David Bowie: The Man Who Sold the World (Eno “Live” Mix) (2020 Remaster)

We come to Valentine’s Day, a Friday, and supposedly the last of the songs that will be featured on the upcoming David Bowie EP Is It Any Wonder?, due to be released on the 20th.

I say “supposedly” because looking around here and there, it appears there will be one more song added to this EP, Fun (Clownboy Mix) and I have no clue what that one is but when you search around the Is It Any Wonder? information, it is listed as a seventh track. Perhaps a “hidden” track to be featured on the album itself and not part of the one-song-a-week release schedule?

I dunno.

Anyway, the “new” song released this week, alas, isn’t really new. That is, if you’ve been a devout David Bowie fan (or a maniac like me) and have picked up his stuff pretty religiously as it was being released. The 6th song in this song-a-week release schedule is The Man Who Sold The World (Eno “Live” Mix) (2020 Remaster).

A bit of history, at least as best as I can remember: When Nirvana did their cover of The Man Who Sold The World on MTV, it was a BIG hit. David Bowie found himself getting love for a song that was in his very distant past, and he would start using it more frequently in his shows. Why not? People loved it and wanted to hear him sing it!

At around that time he did the magnificent album 1. Outside, which I’ve said many times before I consider David Bowie’s best later-year album. However, the album wasn’t met with much love from critics or many fans. They thought it was too much, too dense. Hard to get into.

Whatever.

As it turned out, the years were kind to the album and many now look at it as a damn good work.

One of the album’s better songs was Strangers When We Meet, a reworking of the same song which was released on Bowie’s Buddha of Suburbia, the album that came just before 1. Outside and was one of David Bowie’s least known (and I suppose selling) albums. So it made sense to Mr. Bowie, I suppose, to take that song and rework it and add it to 1. Outside in the hopes of people giving it another chance.

Here is the 1. Outside version of Strangers When We Meet:

What the hell does all that have to do with our last (or is it second to last?) Is It Any Wonder? song?

Following the release of 1. Outside, Mr. Bowie would release a “single” version of Strangers When We Meet on CD and it included not only that song, but a reworking of The Man Who Sold The World, which is pretty significantly different in many ways from the original version (and in some ways very similar), the original Buddha of Suburbia version of Strangers When We Meet, and the 1. Outside outtake Get Real.

Strangers When We Meet

I believe that reworked version of The Man Who Sold The World, until now, was only available on that EP CD. Welp, its been remastered and is now part of the Is It Any Wonder? EP and here it is…

I have to say, I like the song quite a bit versus some of the other remade songs which are present on the Is It Any Wonder? EP.

But…

I don’t think its quite as good as the original version.

Then again, the original version is so ingrained in my mind its hard to consider an alternate version, at least for me!

Still, overall I nonetheless like this version of The Man Who Sold The World and am glad we’re now getting it as part of the Is It Any Wonder? EP.

Having said that, what do I think of the EP overall?

I dunno. I still haven’t heard that last song so maybe I should withhold judgment.

If I were to focus on these six songs, though, my feelings are this EP is only “ok” at best. There’s some good stuff here but the remakes of older songs, particularly I Can’t Read, Stay, and Baby Universal, I felt were pretty much all weaker than the original version, with Baby Universal the only one of the lot that approached the positive feelings I have of the original and which engenders similar feelings in me to this version of The Man Who Sold The World.

I’ll likely get the EP when it does come out, so there’s that, but I do feel like there must be other stuff in the vaults worth bringing to light, especially during the 1970’s (ie his Ziggy Stardust, Plastic Soul, and Berlin years).

Perhaps this is the first of many such EPs to come!

Kirk Douglas and Robert Conrad

Over the past weekend news came that legendary actor Kirk Douglas had passed away at the age of (believe it or not) 103.

Image result for kirk douglas out of the past

One of his first great roles was that of Whit in the incredible and classic 1947 film noir Out of the Past. According to IMdb, the role was his third in a movie. The above photograph shows Douglas with the movie’s protagonist, Robert Mitchum (for whom this was also quite the star making role).

Kirk Douglas would go on to make a tremendous amount of really good -and some not so good, but them’s the breaks- films. Some of my favorites, and films I highly recommend you seek out if you haven’t already, include Ace in the Hole (1951) Detective Story (1951), 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)…

Damn that film is great!

Lust for Life (1956), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Paths of Glory (1957, probably the film that first made people take note of young director Stanley Kubrick), Spartacus (1960, the second and last Kubrick/Douglas team up), Lonely Are The Brave (1962, the film Douglas felt was his best work), Seven Days In May (1964, one of several features Douglas made with Burt Lancaster -which includes Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and, IMHO, one of the best), The War Wagon (1967, a personal favorite, a mostly comedic “heist” film set in the wild west and featuring another star Douglas made a couple of films with, John Wayne), The Fury (1978, a fascinating if not quite great Brian DePalma directed film that recalls his previous Carrie adaptation), The Villain (1979, a comedy featuring… Arnold Schwarzenegger?!)…

Essentially, its a live action version of the Road Runner cartoons

Saturn 3 (1980, a not all together successful film yet the visuals are fascinating and the story quite gory for its time), and The Final Countdown (1980, a fascinating time travel story)…

These are just some of the many films Mr. Douglas was in that are worth your time, IMHO, and don’t include such works as One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which he bought the rights to and wanted to make a film version of (starring himself in the titular role). Eventually, Mr. Douglas would give the rights to his son Michael Douglas, who would make the film with Jack Nicholson and the rest is history.

So he’s made a ton of great works but there is some controversy regarding Mr. Douglas. There is the accusation -and its nothing more than that- that he had an inappropriate encounter (and that’s putting it very mildly) with an underage Natalie Wood. At this point in time it is an allegation and nothing more and should be treated as such.

However, in his first novel, The Ragman’s Son, Mr. Douglas isn’t terribly shy about writing about his sexual encounters with many, many, many women. While I don’t believe I’m a prude, the book struck me, especially as he recounted his sexual conquests, too boastful. And it occurred to me that some of the women he mentioned in the book maybe didn’t want this splattered for everyone to read. It left me with something of a bad taste in my mouth.

As the saying goes, love the art but not the artist and it was after reading that book that I realized maybe it was better to not know so much about an artist whose work I enjoyed so tremendously.

By the way, of the “golden age” big name actors out there, I believe there is only one left alive: Olivia De Havilland. Like Mr. Douglas, she too was born in 1916 which also makes her 103.

Soon after news of Mr. Douglas’ passing, we heard that actor Robert Conrad had also passed away.

Image result for robert conrad wild wild west

Mr. Conrad, perhaps best known for his role of Jim West in the terrific The Wild, Wild West (1965-69) TV show which was subsequently made into a disastrous feature film with Will Smith in the title role, was known primarily for his TV roles.

He first became well known for the TV series 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye before The Wild, Wild West. In many ways his look back then reminded me of a far more buff version of James Dean. Robert Conrad was an exercise nut and his physique showed it…

Image result for robert conrad wild wild west
I swear, it’s like looking in a mirror (*cough*)

He would go on to play guest starring roles in plenty of TV shows afterwards, from Mission: Impossible to Columbo to Mannix before once again hitting upon a popular TV show in the form of Black Sheep Squadron (1976-78).

He was also quite good in the role of Pasquinel in one of the first big “mini-series” made for TV, Centennial.

Robert Conrad would return to playing Jim West in two made for TV movies, The Wild, Wild West Revisited (1979) and More Wild, Wild West (1980). Alas, both films IMHO weren’t all that good, going for camp and goofiness and squandering the opportunity to see some genuine heroic goodness…

What also hindered the movies, IMHO, was the fact that while only some 10 years had passed since the last episode of the original Wild, Wild West, both Robert Conrad and Ross Martin (who would pass away in 1981 and shortly after the second and last film was made) looked rather old to be doing the stunt work the show was so famous for in their prime.

Mr. Conrad would play in many other roles through 2002 and I found him quite funny parodying his “tough guy” image in battery commercials…

…as well as in the role of the gung-ho to go to war General Wombat in the Sean Connery film Wrong is Right (1982) and the super-no-nonsense police officer in the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger film Jingle All The Way.

Robert Conrad, like Kirk Douglas, appeared to have his quirks. His appearance as the Team Captain on the otherwise fluffy Battle of the Network Stars (1976) revealed his competitive nature in these silly games was… out there. Further, I recall seeing interviews conducted with him where he seemed incredibly, perhaps over-the-top intense.

Maybe they caught him on bad days?

Regardless, Mr. Conrad passed away at the ripe old age of 84 and lived, I imagine like Mr. Douglas, a very full and successful life.

While the passing of both of these actors, given their advance age, was expected, it is nonetheless a sad occasion.

At least their wonderful works will live forever.

Rest in Peace, big guys. You gave me plenty of pleasure throughout your lives.

What a week…

The week came to an end yesterday and it shocked me to realize that the SuperBowl was only this past Sunday and not two or more weeks ago.

Yeah, its been that kind of week.

I went to sleep last night at maybe 9:30 and I crashed hard.

This past week could well have been one of the hardest I’ve gone through in quite a while.

Busy, busy, busy.

But its over now and at least so far this Saturday’s been nice and mellow. Let’s hope the same goes for Sunday because Monday’s not very far away!

David Bowie: Nuts

We’ve reached the penultimate song, #5, of the weekly release of songs for the upcoming Is It Any Wonder? EP.

In previous weeks we’ve had The Man Who Sold The World, I Can’t Read ’97, Stay ’97, and Baby Universal ’97. The reason the later three songs feature the ’97 on them is because they are remakes of earlier works which David Bowie did in… wait for it… 1997 and while making the album Earthling.

Yesterday, and as mentioned above, we had the release of the fifth of six songs to be released in the Is It Any Wonder? EP. Here then is an original composition intended to be a “bonus track” on the Earthling album but ultimately set aside. The song is called Nuts

When I first heard the song, what immediately struck me was that it sounded a hell of a lot like something you might find on 1. Outside, the album Bowie released just before Earthling. I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it here: I feel 1. Outside is the best album Bowie released in his later years. Having said that. the jazzy elements within this song also reminded me of some of the more experimental stuff on Bowie’s final album, Blackstar.

I must admit, I didn’t like the song much when I first heard it. However, upon listening to it a few more times, I’ve found myself getting into it. I still don’t feel it is a “classic” or some incredible lost treasure like the alternate version of Candidate from the Diamond Dogs album…

…but I do like the song more and more.

(Btw, for the life of me, I still don’t understand how David Bowie left this “alternate version” of Candidate, a stone cold classic -IMHO!- off the album. It wasn’t until some fifteen or so years later with the RykoDisc releases of Bowie’s albums that the song finally saw the light of day as a “bonus” track!)

So I’m glad Nuts was released.

One more song (and week!) to go and the album is complete. Will they end it with a bang or a whimper?

I’m hoping we’re going to get a real hidden gem.

We’ll see.

This N’ That

Must say, I’m glad the SuperBowl is over.

It’s an economic boon for businesses around here, but the congestion and some of the… characters… you have to deal with can be a bit much.

Understand, though: Some 90% of the people who came down to enjoy this event, whether football or 49ers or Chiefs fans, are damn good people. They came, they enjoyed, and they left. It’s that 10% -maybe even less!- that unfortunately stick in your mind. I had to deal with some of that percentage and, to say the least, Monday and Tuesday (moreso Monday, though) were rather stressful.

But its over now and the game was good and most of the people were indeed nice so I shouldn’t bitch so much, no?

As for the game itself, I’m really intrigued with the winners, the Kansas City Chiefs. Throughout the playoffs and into the SuperBowl, they have this weird habit of playing really badly and getting behind before seeming to suddenly “wake up” and destroy their opponents.

It’s a weird thing they do and I can’t imagine it will continue working out favorably for them, but if they can get some of that sloppiness resolved beforehand and play more consistently, they will be a very fearsome team for many, many years to come.

Meanwhile, it strikes me that the New England Patriots may have finally, finally reached the end of their magical run. With sports, its a matter of time and New England, though they started with an incredible record, did so by playing mediocre or worse teams through that time period. When they started to play stronger teams, they were exposed as not as good as they first appeared.

Today there’s intrigue regarding what will happen to quarterback Tom Brady. Much as it pains me to say so, he is probably the best quarterback to date to have ever played the position. He is focused, he is relentless, and he is very accurate in his throws.

However, he’s getting quite old now and while this year he played well, those around him did not. He was clearly very frustrated with many of his receivers and, following the end of this season, he’s a free agent.

Will he return to New England?

If so, are they willing to pay an aging quarterback the money he wants? Brady’s agreed to be paid less than he was worth for most of his career but this allowed New England to hire good players around him from the savings they made through his lesser salary.

Word is he wants to get paid what he deserves and, given the cast around him wasn’t all that good this past year, will giving Brady what he wants allow them any wiggle room to pick up a good roster?

At least one other team, the Raiders, have indicated they want Brady if he’s willing to give them a shot.

So I repeat: Is this the end of the New England Patriots/Tom Brady era?

Only time will tell.

*********

Politics… how can you escape it the last week or so?

You had “President” Trump’s impeachment and when the matter went over to the Senate, it was clear almost from the very beginning the courageous (he says very sarcastically) Republican majority was intent on making sure the matter ended effectively there. They didn’t want any more witnesses, twisting themselves into pretzels to justify that action, and now twisting themselves even more (as if you thought that possible!) to acquit the man.

Not even a censure vote is coming.

Here’s the thing: These people are not only short-sighted, they’ve just tied whatever legacies they have to him.

It’s incredibly difficult to predict the future, but I can’t help but wonder if this is the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back and the Republican party might have finally gone too far.

There is some 35-40 percent of the country that loves Trump and, I imagine, “Republicans” but that means that some 60-70% do not or are, at best, indifferent to them.

Will we see this reflected in elections later this year?

I certainly hope so.

*********

So last night we had the State of the Union speech and it was another chapter in the “how low can we go” politics. First, “President” Trump comes out and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi offers him her hand… which he pointedly refuses to shake.

The speech itself… I didn’t have the heart to listen. I’ve read the recaps and it sounded like a rather typical piece of self-aggrandisement. Nothing wrong with that, I suppose, politicians have done this since forever.

What gets me is when the Medal of Honor was given to Rush Limbaugh right then and there.

Ugh.

Limbaugh noted he has advanced lung cancer. This is the man who many times argued against the reality of second hand smoke and who made it a point of smoking cigars near constantly on his radio show (and I’m sure in his free time as well).

There are many, many people who noted the irony and many, many others who were quite glad over his predicament.

I’ll try to be nice and not say something rude… even though if there’s anyone who deserves it. And I certainly wouldn’t be so cruel as to suggest, when Limbaugh does eventually pass -whether from the lung cancer or something else- that we should all cue up Bette Davis’ quote regarding the death of Joan Crawford.

No, I wouldn’t suggest that at all.

The State of the Union started with Trump snubbing Pelosi’s handshake but it ended most emphatically with Pelosi once again getting the last word, though it was through actions:

Image result for pelosi ripping trump speech gif"

Yeah, she ripped up Trump’s speech when he was done, right in front of him. By the way, the reason Trump’s putting himself where he is is because he realized what she’s doing and was trying in vain to block her actions out.

It was ineffective and made it clear that one hurt.

Trump keeps trying to one up Pelosi and she seems to always find a way of slapping him down.

It must irritate the hell out of Trump.

Which is fine by me.