When The Arctic Monkeys Morphed Into David Bowie

I remember a quote by Oscar Wilde from my formative years which has always rung true in the world of art and music.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”

Whilst not exactly mediocre, the Arctic Monkeys have released their sixth studio LP as of last Friday and the throng of journalists and fans alike who appear to be lining up with the one thought.  It’s sounds just like a Bowie record.  Whilst this may be true in some respects, I’ve found it to be a bit harsh on the band because Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is much more than a band morphing into one of their idols.  The album is a definite switch away from their traditional sound which has left some fans puzzled and scratching their heads.  Still, you gotta respect a group for taking a more ballsy approach and not becoming stagnant and dated in sound and vision.  Like Bowie before him, Alex Turner is well aware of the need to constantly evolve and move into new areas and that is certainly what he and his band mates have done here.  Still, to label the album a pure slice of Bowie-esque indulgence is not doing Tranquility Base Hotel& Casino justice.  Upon first listen, one is left a little surprised, bemused and even excited by the new direction.  Admittedly, the more, shall we say, “chav” base of Monkeys fans will obviously be bitterly disappointed to not get what they have in the past however, if I am being brutally honest, who the fuck wants to please the chav crowd anyway?  They’re all bell ends who just follow the trends anyway.

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In parts, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino sounds like a chorus of estranged jazz musicians who have decided to break way and record a rock album but just can’t ride clear of their jazz roots.  Think of it like this.  Imagine if Duke Ellington was alive today and decided to record a contemporary rock album.  His only problem is this.   He keeps allowing himself to be drawn back into his comfort zone.  That’s kind of how I feel about this album.  You kind of know where the band want to go but not quite sure if they can make it all the way.

Yours truly could sit here and dissect the album tracks one by one but I think you are best left to come to your own valuable conclusions because Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino is not your typical modern album.  More than any other LP released in recent years, it’s a vast step away from the norm and you will assuredly need at least four to five spins before getting your head around proceedings.  This is a good thing in our current age of processed pop for the masses.  For me, on a personal level, it sounds like a band moving forward into uncharted waters, yet they are still not too sure where they are headed but excited by the potential.  It’s almost as if they are a group of young pilgrims getting together for the first time.  That’s what makes Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino such a riveting ride.

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So what are you waiting for?  Should you have been foolish enough to be put off by the early and incredibly unjustified criticisms of Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, you have, thus far lost out big time.  I mean, you could always go back to listening to the back catalogue however, you run the risk of being stuck in that time warp which happens to so many thirty somethings and beyond who seem to think music has never been as good as “back in their day” which is what I hear far too often from the punters today.  Sure, the frequency of quality music may not be at the level it once was yet, by closing your eyes on the future, you are going to be missing out on so many fantastic albums in the process.

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So what can you do aside from getting stuck in said time warp?  This is exactly what you should do.  Continue to evolve as a human being and do yourself a favor by listening to Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino.  Chances are that you may not like it at first but I promise you, it will quickly become an album you can’t put down.  And may the Arctic Monkeys long continue to grow and release interesting albums.  Even if they do slightly morph into their heroes in the process.

 

Almost The Best Gig(s) Of My Life!

One day, I’ll be on my death bed pondering over a life of achievements and memories.  Most likely, I settle some lists of my more memorable experiences and no doubt, a series of six concerts in just over a week from May 2011 will stand head and shoulders above the rest.  When news first broke of Suede’s trilogy shows in London and Dublin over the latter half of 2010, I immediately thought to myself, “David, you need to be at these shows!” and of course, I was.  It wasn’t easy though.  The first agenda was securing tickets to each and every night at London’s Brixton Academy and the historical Olympia Theater in Dublin.  I still remember the thrill when I finally captured tickets to all the shows.  The buzz was immense and, a few weeks after, I had plane tickets booked to London.  My only previous experience seeing Suede was at The Livid festival in Brisbane all the way back in 1999 though that was a timid affair as the band looked like they just didn’t want to be there (they had been on the road for 6 months prior) and being an Australian festival, they were considered too queer for the bogan audience in attendance.  Because of this, Brett spent the evening on stage dodging bottles being thrown at him.  It was sad really, watching my favorite band live for the first time and seeing them having to endure heckles like “Go back to England yer poofs” and “Fuck off the stage ya faggots!”.  Yep, Australia rolled into one right there.  Of course, it didn’t help that The Offspring were on their stage next so a high percentage of the crowd watching Suede were impatiently holding out for a rather boring band.

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In early 2010, I had managed to follow Brett on some solo shows around France, Germany, Italy, England and Ireland.  They were all fantastic gigs.  Very intimate performances with Brett showcasing his talent as a solo artist.  The Milan concert was the best in many respects because the venue, The Tunnel held only a couple of hundred people.  It was almost as if he was performing in our living rooms.

Moving forward to the 2011 concerts.  They were nothing short of sublime.  The first night encompassed the debut LP in full with a selection of b-sides and hits as the encore.  Night number two consisted of Dog Man Star, still one of my all time favorite albums and night three was dedicated to Coming Up.  These two nights also included stunning encore performances of b-sides and hits.  Once the series of shows were completed at Brixton, the band rested up for a few days before moving onto Dublin where they would do it all over again and then some.  By the early 2000’s, it was becoming common for bands to re-visit albums in full before live audiences.  The Cure were the first to launch the “trilogy” shows in 2002 with the collective sets from Pornography, Disintegration and Bloodflowers all being performed back to back. Robert Smith had earlier seen Bowie perform Low and Heathen in full a few months prior and said it was the best he’s seen Bowie in years so decided to take the concept a step further with the trilogy shows in Europe.  Over the following decade, many bands took on the “complete” album performance concept where they could dip their hats to historically significant albums.  Shows were often mainly for the purists and included rare material during the encores.

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Seeing Suede up on stage performing this absurdly beautiful trilogy of records in full remains one of my greatest moments in life.  All three records had seen seen me through high school and beyond with each release holding a special place in my heart for different reasons.  If I had to chose one of these albums to take to my grave, it would be Dog Man Star.  That album, without a shadow of a doubt is easily one of the most progressive LP’s from the past 50 years of recorded music.  The gloomy soundscapes capture the band on the verge of self destruction as Bernard Butler had left before its release and with it, he deserted a soaring collection of songs that have not been bettered by the band before or since.  Being able to hear The Asphalt World live on stage is something akin to heaven on earth.  Richard Oakes somehow managed to master the song with near perfection.  At one point during the show in Dublin, I closed my eyes during his solo and drifted off into another world all together.  Honest to god, I wasn’t even on drugs at the time but fuck me, it was something else all together.  The only way to have possibly better this performance would be transporting myself back to 1994 and hearing it live during the Dog Man Star tour or one step beyond that, being in the studio when Bernard was laying it down on tape.

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I’ve got to stop myself here because I am doing an incredible injustice to both the debut album and the commercial charm of Coming Up.  By 1996, Suede were top of the pops and producing TOP 10 UK singles without even trying.  Their already magnificent collection of b-sides only added to the euphoria that surrounded the band during the mid 90’s.  They were untouchable for around 5 years.  Actually, the b-side were that good that Suede released a collection of b-sides (Sci-Fi Lullabies) and it reached number 9 in the U.K charts whilst garnering critical acclaim in the United States, something unheard of for British bands at the time.  Essentially, Coming Up was the kind of album you would put on at a party and just let go from start to finish.  Now, if you think that was a cracking album, how does one even begin to describe the bands debut offering in 1993?  Let me try.

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Off the back of grunge and house music, Suede’s self titled debut appeared in early 1993 where it shot to number 1 in the U.K charts, only to be knocked off the top, ironically, by Bowie’s Black Tie, White Noise in the April.  The album was a fresh take on classic British production and for many, kick started what was to become the ill fated Britpop movement that would last for the remainder of the decade.  England hadn’t witnessed such an important band since The Smiths a decade before.  It wasn’t just the album itself that gained praise.  Anderson’s sparkling on stage presence sparked plenty of attention from the press as he single handily put androgyny back in the spotlight.  Bernard Butler was his Mick Ronson and together, they gave teenage boys and girls around Britain a very good reason to smile again.  I can’t think of a combo that has lit the stage alive so well as these two did over such a short period.  The album is a devastatingly powerful work of sheer genius so being able to hear it in full not once, but twice was a dream come true.  Come to think of it, has there been a better debut album since Suede’s first offering.  That’s 25 years of music under the bridge and I doubt I’ve heard a debut album that has captured the imagination of the public as strongly as this offering managed.

Another aspect of the shows led me to meeting some pretty amazing people, some of which I remain friends with to this day.  With Suede touring again later this year, there is every chance I will be able to catch up with these lovely souls once more to embrace yet another coming of the band many had thought washed up after 2002’s A New Morning LP which was sadly (unfairly) savaged by fans and critics alike.  The band have come out the other end and here’s to another few albums and tours before they finally decide to call it a day on one of the most substantial and important careers of modern times.  May Suede live long and hard into our collective memories.

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Suede – London – May 19 Set List: So Young/Animal Nitrate/She’s Not Dead/Moving/Pantomime Horse/Sleeping Pills/The Drowners/Breakdown/Metal Mickey/Animal Lover/The Next Life

Encore: High Rising /He’s Dead /My Insatiable One /To The Birds /Killing of a Flashboy/Can’t Get Enough/Trash/Beautiful Ones

Dog Man Star – London – May 20 Set List: Introducing The Band/We Are The Pigs/Heroine/The Wild Ones/Daddy’s/Speeding/The Power/New Generation
This Hollywood Life/The 2 Of Us/Black Or Blue/The Asphalt World/Still Life

ENCORE: Living Dead/My Dark Star/Stay Together/Killing Of A Flashboy/So Young/Metal Mickey/Animal Nitrate

 
Coming Up – London – May 21 Set List: Trash/Filmstar/Lazy/By The Sea/She Beautiful Ones/Starcrazy/Picnic By/The Motorway/The Chemistry Between Us/Saturday Night

ENCORE: Europe Is Our Playground/This Time/Young Men/Together/Can’t Get Enough/So Young/Metal Mickey/Animal Nitrate
Suede – Dublin – May 24 Set List: So Young/Animal Nitrate/She’s Not Dead/Moving/Pantomime Horse/The Drowners/Sleeping Pills/Breakdown/Metal Mickey/Animal Lover/The Next Life

ENCORE: He’s Dead/My Insatiable One/To the Birds/Trash/Beautiful Ones

Dog Man Star – Dublin – May 25 Set List: Introducing The Band/We Are The Pigs/Heroin/The Wild Ones/Daddy’s Speeding/The Power/New Generation/This Hollywood Life/The 2 Of Us/Black Or Blue/The Ashpalt World/Still Life

ENCORE: Whipsnade/Killing Of A Flashboy/So Young/Metal Mickey/Animal Nitrate

Coming Up – Dublin – May 26 Set List: Trash/Filmstar/Lazy/By The Sea/She/Beautiful Ones/Starcrazy/Picnic By The Motorway/The Chemistry Between Us/Saturday Night

ENCORE: Europe Is Our Playground/New Generation/Can’t Get Enough/So Young/Metal Mickey/Animal Nitrate

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Orpheum Theater, Boston, Massachusetts, USA -October 1 1997

What a cracking tour!  Of course, I am speaking of The Earthling Tour from 1997 which began on May 17 in Dublin with the first of four warm ups shows at various venues before the tour kicked off on June 7 in Germany. Before winding up the tour in November, Bowie would play two consecutive nights in Boston beginning September 30. The second night was recorded live for a worldwide internet broadcast, one of the first of its kind. A year before, Bowie had been the first artist to release a song, Telling Lies, via the internet as a download only. He was certainly back in groundbreaking territory that’s for sure.

There is very little one can fault with this live webcast. The full show is captured and there were some fantastic renditions of old songs (think Waiting For The Man, The Jean Genie, My Death, Fame and so on) as well as some blistering new songs to throw out there. By the time of this Boston gig, Bowie and his band had been on the road on and off for over 2 full years and they were sounding incredibly tight. With the addition of Quicksand, V2 Schneider and Always Crashing In The Same Car to the set list, it gave Bowie the impetus to once more enjoy playing live and that’s another big selling point of this concert. No Changes, no Ziggy, no Rebel Rebel? No worries!

The highlight of the entire concert for me comes at the midway point with a blistering reworking of Panic In Detroit. You have to ask yourself how an already brilliant song can be improved in any way from its original format to sound even better? Well, it’s works a right treat on this tour. It’s just a shame Bowie didn’t stick to his original plan to split each show into two parts. One half drum’n’bass and the other half more conventional. It would have made the tour even more amazing than it already was. And that my friends, is saying something.

For a live webcast that was performed with the internet still in its infancy, the sound is quite impressive with only the slightest hint of tin and echo in the sound. The Sky Cries Mary and The Rolling Stones had both performed live concerts over the internet in 1994 but at the time, very few people had access to the shows. Odd ball rockers, Aerosmith would go one better than Bowie a year later by holding the first interactive webcast concert in October 1998. It would only be onwards and upwards for live acts from here.

Being one for constantly evolving, it was nice to see Bowie still kept a selection of songs from his 1. Outside album in the live set up. After all, it was his most adventurous studio offering since the first Tin Machine album some 6 years before and he was happily treading the water again. I’d love to see this Boston webcast cleaned up by Tony Visconti and released in an official capacity at some point down the track. Concerts like this are just too enjoyable and important to be left by the way side, festering and gathering dust. It’s partly why I write articles about these concert tapes. There is a whole world of live Bowie material to be unearthed so one can only hope there are many more live releases coming our way soon.

SET LIST: Quicksand/Queen Bitch/Always Crashing In The Same Car/Waiting For The Man/My Death/Outside/The Jean Genie/Panic In Detroit/I’m Afraid of Americans/The Voyeur of Utter Destruction/Seven Years In Tibet/The Last Thing You Should Do/Strangers When We Meet/Fashion/Band Introductions/Looking For Satellites/Under Pressure/Telling Lies/Hallo Spaceboy/Scary Monsters/Little Wonder/Is It Any Wonder?/Battle For Britain/V-2 Schneider/White Light White Heat/O Superman/Moonage Daydream

David Bowie Is….. On My Doorstep

The postman dropped by my place of work with a package under his arm.  It was a little over 12″ x 12″ and brown, covered in American stamps, air mail tags and lovely writing all over it.  Straight away, I knew what it was.  Contained within the confines of my package was a complete set of vinyl releases from the Brooklyn edition of David Bowie Is…..

My hope of obtaining these releases for a reasonable price were slim to none however, with a touch of luck, I managed to pick up all three for a reasonable deal.  The one I was after most, “Live In Berlin” EP, was recorded on May 16 1978.  It sounds very much like it was taken from one of the soundboard cassette tapes Bowie was known for capturing during tours to play back after each show as a way of checking how things sounded.  Some collectors have complained but for me, it’s pretty decent in sound so no worries on my front.  The big selling point was also the beautiful orange vinyl that it was pressed on.  Sadly, it doesn’t come in a gate-fold sleeve but hey, beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to new Bowie releases.  I mean, we’ve been waiting for decades to get releases like this!  It’s a splendid live E.P and if you see it pop up for sale within a decent price range, go for erm, “orange” and and square one up for your collection.

The second item from the exhibition is the silver vinyl 7″ pressing of Time/The Prettiest Star which falls into line with many of the other releases from the series of exhibitions around the world.  Personally, I would have preferred a white or red vinyl release but again, beggars and all that jazz ey?  It’s yet another tidy release and a nice one at that for the completest types among us, of which there are many.

The third item off the rank was none other than a red vinyl pressing of the iSelect LP which was personally put together by Bowie and released on CD back in June 2008 as a free giveaway that came with The Mail on Sunday.  Essentially, it’s a small collection of some of his most treasured recordings and fits in just neatly among the throng of Bowie collections out there.  If I was going to buy any new fan a compilation, this would be it as it leans away from the commercial side of his career with a focus on his creative elements.  Now, I may be wrong here, but it appeared for the first time on delicious red vinyl at the Paris edition of this exhibition and has re-appeared a few times since making it a reasonably easy collectible for fans to obtain at a modest price. I’ve seen it sell for hundreds of dollars in the past. Let’s hope those days are over.

Early exhibition stages included some daft options with limited pressings that sent prices out of control on the collectors market. A few of my friends have managed to secure every related release which has, for some items, set them back a pretty penny since David Bowie Is…. opened in London some 5 years ago now. It’s been nice seeing so many fans being looked after this time around by other kind hearted collectors who have been able to secure a few extra copies here and there. I noticed just the other day actually, an Australian record store listing the Berlin E.P up for no less than $399! Thankfully, as long as there are thoughtful Bowie fans around the traps, we’ll all get sorted for the Berlin E.P eventually and we won’t have to fork out $399 for it in the process. Unless of course, you are rich beyond your wildest dreams and happy to throw that kind of money about?

Ohh, as you can see from the photos, I have taken it upon myself to open each release with the intention of playing them all at some stage. I know right? Mental I hear some of you cry! The concept of owning a complete set of David Bowie Is…. vinyl releases still sealed and in mint condition just doesn’t appeal to me. Maybe others, but I prefer to enjoy my Bowie collection.

The 7” World of David Bowie (then & now)

A lot has happened since the first edition of Marshall Jarman’s “World 7″ Records Discography 1964-1981” was released in 1994. The original book was a labour of love then, as it is now. This new sublime update is the must have Bowie collectable of 2018. If you don’t buy yourself a copy, rest assured, you will fall well behind in your collecting efforts and potentially be left wide open to being ripped off by unscrupulous dealers selling you a counterfeit copy of Liza Jane, first released in the summer of 1964 but counterfeited in the late 1970’s over in America. How will you spot the difference? The “World 7″ Records Discography 1964-1981” book will tell you how and save you the embarrassment and empty feeling of being taken for a ride.

In 1994, I was only 17, still in high school and new to the Bowie collecting world and dealing mainly with Marshall Jarman. His 7″ Discography book that took 4 years to compile soon became my Bowie bible when visiting local record fairs. Back then, the conservatives were in power over in England (just as they are now) and Liverpool didn’t win the league that season (just as they haven’t this year, much to my dismay) however the music I was into was boss! Morrissey, Suede, Pulp, St Etienne, The Cure and Blur were all top of pops in 1994. I was bunking off school to spend my days in the city sifting through the record stores, discovering new bands almost on a daily basis, trying it on with girls, struggling to understand what Oscar Wilde was all about and going to nightclubs and parties for the first time. I didn’t have much money at the time (spending most of what I had on Bowie) but that didn’t seem to matter in the grand scheme of things.

In 1994, I found out about Marshall’s book via a flyer in Rocking Horse Records number 2 store which, a soon to be good friend, Michael Meara had put up. I phoned Michael and arranged to meet up and buy a copy of the book and we ended up taking in some record shopping together. The day out turned into a brilliant Saturday out our friendship became a fabulous one. Meeting like minded Bowie fans was rare in the pre-internet days. Particularly in 1994 when he was on the nose with most, considered to be well past his used by date. We often forget about Bowie’s low period during the early 90’s.

In the 2018 edition of the “World 7″ Records Discography 1964-1981” book, we are given a warm welcome by Kevin Cann who unleashes many reasons why you need to get a copy. As if you didn’t already need a reason? Tony Visconti’s original foreword from September 1993 has been included for prosperity. It was actually a bit sad re-reading Tony’s words because at the time of writing, he and Bowie had not spoken in over a decade. Thankfully, they would reunite a few years later and record a further four LPs together.

So, where do I start when it comes to explaining just how important and unique this fresh pressing of Bowie’s “World 7″ Records Discography 1964-1984” is? Perhaps I should remind you of my first impressions from last week when the book arrived?

The small brown package contains this treasure arrived on Friday and I had it opened with seconds of the package being passed over by the delivery man. What struck me first was the thickness and cover art. Just beautiful. It was all akin to rekindling a teenage romance 24 years on. The memories flooded back and I was quickly reminded why I loved and adored this book in the first place all those years ago. Unlike the first edition which included just a small colour section (the rest was in black and white) in the middle, this time around, the whole tomb has been beautifully restored in full colour with the help of Reto Stöcklin, a long time friend of Marshall’s. They share their story on how this updated edition came into being during the early pages but it’s best I not spoil it here and let you enjoy it yourself. It’ll put a smile on your face for sure.

Flicking through the pages for a quick inspection (I was meant to be working at this point in time you see), I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the pages looked. Seeing sleeves for particular singles in full colour for the first time is simply breathtaking and the general layout looked incredibly professional at every page turn. There are also a few new sections to help you through the maze of counterfeit releases, promotional material and exotic pressings from far and wide. And, as is the case with the passing of father time, a few previously unknown pressing have entered the pages of the 2018 edition. Many kind collectors have also helped and assisted with this new edition which has made compiling information just that little bit easier for the authors. You must remember, when Marshall compiles the first edition, it was during the age before the internet. Can you imagine? It’s one of the unique elements of being a Bowie collector. Always an array of fans out there to help you along.

There are also some quirky surprises that nerds like you and I would love. For instance, did you know that Love You Till Tuesday was advertised in a Japanese magazine during 1967 with the catalogue number DERAM D.1019 but no copies have ever surfaced? Now there’s a bit of Bowie trivia we can all bring up at our next party or gathering to get the punters excited! Or perhaps not?

Over the 24 years between the first edition and this brilliant update, I’ve gone and gotten a little fatter, travelled the world, had many girlfriends, been married, divorced, run 8 marathons, held countless jobs, moved house so many times I’ve lost count, bought and sold too many records and compacts discs to remember, lost loved ones and grown a good deal as a human being. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! I guess I can only wait for the next update (cough, cough) around 2042 to see what happens in my life next?

In 1994, Marshall Jarman became a bit of an icon in my eyes. He was a Bowie dealer and author, a collector yet most of all, he was a huge influence on a young 17 year old Australian collector who realised that one should always do what makes them happy in life. I hung on every word in his letters like any good groupie would and became a DJ, writer, band promoter and traveller in part due to wanting to lead a life of excitement that I thought Marshall himself had.

Thank you Marshall & Reto! If the pair of you could only know how much excitement and pleasure the “World 7″ Records Discography 1964-1981” book in its updated format has already brought to not just myself but many Bowie collectors the world over, then, well, I think you would both deserve to walk the streets with a beaming smile for eternity.

Popping My Record Store Day Cherry!

Who would have thought all those years ago in 2007 that Record Store Day (RSD) would become the phenomenon it has grown into today? I mean each and every year, tens thousands of men, woman & children but let’s face it, mostly middle aged men and poor uni students (I’ll come to them later) line up for hours, even days in some cases to acquire limited release vinyl for their favourite artists. I’m the first to admit, the lure of coloured vinyl and picture discs is, shall we say, almost as good as getting your leg over for the first time with a fit bird when you are a spotty faced teenager sporting pathetically manicured facial hair (if you can call it that?) that you actually think resembles a beard. You know the thrill right. All warm and squishy. It’s that kind of buzz that RSD has tried to recreate over the past decade the world over.

Anyhow, for me, the concept has always smelled a bit fishy. Why you ask? Well, the first problem I faced with the concept was this whole limited release lark. Some releases have been limited in the past to a meagre 1,000 copies world wide! Sure, that makes your copy (if you are that clever enough to secure a copy) a real treat but as with all good things in life there are those who enjoy taking advantage of a gift horse. And that’s when the Uni students come into play.

University students are more often than not, broke beyond their wildest dreams. They have little money and are always looking for an easy out for cash if mum and dad fall short. This is where RSD is their best friend. The little bastards can line up all night outside their local store, use almost all their student loan money buying up the rarest RSD releases before heading home and going straight to eBay to list their gems for ridiculous sums of money. I should add that even once sensible adults have cottoned on to this fast cash scheme in recent times which is even more embarrassing if you ask me. The worst part of it all is that there are collectors out there with either too much money, far too little sense or perhaps both that are desperate enough to pay whatever the asking price is for said item because they simply have to have it all. You know the old theory. Supply, demand and all that jazz. It’s a vicious cycle.

The past couple of years has seen a reverse in this trend because, it seems, many RSD participants and labels seem to have more than enough copies to go around which is really fucking up the little cunts who try and take advantage of collectors desperate bid to “own it all” as they say. Never more so apparent is this for Bowie collectors than that of the past two RSD events.

In 2017, the apparently limited edition 12″ vinyl pressing for No Plan (blue and white mixed vinyl) had fans stressing that they would miss out. Some twelve months later, it is still selling for cost price at a number of record stores. The GEM promo box set (supplied to me by the splendid Bruce Butler in Melbourne) release and the triple vinyl Cracked Actor (both released for RSD 2017) are also floating around in large numbers online. Somebody at Parlaphone got the hint and made sure plenty of copies were pressed. After the initial eBay fleecing rush, prices dropped back down to reasonable rates which allowed the “must own everything” gang to breath a sigh of relief and get their hands on said items without breaking the bank.

I contemplated going this year. Like, I seriously considered lining up for hours just to get my hands on all 4 Bowie releases plus a Cure triple vinyl pressing. Then I realised I didn’t really have the spare cashola to obtain every item so I decided to test my luck online. Sure enough, two days later, I found the David Bowie LP that was released in both stereo and mono for face value ($69 plus postage) via a record store in Melbourne. Apparently, it’s limited to 1,500 copies and comes in blue and red vinyl. The postman delivered it in one piece so now I have popped my RSD cherry all be it through an online option from a RSD retailer but thankfully, I wasn’t forced to pay over the odds for it via some eBay fleecing specialist. What’s more, I opened the packaging! I can hear the groans from the dress circle already but fuck it! I buy vinyl to enjoy it and that means opening it, playing it, reading the liner notes and appreciating it for exactly what it is, a record to play and enjoy.

I must say, the packaging of this release is beautiful and I have thoroughly enjoyed all the other Bowie collectors I know who have picked up their own Bowie treasures from RSD 2018. Who knows, maybe next year, I might join the silly buggers who line up in the wee hours to get a bigger slice of the pie? It only took me 12 cracks but I finally bought my very own RSD release direct from a RSD retailer and I feel quite chuffed about it.

The Bowie Concert Tape Files: Welcome To The Blackout, Earls Court, London, June 30 & July 1 1978

I have to start off by stating that, at long last, Bowie’s people have got it spot on with a live album release.  It’s been a thorn in his side for as long as one can remember going all the way back to the original David Live LP from 1974.  With each release came cock ups galore.  In recent times there have been some interesting releases which all came in varying degrees of success.  2008 saw the release of the sublime Santa Monica show from 1972 when Ziggy was only just starting to hit his stride.  Unfortunately, the release was floored with cuts and edits galore.  Two years later, we were served up another classic show from 1976.  Like it’s predecessor, Santa Monica, the live show from Nassau in early ’76 had edits which included almost the entire drum solo being deleted from Panic In Detroit!  Now, I ask you this?  Which mentally deranged idiot thought that this would be a good idea?  Last year, as part of the Record Store Day releases, we were served up Cracked Actor on triple vinyl.  It was the first time I had heard an officially released live Bowie album and walked away after the first listening feeling like they had finally nailed it.  Hell, it only took Bowie 40 plus years to finally release a full and complete live record the way it should be.

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In 1978, Bowie released Stage, a decent live offering that was ruined by a mixed up running order, poor mixing and songs missing.  In 2005, they went some way to restoring credit for the LP by going back to the original running order and mixing the crowd back into the show and adding two previously unreleased number in Be My Wife and Stay.  In 2017, they went one further by also including The Jean Genie and Suffragette City.  This meant that the original 1978 release of 17 tracks moved up to 22 in 2017.  What more could they do to improve on this?  Welcome To The Blackout!

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It’s already being considered one of the best live Bowie releases from his cannon of work.  There are 24 tracks all up, the show is mixed beautifully in its original running order and captures elements of the show not previously heard on either live releases or bootlegs from the tour.  In a few months, it will be released on CD and available on iTunes and Spotify however, for the time being, we can all enjoy a wonderful vinyl rip that is available on YouTube in full.

Right from the get go with Warszawa, you can feel the warmth of the show with all the instruments high in the mix.  The crowd can be heard as clear as day and you already know you are in for a fantastic ride.  Bowie seems quite eager to please and is high on energy.  At the time, these were his first live performances at Earls Court since the fiasco that was the Ziggy show in May 1973, some five years prior.  The sound this time around is much better and thankfully for us fans, both nights were recorded by the mobile RCA unit which is why we have what we have today.  The title of the album comes from Bowie’s own mouth as he introduces the song, Blackout with the words, “Welcome to the blackout!”.  Clever innit?  David Hemmings was on hand to film both nights and perhaps we may even see a full concert film release in the coming years?

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A personal highlight of this recording has to be TVC 15.  For the first time, you can clearly hear all the talk during the intro to the song.  This is something that has eluded previous official releases and many bootlegs.  The track is easily top of the pops for me, having listened to the album a half dozen times now.  On a selfish note, it would have been fantastic if both nights had been released since they were both recorded.  It appears the show on June 29 was not recorded.  Either way, one cannot help but be excited by whatever else Bowie’s estate have in the pipelines for release over the coming years.  Why they sat on this release for almost 40 years is beyond me.

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So what happened to Earls Court?  Well, the venue was demolished in 2014 to make way for luxury apartments (pictured above) and offices suits. Last financial year, it lost over 119 million pounds in value or around 20% of its value.  After being opened in 1887 and rebuilt during the 1930’s, it was a crying shame to see the venue demolished in the name of developers greed.  Aside from rock concerts, Earls Court was home to many other sports including Olympic events during the 1948 and 2012 games and also hosted home shows, live theater productions and record fairs.  Welcome To The Blackout is a stunning reminder of a time when concert tours were deemed more important than that of developers profits.

SET LIST: Warszawa/”Heroes”/What In The World/Be My Wife/The Jean Genie/Blackout/Sense Of Doubt/Speed Of Life/Sound And Vision/Breaking Glass/Fame/Beauty And The Beast/Five Years/Soul Love/Star/Hang Onto Yourself/Ziggy Stardust/Suffragette City/Art Decade/Alabama Song/Station To Station/TVC 15/Stay/Rebel Rebel