After David Bowie’s Lodger” album was released in 1979, I happened to see the videos for “DJ” and “Look Back In Anger” on some late night TV music clip show of the pre-MTV era. I don’t remember it being “Rockworld” or “Hollywood Heartbeat.” The videos were amazing and I was particularly stricken by the song “Look Back In Anger.” I think it was those “horse horns” that did it. The notion of David Bowie making elaborate videos for his songs was certainly a new thing for me. I’d only seen him appear on TV shows prior, with straightforward production values.
The next year brought my hearing a commercial cassette of the full “Lodger” album belonging to my friend Rich’s older brother. I managed to borrow it for a listen before giving it back. It was certainly more adventurous than anything I was familiar with and this was probably the second Eno work I’d heard following the previous year’s Talking Heads album “More Songs About Buildings + Food.” I knew Eno had been in Roxy Music, but I was sketchy on the timeline. I assumed that he had played on the one Roxy tune that haunted me throughout the 70s; “Love Is The Drug.”
The next year brought forth a revelation; my parents gave me $1.50 a day to buy lunch. Once I entered my junior year of high school, I realized that I could buy records with that cash and there went the habit of eating lunch. I didn’t take it back up for almost a decade. New records were $7.50 at many local stores. Budget records made that money go twice as far. Then in 1980 I discovered the phenomenon of used record stores! Retro Records was where I crossed a line in the sand, much to my delight. The Record Cell began filling in earnest.
Later that year brought the first “new” David Bowie album since I had really begun buying records. I quickly bought it on the week of release. This was a haunting, magnificent album of rock music that featured plenty of hot Robert Fripp guitar work. I already had King Crimson albums and was about to start buying Fripp solo albums from The Drive To 1981. The music was a perfect mixture of obscurity and accessibility. I also caught around the time of release, the video for “Ashes To Ashes” on some TV show. Again, I can’t remember what it might have been, but by now I expected David Bowie videos to be utterly top drawer. He was definitely the standard bearer on that account. Funnily enough, it was not until I saw the “David Bowie Is…” exhibit last year, that I ever saw the original back cover to his 1969 album with the watercolor painting of the pierrot walking with the elderly lady. Later I saw the video for “Fashion” and noted that G.E. Smith from Hall + Oates band was standing in for Fripp in the clip, much to my dismay.
I was now eager to get more Bowie music into my listening, so one day I was visiting a department store with my father. Was it a JM Fields? I think so. They had budget line records that I was rifling through and hmmmm. That copy of “Low” was only $3.99. I thought that I should hear that. FM Rock of the time played only pre-1977 Bowie [the older, the better], or else the single from “Scary Monsters.” The discreet chunk of his career from 1977-1979 was a FM Rock no-man’s land where I lived at the time. It was a record that I never heard anything from, so I took the leap. Wow. Was I richly rewarded! This instantly became my favorite Bowie album as it fit right in with the synth-heavy New Wave that was dominating my listening in 1980. I liked the rock haikus of side one but also enjoyed the expansive atmospherics of side two just as much. It seemed like David Bowie had begun the 70s creatively on fire and then had progressed further forward on that foundation.
Next: …The Great David Bowie Drought begins