The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Las Calinas Sound Stage, Dallas, Texas – April 27 1983

Next week marks 35 years since final rehearsals got underway for Bowie’s Serious Moonlight Tour in Dallas.  It would turn out to be the end of the road for guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughn with chronic drug usage seeing him booted off the tour just weeks before the opening in Brussels the following month.  Vaughn had brought his party hard wife along with a large entourage of clingers on to take advantage of any easy drugs available which led to conflict between the singer and the guitarist and there was only ever going to be one winner on that front.  On short notice, Earl Slick was shipped in and saved the day but on these recordings of the dress rehearsals, you get Stevie Ray at his cutting edge (possibly due to his cocaine habit)  best.  And, you also get the added bonus of hearing some of the songs that didn’t make regular appearances throughout the tour.  It’s a nice change hearing a “show” of sorts minus all the crowd noises allowing so much more of the “sound” from the stage to fall into your listening lines thanks to the recordings from the soundboard.

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Another benefit of hearing tour rehearsals is not only the excited sound of a band about to take a new show on the road, but you also get the in between chats about how to play a chord, requests to change vocal range along with any number of thoughts and requests thrown out for discussion.  It’s a fascinating insight into just how much Bowie likes to mold his performance and image.  The band and back-up singers were all dressed immaculately to take stock of the new romantic phase that had gripped England and Europe in recent years.  In part, the new romantic scene that had popped up in time for the 1980’s was down to Bowie’s influence.  This was his chance to remind the chasing pack, lumbered on his coat tails of the reason they were all scoring hit singles and albums around the world to begin with.  Two stage sets were constructed for the tour and each set weighed around 32 tons.

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A lot of money was invested into the Serious Moonlight Tour with the expectations that the return would be huge.  And it was.  Personally, I feel a lot of this was down to the choice of songs.  The Serious Moonlight Tour was a chance to showcase Bowie as a songwriter.  A lot of the theatrics and pretension was stripped away to reveal a modern Frank Sinatra who could spend two hours crooning his way through an illustrious back catalogue whilst allowing a few gems from his biggest influences to slip in.  One could call it the perfect concert mix.  As a young fan over twenty years ago now, I could play the old VHS copy of the tour video to my parents and have them tapping along.  With this tour being the beginning of Bowie’s self proclaimed “Phil Collins” period, it must have been nice to finally get some much deserved recognition?  Sadly, the “Phil Collins” phase would linger perhaps 2 albums too long with Tonight, Never Let Me Down and conflicting Glass Spider Tour never really reaching any great heights despite the world wide 1987 tour being not as bad as the mainstream critics would have you believe.

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I had not listened to these 1983 tour rehearsals in many years so it was good to pull them out again and rediscover what I loved about them in the first place.  You know how it is when work, travel and other such road blocks to collecting pop up in the way?  I have further tapes for tour rehearsals in 1987, 1990 and 1995 to go back to in the coming days and will post reviews of all those as well.  It’s just a shame there are not more tour rehearsal sound board recording floating about.  Would surely make for fascinating listening.  In the meantime, sit back, relax and enjoy a sublime concert tape recording with a difference.  You can find copies of these tour rehearsals at all the regular places.  You know where they are.

SET LIST: TVC 15/Stay/The Jean Genie/Modern Love/Rock’n’Roll Star/Heroes/What In The World/Look Back In Anger/Joe The Lion/Wild Is The Wind/Golden Years/Fashion-Let’s Dance/Red Sails/Breaking Glass/Life On Mars?/Sorrow/Cat People (Putting Out Fire)/China Girl/Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)/Rebel Rebel/I Can’t Explain/White Light, White Heat/Station To Station/Cracked Actor/Ashes To Ashes/Space Oddity/Young Americans

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Glastonbury, Worthy Farm, UK – 25 June 2000

When the Glastonbury messiah returns, the music world stand up and takes notice.  On a warm summer evening in late June back in the year 2000, it was Bowie’s turn to shine on stage as he delivered a killer set to a hungry crowd.  For the first time this year, Radio BBC decided to broadcast the full set from their archives for the very first time.  Previously, there had been incomplete versions of this show floating about in cyberspace and on CD but now we have it all.  and what a show it was!  This was also the first time Bowie had performed at the festival since his only previous appearance all the way back in 1971 when he took to the stage at 4 am with an acoustic guitar to play a one hour set to all the hippies as they rose from their slumber around the Pyramid Stage.

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First off, he only comes out and belts out a resounding version of Wild Is The Wind.  It’s a shame that he didn’t perform this number more over the years.  There’s always a resounding magic about this song when you hear it live.  What follows is a masterclass in how to drop a festival crowd in the palm of you hand and rattle through classic song after classic song with a few recent numbers sprinkled in for good measure.  As the opening chords of Stay bellow out, Bowie pays tribute to Earl Slick with great admiration.  He reflects constantly on his first Glasto performance throughout and the show feels quite nostalgic all the way to the very end, something not normally akin to a live Bowie concert of this nature.  It should be noted that around this time, Bowie was digging back into his archive to perform songs from the 1960’s and he was even in the process of recording old songs with a new life for the ill fate Toy LP that would be shelved a year later.  This caused Bowie to change record labels and release Heathen in 2002 where some of the Toy material survived in the form of updated versions or B-Sides to singles.

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Initially, Glastonbury owner, Michael Eavis didn’t want Bowie to play the festival after seeing him perform at the London Astoria only a few months before in late 1999.  However, Bowie’s people tipped off the press that Bowie was the main target for Glasto 2000 (he wasn’t) and with media hype, Eavis performed a 180 and set Bowie down to headline.  Following the show, Eavis told anyone who would listen in the press that he felt Bowie was the best headline act he had ever hired.  He would go on to label Bowie’s set, “a fantastic moment – I think maybe that was my best Glastonbury moment of all time. That was so brilliant.”  How true this is could be subject to some skepticism after what happened in London the year before but I guess we will never really know.  Either way, it was a masterstroke.

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Two days later, Bowie would play the BBC Radio Theater in London and by then, his voice was almost gone so it is a blessing that it held out for this marvelous set at Glastonbury.  Now that we finally have the complete broadcast available, I can’t recommend this show enough.  For newcomers, it’s a cracking introduction to his live work and for us older fans, it makes for the perfect trip down memory lane. The show was also filmed in full by the BBC and broadcast in full on a large screen during the 2016 Glastonbury Festival.  You cannot help but imagine how nice it would be if this one day saw the light of day as a DVD/CD release on the official market?  I’m more than certain it would be gobbled up by the bucket load by his army of fans around the world.

SETLIST: Wild Is The Wind/Changes/Stay/Life On Mars?/Absolute Beginners/Ashes To Ashes/Rebel Rebel/Little Wonder/Golden Years/Fame/All The Young Dudes/The Man Who Sold The World/Station To Station/Starman/Hallo Spaceboy/Under Pressure/Ziggy Stardust/Heroes/Let’s Dance/I’m Afraid Of Americans

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Dublin, Ireland – 24 November 1995

As Bowie embarked on his most courageous tour during the second half of 1995, he was laying it on the line. Not since the heady days of Tin Machine had he been this adventurous on stage. Hell, he went as far as to re-work previous classics like Andy Warhol and The Man Who Sold The World, giving them both a new lease of life. Almost is if he’s polished then en route to 1995. There was pre-millennium tension in the air and our mate Dave was riding it all the fucking way. He planted the seeds of this new direction as far back as 1993 with his cover of The Walker Brothers gem, Nite Flights on Black Tie, White Noise. Then, in 1994, he submitted a short story around the Nathan Adler diaries to Q magazine. It was a somewhat grotesque story about art ritual murders and would become the blue print for the 1. Outside LP and subsequent tour that would arrive a year later. Our Dave was in grave danger of becoming cool again.

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The Outside tour began in Connecticut, USA on September 14 with the album following around two weeks later on September 25. The UK leg of the tour would open with four nights in London on November 14 before moving to Birmingham and Dublin. And it’s the show in Dublin that we are looking at now.

Having precociously has a half decent audience recording of the show, I was blown away when this soundboard recorded version arrived a couple of years ago. It’s one of a number of soundboard shows that turned up from this tour and it’s hard to go past it as being the best from the tour. There’s plenty of energy exuding from the band and Bowie himself quite enthusiastic about his diverse and expansive set list that unfolds. You can really tell he loves playing the new material as well as the older and more obscure selections from his back catalogue. The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (as beauty), A Small Plot Of Land and We Prick You sound as if they were made for the stage as well as the studio and the already classic Hearts Filthy Lesson seems to get Bowie quite excited. Oh, did I mention he pulls out My Death and performs outstanding renditions Of DJ and Teenage Wildlife? Yes, it does get that good.

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An interesting side note is that Morrissey was still on the tour as support at this point (he would pull the pin after just 9 dates) and left many concert goers bewildered. Nine Ince Nails had been the support act throughout the US leg of the tour. Perhaps they should have been kept on board for the European shows too?

The whole concert is sublime. You gotta hear Bowie’s spoken word intro for A Small Plot Of Land. He’s at his cheeky best with this and goes into his cockney best on this occasion. Perfect! Like all the good concert tapes in my archive, this one goes by a little to quickly for my likely. It’s one of those shows you just don’t want to end. Like all good things though, it does come to a grinding halt with a thumping rendition of Moonage Daydream which leaves you a little breathless, craving more. The perfect end to the perfect concert.  I do wonder how this soundboard recording managed to find its way out?  Whoever it was and however it was, we should all be eternally grateful for such an amazing show in such pristine sound quality.

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SETLIST: The Motel/Look Back In Anger/The Hearts Filthy Lesson/Scary Monsters/The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction/I Have Not Been To Oxford Town/Outside/Andy Warhol/The Man Who Sold The World/A Small Plot Of Land/Boys Keep Swinging/Strangers When We Meet/Jump, They Say/Hallo Spaceboy/Breaking Glass/We Prick You/Nite Flights/My Death/DJ/Teenage Wildlife/Under Pressure/Moonage Daydream

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Entertainment Arena, Cleveland, Ohio – 25 November 1972

Last week, I reveled in a live recording of Bowie’s show from Pirate’s Bay, Florida on November 17 1972 and last night, I revisited the show from Cleveland that took place just over a week later.  Some of you may know this concert via the “Va Va Va Voom” bootleg which was released on the Australian Savage Hippo label back in 1998.  This version I have is from a different source (Ziggy’s Invasion Of America from 1999) and the sound is even better than the preceding release from a year before.  As far as Ziggy era recordings go, this one is easily in the top 5.  With very few if any hiccups, the November 25th recording makes a good night on on the hi hi.  The set list is pretty much identical to all shows from this leg of the tour and once again, as with other recordings from around this time, Bowie is extraordinarily chatty all the way through.  The spoken intro to Drive-In Saturday is more audible on this recording as well.  Perhaps the most audible of all the recordings I have heard from around this time.  What’s more, Bowie’s speech to introduce the song is also quite clear.  He reeled out similar jargon at other concerts regarding tape recorders to leave (obviously, they didn’t) and the finer details of where he wrote the song and the story behind the lyrics.  I sometimes wonder why Drive-In Saturday didn’t appear more in the live repertoire over the years?  A shame really.

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There was a second show the following night, November 26th.  Both nights were sold out.  These followed an appearance in New Orleans on the 22nd and would be followed by a concert in Pittsburgh two days later.  One thing is for sure, there would have been some interesting sights on the bus journeys between cities.  This was after all, America in 1972 at her red neck best.  Bowie had also begun this tour in Cleveland at the much smaller Music Hall on September 22 which held around 3,000 punters.  Within two and half months, the new shows were playing to over 10,000 people each night.  A lot had changed in a very short space of time.  Essentially, the bigger the hype, the larger the demand and with clever management, the hype behind Bowie soared with every passing week on the road.

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The audience are extremely enthusiastic all the way through the show with much banter between the crowd and their master.  It’s what live shows should always be about.  In later years, Bowie would often utter a dozen words or less during his concerts.  Andy Warhol sounds particularly inspiring on this recording.  Waiting For The Man & The Jean Genie are both rocking show stoppers and, as always on this tour, Space Oddity attracts lots of attention due to it being his best known song at this time.  I do wonder if Bowie had any other numbers in the pipeline that he considered bringing to the stage aside from Drive-In Saturday and The Jean Genie.  Both tracks come over raw and fresh which is an exciting element to song writing and performing.  He also strikes some nice vocals during Changes which concludes with a beautiful piano solo from Mike Garson who was, at the time, new to the Bowie set up.

Bowie pauses after Five Years to ask members of the audience who were dancing in the aisles to sit down in order to make the evening more enjoyable for everyone.  This request is met by a loud cheer.  From here, he launches into a beautiful rendition of Space Oddity.  Following up, Bowie asks the crowd, “What’s been happening with you?”  His question is met by thousands of multiple answers and he then reminds the crowd that Cleveland was the first show performed in America.  The loudest cheer of the night goes up.

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I have always wondered what sort of recording equipment was ferried in to record this show.  For 1972, it truly is captured in outstanding quality.  As many of you may know, a lot of the show from the early 70’s tours sounded as if they were recorded from the depths of the toilet at the back of the venue.  For a good example of this, track down a copy of the show in Leeds on June 29 1973.  Sadly, it’s not the only show from this tour that sound quite poor.  If you have not listened to this show before, I can’t stress how important it is that you go and find a quality download or listen to the link I have provided here.  You most definitely won’t be sorry.

SETLIST: Hang Onto Yourself/Ziggy Stardust/Changes/The Supermen/Life On Mars?/Five Years/Space Oddity/Andy Warhol/Drive-In Saturday/The Width Of A Circle/John, I’m Only Dancing/Moonage Daydream/Band Intro/Waiting For The Man/The Jean Genie/Suffragette City/Rock’n’Roll Suicide

Bowie Finally Sells Out!

Another day, another anniversary and this time, we are celebrating 35 years since Let’s Dance was released. The album and proceeding tour was a serious money spinner for Bowie at the time. He was finally selling out and cashing in on his then outstanding back catalogue of albums and introducing a whole new generation to his music and charisma. Unfortunately, it set the tone for a 5 year tumble that was only recovered via Tin Machine in 1989. So let’s see how Bowie became the hottest ticket in town during 1983.

The album itself was recorded and mixed at breakneck speed. 17 days to be precise with Nike Rogers at the helm. Tony Visconti has been pencilled in to produce the record however, he was informed that Bowie had decided to go down a different direction over the telephone after recording had commenced. Visconti would not produce another Bowie album until 2002 when they teamed up to record Heathen.

Let’s Dance was released on April 14 1983, the same week that also saw debut album releases from R.E.M. and The Violent Femmes who would both go onto huge success in the years to come. Only Michael Jackson, Paul Young and Culture Club shifted more units through the year. Let’s Dance would go on to top the charts in England, Australia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, France, Norway & Sweden. It would also go top 10 in a further 7 nations including the United States where it peaked at number 2. So strong was the album in sales, it would regularly return to the charts in Australia and England during 1984.

The lead single, Let’s Dance would hit the number 1 spot in 13 countries and go top 10 in many more. It would go on to become the 4th largest selling single of the year. China Girl was issued in June and that would also reach number 2 in the UK. A third single, Modern Love also reached number 2 in England and spent time nesting inside the top 10 of many other nations. In America, RCA released Without You leading into Christmas as a cash in but the single failed to reach the top 40, stalling at number 73 in January 1984. By now, the Bowie hype of 1983 had passed and Bowie’s new fans had moved onto the next big act, Culture Club. The video clips for Let’s Dance and China Girl were both shot in Australia.

The accompanying Serious Moonlight tour started out in small venues before the demand for tickets outstripped supply, forcing promoters to find stadiums to fill. By the end of the tour, over 2.6 million tickets had been sold for 96 shows in no less than 15 countries. To date, it was Bowie’s largest and most expansive tour and one concert had over 250,000 ticket requests! The problem was, there were only 44,000 tickets available. Blues guitarist, Stevie Ray Vaughn who played on the album left the touring party before opening night and was replaced at the last minutes by Earl Slick.

The first time I heard Let’s Dance was in 1992, some 9 years after its initial release. It sounded as fresh then as much as it does now. We sometimes forget just how massive Bowie was in 1983. A number one album. Multiple number one singles and the largest selling tour of the year. In the summer of ’83, Bowie even had ten of his albums entrenched in the UK top 40 album charts. It surely doesn’t get much better than that does it?

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Pirate’s World, Dania, Florida, USA – 17 November 1972

For many years, it was common knowledge that David Bowie’s concert in Florida during the back end of 1972 was the debut of “Drive-In Saturday” which would appear the following year as a track and second single release from Aladdin Sane. Most collectors assumed this to be the case because Bowie himself announced the song during the show as the first time he would be playing it live. However, it has since come to light that the song was, in fact, performed on November 4 in Phoenix. I’ve not heard the performance of that concert so I am not sure if Bowie gave the song as epic an intro as he did in Florida but chances are he probably did. He talks candidly about the song for 90 seconds before breaking into the opening chords.

So what of the concert itself?

As far as sound quality goes, it’s a real gem for its time. The taper and his friend can be heard throughout the concert but their general conversation give the recording a small drop of charm. It’s not overbearing but just enough to draw you in which is strange in some respects as I normally get put off by people talking through recordings. I’d love to know where the taper and his friend are these days?

The overall set list is strong for this era of Bowie’s live output. Like most of the American performances, he tends to explain both himself and his songs to audience members throughout the show. Many of these shows were far from sell outs so provided a more sedated crowd which comes over as being nice and personal between the artist and his audience. A lovely touch.

Another bonus of this recording was the inclusion of Ode To Joy in full to kick the show off. On many concert tapes from this tour, Ode To Joy is often cut off at the start. This also leads me to believe that the taper may have been to other shows before hand and appreciates the finer aspects of recording concerts for prosperity. Security was extremely tight on the night as well so I do wonder how the equipment was smuggled in?

Outside the venue on the night, there were instances where concert goers were rigorously searches for drugs before entering. However, the Police, both male and female officers refused to search the transvestites who were going in so many of the punters with drugs gave their stash over to the transvestites and collected them once inside the venue.

Also of note was a sharp object which somehow got into Bowie’s boot and affected his performance throughout the night. Apparently, his foot was quite chopped up at the end of the night. One can only imagine how much pain he must have been through? This might explain the long gap between the end of the show (Suffragette City) and the encore track (Rock’n’Roll Suicide)? There are a couple of cuts through the start of Moonage Daydream yet the rest of the show comes over rather well. All in all, this has been a personal favorite recording of mine for many years and I doubt you will find many better recordings from 1972.

SET LIST: Ode To Joy/Hang Onto Yourself/Ziggy Stardust/Changes/The Supermen/Life On Mars?/Five Year/Space Oddity/Andy Warhol/Drive-In Saturday (intro)/Drive-In Saturday/The Width Of A Circle/John, I’m Only Dancing/Queen Bitch/Moonage Daydream/Waiting For The Man/The Jean Genie/Suffragette City/Rock’n’Roll Suicide

What Happened When Ziggy Went To America?

Today marks 45 long years since David Bowie released his iconic LP, Aladdin Sane which featured perhaps his most memorable image on the cover.  The album itself came about through Bowie’s own experiences on the road during the second half of 1972 and was recorded in London, New York and, of all places, Nashville!  It’s a collection of fine songs with observations on the crazy and occasionally calmer aspects of American life and culture.  Almost as if Ziggy Stardust had picked up schizophrenic tenancies and allowed them out of the cage via a 10 track call for help.  So where did it all start to change for Ziggy?

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Bowie himself was tiring of life on the road, surrounded by strangers and rarely being allowed time to breath or a moment to himself.  And when he was gallivanting around the United States in a bus, he was up on stage, playing to perplexed crowds who didn’t know how to make either heads nor tails of what was unfolding in front of them.  Many of Ziggy’s early American concert were played to half empty halls and, despite a concerted push through the media, Ziggy took a little time to gain acceptance from a largely jeans and t-shirt wearing nation who were possibly not quite ready for a man dressed as well, a woman in many eyes.  Sometimes we forget just how tough it would have been for Bowie to cope with the pressure to deliver, night after night for his then manager, Tony DeFries.  The album also allowed fans a first glimpse of the majestic Mike Garson in the studio.  Garson left his distinctive fingerprints all over the album as it shot to number 1 in the UK and number 17 in the USA.  Collectively over 1973, Bowie had 6 albums spend no less than a combined 182 weeks on the British charts.  After years of struggle, he had arrived in a big way.  The album was also the second biggest seller of the year in 1973 coming in just behind Elton John’s “Don’t Shoot Me, I’m Just The Piano Player”.  I know right?

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“The Jean Genie” appeared as a lead off single in November 1972.  The single spent 13 weeks in the UK charts, hitting a peak of number 2.  Sadly, it only reached the lower end of the charts in America with a not so high chart position of 72.  By April 1973, RCA were needing more product to coincide with the album so “Drive-In Saturday” appeared as a single and that surged up to a peak of number 3 in the UK charts.  By now, Bowie was selling out concerts all over the country and his face was cropping up on the cover of pretty much any music publication worth a crust.  As 1973 rolled on, RCA also pushed out “Time” & “Let’s Spend The Night Together” as singles from the album before digging into Bowie’s recent past to dredge “Life On Mars?” for another run.  Well, it performed much better than its first release in 1971 as it swept to number 3 on the UK carts in early July 1973.

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Since its release, Aladdin Sane has gone into folklore as one of Britain’s most iconic album releases notching up almost 5 million unit sales worldwide.  It has seen multiple re-issues down the years with the most significant being 1985, 1990, 1999, 2003 and lastly, 2015.  Shows to support the album kicked off in December 1972 and progressed through the UK, North America, Japan before moving back to the UK where it all fell apart on July 3rd 1973 as Bowie retired Ziggy and Aladdin on stage at The Hammersmith Odean, much to the shock of his fans and surprise of his own band.  After a short break, Bowie went to Paris to record Pin Ups which also shot to number one in the UK charts to cap off a magnificent year.  A few month later, Bowie was back again, this time only in America where he toured his Diamond Dogs LP to critical acclaim and sold out shows all over the United States.  By the summer, he had tired of the Diamond Dogs concept and began recording his next album, Young Americans in Philadelphia before returning to the stage later in the year with his Diamond Dogs Tour which now resembled more or less a stripped back version of the earlier theatrical show and now labelled it the “Philly Dogs Tour” due to its rapid new direction.

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Looking back, it’s hard to imagine how Bowie manage to release no less than 5 studio albums between June 1972 and March 1975.  All that in just under three years!  For many Bowie fans though, Aladdin Sane is where shit got real as Ziggy Stardust extended his reach and plundered new levels before falling back to earth with a shuddering thud via Aladdin Sane.  A prolific period by any standards yet full of quality at every turn.  In 2018, it seems a little sad that artists are no longer afforded the creative freedom to release when they feel as the music industry now falls foul of scheduling platforms and perhaps even artists who lack the creative drive to release so much quality material in such a short space of time.  To be a Bowie fan in 1973 would have been a dream come true and I highly doubt we will ever see anything like it again any time soon.   A masterful creation that should sit proudly in every music lovers collection. So happy 45th birthday to Aladdin Sane, you don’t look a day over 1973!