Category Archives: David Bowie

The 8 Records I’m Most Excited about Not Buying for Record Store Day 2017

wreckastowday

I tried Record Store Day for the first time last year, and was woefully unprepared for the task; by the time I made it to my local wrecka stow, everything I was remotely interested in had already been snatched up by more enterprising/experienced shoppers. This year, I won’t be making the festivities at all: my family plans for the morning of April 22, unfortunately, do not involve any crate-digging. But that doesn’t mean I can’t look at the list of special releases and sigh wistfully at what might have been. Here are a few highlights:

88985401937_JK001_PS_01_01_01.indd

“All Together Now” by André 3000 (7″, ltd. to 5000)

I did not know the most delightfully weird member of OutKast covered one of the most delightfully goofy songs by the Beatles. Now I do know, but there’s no way this thing is gonna stay in stock past the ten-minute mark. At least I can listen to it on YouTube.

beatles

“Strawberry Fields Forever”/”Penny Lane” by the Beatles (7″, ltd. to 7000)

Speaking of the Beatles, there’s no rational reason for me to own this. I don’t even particularly love 7″ singles: if I’m gonna buy a piece of plastic with two songs on it, it’d better be at least 10″ in diameter. But I was a Beatles fanatic as a preteen, and seeing that 1967-era picture on the sleeve hits me straight in the nostalgia zone.

bowpromocrackedactor
BOWPROMO (box set, ltd. to 5000) and
Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74) (3-LP set, ltd. to 5000)
by David Bowie

Now these I do actually want, but to be frank, I doubt I could afford them: new pressing, multi-LP sets are a little rich for my blood, especially in limited editions. But come on: raw mixes of Hunky Dory-era Bowie? A live set I haven’t heard from the Diamond Dogs tour, one of his most fascinating and underrated periods? If I was even slightly more comfortably middle-class than I am, I’d be all over these. But I can take comfort in knowing that all 10,000 of these records will be hoovered up within minutes anyway.

groove

“Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite (12″, ltd. to 3000)

If you catch me in the right kind of mood, I might make a wildeyed claim that “Groove is in the Heart” by Deee-Lite is the greatest song of all time. And while I probably wouldn’t be right, I also know I wouldn’t be wrong. I would love to own this on vinyl and hear that slide whistle hook in superior fidelity. Alas, this April, it’s not meant to be.

prince-pic

“Little Red Corvette”/”1999” by Prince (7″ picture disc, ltd. to 5000)

Does anybody actually like picture discs–listening to them, I mean? I don’t especially care for them–I like playing records more than I like looking at them–but god damn if I don’t want this one. Sadly, I might as well just print out the inner sleeve pic from 1999 and découpage it over a regular 7″ single, because with Record Store Day falling the day after the one-year anniversary of His Purple Majesty’s passing, there is approximately no way in hell 5000 copies will survive a single day’s demand.

rtj-tote

RSD 2017 Tote Bag by Run the Jewels (ltd. to 2500)

This isn’t even a record, but the artwork is dope and it would go great with the T-shirt I picked up from Run the Jewels’ Run the World tour back in January. But now I just have to hold back my jealous tears when I see some lucky asshole walking around with it.

whattimeisit

What Time is It? by the Time (LP, ltd. to 2500)

Are you kidding me? The motherfucking Time?! This actually pisses me off for two reasons, because an album like this deserves a full-fledged re-release, not a limited-run one-off for Record Store Day. But I can’t promise that if I saw a brand new pressing on April 22, I wouldn’t be doing “The Walk” out of the store with it in hand. Fortunately–or unfortunately–that won’t be an option for me.

In all seriousness, though, missing RSD this year isn’t that big a deal: after all, there are approximately 364 other equally good days in the year to patronize our local record stores. If you’d like to see a few of my favorites, from Northern Virginia to Reykjavík, Iceland, check out my Wrecka Stow video series on Dystopian Dance Party. And if you make it to the stores on the 22nd, buy yourself something nice in my honor.

Advertisements

4 Comments

Filed under 2017, Andre 3000, David Bowie, Deee-Lite, OutKast, Prince, Record Store Day, Record Stores, The Beatles, The Time, Vinyl

An Apologia for One of My Secret Favorite Bowie Performances: “Dancing in the Street”

Tomorrow would have been the 70th birthday of David Bowie, whose passing last year just after turning 69 was among the first of many signs that 2016 would be one long, miserable slog. I knew I wanted to commemorate the occasion in some way, but  I wasn’t sure how. My initial idea was to write a bit about Bowie’s forays into funk- and soul-based music; that felt a bit disingenuous, though, as realistically the majority of the credit for his surprisingly great experiments in “plastic soul” needs to go to esteemed collaborators like Carlos Alomar, Luther Vandross, and Nile Rodgers. It’s also a solid time to look back at Bowie’s (excellent) final album, last year’s Blackstar, but I don’t think I have much to say about the record that either I haven’t already said or Andre didn’t cover in his post from yesterday.

It was while mulling over these options that I remembered a post I wrote soon after Bowie’s death last year, about a performance so infamous and unloved that I felt someone had to speak up on its behalf. I’m talking, of course, about his performance with Mick Jagger in their 1985 cover version of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancing in the Street.”

To be fair, there’s a reason why nobody tends to mourn Bowie with “Dancing in the Street”–that reason being that it’s pretty much universally considered to be the nadir of Bowie’s (and, for that matter, Jagger’s) substantial oeuvre. Bowie scholar of the moment Chris O’Leary describes it as “a rotten record for which everyone involved should be embarrassed” on his blog Pushing Ahead of the Dame. I myself have been unkind to the song and its accompanying video in the past. I’ve frequently called it a waste of a Bowie/Jagger collaboration that, in some superior alternate reality, would have been a jointly-recorded version of 1974’s “Diamond Dogs.” Back in 2006, I described it as “easily a career low point for both artists, complete with campy and ill-choreographed dance routines, an utterly soulless musical arrangement, and a concept (Dave and Mick, you guessed it, ‘dancing in the streets!’) that was about as rock-bottom as the video’s budget.” Last year, I was more concise, and simply dubbed it “execrable.”

And yet. The fact of the matter is that there’s not another Bowie performance in all five-plus decades of his work that has given me as much joy as has “Dancing in the Street.” I mean real, belly-laughing, hysterical joy. Every time I see the video, I have to see it through to the end–often freeze-framing, rewinding, or just pausing to collect myself at my favorite moments.

© EMI, helpfully screencapped by Noisey

And oh, those favorite moments. I don’t even have to watch the video to name them. There’s the bizarre, unidentifiable accent Bowie adopts when he yells “South Americaaaaaaaa!” during the opening roll-call of countries and continents, foreshadowing the voice he would use the following year while singing as a Muppet in Labyrinth’s “Chilly Down.” There’s his actual first appearance in the video: doing some kind of weird back-and-forth skip (see the screenshots above), before leaping from a balcony and silently screaming like a feral, pouncing cat–presumably the same one he skinned for those pajamas he’s wearing under his khaki trenchcoat.

The list of highlights just goes on from there. The way he nonchalantly enters the frame behind Jagger, doing some kind of “walk like an Egyptian” move with his hands. The middle school talent show-grade choreography in which his legs suddenly emerge kicking into the frame from an open door in the foreground, followed by his whole body as he pops in and out to sing his lines. That inexplicable shot (see below) where he appears behind Jagger with his back to the wall, twirling his fingers roughly in time with the music before busting out the jazz hands and spinning around to join in on the chorus.

© EMI

There is also, of course, the “Dancing” video’s rampant homoeroticism–or rather, its absurd grotesque of homeroticism–which might seem like a coy nod to Angie Bowie‘s claim that she had once caught David and Mick “in bed together,” were it not for the fact that that salacious story wouldn’t enter the popular imagination for about five years. The pair mince about like a demented pair of cartoon queens, routinely placing their faces mere inches from one another’s and mugging for the camera; the video ends with a freeze frame of their wiggling butts, for Christ’s sake. As O’Leary points out, it’s a weird tack for Bowie to take after his own, controversial rejection of a carefully-cultivated queer identity in an interview with Rolling Stone just two years earlier. But it’s also in many ways the least remarkable part of the whole thing. After all, anyone even vaguely familiar with Bowie’s 1970s peak has already seen him play gay–and, frankly, do it a lot more convincingly than he does in “Dancing in the Street.”

Instead, what comes as a shock, and what I think explains the video’s unremittingly dire reputation, is how goofy he comes across. After all, the one link between the manifold Bowie moments being shared across social media in the wake of his death was that all of them were, in a word, cool: be he Ziggy or the Thin White Duke or even Jareth the Goblin King, we like our Bowie aloof, poised, and impeccable, hovering seemingly far above us mere mortals in the splendor of his otherworldly stylishness. In “Dancing in the Street,” however, Bowie is the opposite of cool; he’s the distant, middle-aged relative on the dance floor at your friend’s wedding reception. And, for me at least, that makes the video both endearing and weirdly affirming. It’s a disarmingly human moment, from a man who spent his best-remembered years trying doggedly to convince the world that he was something other than human; it’s the kind of thing that should never be allowed to happen, but did, and is thus precious and rare.

© EMI

So please, if you’re mourning David Bowie on the anniversary of his passing, I humbly request that you not forget this strange and wonderful footnote to his musical history. It’s only natural that when confronted by something like “Dancing in the Street,” one’s first reaction is to ask how and why it exists. But especially now, as we strive to make sense of a world without Bowie, perhaps the more poignant reaction is to reflect on how lucky we are to have lived in a time when two aging rock stars could unleash their poorly-made lip-syncing video on an unsuspecting fanbase, spawning 30+ years of unabated hilarity in the process.

This post was originally published on Dystopian Dance Party.

1 Comment

Filed under 1985, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, pop rock, soul pop

Blackstar: David Bowie’s Swansong Nearly A Year Later

Blackstar

David Bowie’s final album Blackstar doesn’t likely require much of a push from someone like me. It was a musically powerful final album from Bowie. And as depressing as it may seem,much of its notoriety likely derived from 2016’s unfortunate obsession with the cult of the dead. As you all know,my focus on reviewing songs and albums tends to be on music that’s happy in nature. Don’t personally listen to a lot of dark,depressing music. And  Blackstar has extremely dark lyrics and compositional approaches. What I didn’t know when it came out was that David Bowie was dying of cancer while making it.

There were elements of the album that reminded me of the somewhat brooding avante garde jazz-rock fusion of Miles Davis’s earlier electric albums-mixed with its electronic and baroque elements. As my father informed me from his reading, a lot of this had to due with California jazz sax player Donny McCaslin. Bowie was an admire of his. And invited McCaslin to work on his new album with him. Thinking he was only there for the song “Sue”,turns out Bowie desired him to be present for the entire album. As for my first impressions on the album,here’s what I wrote roughly a year ago for Amazon.com:


While it seemed a personal opinion to me at first? It seems that 2015 was a very dark and tense year. Both in terms of America and the rest of the world. It was the first time in several years that I didn’t personally collect a lot of new music. Much of what came out, even from artists I normally enjoyed,seemed tame and lacking in vitality. It’s hard to believe it’s been over three years since David Bowie made his comeback after a decades absence with [[ASIN:B00AYHKIZ6 The Next Day]]. To be honest? Wasn’t sure it wouldn’t be that long until another album arrived. Due in part to being busy in my own life lately? Haven’t kept track of much new music in months. Until this birthday surprise from this artist arrived.

The title song that opens the album clocks in at near ten minutes. Within that time it combines a Gothic opera string arrangement with sections of both industrial drum ‘n bass and stomping 60’s style funky soul. “Tis Pity She Was A Whore” is a dramatically discordant dance rocker with it’s own unique sense of melody. “Lazarus” is a crawling alternative jazz/rock number with some sad,wailing sax. “Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime” has a similar flavor to the album opener-only with a more consistent rock flavor. “Dollar Days” is a plaintive acoustic guitar/piano led ballad while “I Can’t Give Everything Away” concludes it all with a densely arranged drum machine and harmonica led dance/rocker.

Overall this album has all the instrumental hallmarks of a David Bowie record. Soul,electronica,rock and opera are all combined together into an eclectic musical stew through which he and his musicians can thoroughly explore their melody and different senses of harmonies. Everything from the title and the imagery of both the packages as well as the lyrics are extremely world weary. So would have to agree with a lot of reviews this has at least that in common with the man’s mid/late 90’s output. That being said? It all ends with what seems like lessons learned,and the possibility of the future having good things to offer. A very good album from an artist who can handle the darkness of life with genuine eloquence and beauty.


It was of course only a few short days after writing this review that I learned of Bowie’s passing. At that time,I considered actually editing my Amazon review to accommodate the what was revealed as the cause of death. Elected not to do that. It was a good choice because,as the year went on,I began to learn other things about what went into the making of Blackstar. And decided it might be a better topic to deal with in terms of a fuller write up along with my original review on this blog. At the end of the day,its a great balancing of moods (musically and thematically) for a music icon about to leave us behind.

 

1 Comment

Filed under David Bowie

Anatomy Of THE Groove For The Brothers And Sisters Who Aren’t Here: “Golden Years” by David Bowie

Just before bed last night, I learned that David Bowie had passed away earlier in the day at age 69. It would seem he was dealing with terminal cancer for the last 18 months. He recorded a final album entitled Blackstar, a darkly jazzy exploration he recorded while ill and released on what turned out to be his final birthday. During  his near half century as a recording artist? He was extremely prolific and musically challenging. So while I just dealt with Bowie last week? Wanted to extend on the tribute since he’s completed a cycle from birthday to grave.

With Bowie’s mid/late 70’s change in persona from Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke, musical transitions were happening with him even thicker and faster. For the most part? Bowie’s 1976 album  Station To Station reflected his burgeoning interest in an ambient type of electronic Kraut rock. But still there was a lot of the Philly influence still left in his sound at that point. With Carlos Alomar really at the peak of his powers with Bowie? A new hit and tremendous creative triumph emerged from this groove entitled “Golden Years”.

A brushing percussion and hand clap powered rhythm provides the intro to the jam-accompanied by Alomar’s thick and phat rhythm guitar chug and a bluesy harmonica. This segues right into the percussive,marching main rhythm of the song itself. Alomar’s guitar on the rest of the song is a densely mixed polyphony of bass and higher pitched phased tones. The refrains of the song are more brightly melodic-with a ringing bell like percussion bringing in the joy even more. The song basically outro’s on the main chorus that maintains itself throughout.

What “Golden Years” does is showcase how Bowie was able to do within the black music spectrum what the Rolling Stones did: evolve with the changes of the music. So this finds Bowie’s funk transitioning into the disco era with a lean toward the four on the floor beat. It all makes sense with change being the key fixture in Bowie’s musical career as well. It’s also a great lyric with him encouraging a young,attractive lady to believe in herself because “nothin’s gonna touch you in your golden years”. For this and many dozens of musical reasons? David Bowie will be missed.

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1970's, cancer, Carlos Alomar, classic funk, David Bowie, Funk, percussion, Philly Soul, Rolling Stones, Uncategorized

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Fame” by David Bowie

From his early years performing  Anthony Newley style show tunes about laughing gnomes up through his persona as Ziggy Stardust? David Jones (better known by his stage name of Bowie) celebrated an embrace of musical and thematic eclecticism. Rock played a big part in it. But he also drew a good dose of inspiration from the rhythmic timing of funk and soul. After his most iconic years as the glam rock icon of Ziggy and the related character Aladdin Sane? Bowie began sporting white soul boy suits,slicked back hair and focusing on that soulful end of his sound.

It got going for Bowie in 1974 when his Diamond Dogs album came out-it’s Isaac Hayes inspired song”1984″ drawing him to a new group of session musicians and singers than the Spiders From Mars. In addition to the presence of David Sanborn and Luther Vandross,t he main drive behind this change was Puerto Rican guitarist Carlos Alomar. As a composer and arranger? He really understood how to rock up the funk. This led to the final number on Bowie’s soul oriented Young Americans album of 1975 ending with a collaboration with John Lennon entitled “Fame”.

An ascending backwards guitar opens the song into a more reverbed one. A brushing drum roll and acoustic guitar introduces the the slow grooving funky drummer that’s accompanied by three different guitar riffs-each playing off the one another. One is a low liquid one providing the bass line, the other is a more popping one of the same tone while each instrumental refrain is accented by a ringing high rhythm guitar. Bowie and Lennon’s vocals,both in their lower and high ranges,duet in near incoherence until descending into a chant of the song title at the end.

Together,Bowie and Alomar’s sound on this song heavily channels James Brown’s variety of funk. Everything about this song, itself built around layers of bass toned and higher pitched guitar, is entire built on Brown’s understanding of all the instrumentation being “on the one” with rhythm. Melody,harmony and all. The interesting this is? Brown himself was in turn inspired to work his own song “Hot (I Need To Be Love)” directly out of this groove the following year. So along with being a huge hit for Bowie, it’s an example of the cross pollination of funk in it’s prime.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under 1975, Carlos Alomar, David Bowie, Funk, funk guitar, funk/rock, glam rock, James Brown, John Lennon, rock 'n' roll, rock guitar, Uncategorized