The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Santiago, Chile – September 27 1990

The third file on the Sound+Vision Tour of 1990 this week looks at another beautiful FM broadcast from South America. To be more precise, Santiago in Chile.  Yet again, we experience a happy and jovial Bowie as he peddles through his back catalogue of hits (perhaps knowing deep within, he was a step closer to never playing them again) with broad gusto.  Historically speaking, this was Bowie’s second last show (107th) of the tour which had consisted of more than 100 shows in 27 countries, his largest tour to date.

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He opens with Space Oddity as was the norm for the tour, following, he launches into an apology for being so late on stage and promises the waiting fans a very long show. By his later standards where he would often play well over 30 songs, the 21 offered on this night were a reasonable amount.  As with other soundboard and FM shows from this tour, you really do get a gist for just how good the musical arrangement were for particular songs.  During this particular recording, “Ashes To Ashes” stands out head and shoulders above the rest of the opening part of the show.  It’s followed by an impressive “Stay” but then falls away slightly with “Pretty Pink Rose”, a song that either comes off well or sounds just plain average which it sadly did during most shows of this tour.  I do wonder though why Bowie didn’t opt for a few obscure songs to be thrown in with “Panic In Detroit”, “Rock’n’Roll Suicide” and all the major hits.  One would love to know which songs he had contemplated adding in but chose to leave out.

 

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As the show moves along, it picks up a few more notches before closing down with no less than 5 songs in the encore.  Listening back over this broadcast will definitely make you reconsider the negative feedback the Sound+Vision tour received in the years after its completion.  It’s by no means Bowie’s best tour.  Not by a long way but it deserves a little more respect than it garnered back in the 1990’s.  All you have to do is listen to “China Girl” from this tour to get an understanding of just how good the arrangements were.  I’ve spoken about these elements of the tour during previous articles but I just cannot help but go back for more.  Even with his voice sounding a touch scratchy, it’s still far better than most other artists on a good day.

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For the next couple of Sound+Vision tour shows, I’m going to move into the murky waters of audience recordings from the tour.  Namely shows from the first American leg followed by Europe after which, I’ll move onto the beautiful FM recording of Japan from the master tapes which will be a wonderful treat.  As mentioned in previous posts, you can always drop me a line and I can point you in the direction of where to download these shows from if you don’t already know.  There are a lot of amazing Bowie fans who have managed to haul together some real treasures over the past decade and we should always be grateful for the hard work they constantly put into bringing such amazing shows to the public domain.

SETLIST: Space Oddity/Life On Mars?/Rebel Rebel/Ashes To Ashes/Stay/Pretty Pink Rose/Blue Jean/Let’s Dance/Sound And Vision/Ziggy Stardust/China Girl/Panic In Detroit/Young Americans/Suffragette City/Fame/”Heroes”/Changes/White Light, White Heat/The Jean Genie/Fashion/Modern Love

 

 

You Could Be Dead Tomorrow!

Every day for the past couple of weeks, I have been walking past floral tributes outside of work that have been left for a young lady who was hit and killed by a bus whilst crossing the street. She was only in her early 20’s and had the rest of her life ahead of her. It’s been resting on my mind since it happened that it could be anyone in that deadly position.

If anything, it’s yet another confirmation as to why you should live your life to the fullest. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’ll work itself out. Don’t stress and worry about things that have not yet happened. You can’t control the future. If anything, do the things you love. The things that make you happy. The things you enjoy. Embrace every day and thrive on all the little moments that make up each and every day.

You know all that money you have been saving for a rainy day? Go out and book a holiday with it or buy that awesome dress you have had your eye on for the past few weeks. It’s just money and you can’t take it to the grave. You know, when my grandfather passed away in 1992, tens of thousands of dollars were found hidden behind walls, in the ceiling and other strange places. Why was he hoarding so much money? We’ll never know.

What I do know is this. My grandmother always wanted a round the world holiday with him, her husband of over 50 years. They never enjoyed that round the world holiday she desired so much. I think you get where I am going with this. Just get out there and enjoy life. Go and love it. You’ve only got one crack so make every moment count!

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Milton Keynes, UK – August 5 1990

During one of England’s warmest summers on record came one of the hottest concert tickets available. David Bowie in Milton Keynes on August 4 & 5. These two shows would open the fifth leg of the tour and the second jaunt into Europe for a “Greatest Hits” tour that was verging into its sixth month by now. BBC Radio 1 was there to capture the second night as the crowd cooled down from a sweltering day in the sun watching no less than three support acts that included Jean Loves Jezebel. The tour have often been criticised in some circles for being bland and predictable yet, this was indeed, the point of the tour. Showcasing the hits for the last time and allowing the music to do the talking. And talk it did on August 5 1990.

The highlights of this show are many. The intro of “Ode To Joy” which is followed by “Space Oddity” sets the scene for a beautiful recording. Naturally, as you would expect with an FM broadcast, there are no real flaws that come with it. It’s also a complete recording which can be rare for radio broadcasts due to time restrictions. The visual effects that accompany each show are spectacular with giant video projections being the focal point. To do this, Bowie used an 80 foot scrim which would allow the video projections to play either behind or in front. The results were quite spectacular.

“China Girl” has a life of its own on this tour with a new arrangement which lends it well to the minimalist production that was used with just a 4 piece backing band. Back in the early 90’s when I began collecting bootlegs from this tour, I always felt the sound on stage was perhaps lacking a bit of punch. As the years have passed, it turns out I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Listening to “Ashes To Ashes” reflects the mood of not just the Sound+Vision Tour but the music of the time itself. Music in the 80’s was often overblown and by the mid 90’s, it had scaled back down again, paving the way for the likes of Nirvana, Blue, Oasis and Pearl Jam. Of course, Bowie had begun move in 1990 on this tour. Another song to come alive beautifully with this band was “Pretty Pink Rose”, a composition written with tour guitarist, Adrien Belew. It’s a severely underrated song in the Bowie cannon and it’s time it began getting an inclusion on compilations.

I do love this tour very much for the fact Bowie pulled out “Sound And Vision”, “Station To Station” and “White Light, White Heat”. Perhaps they weren’t fan favorites from the phone in but all three are must inclusions from the get go. Mind, I’m still baffled as to how “Blue Jean” managed to find its way back into the show after previously being played with limited success some three years prior on the Glass Spider Tour. Nobody’s perfect I guess? Then again, perhaps it was a begrudging fan favourite?

The 60,000 strong audience that wilted in the oppressive heat to catch this gig just outside of London were treated to one of the most enjoyable shows on tour. As a bootleg, it stands up with the best of them and you kinda wish you had been part of the crowd enjoying the occasion. The set list could have been a touch longer. Coming in at just 21 songs, you get the impression that a longer show might have been in order. Sadly, it wasn’t but this is a Bowie tour with no duds and plenty of hits. What’s more, it’s one of the better FM broadcasts doing the rounds from the tour and is readily available from all the usual online outlets.

SET LIST: Intro/Space Oddity/Rebel Rebel/Ashes To Ashes/Fashion/Life On Mars?/Pretty Pink Rose/Sound And Vision/Blue Jean/Let’s Dance/Stay/Ziggy Stardust/China Girl/Station To Station/Young Americans/Suffragette City/Fame/”Heroes”/Changes/The Jean Genie/White Light, White Heat/Modern Love

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Sound+Vision Tour Interview, May 20 1990

I’ve decided to spend this week looking back over the highlights of the 1990 Sound+Vision Tour and tonight, I’m starting off with one of the interviews from May 20 where Bowie spoke in depth about his back catalogue, playing his hits for the last time and a few more odds and sods about the tour, Tin Machine and records he was getting into at the time. The interview was aired on the Westwood One Radio Network as part of Timothy White’s Rockstar Series.

We begin with Bowie talking about the books he was reading during his early teenage years and how it helped him piece together what one can do with rock’n’roll moving forward. He also opens up about the band he’s taking on tour, the fragmentation of music as it moves out of the 80’s before touching on how he and John Lennon wrote Fame together. You get the sense that this interview is giving Bowie the salesman’s image as he talks up his old songs and why they fit into the tour. Before the tour commencement, it was decided fans could phone in and pick their favourite songs to be played. The first hiccup came when the tour kicked off in Canada before the phone poll had actually ended.

Through the interview, Bowie enthusiastically looks back on his Hunky Dory and Ziggy albums whilst the listening audience are granted a world premiere of “Sweet Head” which came as a bonus track with The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. It does make you wonder why the fantastic bonus tracks from the Rykodisc period have practically been ignored ever since baring a few exceptions.

A huge downfall of this interview is simply that a lot of the topics are kept short and sweet. Whilst discussing the Philadelphia and Berlin periods, we are only given short glimpses when perhaps the listener deserved a little more detail. One wonders how much of the original interview was cut due to time constraints by the radio station as the whole speaking segment which is included in this recording comes in at just over 30 minutes. Admittedly, Bowie did do a lot of press to promote the Sound+Vision Tour so beggars can’t be choosers with countless interviews available.

To do the interview justice, it could have been spread out over three 1 hour blocks to allow more time spent on individual topics. Something I have noticed in Bowie around this period of his life is that he began to look back on his early years with rose tinted glasses which allowed for a more thoughtful and insightful artist to open up and drop the pretences in the moments when he wasn’t selling a tour of back catalogue. The real shame is that we didn’t get more of it.

Also of keen interest is his enthusiasm for the recently completed second Tin Machine LP where Bowie cites “Goodbye Mr Ed” as his most adored track from the sessions. Whilst talking about the plethora of songs recorded during the sessions, you kind of wonder if they had too many to chose from when looking at the final selection? You also find out his thoughts on the latest Sonic Youth album, his passion for The Pixies and other recent album purchases that floated his boat like Dinosaur Junior. He was championing these acts well before everyone else caught on.

If you would like a copy of this interview, drop me a line and we can arrange a copy via drop box. Next up, I’ll be exploring the Milton Keynes show from August 5th 1990 which was recorded for BBC Radio 1 FM before going on the be one of the most prized recordings from the tour. There are other fine FM recordings from the tour that I will also take a closer look at as the week moves forward.

Life In A Tokyo Record Store!

When I first got into vinyl collecting back in the mid 90’s, I would often hear of collectors adventures to a vinyl hunters heartland in a far flung place. Or so it seemed to my teenage mind. Tokyo. The more I heard about how good the record shopping was, the greater my desire grew to go and visit the land of the rising sun for some music related retail therapy. Mind, it only took me 20 odd years to finally make it. For those of you that have not yet been record shopping in Tokyo, May I suggest you begin looking at flights and start saving your pennies. The main district for vinyl junkies is Shibuya. There are around 20 reputable stores in the district with both quality and reasonably priced vinyl being the order of the day. There is something for everyone with a genre selection unlike anything I have seen before in my life anywhere in the world!

My first thought upon jumping off the train in Shibuya was where do I start? For first timers, it can all be quite daunting because you can easily blow your dough in the first two or three stores. And, to be honest, I could have spent thousands and still not racked up all the items that hit me in the eye. Another problem I found was which artists do I limit myself to? I’m not just a Bowie freak, but also obsessed with Morrissey, Suede, The Cure, Blur and The Beatles to name a few. For this first time visit to Tokyo, I kept it simple and just went for Bowie items. Resist those Smiths bootlegs David! Resist my son!

The first thing I noticed about local Japanese pressings was the attention to detail and quality. Being a nation of respectful citizens, a lot of care is taken to provide the best service, quality and style no matter what you are after. I noticed a great deal of books on sale with amazing artwork laid out on the covers and pages within. Being printed in Japanese gives the publications a beautiful look unlike no other. The flip side to these spectacular publications is that you are unable to read most of the books on offer but that won’t stop you from picking up a few of the more tasty treasures on show. And believe me, there are just so many to chose from.

If you think finding the more unique stores like Disc Union will be simple, think again. Many of the record stores are located in strange corners of the Shibuya district. There are the obvious major high street chains like HMV and Tower Records which you can locate without too much hassle though, the real goldmine stores are more of a challenge to locate but that kinda makes it fun. With each new location discovered, you literally find yourself lost in the racks as you lovingly sift over countless pressings of albums and other such relics you would love to own. Again, this is why I just limited this trip to purely Bowie items. One store was set over 5 floors and 2 of them were full of pristine vinyl albums, bootlegs and singles, each item carefully wrapped and presented the way Records should be.

Walking around Tokyo, I wonder if Emperor Meiji envisaged in 1869 just how amazing the city of Tokyo would turn out to be? After all, he was only 17 at the time. The city of Tokyo was formally named Edo until Emperor Meiji settled and changed the name of the city. Another interesting aspect of the country is the language which dates back to the 8th Century. I could listen to Japanese people talk for hours despite not being able to understand any of the dialect. It’s one thing I do enjoy about travel. At every turn, there is beautiful culture to behold. It would take a lot for one to grow tired of a riveting city as bold and exciting as Tokyo. And, with so many good record stores to visit, I doubt I would ever grow tired of the region.

The only disappointment about this trip was that I only had 5 days in Tokyo. In that time, I barely managed to scratch the surface of the main districts. The fashion lovers will, no doubt have a ball with all that’s on offer. Food lovers will surely eat themselves into a coma at every stop along the way. Fans of a good nightclub scene will be blown away by the enormity and range of entertainment available that caters to punters from all walks of life. But most of all, the culture junkies can happily immerse themselves in some of the most exotic historically rich adventures on offer anywhere in the world.

You can find relatively cheap flights to Tokyo from most Australian hubs with Jetstar. The flight takes around 8 hours in total depending on your departure city. So what are you waiting for?

David Bowie: Confessions Of A Vinyl Junkie!

Back in 2003, Vanity Fair asked David Bowie to submit his 25 most treasured LP’s as part of their “Confessions Of A Vinyl Junkie” series.  What followed was an incredible journey into the private collection of a truly inspiring human being.

Over the coming weeks, I’m going to re-visit this list myself as I already own 18 of the titles.  The others, I will surely enjoy sourcing out and hearing for the very first time.  Before heading out on this adventure, I thought we should all take a look back at the original list from Vanity Fair in 2003.

Enjoy…….!

There is really no way to do a list of my favorite albums with any rationality. I do only have about 2,500 vinyls. There is a possibility there. I’ll look through the albums and pull together a list of those I have re-bought or am in the process of re-buying on CD. I have little time, and there are just too many to sort through. So, I’ll keep pulling stuff out blindly, and if it’s too obvious (Sgt. Pepper, Nirvana) I’ll put it back again till I find something more interesting. A lot of the rock stuff I have is the same as everyone else’s, and I have so many blues and R&B albums that it would topple over into trainspotter world if I went that route.

O.K., no rules then. I’ll just make ‘em up as I go along. I’d say half of this list below is now on my CD racks, but many are finding impossible to trace. The John Lee Hooker album, for instance, or The Red Flower of Tachai Blossoms Everywhere. I have done the only thing possible and burned them to CD myself, reduced the cover art down to size, and made reasonable simulacrums of the originals.

If you can possibly get your hands on any of these, I guarantee you evenings of listening pleasure, and you will encourage a new high-minded circle of friends, although one or two choices will lead some of your old pals to think you completely barmy. So, without chronology, genre, or reason, herewith, in no particular order, 25 albums that could change your reputation.

THE LAST POETS

THE LAST POETS
(1970, Douglas)

One of the fundamental building blocks of rap. All the essential “griot” narrative skills, splintered with anger here, produce one of the most political vinyls to ever crack the Billboard chart. While talking rap (what?), I can piggyback this great treat with the 1974 compilation The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Flying Dutchman), which pulls together the best of the formidable Gil Scott-Heron works.

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SHIPBUILDING

ROBERT WYATT
(1982, Rough Trade)

Not an album, a 12-inch single. A vinyl nonetheless. A well-thought-through and relentlessly affecting song co-written by Elvis Costello, and Wyatt’s interpretation is the definitive. Heartbreaking—reduces strong men to blubbering girlies.

THE FABULOUS LITTLE RICHARD

LITTLE RICHARD
(1959, Specialty)

Unusually subdued, these performances were recorded by Richard at his first Specialty sessions, mostly in 1955. It was sold to me discount by Jane Greene. More of her later.

MUSIC FOR 18 MUSICIANS

STEVE REICH
(1978, ECM)

Bought in New York. Balinese gamelan music cross-dressing as Minimalism. Saw this performed live in downtown New York in the late 70s. All white shirts and black trousers. Having just finished a tour in white shirt and black trousers, I immediately recognized Reich’s huge talent and great taste. The music (and the gymnastics involved in executing Reich’s tag-team approach to shift work) floored me. Astonishing.

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THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND
(1967, Verve)

Brought back from New York by a former manager of mine, Ken Pitt. Pitt had done some kind of work as a P.R. man that had brought him into contact with the Factory. Warhol had given him this coverless test pressing (I still have it, no label, just a small sticker with Warhol’s name on it) and said, “You like weird stuff—see what you think of this.” What I “thought of this” was that here was the best band in the world. In December of that year, my band Buzz broke up, but not without my demanding we play “I’m Waiting for the Man” as one of the encore songs at our last gig. Amusingly, not only was I to cover Velvet’s song before anyone else in the world, I actually did it before the album came out. Now that’s the essence of Mod.

TUPELO BLUES

JOHN LEE HOOKER
(1962, Riverside)

By 1963, I was working as a junior commercial artist at an advertising agency in London. My immediate boss, Ian, a groovy modernist with Gerry Mulligan—style short crop haircut and Chelsea boots, was very encouraging about my passion for music, something he and I both shared, and used to send me on errands to Dobell’s Jazz record shop on Charing Cross Road knowing I’d be there for most of the morning till well after lunch break. It was there, in the “bins,” that I found Bob Dylan’s first album. Ian had sent me there to get him a John Lee Hooker release and advised me to pick up a copy for myself, as it was so wonderful. Within weeks my pal George Underwood and I had changed the name of our little R&B outfit to the Hooker Brothers and had included both Hooker’s “Tupelo” and Dylan’s version of “House of the Rising Sun” in our set. We added drums to “House,” thinking we’d made some kind of musical breakthrough, and were understandably gutted when the Animals released the song to stupendous reaction. Mind you, we had played our version live only twice, in tiny clubs south of the river Thames, in front of 40 or so people, not one of whom was an Animal. No nicking, then!

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BLUES, RAGS AND HOLLERS

KOERNER, RAY AND GLOVER
(1963, Elektra)

Bought at Dobell’s. In his own way, “Spider” John Koerner was an influence on Bob Dylan, with whom he used to play in the coffee bars of Dinkytown, the arty section around the University of Minnesota. Demolishing the puny vocalizations of “folk” trios like the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Whatsit, Koerner and company showed how it should be done. First time I had heard a 12-string guitar.

THE APOLLO THEATRE PRESENTS: IN PERSON! THE JAMES BROWN SHOW

JAMES BROWN
(1963, King)

My old schoolmate Geoff MacCormack brought this around to my house one afternoon, breathless and overexcited. “You have never, in your life, heard anything like this,” he said. I made a trip to see Jane Greene that very afternoon. Two of the songs on this album, “Try Me” and “Lost Someone,” became loose inspirations for Ziggy’s “Rock & Roll Suicide.” Brown’s Apollo performance still stands for me as one of the most exciting live albums ever. Soul music now had an undisputed king.

FORCES OF VICTORY

LINTON KWESI JOHNSON
(1979, Mango)

A Carib-Brit contribution to the history of rap. This man writes some of the most moving poetry to be found in popular music. The quite achingly sad “Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem)” is alone worth the price of admission. Although not sung but spoken word set against a superb band, this must be one of the most important reggae records of all time. I gave my original copy just recently to Mos Def, in whom I see connections to Johnson, thinking I had already got it on CD. Dammit, I haven’t. So now I’m searching high and low for a copy.

THE RED FLOWER OF TACHAI BLOSSOMS EVERYWHERE: MUSIC PLAYED ON NATIONAL INSTRUMENTS

VARIOUS ARTISTS
(1972, China Record Company)

How can you not love music with selections titled “Delivering Public-Grain to the State” or “Galloping Across the Grasslands” (a real foot tapper, that one). Apart from reading like outtakes from a Brian Eno album, these tracks are actually rather lovely examples of folkish music played on traditional instruments. I bought about 20 different 10-inchers of this genre at ridiculously low prices at a Chinese Woodblock Print Fair in Berlin in the late 70s. The cover art proudly displays a smart and highly functional-looking hydroelectric dam, similar to but presumably smaller than the one which is now flooding hundreds of villages on either side of the glorious Yangtze River. Nice pastel colors, though, and classy white-gold print.

BANANA MOON

DAEVID ALLEN
(1971, Caroline/Virgin)

It’s possible, just possibly maybe, that strands of the embryonic glam style started here. I replayed it just this morning and was flabbergasted to hear something that sounds like Bryan Ferry and the Spiders from Mars (together, at last!!) on Track 1, recorded a full two years before the “official” glam releases from either of the two above-mentioned protagonists. There are, however, no doubts about Allen and fellow band member Robert Wyatt’s huge influence on the more “high-minded” layers of pop with their protean unit, the Soft Machine. Banana Moon became Allen’s solo transitional move before forming the loony Gong. Wyatt also went on to a long and respected solo career, intermittently working with ex-Roxyite Brian Eno.

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JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS

CAST ALBUM
(1968, CBS)

In the mid-60s, I was having an on-again, off-again thing with a wonderful singer-songwriter who had previously been the girlfriend of Scott Walker. Much to my chagrin, Walker’s music played in her apartment night and day. I sadly lost contact with her, but unexpectedly kept a fond and hugely admiring love for Walker’s work. One of the writers he covered on an early album was Jacques Brel. That was enough to take me to the theater to catch the above-named production when it came to London in 1968. By the time the cast, led by the earthy translator and Brooklynite Mort Shuman, had gotten to the song that dealt with guys lining up for their syphilis shots (“Next”), I was completely won over. By way of Brel, I discovered French chanson a revelation. Here was a popular song form wherein poems by the likes of Sartre, Cocteau, Verlaine, and Baudelaire were known and embraced by the general populace. No flinching, please.

THE ELECTROSONIKS: ELECTRONIC MUSIC

TOM DISSEVELT
(1960, Vendor Philips)

This was one of those strange albums put out by the record companies to show off that newfangled stereo. Only, here Philips opted for a truly pioneering couple of Dutch bods, Tom Dissevelt and Kid Baltan. As sonic explorers, these two rate along with Ennio Morricone, but far loopier. I’d adore a 5.1 mix of these absurdities. The sleeve notes inform us that “chimpanzees are painting, gorillas are writing.” Way to go.

THE 5000 SPIRITS OR THE LAYERS OF THE ONION

THE INCREDIBLE STRING BAND
(1967, Hannibal)

O.K., here’s the album with the trippiest cover. Color’s all over the place on this one, a real eye dazzler. Probably executed by the art group known as “the Fool.” Pretty much locked into a time capsule for many years—it’s uplifting to find that this strange assortment of Middle Eastern and Celtic folk-mystic stuff stands up remarkably well now. A summer-festival “must” in the 60s, myself and T. Rexer Marc Bolan both being huge fans.

TEN SONGS BY TUCKER ZIMMERMAN

TUCKER ZIMMERMAN
(1969, Regal Zonophone/EMI)

Now there’s a title with cool clarity. The guy’s way too qualified for folk, in my opinion. Degrees in theory and composition, studying under composer Henry Onderdonk, Fulbright scholarship, and he wants to be Dylan. A waste of an incendiary talent? Not in my opinion. I always found this album of stern, angry compositions enthralling, and often wondered what ever happened to him. Tucker, an American, was one of the first artists to be produced by my friend and co-producer Tony Visconti, also an American, after they found each other in London. I wonder? Ah, yup, he’s got a Web site. Lives in Belgium. Look him up.

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FOUR LAST SONGS (STRAUSS)

GUNDULA JANOWITZ
(1973, DG)

Like that certain book, this is one album that I give to friends and acquaintances continually. Although Eleanor Steber and Lisa della Casa do fine interpretations of this monumental work, Janowitz’s performance of Strauss’s Four Last Songs has been described, rightly, as transcendental. It aches with love for a life that is quietly fading. I know of no other piece of music, nor any performance, which moves me quite like this.

THE ASCENSION

GLENN BRANCA
(1981, 99Records)

Bought in Zurich, Switzerland. This was an impulse buy. The cover got me. Robert Longo produced what is essentially the best cover art of the 80s (and beyond, some would say). Mysterious in the religious sense, Renaissance angst dressed in Mugler. And on the inside … Well, what at first sounds like dissonance is soon assimilated as a play on the possibilities of overtones from massed guitars. Not Minimalism, exactly—unlike La Monte Young and his work within the harmonic system, Branca uses the overtones produced by the vibration of a guitar string. Amplified and reproduced by many guitars simultaneously, you have an effect akin to the drone of Tibetan Buddhist monks but much, much, much louder. Two key players in Branca’s band were future composer David Rosenbloom (the terrific Souls of Chaos, 1984) and Lee Ranaldo, founding figure with Thurston Moore of the great Sonic Youth. Over the years, Branca got even louder and more complex than this, but here on the title track his manifesto is already complete.

THE MADCAP LAUGHS

SYD BARRETT
(1970, Harvest/EMI)

Syd will always be the Pink Floyd for some of us older fans. He made this album, according to legend, while fragile and precariously out of control. Malcolm Jones, one of his producers at the time, denies this vehemently. I will go with Jones, as he was there. Highlight track for me is “Dark Globe,” gloriously disturbing and poignant all at once.

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BLACK ANGELS

GEORGE CRUMB
(1972, CRI)

Bought in New York, mid-70s. Probably one of the only concert pieces inspired by the Vietnam War. But it is also a study in spiritual annihilation. I heard this piece for the first time in the darkest time of my own 70s, and it scared the bejabbers out of me. At the time, Crumb was one of the new voices in composition and Black Angels one of his most chaotic works. It’s still hard for me to hear this piece without a sense of foreboding. Truly, at times, it sounds like the devil’s own work.

FUNKY KINGSTON

TOOTS & THE MAYTALS
(1973, Dragon)

If you fancy yourself as a bit of a reggae nut, you will have this, of course. Toots Hibbert claimed me with his powerful “Pressure Drop” contribution to the Harder They Comesoundtrack in the early 70s. Then followed this fantastic and truly funky album in 1973. I was living on a street off the quite gentrified Cheney Walk in London, and for the first time I started getting complaints from neighbors about the volume I played my records at, this beauty being the main culprit. Hibbert, by the way, claims to be “the Inventor of Reggae.” Nice one, Toots.

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DELUSION OF THE FURY

HARRY PARTCH
(1971, Columbia)

Bought in London at HMV, Oxford Street. I have only the haziest memory of when I first heard of this guy. I believe that it was Tony Visconti, my oft-times producer, who clued me in. A madman of sorts and certainly a onetime hobo, Partch set about inventing and making dozens of the most extraordinary instruments. (When was the last time you saw someone playing the Bloboy, the Eucal Blossom, or the Spoils of War? How do you tune a Spoils of War?, I wonder.) Then, between the 1930s and the 1970s, he wrote wondrous and evocative compositions for them, his subjects ranging from mythology to days riding the trains during the Depression. Delusion represents the best overview of what Partch got up to. By turns creepy as hell and positively rocking. Having chosen a musical path that departed from the mainstream composers, he laid the ground for people like Terry Riley and La Monte Young.

OH YEAH

CHARLES MINGUS
(1961, Atlantic)

In the early 60s, Medhurst’s was the biggest department store in Bromley, my British hometown. In terms of style, they were to be pulverized by their competitors down the road, who stocked up early on the new, “G-Plan” Scandinavian-style furniture. But Medhurst’s did have, unaccountably, a fantastic record department, run by a wonderful “married” couple, Jimmy and Charles. There wasn’t an American release they didn’t have or couldn’t get. Quite as hip as any London supplier. I would have had a very dry musical run were it not for this place. Jane Greene, their counter assistant, took a liking to me, and whenever I would pop in, which was most afternoons after school, she would let me play records in the “sound booth” to my heart’s content till the store closed at 5:30 P.M. Jane would often join me, and we would smooch big-time to the sounds of Ray Charles or Eddie Cochran. This was very exciting, as I was around 13 or 14 and she would be a womanly 17 at that time. My first older woman. Charles let me buy at a huge discount, enabling me to build up a fab collection over the two or three years that I frequented this store. Happy days. Jimmy, the younger partner, recommended this Mingus album one day around 1961. I lost my original Medhurst copy, but have continued to re-buy the print through the years, as it was re-released time and time again. It has on it the rather giveaway track “Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am.” It was also my introduction to Roland Kirk.

LE SACRE DU PRINTEMPS

IGOR STRAVINSKY
(1960, MFP/EMI)

For me, a classic example of the eye doing the buying. Excuse the pun. In the late 50s, Woolworth’s produced a cheap series of classical albums on their Music for Pleasure label. I spotted this one in the racks and was so taken with the photo of the mountain (Ayres Rock in Australia, as it turned out) that resistance was impossible. With help from the liner notes, which I found incredibly illuminating, I could almost construct my own imagined dance to this fantastic piece of music. The ostinato theme for the four tubas is as powerful a riff as any found in rock. Earlier in my then short life I had bought Gustav Holst’s The Planets Suite, motivated by watching a tremendous sci-fi series on BBC television called The Quatermass Experiment from behind the sofa when my parents thought I had gone to bed. After each episode I would tiptoe back to my bedroom rigid with fear, so powerful did the action seem to me. The title music was “Mars, the Bringer of War,” so I already knew that classical music wasn’t boring.

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THE FUGS

THE FUGS
(1966, ESP)

The sleeve notes were written by Allen Ginsberg and contain these perennial yet prescient lines: “Who’s on the other side? People who think we are bad. Other side? No, let’s not make it a war, we’ll all be destroyed, we’ll go on suffering till we die if we take the War Door.” I found on the Internet the text for a newsprint ad for the Fugs, who, coupled with the Velvet Underground, played the April Fools Dance and Models Ball at the Village Gate in 1966. The F.B.I. had them on their books as “the Fags.” This was surely one of the most lyrically explosive underground bands ever. Not the greatest musicians in the world, but how “punk” was all that? Tuli Kupferberg, Fugs co-writer and performer, in collaboration with Ed Sanders, has just finished the new Fugs album as I write. Tuli is 80 years old.

THE GLORY (????) OF THE HUMAN VOICE

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS
(1962, RCA)

In the mid- to late 70s, Norman Fisher, art and people collector, threw the most diverse soirées in the whole of New York. People from every sector of the so and not so avant-garde would flock to his tiny downtown apartment just because Norman was a magnet. Charismatic, huge fun, and brilliant at introducing all the right people to the wrong people. His musical taste was as frothy as he himself. Two of his recommendations have stayed with me over the years. One was Manhattan Tower, the first radio musical by Gordon Jenkins (no relation to Florence), and the other The Glory (????) of the Human Voice. Madame Jenkins was rich, social, and devoted to opera. She had, and was blissfully unaware of, the worst set of pipes in the world of music. She would grace the New York set with this monstrous voice once or twice a year with private recitals at the Ritz-Carlton for the lucky few. So popular were these affairs that the tickets were scalped for outrageous prices. To meet the demand, Madame eventually hired Carnegie Hall. This was the hot ticket of that year, 1944. Everyone and Noël Coward were there, falling into the aisles in barely suppressed hysterics. While performing the song “Clavelitos,” Madame, who would change costume as many as three times during the course of a recital, became so carried away punctuating the cadences of the song by tossing tiny red flowers from a basket that the basket itself, in her enthusiasm, followed the flowers into the lap of a delighted fan. Be afraid, be very afraid.

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The Bowie Concert Tape Files: The Chance Theater, Poughkeepsie, New York – 19 August 2003

Shortly before embarking on what would be his final tour, Bowie took a batch of new songs (recorded specifically with touring in mind), plenty of hits and some rather obscure numbers out to a small crowd at the Poughkeepsie Theater in New York in the shape of a warm up gig before embarking on his “A Reality Tour”. Right from the outset of this performance, Bowie was rather nervous and spent pretty much the entirety of the show reminding the small audience just how nervous he was.  Mind, there was no need to be nervous because right from the outset, the band was tight and the singer in question was at the top of his game.

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It had only been a smidgen under a year since the Heathen tour was competed around the five Burroughs of New York.  Now, he was back and ready to take a new album on the road and include stops all over Europe, America and Australasia.  “Pablo Picasso” and “Fall Dog Bombs The Moon” were both contenders for live set classics throughout the tour sounding perhaps, a little better than they do on record.   Then he only went and pulled out “Fantastic Voyage”, “Sister Midnight”, “The Man Who Sold The World” and “Hang Onto Yourself”.  Whilst not being instantly recognizable to the masses on tour, they were songs that would strike a chord with die hard fans everywhere the tour went.

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During his final years of touring, Bowie enjoyed playing close to home more and more.  He would play more shows in New York between 1997 and 2004 than any other city in the world and always seemed chatty and jovial.   His interaction at this Poughkeepsie gig was extra special for some strange reason.  It was almost as if he knew he was bowing out from large scale tours and wanted to embrace, enjoy, treasure and enjoy moment along the way from start to finish.

So how is the sound on this recording?  Well, it’s up there with the best from the “A Reality Tour” that’s for sure.  It’s crystal clear from start to finish, captures all the banter perfectly and picks up some of the quirky crowd behavior to boot.  In a nutshell, this is the kind of show you can listen to many times over and never tire of it.

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Concert goers who would catch this tour around the world were very lucky. Nobody had an inkling but it would turn out to be his last tour and despite making a handful of cameo appearances here and there, by the latter half of the decade, he was completely out of sight from the public eye. They say reality is a starc departure from fantasy however with this show and the ensuing tour that would follow, Bowie managed to link both together hand in hand to deliver a beautiful swansong that remains in our conscience to this day.

SET LIST: Reality/Modern Love/New Killer Star/Cactus/The Battle For Britain (The Letter)/Pablo Picasso/Afraid/Fall Dog Bombs The Moon/Sister Midnight/I’m Afraid Of Americans/She’ll Drive The Big Car/Suffragette City/Fantastic Voyage/Never Get Old/The Man Who Sold The World/Rebel Rebel/Hang Onto Yourself/Heathen (The Rays)