The end of 2002 brought with it the inevitable new compilation for the coming Christmas season. It had been 1994 when the Bowie singles had last gotten a push, so there was another comp in the pipeline. “Best Of Bowie.” After all, the holders of his portfolio needed a cash boost, I’m sure. The compilation pulled form a dizzying array of 63 tracks, that were optimized for maximum commercial impact in each of the 21 territories that it was released in one or two CD versions! Phew! I’m tired just thinking about it. I will say that the single disc US edition is not much more than “Changesonebowie” albeit from the Ryko 90s. The 2xCD edition was a much better fit in my opinion, with some sweet deep cuts offsetting the more egregious single edits picked with an eye on running time, of course! Did I buy a copy? Er, no. Apart from the 7″ mix of the Moroder “Cat People” there was nothing here that I didn’t already have on a shiny silver disc, but I did get this as a gift from my thoughtful wife.
When we last got a “comprehensive” video collection on optically read media, the laserdisc was, well, if not actually king, then certainly the powerful wizard behind the throne. 25 Clips in under 2 hours. By 2002, the DVD had plowed down the LD format like tanks into Poland. The 2xDVD was packed with everything that had been on the already amazing laserdisc plus a heck of a lot more. 55 Clips including at least an hour of annoying hidden “Easter Eggs.” It’s an extremely thorough collection that plays for at least 4 hours. Why they saw fit to hide some of it through elaborate and laybrinthian means of accessing it is a question better minds should answer.
I have to admit that the cover’s notion of an illustration of Bowie made up of fragmented personae images had been percolating in my mind for over a decade, but I didn’t quite have the Photoshop® horror that Rex Ray executed in my mind’s eye. I was thinking of a more sophisticated, illustrative approach, but no one asked me. The other downsides to this feast of Bowie video? Well, the clips for “China Girl,” “Day In-Day Out” and most hurtfully, “Loving The Alien” were the censored versions. I can live without seeing a glimpse of Bowie’s rear end but the “nosebleed shot” in “Loving The Alien” was the best thing about that sugar-injected, fondant-iced layer cake of a video. I immediately lamented its exclusion.
The final problem with the video was that certain clips, were much worse looking than the laserdisc I had. Specifically, the amount of interframe delta on “Miracle Goodnight” was made before digital compression was a concern for video. Whenever each frame of video has many, many pixels moving at the same time, as this clip with its kaleidoscopic imagery does, it looks like garbage as the DVD MPEG codecs are strained to the breaking point to cope. So holding onto the laserdiscs with this video will yield the best looking version even 14 years later.
Next: …Avoiding Reality
Nonessential, in my mind, on either count. That DVD cover is so bad it makes the CD cover look good.
Echorich – Really? Have you seen that puppy on DVD? Sure, half of it is inessential, but the other half…! Outside of the huge leap he had ahead of the pack when he first hooked up with David Mallet in ’79-’80, Bowie didn’t really have too many more excellent videos. I still maintain that “Boys Keep Swinging” is the rate video that is even better that the song, and that isn’t exactly chopped liver. The 70s vintage material on the DVD is superb, though.
I guess I’ve never needed visuals for Bowie songs, they create themselves. Same goes for any bands/artists I cherish pre 1980 or so. I always kicked back at the idea of being told what to imagine by videos. They never match my own imagination. Yes, Boy Keep Swinging is a great video – lots of Romy Hagg-isms in their to make it interesting and freak out the punters. I mainly call it nonessential because in this day and age, much of it is readily available on the interweb. Video is like fast fashion, it’s not meant to be lasting, yet some great moments certainly do.
A vote for the DJ video as well, love the impromptu (it seems) walkabout in late 70s London.
SimonH – There was a shot you might remember in “DJ.” Bowie picks up a record, winks at the camera, and tosses it over his shoulder. The record had a red label. I aways thought that it might be this one.
Just for the sake of being thorough, here are a series of stills from David Bowie’s “DJ” music video of 1979 and Gary Numan’s “We Take Mystery To Bed” music video from three years later.
Bowie Trashes Numan?
Gas Mask Bowie
Posing at window [from the inside]
Breaking Glass in your room again
Gas Mask… Check.
Breaking Glass… Check. We’ll see your breaking glass and raise you a gas mask!
Posing at window [from the outside – with gas mask – Ha!]
“I think that about wraps it up for Bowie,” says Numan.
Hah! Poor Gary, must have been a mixture of embarrassment and sheer amazement when he was mentioned on Scary Monsters…
On a slight tangent the Hearts Filthy Lesson video seems like a NIN tribute…I like it though!
Anyone fancy seeing a very accurate parody of a NIN video/song, Google ‘This is a Trent Reznor Song’.
Between ’79 and ’82, Numan had 10 singles make the Top 20 in the UK. More than enough to be proud of.
Agree! He also seems a nice person, and dealt with the Bowie references with good humour.
SimonH – Still, i bet it hurt when Bowie pulled rank and got him yanked front the ” Hello 1980″ episode of the Kenny Everett Show! I’ll also suspect that years later, Bowie was mortified by this behavior.
i love love this DVD, as it was my first exposure to so much video Bowie. Didn’t know anything about the easter eggs, and frankly, that shit pisses me off. Just give us content without making us jump thru hidden hoops – isn’t it enough that we already spent money to buy the damn product? Anyway, guess i’ll have to google those eggs to see how to access them. Thx for the heads-up…a decade plus after the fact! ;)
I’m betting that every one here is smart enough to do this…there are ways to rip that dvd so that you don’t have to deal with the hidden content/easter egg nonsense. Rip – convert – put in your preferred watching order – store on an external HD and plug that bad boy into a blu ray player and you’re set.
Tim – “Rip/convert/HD/Blu-Ray?” A foreign language in PPM land… not without a thousand dollars better spent on “music… Your best entertainment value!” I’m still rocking a 90s video rig and I don’t aim to change that anytime soon! In the 80s I lived on the bleeding edge, but that all changed in the early 90s. I stopped watching any television 23 years ago (after all, you can’t listen to music while doing it) and only got my first DVD player grudgingly in 2000. We like our music digital but analog is good enough for the scant video entertainment we barely indulge in. But you kids have fun. Ignore Gramps over here.
ha, thanks for that, Monk. I was thinking the same thing, but even more technophobically. If I’ve bought a DVD I want to pop the damn disc into the DVD player and watch it…on my big ol’ TV bought two decades ago that still works great, but is not exactly computer compatible.
Taffy – Well, did you watch the difficult to watch stuff? I can see wanting to curate a playlist flow, but surely an “extras” section would have been nicer? After all, I had this for a month before learning about the “Easter Eggs.” You had it how many years??!!
I can’t believe I’m a step ahead of the rest of you on this one….
(says the olde man who just got bifocals)