I thought I would use the occasion of this post to advise fellow Kinks lovers that they have managed to overcome their petty grievances and are getting back together for an album and maybe even a tour. Ray Davies said he was “inspired” by seeing the Stones play. Regardless of whether that’s cash-in inspiration or creative inspiration, if they tour, I’m there.
Ok, with that of the way, let us turn our attention to the subject at hand, Mr. David Bowie. I did a piece on him when he died and I’m still hoping to perhaps due a series. But this six-pack will fill in the gap between those and give us all something to listen to in the meantime. (As if you needed my help.) Six-packs don’t necessarily mean they’re the greatest songs of a particular artist. Just ones that appealed to me at time of writing and that I felt like hearing.
First up, a song I have always dug called “Diamond Dogs.” It’s from the 1974 album of the same name. Even though Ziggy Stardust was retired (or whatever), he still seems to make an appearance on this album.
Interestingly, Bowie plays guitar on this tune and on most of the album. He describes the dogs as: “all little Johnny Rottens and Sid Viciouses really. And, in my mind, there was no means of transport, so they were all rolling around on these roller-skates with huge wheels on them, and they squeaked because they hadn’t been oiled properly.
So there were these gangs of squeaking, roller-skating, vicious hoods, with Bowie knives and furs on, and they were all skinny because they hadn’t eaten enough, and they all had funny-coloured hair. In a way it was a precursor to the punk thing.”
Wikipedia: “Before the end of 1976, Bowie’s interest in the burgeoning German music scene, as well as his drug addiction, prompted him to move to West Berlin to clean up and revitalize his career.” He was also trying to kick a nasty heroin addiction.
The first album of his “Berlin trilogy,” Low, (produced by Tony Visconti), was released in 1977. Initially treated with some critical disdain especially because of its non-commercial leanings, by 2013 the New Musical Express listed it as #14 in the list of Greatest British albums ever. And people started to realize (if they hadn’t already) that Bowie wasn’t just some rock ‘n roller but a true artist willing to push the boundaries out.
All that said, the song “Sound and Vision,” – which inspired this post – is somewhat traditional in its feel. I hadn’t heard it in a long time and totally dug it. Brian Eno is on synthesizers and backing vocals:
Earlier, in 1976, Bowie had adopted the persona known as the Thin White Duke. The persona has been described as “a mad aristocrat,””an amoral zombie,”and “an emotionless superman.” Bowie himself described the character as “A very Aryan, fascist type; a would-be romantic with absolutely no emotion at all but who spouted a lot of neo-romance.”
There are two songs in particular that I want to feature from the 1976 Station to Station album. “Stay” as much as anything sounds to me like a song of – if not unrequited – then at the very least uncertain love. And it’s got one of the great all-time killer licks. (Bowie’s tunes in general – especially the earlier ones – have a lot of good, chunky guitar stuff.)
The lick is by guitarist Earl Slick. It is a Slick lick, if you will:
“TVC15” “was inspired by an episode in which Iggy Pop, during a drug-fueled period at Bowie’s LA home, hallucinated and believed the television set was swallowing his girlfriend. Bowie developed a story of a holographic television, TVC 15. In the song, the narrator’s girlfriend crawls into the television and afterwards, the narrator desires to crawl in himself to find her.”
“Panic in Detroit” is a song I’ve always dug. Some nice guitar work here from Mick Ronson. Aynsley Dunbar – who has played with everyone from Frank Zappa to Journey – plays percussion. (Woody Woodmansey on drums.) Inspired by wild men that Iggy Pop told Bowie about:
Bowie has so many great songs I almost hate to put one of his covers in here. But I like his 1973 covers album, Pin Ups and especially the tune, “Sorrow.” This was originally performed by the McCoys whose biggest hit was “Hang on Sloopy.” One of the original members of the McCoys was guitarist Rick Derringer who went on to play some fierce guitar with Johnny Winter and also on a couple of Steely Dan tunes.
A UK band called the Merseys (an offshoot from the Merseybeats) also did this song and had a hit with it in 1966. Jack Bruce played a bowed bass introduction; rumor has it that John Paul Jones arranged the horns. But here’s Bowie’s version:
With your long blond hair and your eyes of blue
The only thing I ever got from you
Was sorrow, sorrow
You’re acting funny, try to spend my money
You out there playing your high class games
Of sorrow, sorrow
Sources: Wikipedia; some Rolling Stone stuff