July 12 2017 can be listed as yet another date of disappointment for David Bowie fans around the world. The third box set in a series of re-issues (yes, again) will hit stores at the end of September and once more, as with the previous two offerings from the Bowie estate, there is nothing new or exciting to look forward to aside from a pretty looking box and a book with liner notes from Tony Visconti.
As expected, Bowie fans went into meltdown on social media when news of “A New Career In A New Town: 1977-1982” broke. The key selling points aside from the pretty packaging seem to be a new remix of “Lodger” from 1979 and “Stage”, a live album originally butchered, sorry, released in 1978 that needed a further 27 years before it was rectified and even then they still left important tracks off it. “A New Career In A New Town: 1977-1982” captures the original 1978 butchered release on yellow vinyl and the almost rectified 2005 re-issue on black vinyl that now includes “Suffragette City” and “The Jean Genie”. To be honest, i’m surprised Bowie’s estate didn’t release an alternative box with “Stage” on blue vinyl (depicted below) just to take the piss a little more knowing fans would probably buy two box sets to compensate the completest desires within. Yes, some Bowie fans really are that gullible. After all, in 1978 the album came out on both blue and yellow vinyl in Holland. I’m now trying to be too much of a downer on there releases but I need to ask why? Why are we getting the same material thrown at us time and again instead of being allowed into the world of the unknown, IE: the monumental catalogue of unreleased and rare material that still collects dust in the “vault”.
One of the key selling points for these box sets has been the Recall extras that claim to include all known single edits, b-sides and other such anomalies. With the original “Five Years” box set, they forgot to include “The Superman” which originally came out on the Glastonbury Fayre LP released in 1972. This time, they have missed the boat again by leaving out the adorable “Revolutionary Song” that was released in Japan and also appeared on the “Just A Gigolo” OST.
Frustratingly, we all know there is a plethora of material that remains unreleased. And of course, there are the splendid Rykodisc extras which continue to be criminally ignored. Only fools would dare to think the vaults have been exhausted. April’s belated release of “Cracked Actor” was a small step in the right direction thought the ball was dropped big time with the omission of Dana Gillespie’s tracks on the beautifully packaged “BOWPROMO”. Let’s also look at the recent release of “Art Decade”, an uncovered gem from the Perth show in 1978 as a fine example. Who would have guessed that a respectable copy of this concert existed six months ago? This points the finger squarely at the potential for so much more enjoyment for fans.
Sadly though, Parlaphone will continue to dress up the old material in fancy boxes and colored vinyl because, like Elvis fans following the King’s death in 1977, Bowie fans will keep buying these box sets, anniversary picture discs and endless supplies of albums we already own many times over on colored vinyl pressings because it’s what collectors do and Bowie’s estate knows this and will milk it to the hilt. Let’s be brutally honest here, Bowie’s fan base is aging. The younger fans predominantly listen to Bowie on Spotify so these re-issues are hardly going to appease them are they? So where does that leave his older fans?
I didn’t buy the last box set and chances are, I won’t be spending my hard earned on this new rehash of material most of us already own. It’s just the same old thing, in brand new drag after all and hardly a visionary release like the contents creator once was.