David Bowie Memory Palace [part 18]

Bowie's PowerBook docking station ca. 1994

Bowie’s PowerBook docking station ca. 1994

1993 [continued]

One imagines that the experience of recording the single “Real Cool World” with Nile Rodgers in 1991 set wheels turning in the Bowie cranium.The Spring of 1993 brought with it the first David Bowie solo album in – phew – six years. Given that the man who made “Let’s Dance,” which in this timeline, I had not heard in full, was producer of this new album, I adopted a wait-and-see posture.

david bowie - blacktiewhitenoiseUSCDAIn the mean time, I bought my first computer since 1980; a top of the line Macintosh that cost a small fortune. As a graphic designer, it had been way past due to finally have a Macintosh at home. I had grown tired of carting home the SE30 from work every time I wanted to work on the fanzine my friend Jayne and I were putting out during this period. Now I had a Quadra 840AV; a machine to create multimedia on the bleeding edge of capability in 1993 at a price you could drive off the lot.

david bowie - the buddhaofsuburbiaUKCSAStrangely enough, David Bowie released a second album that year. “The Buddha of Suburbia” was the soundtrack of a BBC TV production of the same name. I recall seeing it as an import CD at Park Avenue CDs at the time and I was extremely wary of the price and the fact that there was no domestic release of it at the time. Obviously Bowie had put a lot of effort into Black Tie, White Noise.” There was the feeling that this could have been all the left over chaff given a quick and dirty airing and quickly forgotten. I did not consider purchasing this seemingly non-legit Bowie release.

1994

I was not the only one into high end computers. Bowie, was notoriously another neophile who was way into the new technology. It was 1994 when I was in Costco and saw one of those newfangled CD-ROMs that were everywhere in the early-mid 90s. I lack the game-playing gene. I had not played a video game since 1981. But here was a CD-ROM that was not a game but was about David Bowie and I had a new computer with a double-speed CD-ROM drive, and it was cheap, so I bit.

ION | US | CD-ROM | 1994 | 76896-40001-2

ION | US | CD-ROM | 1994 | 76896-40001-2

The CD-ROM was entirely based on the “Black Tie, White Noise” album of the previous year that I had been gun-shy on. The experience of the title was largely superfluous. There was much pointless clicking with no thrills generated by the seemingly arbitrary feedback.

elevator                 video                 new media

The disc had video clips of four songs from the album and interviews with Bowie pontificating on his art. There was a virtual mixing board where one could mix the eight tracks of the album’s title cut; something on every rock star CD-ROM of the time [see: peter gabriel, Todd Rundgren]. In this milk-toast context, the CD-ROM’s most fascinating technical coup seemed like an atomic bomb in comparison. By far the most innovative thing on it was the ability to edit your own copy of the music video for the single “Jump This Way” from five simultaneous video streams by clicking on each stream as they were playing.

The video suite was a glimpse into the future of non-linear editing.

The video suite was a glimpse into the future of non-linear editing.

Now this was admittedly cool. Afterward, you could save your edit as a text file of tiny size and play back as many edits as you wanted to make and save. You had the option of using the 7″ remix or the album version of the song, which had different footage available for each version. Basically, apart from the video suite, it was nothing I’d spend more than an afternoon with, but it did get me to hear a big chunk of “Black Tie, White Noise” and I judged the results worthy of buying.

Next: …The mid-90s beckon

 

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | media design • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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14 Responses to David Bowie Memory Palace [part 18]

  1. Echorich says:

    At first I didn’t get much passed the title of Black Tie White Noise, a title that I enjoy, but his more recent works had me VERY wary of getting involved. Being the 90’s, the video for Jump was my gateway into the album. It would be 10 more years and the advent of digital downloads, before the album made sense to me as an album. It’s definitely an album of an artist attempting to come back into his own again.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – The video for “Jump” was only seen in the CD-ROM as I had left TV behind by 1993. Not that MTV would have played it by that point! Still, I felt it was a convincing single.

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      • Echorich says:

        I saw it once on MTV – world premiere I believe, so there must have been some level of rotation at the time.

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      • Tim says:

        The “Brothers In Rhythm” mix of that one was quite good. They had a few excellent mixes around then, a take on Heaven 17’s “Temptation,” a mix of New Order’s “World” and the only sanctioned mix of Pet Shop Boy’s “Being Boring” that was radically different from the album version.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Tim – I have only heard the 7″ remix of “Jump This Way” on the CD-ROM on the mixing board. Since it has been long years since I could play that thing, I really can’t remember what it sounded like.

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  2. It took me many years to get to “The Buddha of Suburbia,” which I still haven’t seen (the subject of the soundtrack). Most of the music on the resultant album, however, is IMO great, especially this version of “Strangers When We Meet,” now one of my all-time favourite Bowie songs. Had I known this sort of stuff was available back in 1993! I have to admit I haven’t listened to BTWN in a long time, so it is time for a re-listen. I do recall that my impression back in the day was that it was a good start back from the path he’d been down recently. Sounded more like the Bowie I knew and loved.

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  3. Also: is that (gasp) a moustache on Bowie in that photo?? Oh dear, bad idea sir! I remember the wispy beard for “Baal” he grew — apparently Matt Smith (the most previous star of Doctor Who shares that beard gene! He had to grow one for a scene in the show where he is imprisoned for a while, and it was … well to be kind we’ll just say “wispy” again (and, I hear, “supplemented” a bit!

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  4. Jordan says:

    I dug out my copy of BTWN last week.Outside of Jump and maybe 2 other tracks,it has not aged well.Certainly of its time,that sort of trip hop sound that was popular then.Buddha I had purchased when it came out and it sat for a few years as I thought the cover art was awful.I listened to it and it was a grower.The instrumental tracks had an ambient feel and very much to my liking.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Jordan – Hmm. Trip hop? Yeah, I see that. I’ll see your trip hop and raise you an “acid jazz.” It was pretty eclectic album that we will get to in tomorrow’s discussion. Hardly the worst thing Bowie has ever released, that’s for sure!

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      • Echorich says:

        I hear more trip hop influence than Acid Jazz, but by 93, all those sounds coming out of London and Bristol were melding and homogenizing. Imagine Bowie going full on Jazz Funk, I know I wouldn’t have minded hearing his approach.

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        • postpunkmonk says:

          Echorich – Hmm. That genre’s a little too smooth for Bowie. I think he needs a genre that allows him to be a bit prickly and obscure for him to flourish. I think Level 42 when I think “jazz funk” and while I live those guys, I can’t quite imagine Bowie going there.

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