Category Archives: Music

David Bowie: I Can’t Read

Starting with David Bowie’s birthday on January 8th and continuing each week will be the release of one new song from an upcoming David Bowie album entitled Is It Any Wonder?

The song recordings were made in rehearsal for David Bowie’s 50th Birthday party, which was a star studded event and last week the first song from that rehearsal, The Man Who Sold The World, was released (if you’re curious to hear it, here you go!).

Three days ago (yeah, I’m running late here!) the second song was released, a stripped down version of I Can’t Read, a song that originally appeared on the first Tin Machine album, David Bowie’s band side project that lasted two original albums and at least one live album before folding.

Here’s the new, 1997 recorded stripped down version of the song:

I have to say… I’m not all that into it.

Then again, I didn’t think the original version was all that great either. Having said that, I prefer the original to this version. Here is the original version:

I suppose David Bowie thought he might eventually release that new version of the song and video but subsequently decided not to. It is pretty elaborate for something that was locked away in the vaults until now!

Having said that, there’s something incredibly sad about watching this video.

I know David Bowie eventually passed away because of liver cancer, but seeing him sucking on the cigarette in that video… ugh.

My understanding is that David Bowie was a pretty heavy smoker and based on videos like this one he clearly felt it looked cool to smoke in front of the cameras. He wasn’t alone: You can’t find many films from the 1930’s through the 1970’s (and some past that point) which don’t feature the leads smoking. It was a glamorous thing to do on screen but now we know better, right?

Sorry if I’m sounding all high and mighty/moralistic, but I have a very strong allergy to cigarette smoke. There’s something in the chemicals in cigarettes -as opposed to cigars or tobacco used in pipes- that sets my sinus off and can often result in me having such bad headaches I wind up needing to lie down and/or throw up.

It’s that bad and can happen if I so much as sniff one second of cigarette smoke!

But getting back to Mr. Bowie, while liver cancer eventually took him away, he also had a heart attack and, based on some things I’ve read about his last days, also suffered from considerable shortness of breath. Did the cigarettes play a role in these problems?

I don’t know.

Given how much I love his work, though, it makes me so sad to read about what must have been very painful days leading to his eventual passing.

Don’t smoke, kids.

It may look cool, but all you’re doing is roasting your throat and lungs.

In the long run, there’s a damn good chance you’ll pay.

New David Bowie releases…

The news is a couple of days old but I should have been expecting it.

David Bowie had a thing for celebrating his birthday, January 8th, with the release of new material. Indeed, his very last album, Blackstar, was released on January 8th of 2016 and, sadly, Mr. Bowie himself passed away two days later on January 10th at the age of 69.

This past January 8th would have been Mr. Bowie’s 73rd birthday and it was announced that two “new” albums would be released featuring live material he made while rehearsing for his famous 50th birthday bash, where he had a concert filled to the brim with guest star artists (Lou Reed, Billy Corgan, David Grohl, Robert Smith, etc.) singing along to many of his biggest hits.

Frankly, I’d love to have that album but, for now, what we get -eventually- is an intriguing release featuring rehearsals for that very show. The songs will be released one each week and two albums will contain the music and be released a little later this year. Over at pitchfork.com you can read up on the details:

Rare and unreleased David Bowie songs collected on new Album and EP

Count me in!

For now, the first release is what I consider one of his all time best songs ever. In fact, I’d probably rank it as my own personal favorite David Bowie song (though there are plenty of strong contenders!).

Here then, is the first release from that upcoming album, the rehearsal of The Man Who Sold The World

Perhaps I said it before but I’ll say it again: For me, the David Bowie gateway opened with the release of the album Let’s Dance back in 1983. I went absolutely wild for that album and played it over and over again back in high school and whenever I drove around (much to the eventual annoyance of the people who accompanied me on those drives).

Back then there wasn’t an internet and you couldn’t google “David Bowie” and have at your fingertips all his albums to listen to. Being curious about his previous releases, I headed out to record stores (yeah, they used to exist back then!) and slowly began to acquaint myself with his previous albums/songs.

I was surprised to find I was familiar with many of them, including Changes, Space Oddity, and Lady Stardust (to this day I don’t know why that particular song stood out to me, but when I heard it after buying the Ziggy Stardust album, it was the song I knew I had heard before and was familiar with while the rest of the songs were “new” to me).

One day I found a cassette of The Man Who Sold The World (I’ll refer to it as TMWSTW from here on), Bowie’s 1970 album which, to my mind, is the first “real” David Bowie album. Note he did release a number of singles, including his groundbreaking Space Oddity (single and album) before that album, but with TMWSTW, it seemed David Bowie truly found himself as an artist and following that album came Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust and the legend only grew from that moment on.

Returning to TMWSTW, I loved that album to death and, in particular, the song the album was named after. So much so that I even named a character I co-created with a friend after my mishearing of a line in the song (the character has never been used formally and may never be, so I’ll keep that little tidbit to myself!).

Regardless, when Nirvana famously covered the song years later and it suddenly blew up and became famous, I was nodding my head and smiling.

Not to sound like a smart ass or anything, but the world had finally caught up to how great that song was…!

And here it is in its original album version:

And, what the heck, here’s Nirvana’s version, which really brought it to audiences!

Changes…

Yesterday we had the entire family over for Thanksgiving and it was a nice, though hectic, time.

Afterwards, the wife, the kids, and I cleaned up the mess left behind and put away everything that needed putting away.

By around 8 P.M. with all that done (some had other places to go, others had longish rides back home, while many were simply early risers and don’t hang out too long), we decided, what the hell, let’s head out to our nearby Target and check out the Black Friday sales.

According to their promo ads and as you can see below, the store opened at a very early 5 P.M.

I recall how in years past we would rush through Thanksgiving and then run out to a store like Target and others hurrying to pick up on that deal you just had to have.

This year, though, we didn’t rush at all. Indeed, when we left at 8 P.M. to go out there, we had two items in mind we were curious to get -pretty good deals, certainly- but we kinda/sorta figured these items wouldn’t be the “hot” items everyone might be going after. As it turned out, we were wrong about one of them and took a subsequent journey to a farther away (but not too far) Target to get said second item -they were able to verify the other store had the particular item in stock- and, after going there, our night of not-so-frenzied Black Friday shopping was done.

Interestingly, we didn’t find terribly big crowds in either Target store. In years past, there were police cars outside the entry and police within, watching to make sure the crowds behaved. And in the past, this was very necessary.

But this time around, and I’ll grant you it was a few hours into the Black Friday opening blitz, things were supremely calm.

Which got me thinking about the way things change over time.

If you look closely at that picture I posted above, you’ll notice that after stating when the Target stores would open and on the bottom of that black circle you have this: Shop deals now at Target.com

The internet, like so many things, has disrupted/changed the Black Friday experience.

I suspect the crowds simply weren’t all that great because the items one might be crazy about getting -even those we wound up getting- we probably could have just ordered online earlier in the day and not bothered with our trek to Target.

In years past I’d look in amazement at footage of crowds tsunami-like entering a store at its opening, of people quite literally fighting for items, and I suspect that while this may still happen, its probably muted somewhat nowadays because one can order these things online.

Which made me think of how many things have been changed of late.

I suppose its a function of aging: As one gets older -and assuming one pays attention- you see changes.

For example, when I was younger, I hung out in malls to check out two types of stores: The bookstores and the music/CD stores.

I’d hang in the bookstore for a while checking out the latest books, then saunter over to the music/CD store and check out what CDs they had (there was a time –damn I’m old- when these stores had records and cassettes!).

With the arrival of the MP3 file, the CD, which took over for both the vinyl record (though that has made a comeback) and cassette was effectively neutralized. While I frown heavily upon pirate copying of artistic works, the reality was that suddenly people had access, both legally and illegally, to pretty much all music via the internet and, seemingly overnight, the music stores disappeared.

Today, Best Buy, Target, Walmart and their likes still have small sections featuring CDs and, ironically enough, bigger sections within those music sections featuring vinyl records.

But the days of the music stores -other than those catering to the vinyl record industry- are effectively over.

The other store I would spend hours in was the bookstore.

As someone who fancies himself a writer, it remains incredible to me that I simply don’t miss bookstores. Once, I had at least two very large ones within less than 20 minutes of me. Borders was the largest, a mega-book/music/video store. When Borders went out of business, I mourned the loss, but not all that much.

By then, I was almost fully into digital copies of books, having a Kindle reader and an iPad for both purposes. When our local Comic Book store also shut down, I realized just how much interesting stuff was likewise available online (again, legally purchased!). I’ve read more interesting comic books in the past year or so than I have in the previous five or more years and the range of interesting titles which are available, and which I can download in a matter of seconds, is astonishing.

This post is not intended to be a lamentation of the “good old days”. While I truly did enjoy the hell out of myself back then driving to brick and mortal stores for music, videos, and books/comic books, and I really don’t like the fact that so many small, independent businesses are no longer able to survive selling these items, as a consumer I’ve never had so much available to me.

Perhaps too much!

I’m into nostalgia as much if not more than most people, but one must also face the reality of the present.

Black Friday, it seems to me, is something that is in the next few years going to change. No longer will we marvel/be horrified by the crowds rushing into stores like we were before and, I suppose, that’s a good thing considering some of the fights/injuries that happened.

It’s also a sign of how things inevitably change.

Nirvana fans…

…you should probably check out their YouTube channel (you can find it here) as they are posting alternate takes/practice rehearsals from their famous MTV Unplugged session, which featured some brilliant “acoustic” interpretations of their works, as well as the very famous take on David Bowie’s Man Who Sold The World.

Here’s a version of it…

Many, many people were first introduced to this song via Nirvana’s version, and to many of them this is THE version of the song.

It makes sense, of course. The first time you hear a rendition of a song you wind up liking a lot winds up being the version you prefer, even if it isn’t all that different from the original…

For me, the opposite was true.

When David Bowie burst out to worldwide fame with the release of Let’s Dance (album and song), I was mesmerized by his music and immediately started to look into his back catalog.

There were many songs I discovered at that time which I already knew but hadn’t linked Mr. Bowie to them. Songs like Space Oddity, Changes, The Jean Genie, Fame, Fashion, etc. etc.

But there were other songs that hadn’t reached the radio much at that point that were incredible gems.

Like Panic In Detroit

And the incredible Lady Grinning Soul (both songs are from the album Aladdin Sane)…

There were many others (and bear in mind, we are talking about his works released up to the release of Let’s Dance).

But there was one work -you guessed it- the album The Man Who Sold The World, which really spoke to me. Unlike many Bowie works, this album had many covers because the original was so controversial. This is the cover I first saw when I first purchased the album…

Image result for the man who sold the world"

Then, a little later, I found the album with this cover…

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The original cover, and the cover that the album now has (and which you can see in the video of the song above), is this one, which, as I stated, was quite controversial in its time, though not so much anymore…

Image result for the man who sold the world"

The Man Who Sold The World, to my mind, is David Bowie’s first real accomplished album. While he had a bunch of oddball singles and the album Space Oddity before this one, it was with this album that, to my mind, everything came together.

Further, it features Mick Ronson, Bowie’s guitarist through the Ziggy Stardust era, as well as Tony Visconti on Bass (he would be Bowie’s main producer for many of his best albums, including the last he would release), and drummer Woody Woodmansey (also featured through the Ziggy era).

The album is quite dark, thematically. There are songs about insanity, supermen, and alienation.

It was the song the album got its title from, The Man Who Sold The World, that really intrigued me.

If I were to create a “best of” list of David Bowie songs, I may well say that to me this is his absolute best song.

I like it that much.

Sadly, the song didn’t receive all that much airplay or interest, that is, until Nirvana so famously covered it.

Now, its among David Bowie’s best known songs, and for good reason.

Oh, and by the way, that Nirvana version ain’t half-bad either…! 😉

Classic rock…

…ranked?

Over at deadspin.com Lauren Theisen has provided a list. A list of Classic Rock, ranked. A list that is likely to inflame passion. Anger…

What do you think?

Classic Rock, Ranked

All right, I’m going to spoil the whole damn thing and give you their entire list in the order they rank each musician/band…

1. David Bowie
2. Fleetwood Mac
3. The Beatles
4. Steely Dan
5. Jimi Hendrix
6. Black Sabbath
7. Heart
8. The Beach Boys
9. Elton John
10. The Rolling Stones
11. Bruce Springsteen
12. Tom Petty
13. Queen
14. Simon & Garfunkel
15. Led Zeppelin
16. The Cars
17. Neil Young
18. Pink Floyd
19. King Crimson
20. Creedence Clearwater Revival
21. The Police
22. The Band
23. The Allman Brothers Band
24. The Who
25. Lynyrd Skynyrd
26. Billy Joel
27. Yes
28. Van Halen
29. Cheap Trick
30. Wings
31. AC/DC
32. Rush
33. Electric Light Orchestra
34. Steve Miller Band
35. The Doors
36. Cream
37. Kiss
38. ZZ Top
39. Journey
40. Styx
41. Eagles
42. Kansas
43. Bad Company
44. Foreigner
45. Aerosmith
46. Boston
47. Getting hit by REO Speedwagon
48. Jethro Tull

Those on the floor, pick yourselves up, its over, man.

My feelings?

Well, its a list and any list consists of people’s opinions so yadda yadda yadda everyone’s entitled to their opinions yadda yadda.

As those who frequent these parts know, I consider David Bowie one of my all time favorite musicians. Even so, if I were making this list, I’d still put The Beatles at #1.

The fact of the matter is that without The Beatles and without their revolutionary sounds, there would likely be no modern rock music. And this is without noting that almost their entire catalogue of music rocks.

Fleetwood Mac #2?

Eh…

Look, I love Nicks/Buckingham Fleetwood Mac. I love Rumours. I love Tusk. I think the songs Stevie Nicks created during her initial years there are absolute, stone cold classics… not that the others, including Buckingham and Christine McVie were anything to sneeze at, either!

But… #2? Ahead of The Beatles, who this list puts at #3? Nah.

So if for me The Beatles are #1, who would I put at #2? Probably… Led Zeppelin. They are listed at #15, behind Heart at #7 which is really strange. Heart was heavily inspired by Led Zeppelin and some have even derisively stated the band is like a Led Zeppelin tribute act!

So for me, The Beatles #1, Led Zeppelin #2, then, probably, The Rolling Stones (on the above list, #10).

Then I’d probably put David Bowie at #4, even if I personally find his music better than some of the acts I’ve put above him.

We are talking about Classic Rock, Ranked, and if I think back to classic rock radio, these are the acts I tend to hear over and over and over again on that format.

But I’m sure others will disagree.

It’s the nature of the beast!

The Beatles… Oddities

Just stumbled into these various videos, created by “You Can’t Unhear This” (who has a channel on YouTube) that examine some of the various oddities found in songs by The Beatles.

If you’re as big a fan of The Beatles as I am -and who doesn’t like The Beatles?!- then you may find this stuff fascinating as well…

First up, an examination of the song I’m Looking Through You, found on the album Rubber Soul, which features a bunch of odd notes and sounds and whom the author of this video deems The Beatles’ “messiest” song…

Next up, something I already knew about but still find quite funny. It’s the case of the hidden “F-Bomb” in the very famous song Hey Jude

Here we have the mysterious guitar solo in Let It Be

And here we examine the “craziest” edit in Beatles history, found on the song Strawberry Fields Forever. I was aware of the change in singing but I have to admit it never occurred to me this was a splicing of different “takes” on the song together. Ingenious stuff!

Finally, we have the “mystery” of who did the “aaaahhhhss” in what is to many, including myself, the very best song The Beatles ever made, A Day In The Life. I have to admit, of the videos presented, this one to me seemed the most obvious and I always assumed the person singing this part was the person they said it was (I’m trying not to give away the video). Anyway, here you go!

The Most Mysterious Song on the Internet

I love a good mystery, and this one is so fascinating!

As the headline notes, this involves a song which is bouncing around the internet, a fairly catchy song clearly created in the early 1980’s by persons unknown, though there are those who are very curious to figure out the name/band behind the song.

I stumbled upon the article about this mysterious song on Rollingstone.com. Here is a link to the article which was written by David Browne:

The Unsolved Case of the Most Mysterious Song on the Internet

As always, and at the risk of giving the article away, here’s that mysterious song…

The article itself points out the history of the song being “discovered” and inquiries being made as to who created it.

Personally, I like the song but I’m a fan of post-punk 1980’s alternative music. Having said that, the song isn’t some lost classic, either. It’s fairly simple and repetitious and, I agree with the article, likely the creation of a German/Polish/etc. band. The song is in English but it doesn’t appear that English is the singer’s original/principle language.

The music itself is remarkably clear, ie you hear clearly the guitars, the drumming, the bass, etc. This suggests the song isn’t a “live” recording (ie in front of an audience) but rather was recorded and mixed in a studio and likely then released to fans and or/clubs along with radio stations. That’s probably how it made it to what one assumes is the airwaves: It was probably featured on a radio show back in the day that promoted “new” music.

I further strongly suspect the band never really hit it all that big and, like many other bands out there, never connected with audiences to the point where they could continue this career. Perhaps this song proved their sole foray into the airwaves and, afterwards, they were forced to return to their “real” lives and work.

Given the song is likely from the early 1980’s, it is also possible the singer/musicians may no longer even be alive today. If the people who made the song were, say, in their mid-late 20’s when the song was released in the early 1980’s, they could be in their late 50’s or even early 60’s now.

Regardless, its a fun mystery and I really hope they figure out the people behind this song.

Perhaps they have another out there as well?

Sad music news…

A few days ago, September 1st to be exact, I wrote about an article by Damon Linker over at week.com regarding The Coming Death of Every Rock Legend. You can read my original article here.

The gist of Mr. Linker’s article was that many Rock legends, musicians who rose up and became popular during the1960’s and into the early 1980’s, are getting quite old now. They were part of a certain generation that, today, are in their 70’s.

In my writing, I pointed out some of the other artists who are not mentioned in Mr. Linker’s article. I pointed out the members of The Cars and, very sadly, yesterday it was reported that lead singer/songwriter Ric Ocasek had passed away…

CNN: Ric Ocasek, lead singer of The Cars passes away at 75

Mr. Ocasek was often the face of The Cars and wrote most of their songs. Benjamin Orr, the band’s other lead singer, sang many of the most popular songs. Reportedly Mr. Ocasek knew Mr. Orr was a better singer and stated something along the lines of “When I write a good song I sing it. When I write a great song I get Benjamin to sing it.” Mr. Orr passed away from cancer in 2000.

It’s so sad to read about Mr. Ocasek’s passing and, like Mr. Linker’s article points out, we’re at a point where reading about very popular musical stars passing is going to become something of a regular thing.

Case in point: Three days ago, on September 13th, news came of the passing of singer Eddie Money, whose death was related to esophageal cancer, which he revealed to the press a month or so before his passing.

In honor of both, I present a favorite Eddie Money song followed by one of my favorite The Cars tunes…

Loved that tune!

Now for The Cars. This song, and video, were heavily played on MTV back in the day…

Great stuff. May they both rest in peace.

Death of Rock Legends…

Rather depressing article I stumbled upon written by Damon Linker and presented on the week.com regarding…

The coming death of every Rock Legend

As they say, time ticks on, for wealthy and poor, and the reality is that most of the “biggest” rock legends, those who emerged in the 1960’s and 70’s, are getting awfully old. Some, like David Bowie, Lou Reed, and Tom Petty, have already passed, while its only a matter of time for many, many others.

At the risk of giving away the article, this paragraph illustrates only too well the current situation regarding many rock stars of that era:

Behold the killing fields that lie before us: Bob Dylan (78 years old); Paul McCartney (77); Paul Simon (77) and Art Garfunkel (77); Carole King (77); Brian Wilson (77); Mick Jagger (76) and Keith Richards (75); Joni Mitchell (75); Jimmy Page (75) and Robert Plant (71); Ray Davies (75); Roger Daltrey (75) and Pete Townshend (74); Roger Waters (75) and David Gilmour (73); Rod Stewart (74); Eric Clapton (74); Debbie Harry (74); Neil Young (73); Van Morrison (73); Bryan Ferry (73); Elton John (72); Don Henley (72); James Taylor (71); Jackson Browne (70); Billy Joel (70); and Bruce Springsteen (69, but turning 70 next month).

Oh my.

(Note Paul McCartney is listed but the other surviving Beatles bandmate, Ringo Starr, who is 79, is not listed!)

And as I was thinking about the people listed above, I couldn’t help but recall some people not on the list.

For example, how about Fleetwood Mac’s classic Rumours lineup? We’ve got Stevie Nicks (71), Lindsey Buckingham (69), Christie McVie (76), Mick Fleetwood (72), and John McVie (73).

Who else? How about the original members of Yes? Jon Anderson (74), Steve Howe (72), and Rick Wakeman (70).

Let’s move along to the original members of KISS. Paul Stanley is 67 (relatively young!). Gene Simmons is 70, Peter Criss is 74, and Ace Frehley is 68.

What about the members of Black Sabbath? Ozzy Ozbourne is 70. Tony Immi is 71. Bill Ward is 71. Geezer Butler is 70.

One more: The surviving members of The Cars (Benjamin Orr, the band’s bassist and lead singer on many of their biggest hits, including Drive, passed away from cancer in 2000): Ric Ocasek is 75. Elliot Easton is a very young 65, Greg Hawkes is 66, and David Robinson is 70.

I could go on and on, listing members of various bands or famous singers, and depress myself all the more about their ages and the fact that we will indeed, likely in the next decade or so, see many of these people pass.

It’s articles like this one that make what could be a bright and beautiful day all the more sobering. Enjoy life while you can!

Haunting…

So I’m here writing my latest book and generally suffering through the frustrations of trying to once again create something new while simultaneously dealing with all the fixes to my home and general tight time to do it all…

…and then I stumble upon this, the 50th Anniversary release -and remastering by Tony Visconti, David Bowie’s long time producer- of the first big David Bowie hit, Space Oddity.

Yeah, haunting is the right word…

The video seems to mix footage from David Bowie’s 50th year anniversary concert (that’s Bowie with the reddish hair) with footage which seems to have been taken during the Let’s Dance years (or thereabouts) in the 1980’s. That would be the more black and white-ish footage with Bowie having the much fuller hairdo.

The new Visconti mix, IMHO, is terrific. The drums in particular sound very crisp. The reverb upon Bowie saying “Liftoff” could be a little much to some, but I didn’t mind.

Terrific stuff.

Makes me all the sadder that we’ll not hear any “new” material from Bowie… other than stuff that’s already in the vaults which hasn’t seen the light of day.

I’ve mentioned it before and, what the heck, let me post it again: One of my favorite buried treasures by Bowie, the original version of Candidate, which until the 1990’s and during the Ryko Disc releases of his previous material, hadn’t seen the light of day.

Originally intended for the Diamond Dogs album, I absolutely love this version of the song!