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.
In 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.
Strangely 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.
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.
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.
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.
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