David Bowie Memory Palace [part 22]


Union Jacket Bowie


After a year of nothing much happening, save for singles pulled from “Outside” that I never heard,”  1997 heralded the next phase in Bowie’s discography. It was in January when it transpired that Bowie’s next album would be techno oriented. Lovely. In spite of my life as a Kraftwerk fan, I had not enjoyed the next generation of  electronic music that had emerged in their absence. When I was in a club and tracks like “O, Fortuna” came on I just stopped dancing. The music actually made me feel ill. It was not for me. When “Earthling” dropped that February, I let it sit there. The last Bowie album had done me no favors and it seemed like he was wanting to add insult to injury this time.

Eventually, I came around. I had heard that Summer that the Bowie “Earthling” tour was going to come as close as Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. When I looked into it , the place he was playing there was a club called the Chili Peppper, which held a thousand people. We had to go! The first night sold out quickly then they added a second night so I purchased four tickets; one for my wife and I, as well as our Bowie-lovin’ friends Elisa and Beverly. We booked a cute Vintage Florida hotel on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale. The only thing that remained to do was to – gulp – buy the new CD.


Virgin Records | US | CD | 1997 | 7243 8 42627 2 3

Virgin Records | US | CD | 1997 | 7243 8 42627 2 3

I went to Park Avenue CD and laid my money down. When I popped it in the laserdisc/CD player, I was rewarded with “Little Wonder,” a typical techno track that made my body tense up and feel under attack. I listened to the album only once as my heart sank. This would not be a favorite of mine. I made a tape [normal bias!] to listen to in the car trip down to Ft. Lauderdale the next week. Sadly, our friend Beverly had hurt her back and was not feeling up to a trip, so she bowed out. Just the three of us made the trip down to South Florida. We visited a flea market which was not as interesting as the record store we visited that had many wonderful things, including some that evaded my grasp for nigh unto 17 years by that point! My wife bought our first; but certainly not last Edwyn Collins CD. I don’t remember eating dinner. We later made our way to the venue with an extra ticket to sell to some lucky person. Face value, of course! We like our good karma, and did that night ever deliver!

Next: …The Mother Of All Bowie Concerts

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graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to David Bowie Memory Palace [part 22]

  1. Echorich says:

    I agree, the best thing about Earthling was the tour. Earthling was the first album where I felt Bowie was following trends rather than making or changing trends. Little Wonder is so awfully forced, it almost hurts to hear Bowie’s vocals. Looking For Satellites isn’t quite hard enough, it’s almost pleasant. Attempting to hear Bowie and the melody through the perspex wall of drum + bass beats on Telling Lies is aggravating because I think there’s a solid song in there that the “beats” obliterate. I like I’m Afraid Of Americans, even if it’s Bowie and Eno aping NIN (and to some extent no more valid than what Gary Numan was mutating into at the time), but it leaves me feeling it could have been more. The song I go back to on Earthling is Seven Years In Tibet. It’s a song where I think Bowie really took advantage of Gabrels and Gail Ann Dorsey. It has an industrial tinge and a bit of a familiar NIN cadence, but it’s all Bowie with it’s jazz combo horns and organ parts.
    Bowie compared Earthling to Scary Monsters in “vibe” and I think there are some songs that could have approached that masterpiece’s level, but not in their end results.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I will have to wait until after the concert to give up more on the album itself. So we’ll get back to it tomorrow. The week before the concert I was disinclined to listen to it.


  2. Jon Chaisson says:

    Oddly enough, this was the Bowie album that got me back into him after so many years! Of course, I’d just been hired by HMV as a shipper/receiver a few months previous so I ate up pretty much every album that came into that store room. This was also when I kickstarted my writing career, and Earthling got some seriously heavy rotation during my writing sessions at the time.

    I think this is when I realized that Bowie, at least for me, works best when he’s trying out a popular style and putting his own weird spin on it. [See Hunky Dory and the acid folk of “The Bewlay Brothers”.] From there I was able to finally sit down and listen to earlier albums and ‘get’ what he was doing.


    • Echorich says:

      I hear what you’re saying Jon, but I don’t hear it with the same clarity on Earthling. Bowie opened up the current veins of music in the mid/late 90’s on Earthling to dip into the blood, but he soaked his ideas, his own voice, too deeply crimson red in that blood and except for a few occasions on Earthling’s goals are muddy for me.


  3. I concur with the view that Earthling was Bowie obviously following a trend rather than leading it, and I can see where that would disappoint people, but as with Outside, I could hear a lot of good stuff “underneath the noise” of the production. Parts of Earthling I quite like, particularly “Satellites” and “Tibet,” but as I said earlier it would be a while yet before I felt he’d fully surfaced from the abyss he fell into in the mid-80s. There are few artists indeed where I’d wait more than 15 years for them to get their act back together, but damned if I didn’t … and each of these albums had just enough — starting with Tonight and Never Let Me Down’s two tracks up to Outside and Earthling’s half the album — to keep me hangin’ on.


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