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.
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.
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, at any rate. Did I buy a copy? Not really. To this day I only have the song on various video compilations.
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 provided certain striking 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.
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.
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…