Jan 16

Gnome Man’s Land

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I wrote a thing for here about David Bowie and how I felt about him and what he meant to me, but then Pitchfork kindly decided they wanted to run it, so it’s below. (Original title: He Could Be Dead, He Could Be Not, He Could Be You). And to any other good pieces I see, or that you want to point me to, or memorial threads.

My Pitchfork piece
Chris O’Leary’s Pushing Ahead Of The Dame memorial thread
Alfred Soto’s obituary, for Spin
Ann Powers ‘Reflections Of A Bowie Girl’ for NPR
Rory (of Popular)’s memorial post

Meanwhile this feels like it deserves more than an RIP on a Popular entry, so by all means use this thread too to post, comment about Bowie, list your favourite songs, fit him into your history or pop’s history. Whatever, really.

David Bowie: RIP


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  1. 101
    Rory on 3 Feb 2016 #

    Looking at Tom’s schedule at #93, I now see that the Labyrinth OST is right there, and was scheduled for yesterday. Reading comprehension fail by yours truly at #100.

  2. 102
    Tom on 3 Feb 2016 #

    It was scheduled for yesterday and listened to on schedule! It was an amusing detour – Bowie sounds like he’s having fun on “Magic Dance” which isn’t the case on many of the records either side of it. I should have probably chosen a general “80s soundtrack Bowie” playlist and thrown in “When The Wind Blows” and “Absolute Beginners” too, but Labyrinth was entertaining.

    I have also listened to Tonight and Never Let Me Down. I borrowed both these records from Leatherhead library and listened to them A LOT, in the way people listened to records a lot in that palmy golden age when they couldn’t hear them for free. I must have been entertained by them. I think Chris O’Leary’s line on them is broadly right – Tonight is knackered, Never Let Me Down is a mess, but has more signs of life. In fact I think I’d be kinder to NLMD than that – it’s a full blooded stab at an 80s corporate rock record which has enough oddities (and flashes of good songwriting) to make it an interesting, enjoyable listen on this particular journey. The run of songs from “Time Will Crawl” to “Glass Spider” was particularly satisfying. Of course, I have a lot more time for that 80s style percussion-collage production than many do – the title track reminded me of the production on Scritti Politti’s 80s hits, which I love to bits.

    Tomorrow through Saturday – DAVE AGAINST THE MACHINE! I’ve kind of been looking forward to it.

  3. 103
    lonepilgrim on 3 Feb 2016 #

    The BFI have recently announced that they are planing to release most (if not all) of Alan Clarke’s TV work from the end of March, including ‘Baal’

  4. 104
    Tom on 4 Feb 2016 #

    My first listen to Tin Machine has left me with the uncontroversial opinion that they were Not Very Good.

  5. 105
    Rory on 4 Feb 2016 #

    Yes, the first album is exactly the sort of thing I wouldn’t have expected you to like much, given what you did and didn’t like about the number ones of the ’80s. Plastered with a heavy guitar sound that bears little relation to previous Bowie work, but which has a lot in common with the end-of-’80s rock of Jane’s Addiction and Guns’n’ Roses. This wasn’t the first time that Bowie no longer sounded as if he was ahead of the pack – Never Let Me Down, as you said, was an ’80s corporate rock record.

    It has its moments, but I could still see why I ditched the CD at the time. The opening song is okay, if too long, but the title track is hard to get past. When you do, there are some more painful moments ahead: I really don’t like the John Lennon cover (and 1988 was when I discovered and adored Lennon’s Plastic Ono Band album, so I must have hated the cover then), so that’s 2-for-2 for Bowie-covering-Lennon-badness.

    But I quite liked (this time around) “I Can’t Read”, “Under the God”, “Amazing”, “Bus Stop” and “Baby Can Dance”. And “Video Crimes” was fascinating to hear in late January 2016, for reasons that will become apparent when you reach the end of your Bowie marathon; it shares its DNA with one of the ★ songs.

    TMII is patchy, and has a couple more godawful moments on it, but its highs are better, and the guitar is toned down a fair bit.

    Reading Chris O’Leary’s Tin Machine entries tipped me off to this Reeves Gabrels solo track with a Bowie vocal recorded alongside the first Tin Machine album. Much better. Imagine yer “Let’s Dance” fans wrappin’ their ear’oles around that.

  6. 106
    Tom on 4 Feb 2016 #

    Philosophical musings on ver Machine here: http://freakytrigger.co.uk/ft/2016/02/the-machine-stops/

    I liked “Bus Stop”, it was jaunty. “I Can’t Read” seemed like it might be a good song if I stuck at it. And, for my sins, I thought the title track was very funny. That kind of levity was a welcome surprise after 1 song, after a dozen I’d have loved it.

    (I can see the Janes Addiction thing – they are a band that I suspect doesn’t fit my expected taste, but I really like Nothing’s Shocking.)

  7. 107
    Tom on 5 Feb 2016 #

    (The Bowiethon has been suspended for a day because my copy of Tin Machine II is on my PC at home. So I’m listening to Earth Wind & Fire instead.)

  8. 108
    Rory on 8 Feb 2016 #

    I’m going to be away for the last part of the Bowiethon, so I’ll just park this here (for the list of ratings at the beginning; the rest is adapted from comments on this very thread).

  9. 109
    Pink champale on 8 Feb 2016 #

    @106 On paper Jane’s Addiction are the worst band that could possibly exist – bombastic neo prog funk metal with a singer who fancies himself as some sort of sex shamen and has a moral philosophy that sits on the disturbing borderline where universalist hippy self actualisation tips over into fascism.
    But despite being like the result of some Experiment IV style project, they were frequently fantastic.
    I’m sort of surprised Jane Says has never gained an afterlife as an alt 90s ballad classic like Iris or Under the Bridge.
    As for Tim Machine, I think the title song sort of illustrates the problem. 1 minute of nice Pixies parody, several minutes of ugly in a bad way “experimental” blues noise.

  10. 110
    Tom on 15 Feb 2016 #

    Time to catch up on this – I have missed a day here and there but it goes on (I have got all the way to hours…)

    Tin Machine II is a better record than Tin Machine I by quite some way, I think. It does give the lie to some of my hypothesis in the “The Machine Stops” post that he was groping towards a contemporary indie rock sound, in that the lead track off it (“Baby Universal”) sounds very much like contemporary indie rock to me. There’s an irony in Steve Sutherland’s supposed mission to “rescue” Bowie from the Machine by sending him a mixtape full of the likes of Adorable – in that on that song TM had got there all by themselves anyway.

    It was still a relief and a pleasure to move back onto the solo records, though. (I skipped Oy Vey Baby in the end, so my ritual is incomplete.)

  11. 111
    Cumbrian on 22 Feb 2016 #

    Have I kept up with this at all? No. Though I note Tom might well have finished by now. I’m still playing Blackstar on the regular though.

    I did give Tin Machine a go – oddly, commenters writing that it sounds like The Pixies was the spur to have a listen – and some of it, particularly Under The God, sounds like it could actually be The Pixies (Reeves Gabrels guitar sound on that track in particular really could be Joey Santiago). Sadly though, I couldn’t stick it out through an entire record. I only listened to bits of TM1 and, for a bloke who was capable of incredibly constructed records, it sounds awfully slapdash – not what I would want from a Bowie record.

    At some point, I should give the 90s stuff a go. Reading Pushing Ahead Of The Dame, there’s a few interesting pieces about the Buddha, Earthling and …Hours albums that give me pause.

  12. 112
    Phil on 22 Feb 2016 #

    Blackstar sent me back to Nite Flights & from there to ‘Til the Band Comes In, a progression which I can’t entirely explain. My own chronological Bowiethon started with Aladdin Sane, then doubled back to TMWSTW, HD & TRAFOZSATSFM, then stopped (I haven’t got Diamond Dogs, and Pin Ups wasn’t an inspiring prospect). Hunky Dory is an amazing album, though, and Aladdin Sane comes closer than I remembered.

    I read through a stack of early reviews of Blackstar the other day. Only a couple of them comment on all the death imagery, and even they don’t hazard any guesses as to the state of health of Mr Bowie (as the New York Times called him). Listening to it now, the Mortality Klaxon is honking loud and clear in almost every track – especially “I can’t give everything away”, a title which (now at least) seems to express the agonising consciousness that the actual experience of his death was going to be his alone. “I know something’s very wrong…” The FT reviewer thought it was something to do with global warming.

  13. 113
    Kinitawowi on 18 Mar 2016 #

    Bowie has just made his first appearance on a Now! album since the 7th; Heroes (perhaps inevitably) was declared the tribute to appear as last track on disc 2 of the 93rd edition. (Which must surely claim some sort of record for gap between consecutive appearances.)

  14. 114
    Girl with Curious Hair on 23 Mar 2016 #

    @109 Very true about Jane’s Addiction. I really like them despite the fact that, by all rights, they should really be dreadful. There reaches a point where you’re confronted by a 10 minute song, starting off as spoken word, about the singer’s smack-fueled threesomes in which he calls himself the Erotic Jesus, and all you can do is shrug and think fair fucks. Sheer chutzpah can take you a long way.

  15. 115
    flahr on 24 Mar 2016 #

    #113 I actually researched this not too long ago! I believe the previous record holder is a-ha, who didn’t appear after Now! 9 until Now! 63.

  16. 116
    Auntie Beryl on 25 Mar 2016 #

    Michael Jackson, I believe.

    Nothing from Farewell My Summer Love on Now 4 to Love Never Felt So Good on 88, due to Epic/Sony getting involved with Now only recently.

    Somebody should write a book about such ephemera.

  17. 118
    Nelly on 9 Mar 2017 #

    Ooo. I LOVE apricots. Love ‘em. I think my friend and I are going to do a jam night and make this next week. Hopefully, we can still find apricots at the maknet.Thakrs for sharing! Love your snazzy blog and beautiful pictures.

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