The big Bowie news for 2014 was that the David Bowie Is Victoria + Albert exhibition that had begun a year earlier with record breaking popularity in the UK and abroad, was coming to The States for a single showing at the Museum Of Contemporary Art in Chicago late that year. Perhaps not so coincidentally concurrent with Bowie’s emergence with a new album the previous year, the V+A had announced in 2012 that they would be curating a look back at the Bowie phenomenon courtesy of the artiste who had apparently thrown nothing away. His warehouses were combed for costumes and ephemera of all kinds and the resulting multimedia exhibit used video, artifacts, and wireless sound to examine Bowie’s body of work. My wife was determined to find a way for us to attend this within our budget, in spits of an expansive two week vacation we were taking at roughly the same time as the exhibit’s three month run. When I noticed that our flight back home from Los Angeles had a Chicago layover, it was a piece of cake. We visited the show and were intrigued by the amount of history in front of our eyes there. With David Bowie no longer performing, this was as close as one got to the holy relics, if not The Duke himself.
While I only bought Bowie’s 2013 album in the Spring of 2014, I didn’t have to wait long for a follow up. By the Fall of that year there were new stirrings from Camp Bowie. There was a new single that was recorded with a… jazz band?! Now that’s more like it! This was what I had been fervently waiting for a decade earlier and what “The Next Day,” for all of its aplomb, disappointed me in not delivering. It was a new single called “Sue [Or In A City of Crime],” and word had leaked out that it had been written and performed by Maria Schneider’s band and the long [7:24] track was obviously substantially different from what had immediately come before.
“Sue [Or In A Season of Crime]” was the new single intended as a teaser for the new David Bowie compilation that was due for release in November of that year. “Nothing Has Changed” was released in a variety of formats; 2xLP, 2xCD, and 3xCD. The LP version was four sides of violently curated Bowie tracks in an early 70s cover. The tracklisting to that copy was a berserk amalgamation of hit singles that was probably arranged to allow for sequencing the tracks best on 23 minute album sides. Listening to this would be a fairly taxing stretch, and I doubt that anyone would be satisfied at the end of it.
The 2xCD was a much more expansive proposition. It had almost twice as many cuts going in chronological order from “Space Oddity” to “Sue.” If one had to have a single Bowie release, this one would work. Barely. More interesting to me was the deluxe 3xCD version. The cover to that one had a contemporary image of Bowie and the track order was in reverse; beginning with “Sue” and going all the way back to his earliest, Pre-solo fame singles with The Kingbees and The Lower Third. Finally, A Bowie compilation that covered it all, even often overlooked Pye material that dated back 50 years by this point. More intriguingly, the playlist was salted with unreleased material from the aborted “Toy” album as well as rare mixes and alternate versions for the obsessives that need a little prodding to shell out for a compilation. I had planned to buy this, but shockingly, this has yet to happen. How much more prodding did I need?
Finally, for 2014’s Black Friday [if you aren’t American, don’t ask] a 10″ single was released of “Sue” in its full length and 7″ edit mixes along with a non-LP B-side, “‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore.” There was also a DL of this single available, but that was then. I thought that I would buy the 10″ but as with the compilation, I’ve yet to do this. Worse, it seems that the DL single has been withdrawn following the re-recording of these songs on Bowie’s final album. It’s the 10″ only if one wants to hear the earlier version of the B-side.
Agreed. Nothing Has Changed works for an overview of Bowie through the decades. But he isn’t an artist who can be “boxed” so easily. My current “Bowie Canon” playlist has 103 songs on it and round out around 7 hours long. It’s also a liquid playlist with song popping in and out constantly.
Now as for what was the most important thing about 2014 – Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) is one of the greatest songs, collaborations, directions, decisions of Bowie’s immense career – IMHO. If it took 10 years for this to find it’s way out of Bowie, it was worth every single second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year. This is the sound of New York City more than any other contemporary song I can think of. In the post MTV/Video age, it’s hard to find songs that conjure images or storylines in your mind anymore. Sue does this in such a vivid way for me. The Maria Schneider band create a dark, black and white picture of New York City, with rain slicked streets and people lurking in the shadows – a musical equivalent to a film noir. Bowie paints a picture of loss, of fear, of desperation and tension that goes hand in hand with the music. It is a truly epic song. The flipside – if it can be called that, ‘Tis A Pity She’s A Whore, is the Rock and Roll that Bowie should have found his way back to before the 80’s ran out. It’s chaotic, rough and tough. It points back to some of the themes and emotions of the stationtostation and Berlin Eras but it’s fresh and unapologetic.
Echorich – For a year, one could buy both tracks in the iTunes Bowie store as a single, but after his death it’s gone. So I’m going to have to track down a copy of the 10″ to hear the original version of “Pity.” I still need the DLX “Nothing Had Changed.” Hell, I still need the 3xCD of Simple Minds’ “Celebrate!” What is it with these comprehensive 3xCD sets with early versions of songs that figure later on the album that follows? What’s up with that?
That didn’t go unnoticed here either. And as with SM, there was a revision of the original to fit the parameters of the album.