The Bowie Treasures We Left Behind PART 1

More and more today, the collectors market is flooded with new Bowie memorabilia from all corners of the globe.  Vinyl aficionados especially, have seen a huge resurgence in picture disc 7″ singles, bootlegs on coloured vinyl and re-issues from every corner of the globe relating to Bowie’s official releases.  To be honest, it’s hard to keep up with things these days and more so, since Bowie’s passing, things have gotten a little out of control.  What’s more, collecting Bowie is a massively expensive (not to mention confusing) hobby now due to the “supply & demand” market that has been created via social media, limited pressings and the expected surge in popularity after his death just over two years ago now.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s just wonderful to see our main man back in the spotlight and garnering a new audience (remember the early 90’s when he was on the nose with just about everyone?) but with the good comes the not so good and in 2018, some fans are on the verge of taking out small bank loans just to keep up with it all in an effort to own everything.

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Twenty five years ago, it seemed a lot simpler to be a music collector.  There was no internet to connect you with the world which left you happily trawling through record stores and mailing lists for the items you were chasing up.  One never really knew which items would show up on any given day.  Be it a Smiths 7″ white label promo or an early and much sought after Cure E.P or single, there was a certain thrill to being a collector.  One of the early Bowie items I managed to get my mitts on was a clear vinyl box set, Sound + Vision, released by North American label, Rykodisc.  This was the first great installment of Bowie’s back catalogue re-issue program and came out in mid September 1989.  The CD version would go on to sell over 200,000 copies worldwide however, the clear vinyl pressing has always been a firm favorite among the fans and is still, to this day, readily available on the second hand market for a modest price.  My copy came via a suburban record store in 1993 called Toombul Music.  I remember spending what seemed like an eternity to get there via trains and buses.  The trip was worth its weight in gold as the packaging was nothing short of superb.  In fact, Bowie and Rykodisc won a Grammy Award in 1990 for the packaging.

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The attention to detail was sublime.  Each volume was housed in thick gate-fold sleeves, stunningly beautiful artwork, and pressed on clear vinyl (6 LP’s) and I spent many nights at home listening to these albums, being utterly enthralled at the quality of what I was listening to.  Jeff Rougvie (the main man behind the re-issue campaign) had spent months upon months to firstly uncover the gems before lovingly restoring all the original artwork to the then unavailable RCA period albums.  The Sound+Vision box set was the opening high point of an immaculate reissue campaign.  Rolling Stone magazine went as far as labeling the set both “bold and promising”.  More importantly, the set was restored in chronological order (the only way in my opinion) to give listeners, old and new, a thorough passageway through Bowie musical journey through a time when everything he touched turned to gold.

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My Bowie collection was a big selling point when bringing girls home to impress them and, on the odd occasion, bore them with stories on music.  The purpose of this was to weed out the genuine fans and potential girlfriends. I mean, what teenage boy/young man wouldn’t want a bird in his life who was also a music fan?  It was also a good folly as I was once a very shy and reserved person who would often struggle to open up with people so I could speak volumes through music and, more importantly, my record collection.  One of the best things you could wish to do when you are young is to snuggle up with someone special and listen to albums together, talking your way through them as if they were a lifeline to another world that allowed you to escape the mundane rigors of day to day life which, let’s face it, was never as cool as we would always like it to be.

Some of the major selling points with this release were previously unreleased tracks (8 in all) that had been restored by Rykodisc.  Bowie himself had vetoed a large number of tracks from the final cut during the re-issue campaign.  What he did leave for release slipped perfectly into the cannon.  I’d heard the demo version of “Space Oddity” before but not quite like the quality on this version.  And having the much talked about covers of Springsteen’s “It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City” and “After Today” were blessings.  Another gem from the archives was a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Round and Round” which had surfaced a handful of times on bootleg yet, there was something special when listening to the pristine version offered up here.  I’d even go as far as sitting by the turntable and watching the vinyl rotate as the songs played or reading the booklet that accompanied the set multiple times, soaking up all the information available.  Perhaps it’s the naivety of youth but listening to the Sound+Vision set was almost all I needed in my life at the time.  Have you ever sat in the dark listening to “The Prettiest Star” original single version which had Marc Bolan on guitar?  That beautiful version is on the box set as well.  And it’s the superior version to boot!  Well, in my humble opinion anyway.  Oh yeah, did I mention the bonus CD- ROM that included “John, I’m Only Dancing”, “Changes” and “The Supermen” recorded in Boston on October 1 1972 that came with the set?  There was also a video of “Ashes To Ashes” available on the CD-ROM but I didn’t have a computer to play it on so never actually watched the clip.  Bowie the pioneer, always thinking of new ways to bring his visual side to the fans even if most of us didn’t have computers at the time.

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My vinyl copy of Sound+Vision still sits in almost perfect quality despite a few wear and tear marks on the cardboard spine and perspex case.  Other than than that, it’s all still very much hunky dory and a more than pleasant reminder of how enjoyable collecting once was in an age where most things were reasonably priced and affordable.  I’ve said it many times now but I just can’t understand why fans buy releases and leave them in the shrink wrap?  Collecting is meant to be enjoyable, fun and most of all, memorable.  There are very few memories to be created by shrink wrapped records that sit away in dark cupboards with the ambition of selling them on for larger sums of money down the track.

My nostalgic side has been pouring over some great memories in recent days.  Back in a time when I would spend almost every spare penny on my Bowie collection and spend a good deal of time embracing each piece added to said collection.  I’d like to explore more items in future articles so fingers crossed this is the first in a long line of memories that might even have you dusting off your memorabilia and looking back through the nostalgic looking glass.

A Book You Must Read!

Tonight, whilst on the train home, I looked up from my book and noticed an entire carriage of humans staring blankly down at phone screens. It’s an all too common scene these days and a far cry from my youth when many people read books on public transport. My momentary glance up tore me away from my current literary love, “Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of The Record Industry”. I must say now and, only being 130 odd pages in that this is one of the most mesmerising books I’ve ever had the pleasure of starting.

We start off in the 1850s and move all the way through the generations, mavericks, sharks and superstars who have made music and the industry what it is today. The journey thus far is an epic one which started Paris during 1853 where a simple store owner began wondering how to capture sound. Currently, I’m crossing the lines between bebop, Sun Records, Elvis, Motown and Bob Dylan. Best of all, there are still another 180 odd pages to turn. Of course, I have left a lot of detail out because I want you to go and buy this book and find out for yourself. I want you to engross yourself in the same journey, pulling yourself away from your smart phones and tablets to feel the rush that Gareth Murphy is currently throwing my way.

I think back to those poor, tortured and perhaps miserable souls on the train tonight. I wonder if they remember the last time they read a book. The last time they hurriedly flicked through the pages to get to the next chapter. And the next. And the next. Enthralled with every new line and twist along the way. It truly scares me that people would rather watch pointless YouTube clips nowadays instead of reading the pages of a novel or taking inspiration from an autobiography. How is it that people no longer feel the desire to do so?

If you are still one of the lucky ones who is enamoured by literature, I cannot urge you enough to start reading “Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of The Record Industry”. Epic doesn’t even begin to describe just how good it is.

Liverpool Fans Mad Scramble!

It’s only a matter of days now until Real Madrid and Liverpool face off in the 2018 Champions League final.  For thousands of supporters heading to Kiev in the Ukraine, just being there for the atmosphere will be enough to make the experience one to remember.  There have been reports in recent days of Liverpool supporters feeding the ticket frenzy by paying upwards of 4,000 pounds for match tickets that were selling for £61 via the official outlets.  A multitude of ticket re-sellers are asking upwards of £15,000 for tickets and no doubt, there will be people will and financially able to hand over such absurd amounts to be in the moment.  I can understand why every man and his dog wants to be at the final too.  It’s two of Europe’s elite clubs facing off in what should be a match providing more highlights than it will low-lights.

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I was in the ballot for a ticket to the final but failed and was put onto a waiting list with over 14,000 other supporters.  With a tick over 16,000 tickets being offered to Liverpool supporters, I wasn’t going to hold my breath.  Capacity for the match at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev will be 63,000.  Take out the tickets given to both Madrid and Liverpool along with an allocation towards UEFA’s own website requests and you have over 23,000 tickets available to UEFA’s “family” which includes sponsors, hospitality holders and well, let’s be honest here, clingers on and entertainment seekers who enjoy going to the big games and not much else.  Rest assured there will be thousands of people in the Olympic Stadium who have probably never been to a football match before in their lives.  Now, this is where it might get a bit awkward for some.

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Having been a regular match goer for a long time, I’ve learnt that you kind of have to earn your stripes when it comes to European and domestic aways.  It’s a closed shop for the best part however, you can find way to get a leg up eventually and build yourself a good group of friends who will always look after you when you need a tricky spare.  It’s a kind of unspoken rule that you wait your turn.  After the ballot was conducted, it was a little disheartening to see so many reds that I have grown to know over the years miss out.  These are dedicated Liverpool supporters who are there week in and week out.  Judging by social media, it seemed just about everyone missed out in the ballot which left you pondering who, if anybody, was actually successful?  After all, there was said to be a one in three chance right?  Either way, plenty of my mates missed out which didn’t seem right.

How do we overcome this?

My first port of call is for supporters to stop paying stupid money off touts and other supporters.  the problem is never going to go away as long as supporters are will to hand over 4 grand for a match ticket to some utter cunt who paid less than a hundred for it.  My personal rule when going the match is simply, no face value, no ticket.  I’m always happy to pay a little extra for a pint to say thanks but i’ll never pay the stupid money people ask.  I’d prefer to stay at home or go the pub with mates and enjoy the match in good company.

Secondly, UEFA could play major finals in stadiums that hold more than 50-60,000 but of course they won’t, just like they won’t stop throwing tens of thousands of tickets at clingers on and wankers in suits who have absolutely no right to be there.  So back to the first port of call.  I won’t even start on local hotels charging disgusting sums for rooms or the airlines who are happily gouging in the name of supply and demand.  They are just cunts of the highest order.  Thankfully, many locals have opened their doors to travelling supporters to help alleviate the financial burden.

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I’ve seen mates offered tickets for the match on Saturday.  The only problem is they are expected to fork out thousands of pounds which thankfully, none have done.  So far anyway.  Back in 2012, I was offered a cup final ticket by a regular and well known red for 350 quid.  Face value was 50.  I politely rejected his offer and eventually got in via the Cardiff end for face value.  When it comes to football tickets, I try to stay on the ethical and moral high ground because I don’t want to be one of those people who feed the beast that is ticket scalping.  A supporter travelling to Kiev from San Francisco paid up 2 grand for a ticket last week.  The Champions League Final will be his first Liverpool match.  Some will say good luck to him however, knowing plenty of regular match goers who are going to miss out, I find it a bit odd that a supporters first Liverpool match will be one of such high importance.  This is where I return to my ethical and moral standards of earning your match stripes.  I know many will disagree and argue that people who are willing to fork out heavy cash for match tickets deserve it but, well, you know.

This Saturday night, i’ll be happily perched on the couch watching the match with a few drinks and nibbles to guide me through what we all hope will be Liverpool’s sixth European Cup.  For the many thousands travelling to Kiev, stay safe and enjoy every moment of what will no doubt be a remarkable weekend for so many reasons.  For the travelling reds who got tickets via the correct avenues, have the time of your life.  As for the UEFA “family”, men in suits and clingers on?  I hope you lot have a fucking miserable time, get your overpriced hotel rooms broken into, lose your phones and have your flights home canceled.

Up the reds!

Dreams In Your Pocket

I reached into the pocket of my coat this morning as the train trundled on its way to the city and my place of work. Being one for shoving things into said pockets, I’m never really surprised by what comes out at a later date. This morning, I pulled out a firm reminder of what I love doing best. Travelling.

The train tickets in my hand were for a journey from Nottingham to Huddersfield that I took back in March. The weather that day was glum and I spent the best part of it inside book stores waiting for the train. Needless to say, I bought a few paperbacks that day as well as a signed copy of Brett Anderson’s “Coal Black Mornings”, his first autobiography. Have I plugged this book enough yet? Probably not considering my regular highlighting of just how good it is. Maybe it’s time Brett slipped me a few quid for being his unofficial publicist? No, seriously. It’s time!

Travel is so important because it opens your mind to new adventures and experiences whilst allowing you to experience so many cultures along the way which help you grow into a more accepting person. I often wonder what kind of I would have been had I not spent most of my life exploring and creating adventures? Looking back, my pre-travel teenage self was incredibly inexperienced at life and I doubt I would have changed much had I not ventured out into the world.

This morning has been a good reminder to not allow myself to sit and stagnate. A wholesome reminder to start looking forward to new adventures however big or small they are. So now, where are you off to next and why are you going there?

Brett Anderson’s Spirited Autobiography

I’ve never been one for rock biographies.  You almost always know the outcome before you even set eyes upon the first page.  When Brett Anderson announced he was releasing his autobiography, my thoughts immediately drifted into the realms of possibility as to what he would come up with.  I soon learned that he was only writing up to the point where Suede singed their first record deal.  From this moment, I knew this was going to be different but how far off the track was anyone’s guess.  You see, he’s a funny character at the best of times.  Never one to trounce the traditional pathways that most music stars wear ever so thin, Brett can sometimes come across as a bit aloof and distant unless he feels as though he’s in his element.  He doesn’t suffer fools easily and if often happy to place art firmly ahead of success.  Like many, I was eagerly awaiting the release of Coal Black Mornings.  So much so, I had managed to secure a ticket to one of his public speaking appearances in London during March.

I’ve met Brett Anderson a handful of times now.  He’s signed a few records, taken a photo with me but generally, been in a hurry to be somewhere else.  The first time I met him was in 1999 outside the Marriott Hotel in Brisbane.  Suede had just played their first Australian gig at a festival the night before and had bottles thrown at them by a dubious crowd of red necks more interested in watching The Offspring.  A small legion of fans had been stalking the band in the hotel over the previous couple of days and Garbage and The Offspring had also decamped to this venue for privacy however, Brett was booked in under his own name so it made things all to easy to call through to his hotel room and have a quick chat on the Friday afternoon.  A few other fans tried to call his room the next day however, he had had his privacy protected in the time since I had conversed with him so there was no longer a Brett Anderson staying at The Marriott.  To be honest, he didn’t seem that interested in touring Australia (a point proven in part by the bands refusal to return since) and crazy young fans like myself probably didn’t help the cause too much.  I look back on that phone call now with a cringe worthy feeling.  The things you do when you are young?

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The morning after Suede’s festival appearance, I was the only one waiting for the band when they left the hotel so got my tour book, some CD’s and vinyl pressings singed which was cool.  Simon, as always was quite chatty whilst the others all looked a little leg weary.  So where am I going with this you ask?  Well, you see, I’d always had ambitions of becoming a music journalist and sitting down with my idols to hold in depth discussion about just about everything.  I would have loved to have chatted to Brett on a professional lever to talk, in depth about his youth and life growing up under the influence of his family and surroundings of which we knew very little about at the time.  Fast forward almost 20 years and that chance was finally her via Coal Black Mornings.

My trip to his book signing in London never materialized as I had double booked a trip to watch Borussia Dortmund and Mainz over two nights in Germany.  Just on a week later, I managed to set eyes on Coal Black Mornings in a Waterstones whilst trouncing about in the pouring rain that had besieged Nottingham.  It was a nice surprise to see that two copies on shelf had been signed by the author.  Lucky me!  Funny thing is, luck seems to follow me almost everywhere.  This is one time it certainly reared its not so ugly head in my direction.  Happy with my purchase, I wrapped the book u safely inside one of my Ben Sherman’s and packed it safely away for the flight home to Australia a week further down the track.  It was indeed quite hard not to settle into the pages within as I had been looking forward to reading Coal Black Mornings for some time.  I knew I would appreciate it more from the comfort of my own bed so used a great deal of restraint to leave it safely enclosed within a Ben Sherman for the time being.

Upon arriving home in Australia, it still took me a few weeks to start the journey.  I’m an avid reader but some books just need the right moment to commence.  Coal Black Mornings in one of those books.  Thankfully, that moment arrived not too far down the track.  The only problem was, I knocked it over within 3 days!  Yes, it’s that good.  But why is the back story of Brett Anderson’s youth in Haywards Heath so riveting?  The attention to detail is the first reason that springs to mind.  There are no pictorial guidelines that would normally give you an understanding of what Brett’s family looked like because he describes everyone in such graphic and explicit detail that you can almost close your eyes and place yourself in the scenes he describes.  Like many of us, Brett grew up during bleak times where hand me down clothes were the norm and each day was a struggle just to survive.  Perhaps one could label such a period as character building and just as we imagine the authors life during this grim period, you begin to reflect upon your own upbringing and the way life used to be before technology turned us all into experts on everything without really knowing anything.

When Brett Anderson was a boy, he listened to albums in full without skimming over songs and he used his imagination for entertainment within his council estate surroundings whilst taking inspiration from his mother, Sandra and her strength in dealing with a sometimes emotionally brutal marriage.  There are many tear provoking moments as his life unfolds, many of which are left best to reading for the first time yourself which is why I have chosen not to go into too much graphic detail within these walls.  All the way through from his formative years that twist through winding pathways to Suede, Brett Anderson struggles, faced with road blocks and difficulties that would most likely defeat many of us without question.  The uninitiated will learn that Anderson is a strong character who doesn’t know when to give up.  Reading Coal Black Mornings, you wonder if many of today’s musicians could face the same struggles and manage to find a way through?

A great insight from Coal Black Mornings comes from Brett’s glance into how particular songs from Suede’s early period came into being.  His songwriting ability develops with time to a point where he avidly captures the feeling on London in the early nineties like nobody else was able to at that time.  Reading on, you also learn of the company he was keeping at the time, the places he lived, his relationship heart aches suffered and how he copes when things don’t go to plan, which was a regular occurrence during his early band struggles.  A resilient character indeed he was at a time when grinding poverty was the norm for many youths living in and around England.

Some people in the past have readily informed me that Brett Anderson is a little arrogant, a bit of a twat, a snob, not very friendly and somewhat insensitive among other descriptive terms. I guess they don’t really understand just how much a deep and thoughtful thinker he truly is.  As you know, the deep thinkers often come over the wrong way to large quantity of the population.  Reading Coal Black Morning will give you a sharp, provocative and deep insight into a somewhat tortured yet creative soul who would blossom into one of Britain’s most important artists of the past thirty years.  Coal Black Mornings is an autobiography with a difference.  Perhaps in years to come more entertainers will see the light and realise that this is the way to go.  For now however, if you haven’t already done so, sit back, relax and enjoy Coal Black Mornings for the literary  tour de force it truly is.

For those of you still not impressed, the door is always open for Brett to pen that coke and gold discs memoir he ever so rigidly steered well away from this time around.

Lodger Turns 39!

Some 39 years ago today, Bowie’s Berlin “trip-tych” as he preferred it to be known came to and end with the release of his 13th studio LP, Lodger. Originally, Planned Accidents or Despite Strange Lines were potential titles before the more subtle Lodger was taken on board as recording finished up at Record Plant Studios in New York. The album originally began recorded life in Switzerland. The album would peak at number 4 in the U.K and reach a modest peak of 20 in the US album charts before fading into oblivion.

The record was essentially a postcard of Bowie’s travels to Kenya and Mombassa where he would meet the strangest characters. With over twenty songs recorded, the album continued in the experimental ways from Low and Heroes but also allowed Bowie the chance to write the lyrics some 6 months after much of the music was recorded back in September 1978.

At the time of release, Lodger was generally panned by critics and tossed on the heap, to be forgotten before a revival in interests over recent years. Last year, a new mix of the record was released as part of the New Career In A New Town box set and the mixing was done by none other than Tony Visconti. Philip Glass also recently announced that he will be premiering a Lodger symphony later in the year that will also see release on vinyl and compact disc.

As an interesting side note, Moby once said he got his first job as a golf caddy in order to raise enough money to buy Lodger from his local record store. My first experience of the album came via a rented CD copy in 1993 from an old store called Red Dog Entertainment. I took it home with a few other albums I had rented and copied it directly onto a cassette tape where it would be given regular playing on my way to and from school. It’s just a shame that a deluxe box set containing out-takes and demo recordings has never seen the light of day. There is of course hope that a 40th anniversary box could be on the cards for 2019 but I won’t be holding my breath.

Another unique aspect of the album were the videos for each single, DJ, Boys Keep Swinging and Look Back In Anger, which was also the most unique video due to its triple drag display played out by Bowie himself. Journalists were gathered in New York in early May 1979 and were shown all three videos as a special presentation to promote Lodger. Unfortunately, all three videos failed to promote sales of their respective singles or the album itself.

Lodger remains a unique collection of songs that has stood the test of time and is well overdue for a new appraisal.

The “Hoff” Has Only Gone And Covered “Heroes”!

No, this is not a joke! American actor (????) and part time singer (????), David Hasselhoff has only gone and released a cover version of Bowie’s “Heroes”. How did this come into being? Well, I’m still scratching my head too! Who gave this the green light?

The now 66 year old American has even recorded a German version otherwise known as “Heldon”. I’m just hoping he steers away from the French version to spare us all the pain and suffering. You can catch a live performance of the song recorded earlier this month and the studio version is available on Spotify as well as the other usual streaming outlets.

The Hoff was best known for his TV roles in Knight Rider and Baywatch but also shot to fame in 1989 with Looking For Freedom. The song was played far too many times to remember when the Berlin Wall can down in the November of that year.

I can’t see this latest Hoff release putting too much pressure on the pop charts though stranger things and all that in this age of viral fads.