David Bowie Memory Palace [part 17]

After a civil ceremony in Switzerland, Bowie and Iman had a lavish public wedding

After a civil ceremony in Switzerland, Bowie and Iman had a lavish public wedding on 6/6/92

1991 [continued]
There was one more Bowie CD for release in 1991, and I didn’t wait to find a used copy when it was released. In spite of my famous distance from “Lodger,” I was inspired to quickly bring it back into the Record Cell once it got a release on a Rykodisc CD in July. The late 70s discs were all purchased during the initial period of release, but for much of the pre-1975 period, I lagged behind the release schedule. It was never a priority of mine at the time to have every David Bowie album, but over time, this eventually changed, and we’ll get to the reason why in a bit.

Rykodisc | US | CD | 1991 | RCD 10146

Rykodisc | US | CD | 1991 | RCD 10146

“Lodger” like “Young Americans” was a Bowie album that it took me a very long time to warm up to, but the point was that as with that 1975 album, I was game to at the very least discover and quantify why it didn’t work so well for me. In the case of “Lodger” I would cross a line in the sand only a few years ago where I could wholeheartedly love it. The bonus materials on this CD were two previously unreleased tracks. “I Pray Olé” had a vague “Lodger” feel, but didn’t offer anything especially vital to the program. Unlike the second bonus track. It was the 1988 re-recording of a seven minute version of “Look Back In Anger” as recorded with Reeves Gabrels on lead guitar; their first work together. It was a radical re-arrangement and in some ways simplification of the song as used for a performance of the dance troupe La La La Human Steps. I liked the direct, bracing quality and the length of it; the original version always came and went too quickly for my taste.

1992

Rykodisc | US | CD | 1992 | RCD 20147

Rykodisc | US | CD | 1992 | RCD 20147

In January of 1992, the one I had been waiting for possibly the most hit the bins and I did not hesitate. The album that most consistently vies with “Heroes” as my favorite of his was one I was super eager to delve into again on CD. I guess it’s the Frippfan in me that makes me always reach for those two first. The four bonus tracks here were what I was hoping for. “Crystal Japan” I had heard when chasinvictoria had gotten a copy of the song somewhere [a promo of “Ashes To Ashes?”] and sent me a tape sometime a decade or so earlier. I had found the German “Alabama Song/Space Oddity [1980]” 7″ a decade earlier, but it was right and proper to have these two tracks finally on CD. The last bonus track was something new; a radically different version of “Panic In Detroit,” that was lost on my ears because in 1992, I had yet to hear the original version for the first time!

tin machine - oyveybabyUSCDAThat summer brought the third Tin Machine album that nobody asked for. “Oy Vey, Baby” was a live album also on Victory Music, the same label that Bowie had shopped “Tin Machine II” to. Given the underwhelming nature of that release, I did not pay any attention to this album. Indeed. It was 1992 and I had not yet bought a single Bowie live album of any stripe, so why start now? Its title – a snide dig at U2’s “Achtung Baby” album title, being its most notable trait.

1993

That was it for the Rykodisc reissue program. There was one more CD; but I did not buy it for years afterward. I had basically bought the albums I had previously owned on LP but had traded off thinking it would be easy to pick up an RCA CD of those titles. Of course, reality followed a different path. I was still pretty hazy on much of 1969-1974. I only had the “Ziggy Stardust” album and material on the “Sound + Vision” boxed set. I did pick up a few titles when I saw them in the used bins.

Rykodisc | US | CD | 1990 | 10133

Rykodisc | US | CD | 1990 | 10133

Getting “Hunky Dory” was a small revelation. It was still a “singer/songwriter” album, but it revealed that Bowie was moving elsewhere; even if he was not there yet. It was the last vestige of the mystical hippie phase of his career, with a mixture of specious Nietzsche/Crowley theosophy rubbing shoulders with cabaret music and the much less suspect Velvet Underground influence. Looking backward with all of the albums under my belt, this was definitely his first stone cold classic. Only the appearance of a Paul Williams song [“Fill Your Heart”] is jarring in its context. The bonus tracks here were the excellent “Bombers” and alternate versions of a trio of songs from this album and “The Man Who Sold The World.”

Next: …About that bleeding edge

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7 Responses to David Bowie Memory Palace [part 17]

  1. Brings back memories of listening to the Lodger LP for the first time and thinking, WTF? But as I continued to listen to the “hookier” songs Like “DJ” and Boys Keep Swinging”, the others grew on me. Finally realizing that once again, Mr. Bowie was challenging me, the rest of his fans and the world to step up their game and evolve along with him. “Red Sails” has been my go to escape song for some time now. That guitar sounds like freedom and adventure and fades out way too soon…

    Liked by 1 person

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Orange County DJ – the funny thing about “DJ” is that I only just found out that it was Bowie’s “David Byrne” song. Once you know that fact, it’s impossible to hear it as anything but db’s [excellent] David Byrne imitation.

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      • Echorich says:

        I’m not convinced it’s as simple as that. To me that would play into some jealousy over Eno sharing his knowledge with other artists. Sure I KNOW Bowie had to be aware of Talking Heads and what direction Eno was helping them explore, but Lodger isn’t an album of Bowie imitating anyone or any current sound to these ears.

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  2. It’s hard to pick a favourite among the Berlin Trilogy, and my choice wavers each time I’m asked. All three are works of staggering complexity and artistry rarely seen before or since in the rock genre, fueled by a mixture of location, assembled genius, and let’s face it, drugs/cigarettes/coffee. With Scary Monsters, I loved seeing Bowie hit the sweet spot between incredible artfulness and commerciality, but of course sadly we saw what happened when Bowie got free of his DeVries contract. The influence of Low, Heroes, and Lodger are on par with the lasting influence of The Scream and Van Gogh’s works, and I compare them to paintings not by accident.

    While not a fanatical collector, I try to get all the albums and songs from Bowie for the same reason I try to do so for Joe Jackson, John Foxx, and a few others; because I see them as Important Artists, and this transcends the occasional weak release or stinker song. I certainly don’t feel that way about every artist, even among those I love — I don’t have every Elvis Costello album, for example, though I’m an enthusiastic fan — but there are some who have taken their career on such interesting paths that even their failures are risks they should have taken or part of the overall process, and thus part of the overall canon that one needs to have at least heard or seen to fully understand the work.

    It’s hard to define what makes an artist so compelling that you’ll follow them wherever they lead and forgive many sins without seriously falling from the path they’re leading you on, but there are some that manage it, and help us weave a tapestry that becomes part of our own characters.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasunvictoria – Brother, you said a mouthful! It’s true that at a certain point. A relay clicked and then I had to have everything, but that still took a few years more.

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    • Echorich says:

      Chas you have written my favorite thing I have ever stated about any of Bowie’s work in comparing the Berlin Trilogy to the influence of The Scream and Van Gogh. I am bowled over!

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  3. Echorich says:

    Lodger is the album that can be touched by no other in my estimation of the Bowie Canon. As I’ve mentioned before, when I revealed this fact upon meeting him, it made The Thin White Duke chuckle a bit and wryly smile, responding “Really?!” and nothing more. The fact that my love of Lodger could catch Bowie off guard and illicit an off the cuff reaction has sated me for years and years now.
    But Lodger is the sum of all parts and explorations from 1976 to 1978. It takes Bowie’s European phase and spreads its wings across continents. In its songs are subtle concerns over Nuclear War, gender/sexual equality and an exploration/dabbling in world sounds. It’s been said that Bowie felt a need to compete with Eno’s new toy, Talking Heads, but I think Bowie’s aim was higher and farther away than that. One of the albums greatest assets is Adrian Belew’s guitar and Eno’s treatment. He brings a sharp angularity to Lodger that brought a certain cutting edge/contemporary sound beginning to be explored by the burgeoning Post Punk set.
    Lodger pushed buttons because there were tracks that are chart worthy, potential hits, in amongst the more exploratory/abstract work and that annoyed some critics and mystified others. But I have always thought that Bowie’s next album would not have made as much sense, nor would it likely have had the same impact if it weren’t for Lodger.

    With Scary Monsters, Bowie took all the lesson learned, music/sound explored and narrowed the parameters to create an album that was the sum of all it’s parts. Scary Monsters isn’t without it’s artistic potency and that was provided by the masterful Robert Fripp. Fripp dirties up the music with his unique artistic muso moves and the album benefits greatly from this. Bowie found a new, all be it fleeting, compatriot in Fripp. His contributions were a comparable force to Eno, musically. He helped further ingratiated Bowie into the New Wave and if may, give him some balls. Bowie was quite aware that his fans were now the new flames lighting up the music scene and I think Scary Monsters reflects a certain comfort and satisfaction Bowie had with that. The album seems to celebrate the new direction music was taking. The tracks that most reflect this are Fashion, Because You’re Young and his VERY astute choice of Tom Verlaine’s Kingdom Come. Kingdom Come, as sung by Verlaine owes some debt to Bowie to these ears (and that’s in no way me diminishing the original’s power) and so by Bowie choosing to cover it has always seemed to me like Bowie recognizing his reflection in the song. But it’s the albums final track Because You’re Young that has the urgency of the new wave. It’s almost an ode to, or an anthem celebrating The New. It’s a song that offered a certain promise to this Bowie fan. At the time I didn’t understand the financial and control struggles Bowie found himself in entering the 1980’s and Scary Monsters promised so much. So much that would not reveal it self as it turned out.

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