David Bowie Memory Palace [part 9]

Goth Bowie ca. 1983 "The Hunger"

Goth Bowie ca. 1983 “The Hunger”

1985

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, at any rate. 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 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.

1986

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…

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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15 Responses to David Bowie Memory Palace [part 9]

  1. Brian says:

    I think I have mentioned to you before that Let’s Dance is where I came in as an impressionable 13 year old. My second Bowie purchase was that Fame and Fashion compilation you feature today. I had no idea it was ever sold on CD. I had it on vinyl, and I bought it because it was cheap… $6.49, I recall. The paper sleeve was plain white. No lyrics, photos or credits. That’s what you get for $6.49, but the tracklist was perfect for a newbie. I listened to it so much that even today when I hear a song like TVC15 I expect to hear Heroes next because that was the order on that comp. Although I haven’t played it in decades and the regular studio albums replaced it many years ago, I do still have it, and I smile every time I see it on the shelf. I have lots of Bowie’s ’80s output and am aware I like it more than I should, but even I have never owned Labyrinth.

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  2. Echorich says:

    I only own Fame And Fashion because it seemed a good way to get Bowie on CD. I have, in the past 30 odd years bought CD’s of albums I own and cherish, but I have never let those vinyl albums go. With the advent of music files, I have some albums in yet another format.
    By first 3 CD’s were Fame And Fashion, Construction Time Again by Depeche Mode and Quartet by Ultravox.
    Now as for Labyrinth, Bowie fans should get extra points for NOT purchasing that OST masquerading as a Bowie album. Much better off purchasing the OST to Christiane F., even if it is basically a Berlin Era “greatest” (they all were) hits, or The Buddha Of Suburbia which is a career highlight.

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  3. The Swede says:

    Among the avalanche of deserved tributes to Bowie over the past couple of weeks, I noticed a slew of nods towards ‘Labyrinth’ from a certain demographic, mostly very casual music fans who are hitting the 30 mark right about now. A couple who I used to work with (and who fit neatly into that bracket) speak of the film (and soundtrack) in much the same awed tones as we might speak of ‘Ziggy Stardust’. Bowie really was all things to all people, which is why his passing is so greatly mourned.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      The Swede – I am keenly aware that a certain age demographic regards Labyrinth with vastly different eyes than a crusty old man such as I do. I was 22-23 when it came out and twice the target age, I’m afraid. I’m also the wrong gender. Was there ever a project ever so carefully pitched at tween girls back then? Even, so, I’m a little too young to speak of “Ziggy Stardust” in awed tones. I like it. It’s good. I understand why it’s loved, but it’s late 70s Bowie that makes me lie on my back, capitulating and purring.

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  4. I’m becoming the Thin White Devil’s Advocate around here … now I just have to get thin again …

    But anyway, I’m here to comment on Labyrith, and I’m here to say that my inner tween girl loves it in a way. Like most adults who weren’t the target at the time, I cringe on most of those puppets, but the characterizations were interesting and the movie was (and is) delightfully bad with a clutch of awful songs, but this is exactly what appeals to me about it. Too much MST3K in my misspent youth, I guess …

    Bowie of course steals every scene he’s in, and yes he knows how ridiculous it all is … he knew it when they put that wig on him! But his performance is really quite good and shows off what a great Bond villain he would have been. The story has some distinctly un-hollywood concepts and twists that keep it much closer to the genuine tradition of fairy tales (which were largely meant to be menacing) and give it some originality for the time, and as you mention it is a touchstone for people like my (younger) wife, along with The Dark Crystal … but Labyrinth has Bowie and some yoga pants (before they were called that) and seriously awakened the inner goth in a lot of tweens. And it’s still a better movie that current tween fodder like Twilight! There I said it!

    Years before JK Rowling stole the Escher concept for the Hogwarts dormitories and the maze under pressure concept, and before Princess Bride stole much of the plot and several specific obstacles that must be overcome, there was Bowie in tight pants and a stupid wig. Bring me the head of the Goblin King, I say!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Errr, you are aware that William Goldman wrote his novel ” The Princess Bride” in 1973? He wrote the screenplay years later and it was in production in 1986, the year that “Labyrinth” was released. Any commonality is due to the fairy tale form, unless Terry Jones was a huge fan of Goldman’s book [and that would not surprise me].

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      • I’d forgotten the order of the original stories, only the time of the films — thanks for the correction. Yes, it’s more a theft of general fairy tale concepts than actual script, I suppose, but the fact that these two films were made almost simultaneously gives them both a style and look which, along with the specific similarities, makes for an easy comparison: one was The Addams Family, the other the Munsters — different but the same!

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  5. SimonH says:

    Another bit of soundtrack work in this period yielded This is Not America, a track I’ve always liked probably in part due to the pretty under stated, melancholy feel. A long way from stadiums.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      SimonH – Yes, mea culpa! I am going back and adding points in the timeline after posting and that single is definitely getting added! I was making notes for this series but ran out of time and was improvising. My mistake!

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    • Echorich says:

      This Is Not America gave me hope, at the time, that Bowie hadn’t lost the plot, but just picked up a different book and would return to his own epic one day. He would of course, after a few more detours into what could be called the pulp fiction portion of his career.

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