David Bowie Memory Palace [part 10]

David Sylvian seemed creatively hamstrung on the Glass Spider tour

David Sylvian seemed creatively hamstrung on the Glass Spider tour

1986 [continued]

Another soundtrack project [these were getting far too numerous for comfort] popped up before 1987 rolled around. Julien Temple’s “Absolute Beginners” project was given copious amounts of UK hype, given the Colin MacInnes origins of the film. His book of the same name was a much-beloved, seminal 60s piece of British pop literature that captured the zeitgeist of a generation. The Jam already took the title for a great single of theirs, so when Bowie took another stab at a song with that title, it already had the whiff of yesterday’s news. I never saw the film. It was envisioned by Temple as an over the top hollywood musical by way of and the cast was stuffed with singers like Sade and [I’m using the term loosely here] Patsy Kensit as well as Bowie himself rubbing shoulders with the mere thespians.

EMI America | US | 12" | 1987 | V-19205

EMI America | US | 12″ | 1987 | V-19205

Again, I let the MTV video be my guide. The Clive Langer/Alan Winstanley vibe was probably right for the project, it’s just that their music hall roots spoke to Bowie’s own in a bad way. While Bowie had begun his career taking stabs that his first manager, Ken Pitt, saw as pointing him in a Tommy Steele all around entertainer manner, it’s true that I didn’t think much of that approach. It was not until Bowie was making proto-post-modern rock and prefiguring Post-Punk rock that he resonated the most with me. This was too genteel and drab, though marginally more interesting than the album material that I was hearing at the time. I saw the video. I passed.

Virgin | UK | 7" | 1986 | VS 906

Virgin | UK | 7″ | 1986 | VS 906

when-the-wind-blowsAnother soundtrack single was released in 1986. “When The Wind Blows” was the title song to an animated film of the same name dealing with nuclear holocaust. Given the subject matter, I don’t think the film ever got a release in America! To this day, I’ve not heard the song. It’s on a few Bowie compilations that I do not own. It’s missing from his video collections. Nice sleeve art, though. Malcolm Garrett came through.

The next year rolled around and Bowie was right there with an album and tour. Too bad it was “Never Let Me Down!” With trepidation, I watched the first video premiere on MTV and while the “Day In, Day Out” video had a prescient Daryl Gates vibe to it that was certainly interesting, politically… the song was a tired “Let’s Dance” re-tread. When Duran Duran re-wrote “Let’s Dance” as “The Union Of The Snake” that was one thing. When Bowie was reduced to self-pastiche… ouch! Much ado was made about the “Glass Spider Tour” which would be an arty, theatrical extravaganza like nothing since the abandoned “Diamond Dogs” tour, but I wasn’t buying any of it. Especially when I heard that the lead guitarists for the album/tour was to be… Peter Frampton? I get that Bowie took art classes as taught by his schoolfriend Peter’s father, but in 1987 Peter Frampton was no one who I ever needed to hear again. Even over a decade later.

EMI America | US | CD | 1987 | CDP 7 46677 2

EMI America | US | CD | 1987 | CDP 7 46677 2

A later single from the album was “Time Will Crawl,” and this one really seemed like a Bowie song to me, in spite of its MOR trappings. The deeply strange lyrics were actually intriguing. If the third single, the Lennonesque title cut, hadn’t been so pedestrian [complete with faux Stevie Wonder harmonica] I might have picked up a used copy, but no. This was now the fourth consecutive Bowie album that I dared not buy! If I could have taken a time machine back to 1980 and told myself this fact, I hardly would have believed it. Worse yet, when the Glass Spider tour reached the backwards state where I lived, I would finally get a chance to see David Bowie in concert. The tour was appearing in Tampa Stadium, just 90 minutes away. While I would have seen Bowie even during the Serious Moonlight tour, but now he had the aroma of damaged goods to me. I nor any of my friends took the brief trip to Tampa to see this show. Tellingly, a Bowie fanatic friend of mine who lived in Tampa at the time also sat this one out.

Next: …The only way is up  

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David Bowie Memory Palace [part 9]

Goth Bowie ca. 1983 "The Hunger"

Goth Bowie ca. 1983 “The Hunger”


The next year brought the CD format into my life. By the summer of 1985, I had my first player. Soon, I was  trading in my vinyl [see: The Great Vinyl Purge] at used record stores for the shiny, silver platters. I cut loose all of my Bowie since I was clearly going to buy them on the preferred format. right? After all, he was such a significant artist in my Record Cell. Not only that, but it seems that he was the first artist to have his entire back catalogue available in the format. [As long as you don’t count his Deram debut album – ssh!] Well, that was the plan. In reality, I was doing a bit of freelance for a pal who owned Armadillo Records, so I found myself taking out some design work in return for a lot of trade; at least for a few months. The only Bowie CD that had drifted into his bins during that period was this one.

RCA | US | CD | 1984 | PCD1-4919

RCA | US | CD | 1984 | PCD1-4919

This was a “new” compilation from 1984 that RCA compiled to jump on the “Let’s Dance” wave of popularity the artist had in the mid-80s. It’s sort of like a mashup of “changesonebowie’ and “changestwobowie” minus most of the deep cuts. At the time I was simply happy to have some David Bowie I could play easily in the preferred format.

1985 also brought the gruesome spectacle of Live Aid and became the nail in the death of Post-Punk, in case anyone was still paying attention. Our man David Bowie had his hands all over the hammer. I had bailed out of the actual Live Aid footage after about an hour or so in. I could see that it was not going to make me happy, but I saw The Boomtown Rats and what they deigned to show of Ultravox’s set before turning it off. I didn’t see David Bowie’s set but after the event, this single was all over MTV.

EMI America | US | 12" | 1985 | V-19200

EMI America | US | 12″ | 1985 | V-19200

Bowie and Jagger camped it up in the video with Bowie effortlessly outgunning his partner without breaking into a sweat. The single actually seemed to be fairly successful reaching seven in America and number one in the UK; a first for Bowie in the US since all of his singles after “Modern Love” failed to light the charts afire. Since all of the profits were going to Live Aid, only a churl would balk, At least it was something that was knocked out in a matter of hours; video included! The stars seemed to be having fun; as ghastly as it looked. I sincerely hope that they were having fun. Did I buy a copy? Not really. To this day I only have the song on various video compilations.

The 2001 of vampire movies

The 2001 of vampire movies

I also managed to see the vampire movie that Bowie had acted in in 1983. Back then, my  friend Jayne asked if I wanted to see it in the theaters, but I was not convinced. It had somewhat dubious sapphic overtones in addition to Bowie as a bloodletter, so I gave it a pass at the time. It was not until I saw the music video for Bauhaus’s performance in the film of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” as played on MTV during Halloween 1984 by Elvira [a.k.a. Cassandra Peters] that I began to rethink that position. It looked fantastic! A friend in college told me that the first 20 minutes were “art.” When it came on cable TV, I taped it to watch later and it became a visually gorgeous, if slightly fishy cult item among my friends. We dubbed it the “2001 of vampire movies.” Tony Scott’s direction revealed that his advertising background revealed certain visual skills if not a flair for narrative. Given that the gravely disappointing soft-porn video that Ultravox had themselves made for “Visions In Blue” was so lame, I often considered editing an alternate video for the song with footage from this movie [heavy on the blue filter abuse] replacing the gratuitous nudity of the original.


Upstaged by foam rubber

Upstaged by foam rubber

The next year brought another Bowie movie. This time it was really nothing I cared to see! “Labyrinth” was an ungodly collision between Jim Henson [Muppets…yuck!], George Lucas [already well past his sell-by date and no stranger to populating his film with puppets, either], and …Terry Jones of Monty Python? One out of three ain’t good, and these were some seriously strange bedfellows for a Python! I had no plans to see it until chasinvictoria cajoled me into accompanying him and his girlfriend at the time [and one of her friends, if memory serves] into seeing it during its run. Well, that was two hours of my life I could not get back for love nor money! I had seen the video for “Underground” when premiered on MTV and the gospel-tinged soul track combined with tons of foam rubber puppets only made my bile rise. I should have turned a deaf ear to his invite, but when friends call, my instinct is to go. Even for what was obviously a bad Bowie film.

EMI America | US | LP | 1986 | SV-17206

EMI America | US | LP | 1986 | SV-17206

For many, many years “Underground was the only track from the soundtrack album that I was familiar with. It remains a “Bowie album” that never has and still hasn’t darkened my Record Cell… and I aim to keep it that way. Bowie had clearly fallen and could not get up! His EMI era was going from bad to worse with vicious velocity.

Next: … The nadir…

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Sacre Bleu! OMD Release 2016 US Tour Dates!

The OMD core trio live in Liverpool ca. 2014

The OMD core trio live in Liverpool ca. 2014

The last time I saw OMD on US soil was during the first leg of their reasonably wide ranging 2011 tour behind their “History Of Modern” album. I even popped for VIP tickets. It was a feast of OMD following 31 years of at best crumbs. I sat out their later two tours due to cost and location; the eternal bugbears of the humble gigophile. Since then, they released their “English Electric” album as well as their Museum Of Liverpool live CD/DVD package. Drummer Malcolm Holmes suffered a near-fatal [second] heart attack in Toronto during their last North American tour, which ended on its occasion, understandably. Since then, the OMD wheels have been turning diligently and word has drifted out that there is to be a new album by the Summer of 2016. That’s nice to see. It’s been three years since EE and while it seems brief on the face of it, I’m happy to see a group I like put out an album in less than 5-6 years. [Simple Minds, I’m talking to you]

hojo2With that in mind, perhaps it’s not to surprising to hear that OMD will be embarking on a large US tour next summer. What is surprising is the fine print. The headliners will be… Barenaked Ladies?! Not ever anything approaching a band I could bear, much less enjoy. Even though they have written songs with pop genius Stephen Duffy; a personal hero, I have not deigned to acknowledge them. They exist in that Duffy Netherworld® along with his Robbie Williams material. Whatever pays the bills, Stephen. I get it, but I don’t have to hear it. The other opener on the tour is to be Howard Jones. Never a favorite [to put it mildly] but at least a musician I can bear to hear, though never as much as even an opening set will serve up. At any rate, seeing Jones then OMD will be fine, though the Charlotte date I have my eye on is typical of this tour; on the “summer shed” circuit.  What are those dates? Glad you asked.

Barenaked Ladies/OMD/Howard Jones | Last Summer On Earth Tour | 2016

June 3 | Minneapolis, MN | The Cabooze
June 4 | Kansas City, MO | Starlight Theatre
June 5 | Morrison, CO | Red Rocks
June 8 | Huber Heights, OH | Rose Music Center at The Heights
June 9 | Highland Park, IL | Ravinia Pavillion
June 10 | Clarkston, MI | DTE Energy Music Theatre
June 11 | Cleveland, OH | Jacobs Pavillion at Nautica
June 13 | New York, NY | SummerStage in Central Park
June 14 | Lewiston, NY | Artpack
June 15 | Vienna, VA | Wolf Trap Center for Performing Arts
June 17 | Bethel, NY | Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
June 18 | Philadelphia, PA | The Mann Center for the Performing Arts
June 19 | Boston, MA | Blue Hills Bank Pavillion
June 20 | Pittsburgh, PA | Stage AE
June 24 | Portland, ME | Maine State Pier
June 25 | Wallingford, CT | Oakdale Theatre
June 26 | Baltimore, MD | Pier 6 Pavillion
June 28 | Alpharetta, GA | Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park
June 29 | Charlotte, NC | Uptown Amphitheatre at the NC Music Factory
July 1 | Charleston, SC | Volvo Cars Stadium
July 2 | St. Augustine, FL | Saint Augustine Amphitheatre
July 3 | Raleigh, NC | Red Hat Amphitheatre
July 5 | Nashville, TN | Ascend Amphitheatre
July 6 | Cincinnati, OH | PNC Pavilion at Riverbend Music Center
July 8 | Indianapolis, IN | Farm Bureau Insurance Lawn at White River State Park
July 12 | Boise, ID | Hawk’s Memorial Stadium
July 15 | Missoula, MT | Big Sky Brewing Company
July 16 | Redmond, WA | Marymoor Park Concerts
July 17 | Troutdale, OR | Edgefield
July 19 | Saratoga, CA | The Mountain Winery
July 20 | San Diego, CA | Cal Coast Credit Union
July 22 | Las Vegas, NV | Downtown Las Vegas Events Center
July 23 | Lincoln, CA | Thunder Valley Casino Ampitheatre
July 24 | Los Angeles, CA | Greek Theatre

Tickets go on sale this Friday, February 5th, at 10:00 A.M. EST. Pricing seems to be in the $30-70 range. How likely am I to put out top dollar for an OMD opening set of 45-60 min? Um, not that likely, but I do want to see them this time round. It’s been five years since the last gig and who knows when the next one will come anywhere nearby! Even though Stuart Kershaw has replaced Malcolm Holmes live, this will still be the rest of the OMD core. I’m looking forward to the new album and can hardly not drive the 2:20 to see them play… even on a hellish concrete slab with no cover.

– 30 –

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David Bowie Memory Palace [part 8]

Yeah. It chills my blood, too.

Yeah. It chills my blood, too.


When the hype machine started building up for “Let’s Dance” I was fully engaged. After all, I had been waiting over two years for a new Bowie album. The charts were full of his imitators, taking presumably inferior Bowie knock-offs into the charts while he lay in wait; biding his time. In 1983, Nile Rodgers was the guy who co-produced the iffy Deborah Harry debut solo album and little more to me, but I was willing to give him a shot. It was a big wait for the MTV World Premiere Video® and when it was done, the wind had been sucked from our sails like never before. I have written more extensively on the phenomenon here. Suffice to say that I did the previously unthinkable and did not buy the new David Bowie album or even a single. The other two videos were all disappointing on a song/visual level. “China Girl” was kitschy sub-Bowie pastiche. Only the lyrics to the turgid “Modern Love” even seemed vaguely Bowie-like. I was quite happy to wait out this creative drought. I still would have seen Bowie live if the Serious Moonlight tour had come anywhere near the Southeast but the closest date was in Texas! So there we were.

Virgin | US | CD | 1995 | CDVUS 96

Virgin | US | CD | 1995 | CDVUS 96


Throughout 1983, Bowie was second only to Michael Jackson on the hype front, but musically, he was about on par with the gloved one. Treading water artistically but shifting units like never before through applied business theory. No scratch that… at least “Thriller” had one stone-cold classic; the derivative, but tight “Wanna Be Startin’ Something.” All that I had heard from “Let’s Dance” was irredeemably dull in comparison. After the Serious Moonlight tour was over, it didn’t take long for the follow-up album to Bowie’s monster selling “Let’s Dance” to manifest. “Tonight” got a start with the pre-release single for the happy pop tune “Blue Jean” …which was the big problem right there. This was from a middle aged rock star who had been making much more complex records almost from the start. It felt fraudulent to hear him sing an upbeat bobby-sox rock ditty with no shading or nuance. After seeing the video debut on MTV, I looked as dyspeptic as Bowie did on the album cover.

Virgin | US | CD | 1995 | CDVUS 97

Virgin | US | CD | 1995 | CDVUS 97

The second single was “Loving The Alien.” While it was miles better than anything I’d heard from “Let’s Dance,” and “Blue Jean,” it still failed to convince. There was something just off about the whole thing. The lyrics were intriguing, but the arrangement and video were just too florid and if it was about the conflict between Palestinians and Christians, then the camp faces Bowie pulled in the video were disquieting at the least. He had the look of a man losing the plot in that one. I don’t even remember seeing further videos from this album, thought there must have been a few more singles. [looks]. The title cut had no video so I never heard it. A duet with Tina Turner? Pretty boring stuff. The only exciting Tina Turner record was produced by Martyn Ware. This was shaping up to be a loooooong decade and it wasn’t yet half over.

Next: …Let Down…Again

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David Bowie Memory Palace [part 7]

Bowie goes Moroder

Bowie goes Moroder


While 1981 came and went with only a single, 1982 was much the same. Bowie has since reported that then he and Eno were making “Heroes,” they were blindsided by the work of Giorgio Moroder. His seminal “I Feel Love” with Donna Summer was proclaimed by Eno to be “…the sound of the future… This single is going to change the sound of club music for the next fifteen years.” As we know, Eno was correct. And then some.  So when it transpired that Bowie was working with Moroder on the theme song to a remake of the film “Cat People,” I went right out and grabbed the 7″ single on its release. It was an excellent, moody piece of work that I liked so much I went out and bought the full soundtrack album to get the full 6:41 version. The rest of Moroder’s soundtrack was no slouch either.

MCA Records | US | 7" | 1982 | MCA-52024

MCA Records | US | 7″ | 1982 | MCA-52024

1982 brought forth another Bowie recording, but truth to tell, I never saw a copy of the “Baal” EP with the Bertol Brecht songs from the BBC production that Bowie starred in for British television. Instead, I managed to buy an intriguing single that I had read about in the “Illustrated Record” book. “Alabama Song” was a Brecht + Weill song familiar to most audiences from the Doors cover version on their popular debut album. This was issued the same year as “Scary Monsters” but was not included on that album. It remained a non-LP single, with a radically spartan take on the classic Bowie tune “Space Oddity” for its B-side. When I saw the German edition in the bins at Retro Records I immediately snapped it up. The tracks were balm for a Bowie that had gone two years now without a new album; then a pop music eternity, but I had little idea of the financial gears that were turning Bowie’s universe at the time.

RCA Victor | GER | 7" | 1980 | PB 9510

RCA Victor | GER | 7″ | 1980 | PB 9510

While Tony Defries had been Bowie’s manager since 1970, and made good on his vow to make the getting-long-in-tooth Bowie a star, it was not without a deep cost. Defries Maniman company siphoned off 50% of Bowie’s take int he 70s and understandably enough, Bowie bristled at having to borrow money to buy groceries from his manager after selling millions of records. The mid-70s lawsuit to end the contract came with a further price for Bowie; Defries would still receive 16% of all Bowie earnings through 1982. Knowing that, it’s not surprising that “Scary Monsters” became a line in the sand as Bowie saw the finish line just two years ahead and gritted his teeth to starve the beast out. As the calendar turned the page into 1983, word came with it that Bowie would be leaving RCA records for EMI and the tune of an alleged $17.5 M. 1983 was the year for David Bowie to [finally] start making some money.

Next: …The creative drought begins

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