthday in 1976. By his own admission, this introduction to Bowie's music changed Rob's life. He quickly morphed into a dedicated follower, and fell in with a small but selective group of hard-core Bowie fans in Christchurch, cutting his hair and dressing in flares in emulation of his musical idol (much to the amusement of his infinitely patient and devoted mother . . . and the chagrin of his staunch, straight-laced career Air Force father, who didn't have the faintest notion as to why his son was acting so "crazy"). Rob was amongst the crowd who attended the legendary concert at QE2 Stadium on November 29th, 1978 on the Australasian leg of his Isolar II Tour that year, Bowie's sole South Island show for the entirety of his career.

In the years that followed, Rob's fandom never waned. He managed to assemble quite a Bowie collection, probably the best in New Zealand - rare albums and bootlegs, books, photographs and lithographs. His travels around the world have taken him to places renowned in Bowie-lore; Rob has posed in front of the gate to Château d'Hérouville in France, where most
of Low was recorded, and made a special trip to Berlin to tour the Hansa Tonstudio and stand in the exact spot where "Heroes" was recorded. For over forty years, he remained a devoted Bowie fan, and over time he has greeted each new release, no matter how poorly reviewed, with genuine adoration and enthusiasm. Just as The Fall are my all-time favorite artists, David Bowie has long been Rob's Number One.

Anyway, last night, Rob began to tell me about his weekend and a minor sports injury he suffered while riding around, but our Skype chat was interrupted when he received a call via his regular phone, so he asked me to hold for a couple of minutes. I whiled away that time sifting through my email messages and browsing the news on the Web, nothing major or out-of-the-ordinary, just another night. So I was jolted when I suddenly came across the headline "David Bowie Dead at 69".

I instantly thought "This has got to be bullshit." After all, David's latest album, Blackstar, had just been released two days prior on his birthday, to rave reviews. Plus, there hadn't been the slightest hint or warning in the news that he had been ill. I figured that it was a album release publicity-driven hoax, and began to dismiss it from my mind . . . but I started checking into the story anyway, just to be sure.

It didn't take long to find that the news was not specious, but accurate - David Bowie had died a couple of hours earlier. "Jolted" is an inadequate word to describe my initial thoughts and feelings once I received confirmation of this story . . . with my second thought being, "How am I going to break this to Rob?" I knew it was potentially devastating, heartbreaking news, and I wasn't looking forward to telling him . . . but he had to know, as soon as possible - and it's always good to find these sort of things out from your friends. I sent him a quick text message telling him to get off the phone as quickly as he could, as there was some important news I had to tell him . . .

When Skype resumed, I told Rob the news, in a way that let him know I wasn't screwing around or pulling his leg. I've known this guy a long time . . . and I have to say I've never seen him more stunned. We spent the rest of the call reminiscing, commiserating, and reflecting on the life and work of Bowie, and what he's meant to us over the years.

To be honest, I didn't know that much about David Bowie until I was well into my teens - my first full-on encounter with all things Bowie occurred in late 1979, when I saw him perform on NBC's Saturday Night Live. As I alluded to an earlier post, in much of America of the 1970s, Bowie was considered a "weirdo", a cross-dressing English fop with a flair for flamboyant, garish makeup and outlandish rock 'n' roll alter egos. Of course, by the late '70s, he'd long left a lot of that stuff behind - Bowie was constantly modifying and experimenting with his sound and his look. But the majority of Americans didn't keep up with his ever-changing moods, methods and influences - in this country, first impressions meant a lot. And the impression that the majority of Middle America still had of Bowie - the otherworldly Major Tom and Ziggy of the late '60s/early 70s - was the impression that still lingered as the Eighties approached.

But long before his SNL gig, Bowie had begun taking steps to make himself more accessible and acceptable to the American public at large. The original concept behind his 1973 album Pin Ups was to present an album of cover songs by '60s British rock and pop artists (The Pretty Things, The Merseys, Them) to an American audience that might not have been aware of them. This was to have been followed by another album covering American artists from the same period (the second
part of this plan was eventually scrapped). After 1974's Diamond Dogs, Bowie permanently moved away from glam and on his next album, 1975's Young Americans, he began showcasing his latest musical influences, American R&B and Philly soul. His plan seemed to be paying off here; Young Americans went Gold in the States and produced his first U.S. #1 hit "Fame".

And of course, a big move was his appearance on Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas holiday special on 30 November, 1977. As I mentioned in an earlier post:
"People forget nowadays, but back in the mid-70s Bowie was considered to be an out-and-out freak by most of Middle America . . . so it was somewhat of a shock and an enlightenment for a lot of people seeing the friendly, polite, 'normal' family man Bowie warbling Christmas carols with Mr. Wholesomeness himself."
So the stage was pretty well set for him to continue his assault on the U.S. market through his Saturday Night Live appearance, his first national television performance. David made the most of this opportunity.

Bowie's appearance on SNL was in many ways a concise summation of his career up to that point. He and his band (supplemented by up-and-coming (but then generally unknown) New York performance artists Joey Arias and Klaus Nomi) opened with "The Man Who Sold The World", from his 1970 album of the
same name (The Man Who Sold The World is regarded by many music critics as "where the [Bowie] story really starts", with the artist abandoning much of the folky, acoustic music of his first two '60s albums and moving into the hard rock/glam rock genres). Later in the show, he blazes through "TVC 15", off of 1976's Station To Station (by this album, he left behind his early '70s glam rock personae of Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane and the "soul boy" funk leanings of his previous album, 1975's Young Americans, and began forging a
hybrid sound combining his earlier influences with that of German electronic music). And the song Bowie closed the show with, "Boys Keep Swinging", from Lodger released earlier that year (Lodger was the last of Bowie's celebrated "Berlin Trilogy" (along with Low and "Heroes") of abstract, minimalist albums with collaborator Brian Eno, but was considered the most accessible and commercially successful).

Here's a clip of the first song from the show, "The Man Who Sold The World":


I thought the costume that Bowie wore for this song was amazing; basically a rigid Bauhaus/Dada-inspired shell tuxedo that held him immobile - Arias and Nomi had to carry him out to
his place on stage. Apparently, I wasn't the only one affected by his getup; Nomi was reportedly so impressed with the costuming that he adopted a variation on the huge plastic tuxedo Bowie wore as his own signature look, wearing one on the cover of his first album, 1981's Klaus Nomi, and performing in it until his death from AIDS in 1983.

What followed later in the show was "TVC 15", with another stunning and androgynous costume change that Bowie pulls off flawlessly, a 1940s-style Lennon Sisters wide-shouldered dress suit and sheath skirt:


And who could forget the pink poodle with the monitor in its mouth, and the herky-jerky backup singing?

The strangest performance occurred at the very end of the program, just before the host/cast farewells and closing credits. For "Boys Keep Swinging", Bowie's head is shown atop what appears to be a man-sized wooden puppet body, which during the performance cavorts and bounces around the stage in a very weird, off-putting yet mesmerizing way:


Bowie was pissed that the NBC censor bleeped out the "other boys check you out" line during the song, but he got his revenge and the last laugh - take a close look at what happens to the puppet's pants at the end of the tune! All in all, it was truly a strange, surreal "WTF?" moment in television history. I didn't know what to make of it; you can tell by the studio audience reaction that they didn't know what to make of it all either.

In any event, as strange as it was to see unusual performances like this on American national TV, I was entranced and impressed by Bowie's art, and finally realized what I'd been missing all those years. December 15th, 1979 at 1:00 AM was the moment I finally became a David Bowie fan - a decision I've never regretted.

I spoke with Rob again for a bit this afternoon. "Mate," he said, "I don't normally like to admit this, but I'm feeling a little . . . weird and vulnerable since I heard the news last night." I know exactly what he means. The passing of an entertainment icon is normally a cause for acknowledgement, appreciation and tribute from fans and contemporaries. But in the vast majority of these instances, this "moment of reflection" is just that - a short-lived moment, and after which, we all go on with our lives. Perhaps all of this is too recent to make a truly subjective determination, but David Bowie's death feels . . . different, as though something has definitely changed in the world.

I've had conversations with other friends today regarding his passing, and they all feel the same way. The recent deaths of Lemmy and Natalie Cole were sad, but they haven't been lingered over, analyzed and eulogized in the press and on social media as Bowie's has been. I think that may be due to the nature of the man and what he brought to the world for the past fifty years. To quote Rob: "Bowie didn't write music; he made accessible art." In those words lies the essence of what made Bowie so great, why he will be missed, and why his absence will leave such a void.

During our conversation late last night, Rob and I asked one another not what our favorite Bowie album is, but even more narrowly, what our favorite Bowie SONG is. Here's mine - the 1973 alternate demo version of "Candidate", included as a bonus cut on Diamond Dogs:

Rob's all-time fave is "Always Crashing The Same Car", from Low:

Enough of all of this - there have been more than enough tributes today, and there are certain to be tons more coming in the next few days. I don't expect my reflections and memories of David Bowie will have that much import or impact in the grand scheme of things. I just felt the need to pay a small tribute to a visionary artist who is now no longer with us. We may not see the likes of David Bowie again . . . but isn't it great that, in the millions and billions of years that this planet has existed, we all were lucky enough to share this planet at the same time with him?

In honor of the life and memory of David Bowie, for my buddy Rob, for myself, and for you all, I proudly offer the deluxe edition of the 1976 album Station To Station. This is the September 10th, 2010 reissue, which includes not only the original album, but the entire show at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on March 23rd, 1976 (on two bonus discs).

In addition, also offered here are the three performance videos from Saturday Night Live shown above, in .mp4 format. These are notoriously hard to find on the Web; NBC and Lorne Michaels are vicious about keeping SNL content off of free sites like Vimeo and YouTube. The ones included here are burned off of my SNL DVDs I purchased upon their release many years ago; I own the first five seasons of the show, which are really the only seasons anyone needs to care about.

Anyway, enjoy, and as always, let me know what you think.

Farewell, Thin White Duke.

Please use the email link below to contact me, and I will reply with the download link(s) ASAP:
Station To Station (Deluxe Edition): Send Email

Saturday Night Live performances, December 15th, 1979: Send Email

[Hmm . . . it appears that the performance videos I embedded above aren't being displayed in this post anymore; I guess has an issue with having them be seen here. No matter - the download links are still available, and I'll be happy to send them along to you.]

David Bowie (1947-2016)

"Chameleon, comedian, Corinthian and caricature".

I'm speechless . . . what a loss.

Can't even write about this now.  More later.

Farewell, Thin White Duke.