Saturday, January 8, 2011

Happy birthday, David Bowie!

Today's my favorite human-I've-never-met's 64th birthday. Happy birthday! In celebration, I present some of his best songs that you may not have heard or noticed:

"Janine" from the 1969 album now most often referred to as Space Oddity. "If you take an axe to me you've killed another man/Not me at all."

"Tired of My Life," a very rough demo from 1970 that was later worked into "It's No Game" (parts one and two) from 1980's Scary Monsters.

"Alternative Candidate." The "Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing" suite on Diamond Dogs is one of the best things Bowie ever did, but this, a completely different song from the same time called "Candidate," is almost as amazing. Originally written for a planned 1984 stage musical that Bowie was ultimately unable to get the rights for.

"Abdulmajid." Originally untitled, recorded in 1976 or 1977 in sessions for the Berlin albums (either Low or "Heroes", probably), not released until a 1991 reissue of "Heroes" at which point Bowie decided to name it after Iman.

"I Have Not Been to Oxford Town," from 1995's 1.Outside. I wanted to post the album version, but I couldn't find it on Youtube. Luckily, this performance features him doing some seamless improvisation with a scarf someone throws up out of the audience after around 2:30. Impressive!

And a live 2003 version of "Loving the Alien," a song originally released in very cheesy form on 1984's Tonight. This version is still pretty cheesy, I will admit, but it's also beautiful. Being there for one of its performances (which, my god, was eight years and one day ago today) is one of my favorite memories.


BDR said...

Excellent. Thanks!

davidly said...

The Oxford Town legerdemain you reference reminds me of an anecdote Eno wrote in his diary that he published from that time.

He basically details a day in the studio during which DB has the engineer record him doing the vocal parts to a theretofore non-existent song - starting with the most minimal part and continuing in call and response fashion, one section after the other, in a matter of minutes -, which left his collaborator in awe. Remarkable considering how familiar they already were with one another.

While you're on BWW: You got "C30, C60, C90, Go" or the concurrent "Your Cassette Pet"? I missed those the first time around, but have stumbled across them recently and like their flavor.

Ethan said...

BDR, you're welcome and thanks also.

davidly, that's a great story, I hadn't heard that before. It reminds me in turn of the story of the recording of "Wild Is the Wind" on Station to Station...they recorded three takes of it, but what ended up being used on the record is the first, uninterrupted, unedited take. Which is just simply unbelievable.

I also swear there's a bit in Hugo Wilcken's 33 1/3 book on Low about one of the songs ("Warszawa," maybe?) having some absurdly huge number of vocal tracks that Bowie laid down offhandedly in like an hour, but I can't find it right now.

Ethan said...

Oops, forgot to say--I've got Your Cassette Pet and love it. "Sexy Eiffel Towers," yeah! I know and love the song "C30 C60 C90 Go" but don't have it...I actually don't know where it comes from. Was it a single or was it on something? I should track that down.

bonobo said...

Wow. Love the Candidate. Never heard that before and I have been a fan since Ziggy Stardust, which came out when I was in high school. I am not a celebrity worshipper but I would love to meet David Bowie if only to say thanks. Incredibly liberating figure in my life. I wish I had followed the road he'd opened up for me more determinedly.

Just celebrated his birthday watching a collection of interviews he's done over the years on British television. Alway amazed at how smart, reflective and funny he is.

davidly said...

Yeah, it was a cassette only single, which would have been perfect for Your Cassette Pet, but was not to be. The label wasn't comfortable promoting a song which promoted tape-sharing. File under bye-bye EMI.

Ethan said...

bonobo--yeah, I'd love to thank him as well. I came along later, but it sounds like he's played a similar role for me as he did for you.

davidly--ah, yes, home taping is killing music. I think my favorite lyrics in C30 are "Hit it pause it record it and play/Turn it rewind it and rub it away." I love the impermanence there, not of objects but of the commodities stored on them--we'll use them as long as they're useful to us, like.