Everyone knows that The Rolling Stones are the main attraction at Glastonbury this weekend. However the internet has been awash with rumours that a certain other vintage pop star who is on the comeback trail, might play a secret set at the fest.
Yep William Hill is offering odds of 6/1 on David Bowie playing Glasto with him at 10/1 joining the Stones on stage.
“Every festival around the world this year have been plagued by rumours that Bowie will play a secret set and with odds of 6/1, it looks likely that he may wait for the biggest stage of all, Glastonbury, to do so,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly.
Now Sennheiser has landed one of the coolest collaborations of all. It is offering a limited edition (500 copies only) pair of Momentum headphones that commemorate its recent venture with David Bowie.
Sennheiser are one of the sponsors of the ‘David Bowie is’ exhibition which opens on 23rd March at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. To commemorate this it is launching £329.99 Momentum headphones inspired by the Dame, which it claims are a real ‘collectible for all Bowie and music fans.’
They don’t say a great deal about the Bowie branding. So let’s concentrate on the cans which come with a 3.5 mm stereo jack and an additional cable that has a smart remote and microphone so users can make and receive calls while the phones are connected to their phone.
They are a closed design and come with a luxurious and tough breathable leather headband for optimum sweat and water resistance
With all due respect to Mr Smith this hardly looks like his most challenging projects, The shirts, which are white and available with (men) or without (women) sleeves feature the image from Bowie’s new album The Next Day – itself a cut up of the sleeve of Heroes. They are made from high quality organic cotton and complimented by a simple ‘Paul Smith for David Bowie’ insignia.
It is not a new partnership either as Paul Smith and Bowie have apparently been pals for years.
“David Bowie has worn a lot of Paul Smith throughout his career and I was excited and delighted when asked if I would do the official T-Shirt for his album The Next Day. They’ll also be some other great things coming up later in the year.” Paul explains.
The men’s t-shirt will be available from 7th March via PaulSmith.co.uk and from the 8th March via our standalone shops and key wholesale partners. The same T-shirt in women’s fits will be available exclusively from the 7th March via PaulSmith.co.uk.
There’s no details of the price – but I guess they will be fairly pricey.
More partnerships between Paul Smith and David Bowie are planned for the coming months.
When What Would David Bowie Do? was conceived in a fit of pique one June morning in 2010, it was generally assumed that the object of its title was quietly enjoying retirement in New York, walking daughter Lexi to school and basking in the warm glow of marriage to the former supermodel Iman.
Sightings had been rare since 2004 when, towards the end of his Reality Tour, David Bowie underwent heart surgery. A guest spot with Ricky Gervais in Extras, a one-off show with David Gilmour, and a supporting appearance at the premiere of his director son Duncan Jones’ film Moon seemed to be about it. Even a photograph, last October, of Bowie near his Lafayette Street condominium, apparently out buying the papers, seemed nothing more than a rare sighting of a reclusive retiree.
On January 7 this year, the day before The Dame’s 66th birthday, nothing seemed stirring in Bowieland. The next day changed all that.
The Dame returns
Ever since the Brixton-born David Robert Jones released Space Oddity in the summer of 1969, cashing in on Neil Armstrong’s giant leap for mankind, the renamed David Bowie has, arguably, been the most talked about rock star of his generation. And I mean, talked about. I can’t think of another music icon – even Elvis – to have been so forensically debated. Madonna may have absorbed Bowie’s ability to evolve visually, but she is nevertheless dilettante in comparison.
Because, whichever version or angle of Bowie you choose to examine – folk-rocker, glam-rocker, funk-rocker, arguable godfather of punk, actor, drug-addled superstar, diva…the list is, actually, endless – no-one has commanded as much re-examination. Even with moments of misadventure – quasi-fascist salutes at Victoria Station, the disappearing-up-own-arse Glass Spider Tour, Tin Machine, flirtations with club culture, discussions with the Labrynth costume designer – Bowie has always been able to command maximum media interest.
So, when early on January 8, word starting spreading that Bowie had released a new single, gobs were universally smacked. When it emerged that he’d actually been working in complete secret for two years on an album or more’s worth of new material (the October photograph was actually taken outside the recording studio…), journalists and long-time fans alike started experiencing tremors of excitement…and fear.
Comebacks are rarely that good. The chasm between expectation and reality is usually perilously deep. It’s even worse when you have more than 40 years of work to be compared with. Thus, the conventional wisdom is that the Stones haven’t made a decent record since Exile On Main Street, and McCartney since Let It Be, which is like saying a stick man cartoon by Picasso on the back of a beer mat is “a bit crap” by comparison with his Guernica.
As for Bowie, his golden years, ho-ho, were behind him in the era of Ziggy, Young Americans and the Berlin trilogy, Low, Heroes and Lodger. The arrival, then, next week of Bowie’s first new album in a decade, The Next Day, should be met with trepidation. Much like the adage “never meet your heroes”, the grave concern is that it won’t be any good, that it will be some latter day Bowie knock-off, like more recent efforts by Bob Dylan, closer to self-parody.
That gorgeous single
When Where Are We Now? was released on January 8, the majority of journalists went into paroxysms of ecstasy that not only was The Dame back, back, back, but back with a song of melancholy beauty, or beautiful melancholy, and that if the subsequent album was anywhere as good, life as we know it will change for the better.
Other journalists were simply left gasping for air that Bowie should have been able to work in absolute secret for two years with producer Tony Visconti and a small group of musicians like bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, drummer Zachary Alford and guitarist Gerry Leonard, who formed the nucleus of Bowie’s group on The Reality Tour, without something leaking. After all, in this era of Twitter and celebrities posting photographs of themselves in all manner of private moments, it is virtually impossible not to know every last detail about, well, everyone.
There were, however, a few lone dissenters, professional curmudgeons who declared “meh…”, largely for contrarian effect, methinks. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course, and if that was genuinely their feeling, then they have a perfect right to accuse everyone else of praising the emperor’s new clothes.
The reality, however, of The Next Day, is that it is without doubt one of Bowie’s best albums. Ever.
“But he would say that, wouldn’t he” is, I know, your immediate reaction to that statement. But the truth is, it really is that good.
True, rationality is a scarce commodity when an icon like Bowie produces something new, lest he should produce something after such silence.
The best moments
The title track which opens the album is vintage Bowie. Grating guitars and boinking bass notes à-la Fashion introduce a song that sets the lyrical tone of the entire album, as Bowie – rather than looking back in wistful dotage, as some predicted it would be – looks towards a future dystopia. Bleak, that premise may be, but it’s also a damn good pop song, with the chorus “Here I am, not quite dying” providing as much a demonstration of Bowie’s sense of humour as a statement of his vitality. Take note, vendors of effluence pervading our TV screens on a Saturday night.
The job of rock star is largely about swagger. That, to be honest, is mainly what makes them a rock star to begin with. Bowie, one suspects, has always been an actor playing a rock star, applying a form of total theatre throughout his career. Dirty Boys starts with a jumpy, nervous sax-driven rhythm and a telephone-filtered vocal treatment before opening up into an Anthony Burgess-esque story of thuggery and feather-hatted yobs smashing up Finchley Fair with cricket bats. It’s hard to imagine One Direction doing anything similar anytime soon.
While Bowie has been away the cult of celebrity has shifted on its axis, as reality TV shows have turned non-descript fools into household names selling self-branded perfume. The Stars (Are Out Tonight) wryly addresses this with an imagined world that celebrities have actually taken over (“They burn you with their radium smiles and trap you with their beautiful eyes”). Given the amount of media attention the Kardashian family generate, it’s possible this may have already taken place, but on this sweeping song – released as the second single from the album – Bowie takes the notion of The Man Who Fell To Earth and applies it to celebrities – “dead ones and the living” suggesting that “Brad” (Pitt we assume) and “Kate” (Winslet?) are amongst us as aliens. And he does it with the sort of stonking mock braggadocio that made China Girl such a blast.
Within Bowie’s catalogue there are songs that make great stadium anthems, songs you can swing your pants to, songs you can rock out to and songs you can, you know, do the thing to. Love Is Lost is neither of these things. Instead, with its crisp, treated snare drum and bleed-in of heavy church organ chords, it is one of those Bowie songs that creeps up on you before attacking with a sharp lyric, this one about an arriviste individual whose “possessions are new” but whose “fear is as old as the world”.
When Where Are We Now? slipped in under the cover of radar in January, the incredulity of its unexpected appearance soon gave way to an excess examination. Like scientists scrutinising bacteria found in a small lump of space rock, marvelling at the possibility that this may be microscopic evidence of life elsewhere, Where Are We Now? was placed immediately in the petri dish.
Was Bowie dying? Was this really just a melancholy one-off to say farewell? Was it a mournful recollection of his days in Berlin with Iggy and Eno, recording the albums that would critically resurrect his career? As producer Tony Visconti explained in interviews, it turns out that this is the most downbeat of an otherwise upbeat collection of 14 tracks (17 if you buy the ‘deluxe’ version). It is, after repeated listens over the last six weeks (and I mean, repeated – on January 8 it was the only thing I listened to all day), one of the most beautiful songs The Dame has ever produced. One that ultimately uplifts, despite its gloomy premise. And, yes, it will be amazing to hear live. DB, please note.
Out Suedeing Suede
The clock is turned back almost to the beginning with the Hunky Dory-era feel of Valentine’s Day, one of those terrific vignettes Bowie is so adept at, the story of a quirky little sociopath with a “tiny face” and a “tiny heart” who spends his time being a bit of arse.
Bowie dives into his broad vocal spectrum for If You Can’t See Me, sounding like a Dalek in another song about a despotic nutjob and, possibly, a cross-dressing nutjob (“I could wear your new blue shoes, I should wear your old red dress”). It’s a frenetic, short song which threatens to drag Bowie back to his ill-advised late-’90s encounter with drum’n'bass, but mercifully stops short.
I’d Rather Be High is the most lary track on the album, and one that the Gallaghers will kick themselves over, with it’s Tomorrow Never Knows vibe and Champagne Supernova guitar. It’s an open, expansive song, the story of a soldier wishing he was anywhere but the desert battlefield he finds himself, “training these guns on those men in the sand”. Much of this album concerns itself with an imagined future of dictatorial chaos, but this track – of all – is the closest Bowie appears to get to commenting on the present, having last written anything only two years after his adopted hometown was shattered by airliners hitting the World Trade Center, and the Middle East being opened up for revenge in the aftermath.
Just because Bowie has spent the last few years out of the limelight doesn’t mean that he’s been living Miss Havisham-like in his New York apartment brooding. It’s quite possible that, when not doing schoolruns and picking up groceries, he’s been quite happily enjoying life. Being married to Iman helps, which might explain the loose enjoyment of Boss Of Me, another great pop song with the pure romantic hook of “Who’d have ever thought of it, who’d have ever dreamed, that a small-town girl like you could be the boss of me?”. Either that, or a very odd Bruce Springsteen reference.
Opening with the longest saxophone note since Lee Thompson’s on Night Boat To Cairo, Dancing Out In Space draws together two of Bowie’s longest thematic interests – space and alienation – in a boppy, finger-popping, early-’80s jig of a song that could easily have found its way onto Let’s Dance.
Making a reference, like that, to an earlier excerpt from the back catalogue is an ever-present danger in listening to The Next Day. Such is our affinity with Bowie’s style, Bowie’s sound and Bowie’s storytelling that there are throwbacks and references to so much of his 44-year career. None are necessarily intentional, or attempts at self-regarding pastiche.
With every new song on the album there is both familiarity and unfamiliarity: How Does The Grass Grow? is, lyrically, another vision of hell, but with a Broadway-camp “na-na-na-nah” chorus and the sort of tight, solid bass, guitar and drum performance that underpinned the Berlin trilogy.
Underpinned by the sort of power-chorded, riff-heavy guitar work that powered 1980s poodle rock, (You Will) Set The World On Fire harks back to New York in the 1960s and the hippy-dippy aspirations of the Greenwich Village folk set. While the likes of Joan Baez and Bob Dylan may have been singing about peaceful revolution with acoustic guitars and harmonicas, Bowie hits out at the ill-faited idealism of the peace movement, presenting another view of modern hell, but from the perspective of a certain cynicism “I can hear the nation cry”.
The influence of Scott Walker
Taking it’s title from Heartbreak Hotel, Bowie takes a melodramatic tour through Scott Walker territory with the old-school ballad You Feel So Lonely You Could Die. It isn’t a happy song, calling up more imagery of a world-gone-wrong as the backdrop of story about a relationship-gone-wrong.
Walker’s influence makes another appearance with Heat, a short, almost coda of a final track of the ‘standard’ version of The Next Day, in which Bowie croons his way through a song about self-questioning, replete with Starman ch-ch-chang guitars, and a string arrangement so wigged out you half expect William Shatner to pop up, overacting his way through the spoken lyrics of Space Oddity. It is, it must be said, a very odd end to the album. But at 52 minutes in total length, The Next Day is a full and as nourishing a Bowie record as anyone could have hoped for.
It is a proper album. This is no collection of scraps that have been hanging around, but an album that, from start to finish, has purpose and meaning. There was so much to be fearful of. Mercifully, those fears were completely unfounded. Welcome back David. And thanks.
Simon Poulter edits What Would David Bowie Do, so he seemed the right person to have the last word on what has been a momentous day for fans of the Dame.
So the Dame is back, back, BACK. Unexpected and brilliantly unannounced.
On his 66th birthday (a date he appropriately shares with Elvis Presley), out of seemingly nowhere, David Bowie has released Where Are We Now?, a haunting and, to be oxymoronic, joyously melancholic single.
And there’s more: the equally unexpected new album The Next Day, due in March. This amounts to a bounty of riches from Bowie. For an artist who appeared to have withdrawn from public life following heart surgery nine years ago (his last “appearance” was being papped in New York while out buying music magazines in October), this most enigmatic of reappearances has brought delight and wonder to the Bowiedom.
His last live performance – singing the Roger Waters parts of Comfortably Numb on a David Gilmour solo show – was in 2006, and since then it was assumed by many that the Dame had entered gentle retirement. Even news that London’s V&A museum was to be stage a major Bowie exhibition this spring raised speculation that the singer himself was behind its curation, suggesting new activity. His ‘people’ strenuously denied any involvement from or endorsement by Bowie, but given the dates of the exhibition and the release of The Next Day, one can’t help feeling the timing is more than coincidental.
Time will tell. For now, lets savour the moment: Where Are We Now? – produced by Tony Visconti, Bowie’s producer on the legendary Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and Lodger – nods to that period with various references to Berlin streets.
A suggested album cover for The Next Day, with the title simply superimposed over the Heroes sleeve, hints at Bowie using these new recordings to reflect.
Where Are We Now? certainly has the air of someone in retrospective contemplation. It’s piano-driven melody with a simple synth bed and and spacy drum track, is tied to somewhat mournful lyrics and an apparent sadness in Bowie’s voice.
The accompanying video is equally downbeat, featuring Bowie’s face attached to a puppet, with the song’s lyrics peppered throughout like an abstract karaoke screen, while suitably dour images of Berlin pass through.
Plenty will assume that this is Bowie’s most strident gesture yet of bowing out, just as Bob Dylan’s Tempest was meant to be his signal to the world that it was all over (based on the loose conjecture that The Tempest was thought to be Shakespeare’s swansong as a playwright). But Bowie is, and always has been, an enigmatic actor, and his moments of Greta Garbo moments of withdrawal have been numerous. But then, as his official spokesman said today in a statement, “Throwing shadows and avoiding the industry treadmill is very David Bowie.” Quite true.
He hasn’t performed live since 2006 and has rarely been seen in public since then. His last studio album came out 10 years ago, and there has been an air of reflection in a lot of his most recent work, “most recent” not fully reflecting how long it has been since we’ve had anything new to devour. The beautiful Survive, taken off his final EMI album, Hours is a perfect example of a reflective Bowie, rather than the more provactive and even upbeat Bowie of yore.
Last year Bowie was reportedly approached to play a part in the London Olympics opening ceremony, but turned the opportunity down (to be replaced by a projected montage that served only to remind . The assumption was made that, following his Reality tour in 2003, and the heart bypass that truncated that, the Dame had walked – not trounced – quietly off into the Manhattan sunset.
However, first thing this morning, Bowie’s official Facebook and Twitter accounts had other ideas: “CHECK OUT WWW.DAVIDBOWIE.COM NOW!” trumpeted @DavidBowieReal. “Think we’re in for a big surprise…” If you’ve not already stumbled upon it, you need to check out http://www.davidbowie.com/ for a very well kept secret right now. This really is turning out to be quite some birthday!”.
Few have disagreed. Indeed, some have become quite emotional at the news. Where Are We Now? may not be a classic Bowie song, but it is certainly classic Bowie.
“I’m so insanely excited,” tweeted Caitlin Moran. “It’s like hearing King Arthur’s voice from the cave.”Even Duncan Jones, Bowie’s film maker son, commented on Twitter: “Would be lovely if all of you could spread the word about da’s new album. First in ten years, and its a good ‘un!”
2012 was a year of major anniversaries, in particular celebrating 1962 as a year of cultural epochs – debuts for The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and James Bond amongst them. With the surprise appearance of new material from David Bowie, it’s quite possible that we have a lot to look forward to in 2013, with the emphasis on “forward”, even if with a tinge of nostalgia about it.
So Happy Birthday, David. And thanks for the present. It really is just what we’ve always wanted.
Personally I think it was all downhill for David Bowie after his 1966 mod-pop masterpiece Can’t Help Thinking About Me, but I do know that a few people rate Hunky Dory, Ziggy and that weird one with the New Romantics on it, and it is his birthday so I won’t moan about his later output. Instead but put your prejudices to one side for a mo as we try and convince you that there are some songs in the Bowie canon that you may never had heard of that are worthy of a spin. I refer, of course, to his self-titled 1967 debut LP on Deram.
Now all but the privileged few will have heard the Bromley boy’s debut LP, largely because rock snobs have for decades written it off as a Anthony Newley pastiche. The fact that its preceding single, The Laughing Gnome, featured guest vocals from what sounds like Cilla Black quaffing helium didn’t help matters either.
Nevertheless, David Bowie (the album) is a place I visit regularly, mostly to play Maid of Bond Street, a genuinely tender little ditty that stays in your heads for days. The album also boasts one of his best ever singles, Love you Til Tuesday, which we adore for its juddering downward bass line, chirpy strings and genius pay off line about stretching it to Wednesday. Few other artists have tapped into the frailty of human relationships in such a sympathetic way. Rubber Band with its Salvation Army style shuffle is a wonderful evocation of Olde England – Ray Davies spends most evenings wishing he’d written it – while Bowie’s pleading vocal on Sell Me A Coat is among the most dramatic and poignant of his long career.
Sadly for Bowie, the album proved to be a one-off and within a few years he’d traded the subtle witticism of his early stuff for the fun, but rather obvious Mick Ronson powered glam rock riffs. And while he did knock out of a few good tunes later in his career, Heroes, Boys Keep Swinging and Oh You Pretty Things (Peter Noone version obviously), in my opinion little compares to this album, his early Pye 45s and of course the non-album cut The London Boys. Not just a brilliant evocation of swinging Soho from 1967, but also a tune that lent its name to one of the ’80s top notch disco bands. It doesn’t get much better than that.
And here is Can’t Help Thinking About Me – his best song ever
Ziggy Stardust. The Thin White Duke. David Robert Jones. Whatever you call him, David Bowie, the chameleon of pop, is back!
Celebrating today his 66th birthday, the enigmatic icon marked the occasion with the release of a new single ‘Where Are We Now’ and news of a new album called ‘The Next Day’ touching down in March.
You can listen to ‘Where Are We Now?’ by hitting up the YouTube video above, a melancholic track that recalls cuts from Bowie’s 1999 album ‘hours…’.
With ‘The Next Day’ set to be Bowie’s 26th studio album, there are reams of goodies for the uninitiated to dive into ahead of the new albums release. And while even the casual music lover could probably hum along to ‘Heroes’ or ‘Life on Mars?’, there are plenty of killer Bowie tracks that have fallen through the cracks over the years and are often overlooked.
Here are Brandish’s top 5 Bowie gems that you might have forgotten!
John, I’m Only Dancing
A raunchy blues stomper that’s often covered, John I’m Only Dancing’s androgynous, homo-erotic undertones and searing guitars would later go on to influence the likes of Suede and Placebo.
Speed of Life
Here’s how you properly kick off a comeback. Marking the start of Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” as the first track on ‘Low’, it’s a swirling electronic instrumental with more killer riffs than you can shake a MOOG synth at. Here’s a rare live performance of the song from a 1978 gig in Dallas Texas, with Bowie looking particularly sharp.
The opening track on the classic album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’, Bowie’s apocalyptic vision starts quietly before erupting into a maelstrom of sound, setting the tone for Bowie’s most beloved record. Theatrical and wild, it hints at the closing of the Ziggy Stardust chapter that saw Bowie’s popularity at its peak.
Bowie’s best love song, Absolute Beginners soundtracked the movie of the same name. A lush track telling a tale of young love, listen how Bowie’s voice just soars for the chorus.
Though a single on ‘Let’s Dance’, arguably Bowie’s most popular later-day album, ‘Modern Love’ always plays second fiddle to the album’s titular track and ‘China Girl’ when it comes to radio play. That’s a travesty – ‘Modern Love’ is far and away the best song Bowie ever laid down during his Americana/white-boy soul phase of the mid-80’s. Read either as an attempt to turn his back on one night stands or the junk of his drug addictions, it’s Bowie at his dancey, desperate best.
It is difficult to contain my excitement this morning. Just as I had (along with most other people) assumed Bowie was enjoying retirement counting his royalties from last summer’s playing of Heroes, up he pops with a new single and an album promised. Called Where Are We Now, and produced by Tony Visconti, the new single sounds quite melancholy – a bit like Thursday’s Child and Survive from the excellent 1999 Hours album.
His voice also sounds a little shakier, but then he is 66 I guess. The single contains lots of references to the period when he lived in Berlin in the 1970s where he recorded Low and the weird video features a cut-out of his head sitting next to a woman some people assume to be Bjork – though I’m not sure. I think it’s a good single with a catchy chorus though not a massive departure from what he’s done before.
But that’s not all. Promised on March 11 is a new album called The Next Day which is bound to be massive, considering Bowie has been absent from the music scene, living as a virtual recluse if the media is to believed, for the last 10 years or so. I can’t wait. You can get full details of downloads for the single and a link to the video on Vimeo on David’s official website, David Bowie.com.
You’ve bought the singles, bought the album, bought the concert ticket, bought the T-shirt, bought your bus ticket home and now you’re being asked to buy it all over again as a live album of the show you’ve only just returned from. And, yes, you will buy it.
If you were at Newark’s Prudential Center this week, I’m sure, soon, there will be a live CD/DVD/Blu-ray Disc package of this or one of the three other gigs in the Rolling Stones’ run of 50th anniversary shows – two in London, two in New Jersey.
Over their fifty years as a band, they’ve released no less than 22 live performance albums. Such is their relentless self-merchandising under tireless CEO Mick Jagger (eight of the 22 albums are archive releases, brought out since the Stones’ last full tour), that you wouldn’t bet against a 23rd.
Stones live albums have, generally, caught the band in their natural musical habitat and, if you’re prepared to work your way through the 22, you come notice just how much they have evolved, even if you hold some deep-seated prejudice about the band from London’s suburbs who adopted the Chicago blues and went on to become easily the greatest rock and roll band in the world.
You should, then, start with the apostrophe-abusing Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out!, released in September 1970 (and re-released in 2010 as highly recommended 40th anniversary box set) captured the band in two shows in New York and Baltimore just as they were in the midst of, arguably, their most creative period, with Let It Bleed already recorded and Sticky Fingers about to go into production.
It captures a band in subtle transformation from boisterous, God-help-us-if-your-daughter-brought-them-home British beat and blues merchants into louche, 70s rock monsters.
The Beatles were, it appeared, on the way out, and new, heavier rivals like Humble Pie and Led Zeppelin were emerging from the 60s. Woodstock, Monterey and Isle Of Wight had set the bar for rock performances for the next few years, as had Jimi Hendrix, who died just three weeks after the Stones released Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! to acclaim, with critics hailing it the best live album ever.
Fast forward to 1978 and The Rolling Stones: Some Girls Live, which was released last year along with the repackaging of Some Girls, and you get the full-on Stones in the 1970s, Keith Richards now clearly out of it on whatever laboratory he was living from, Ron Wood enjoying life as the ‘new’ Stone.
Musically, though, the ‘weaving’ of Richards and Wood’s guitar is already starting to become more evident on Some Girls Live. Critics have suggested that the junkie Richards became a lazier guitarist, contributing rudimentary riffs to live performances while the more accomplished soloist Wood made all the effort. Not so: on Some Girls Live you can hear a distinct new Rolling Stones emerge, with Charlie Watts – solid to this day – at the back, Bill Wyman’s often under-rated bass playing holding it together strongly, Richards and Wood over the top of it all with their guitar fabric, and Jagger out front, camping it up for England like Andy Pandy.
Fast forward again to 2004 and the Live Licks album, recorded on their 40th anniversary greatest hits tour and you have the corporate Stones, a polished, sports stadium band who, like some giant human jukebox, pick and choose their set lists on a night-to-night basis and can command guest appearances from Sheryl Crow (on Honky Tonk Woman) and Solomon Burke on their cover of his song, Everybody Needs Somebody To Love.
There may, inevitably, be some dross in the Stones’ 22 live albums, but there are some gems too. But 22 live albums in 50 years: compare that to their great rivals, The Beatles, who barely lasted four years after their first hit record before they gave up touring altogether. The only evidence that The Beatles ever played live at all are the clips of news footage of performances drowned out by pre-pubescent screaming, or the somewhat tired and strained vibe of their 1969 Savile Row rooftop performance. If only someone had only recorded them at Hamburg’s Star Club in 1960, or at the Cavern on their triumphant return to Liverpool two years later.
The case for the Live album
The live album has been one of the music industry’s most contested products, regarded as either cynical plundering of the over-benevolent punter’s bread, man, or pointless filler between studio albums. As the Rolling Stones have frequently demonstrated, the live album has – and continues to be – fittingly reflective of their supreme stagecraft.
Paul Weller, for example, can be similarly compared, having been responsible for some brilliant in-concert releases over the years, from music press front cover flexidiscs (I still own – somewhere – a Style Council EP from Sounds featuring a blistering version of Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up) to numerous plugged and unplugged sets on his own. And I haven’t felt short changed or ripped off by any of them.
While it is true that some live releases are little more than greatest hits collections with added theatrical ambiance, many are deservedly landmark records in their own right. Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison relaunched his career, capturing a raw and emotional performance in front of inmates at California’s Folsom penitentiary, and coming on the back of the legendary country singer’s struggle with drugs.
With this context, a song like Cocaine Blues becomes more than just ironic, and when you hear a tannoy in the background ordering an inmate to report in somewhere, you have a live album as thrillingly unpolished as possible.
Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert In Central Park was another landmark, mostly for the fact it brought the warring duo back together again. The concert wasn’t so much meant to be a reunion as a benefit show for New York’s Central Park itself.
Despite being in the midst of some of Manhattan’s wealthiest real estate, the park was in a state of disrepair. So, apparently, the idea of half a million people traipsing through it for a pop concert seemed to be the answer… Concert In Central Park could be seen as a live greatest hits album of Simon & Garfunkel, which is includes some of their own solo material. It’s rough-round-the-edges (Garfunkel is said to have been unhappy with his vocals), but it superbly reminds you what made them folk-rock’s superstars.
Rough-round-the-edges, on the other hand, is what you want from The Who. Their Live At Leeds album, with its brown paper cover art, epitomises The Who live throughout their entire career – what you see (and hear) is what you get.
A loud – even on an album – run through their late ’60s ‘standard’ set, with hard core performances of Young Man Blues, Substitute, Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues, and a 14-minute assault on My Generation, it has been hailed as the best live rock album ever, but that’s always going to a subjective viewpoint.
There are, obviously plenty of live albums to remind us that some acts are no more exciting live as they were in the studio, which will thankfully explain the absence of One Direction Live From The Budokan in your record collections any time soon.
Gems you may have missed
Other live releases early on in careers, however, give fascinating insight in greatness to come. David Bowie’s Live In Santa Monica ’72 is possibly the greatest example.
It had been available for many years as a bootleg, but in being released as a limited edition CD four years ago, Bowie fans finally had their hands on an official version of a performance by the Dame in the midst of his Ziggy Stardust persona, with guitarist Mick Ronson at his absolute best, with the pair (and the other Spiders) romping through Rock’N’Roll Suicide, Life on Mars, Queen Bitch, John, I’m Only Dancing, The Jean Genie and Suffragette City, the latter presenting punk a full two years before anyone in New York had the idea of getting grungy with rock and roll.
Some live albums have built reputations as notable as many of the greatest studio albums. Frampton Comes Alive! has probably become more famous than any other album in the canon of Pete Frampton, the former Bromley schoolmate of David Bowie and Humble Pie founder.
Released in 1976 it provide to be another contradiction to the era of punk. While, elsewhere, some of Frampton’s own contemporaries were spitting their way through the punk explosion (he’s only a two years older than Joe Strummer…), here was this frizzy blond-haired pretty boy producing one of the biggest-selling albums of the 1970s, a live double album to boot, and one containing extended guitar solos.
Today, Comes Alive! comes across as somewhat pedestrian, the result of endless spins of the album’s Show Me The Way, Baby I Love Your Way and Do You Feel Like I Do America’s myriad classic rock radio stations. But there was a time when virtually every record collection featured that blue-spined double disc package with its distinct full-frame cover shot of Frampton looming out.
Another live album of genuine note is Seconds Out by Genesis. Recorded during their 1976 and 1977 tours for their A Trick Of The Tail and Wind And Wuthering records, it presented a band in transition.
After Peter Gabriel left in 1975, and Phil Collins stepped forward to become their new lead singer, the band started shifting towards more accessible material. Genesis were still telling stories, rather than performing pop songs (their first ‘love song’, Follow You, Follow Me wouldn’t appear for another year), but Collins had clearly replaced Gabriel’s somewhat aloof theatricality with his own impish, stage school-based cheeky-chappiness, which you can on the likes of Robbery, Assault And Battery and what was, then, their only hit single to date, I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe).
Seconds Out is a brilliant live album for its production quality. Plenty of bands have regarded live albums as well-intentioned ‘gifts’ for their hard-core fans, a souvenir of a memorable night, an acclaimed tour or simply a must-have for the collection with extended jams and unreleased cover versions capturing the band in their pomp and prime. Others have regarded them as official mitigations of bootleg recordings. Seconds Out is, even today, a live album I love for its authentic capture of the acoustic atmosphere of a big gig – the crowd’s roar as a band breaks into its opening number, and complicated and intricate songs that fill up the entire soundstage of your home stereo system to the extent you easily replicate the experience of being there at home. Without the beer-sticky floor of course.
But as album sales dwindle (and, perversely mainstream bands make more money these days from live shows), there is a proportionate decline in live album releases too, presumably because there are marketing people advising that “core demographics” no longer go in for them.
It remains, so it would seem, for the old guard to keep the live album flame lit. Like Led Zeppelin. For a band that didn’t really go in for releasing anything other than studio albums in their prime, they have been relatively prolific since their demise, with the awful The Song Remains The Same and How The West Was Won, not to mention Page and Plant’s No Quarter ‘unplugged’ entry. By old, I mean either those old enough to have been on the original Woodstock or Monterey line-ups, or those who wished they’d been old enough to be there.
Led Zeppellin weren’t at either Woodstock or Monterey, but then it’s arguable that by the time they took hold, they’d have been too big for either festival.
It is ironic that the Zepp have released more live material since they folded than was ever available during their career, with the recently-released multi-format Celebration Day capturing their one-off 2007 show at London’s 02 arena in honour of Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun.
It was, by all accounts of those who were there, a memorable show. But memorable for what? Probably seeing Page, Plant and Jones together again, with John Bonham’s son Jason providing uncannily similar chops to his late dad on drums.
Is it a classic Zeppelin show? Probably not, but this is where the fan’s compromise comes to effect: you know it won’t be quite like Led Zep were at one of their legendary Los Angeles gigs in the early 1970s, at a time when they were the ultimate rock bad boys on the road, but Celebration Day still goes to demonstrate why Jimmy Page has been one of the greatest rock guitarists since he was a teenage session player from Epsom, Surrey, playing on songs by Lulu, Marianne Faithful and, believe it or not, the Rolling Stones and The Who.
This year’s London 2012 Olympics, with its opening and closing ceremonies, perhaps suggested that the big stadium filling acts are in decline. Bruce Springsteen, U2 and their protégés Coldplay are amongst the few truly ‘big’ stadium bands left for whom you might want to buy a live album afterwards. Coldplay are certainly making the most of their elongated greatest hits show at the London 2012 Paralympics closing ceremony, by releasing Mylo Xyloto Live 2012, which captures the junior pomp rockers in their most arena-packing filling, U2 crown-usurping majesty.
The golden age of live albums was, however, without doubt the late 60s into the early 1980s. Hardly anyone who played Bill Graham’s legendary Fillmore in San Francisco, or its sibling Fillmore East in New York during the 70s failed to release a live album on the back of such shows. The Fillmore East’s unique acoustics even made for a more pristine recording that captured the hall’s legendary ambience.
And thus, between the two venues, there is an enormous list of live releases from the likes of Henrix, The Grateful Dead, Steve Miller, Otis Redding, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Frank Zappa, The Doors, Cream (and other Clapton vehicles), The Byrds, Carlos Santana, The Allman Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Pink Floyd. Indeed, there was a time when if you hadn’t released an album with at least one of the Fillmore venues in the title, you really weren’t anything.
Today, do we need them? The live album harks back to an era before everyone carried a recording studio around in their pockets, as they do today. Live albums were meant to prevent bootleggers sneaking shoebox-sized cassette recorders into gigs and making off with second-rate bootlegs.
Today, however, the concert experience is a gymnastic exercise in craning through a sea of smartphones recording shaky but high(ish) definition clips for YouTube and posterity. And often, by the time you’ve caught the bus home, much of the show you’ve just seen will have already been posted online, with reasonably good quality picture and sound.
The only thing you don’t get on a professionally recorded live album is the noise of people next to the iPhone owner, yakking on about their recurring flare-up of cystitis, or arguing about whose round it is…
Article originally appeared here. Stones pic from PA
Rock ‘n’ roll can be broken down as follows: 10% fashion, 10% music and 110% HAIR. We know that adds up to 130%. That’s why we’re writing for a fashion site and aren’t quantum physicists. But it also acts to highlight just how important good hair can be in the making of a musical and cultural icon, and cementing the status of bona-fide rock ‘n’ roll stars. Where would Elvis be without his quiff? Or Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust without his…his unique style? On the dole queue, that’s where. Here, Brandish pick out the 20 most iconic hair styles in rock ‘n’ roll history.
Flaming red with a quiff up top and party mullet at the back, David Bowie's transformation into Ziggy Stardust was one of the most striking in pop history. With the sci-fi influenced Ziggy Stardust look, Bowie opened the floodgates for a whole sea of androgynous stars and, to a lesser extent, made homosexuality and bisexuality less of a rock 'n' roll taboo in the process.
These t-shirts available at Luisaviaroma by Gorgeous take rock items and give them a morbid makeover. Both Bowie and Gene Simmons get the treatment and the t-shirts are %100 organic and given a worn vintage effect.
Antony Price worked for Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music in the ’80s as a stylist and was responsible for the Lou Reed ‘Transformer’ album cover. Pivotal in forming the louche, ultra sexy look that defined that period Price has also collaborated with David Bowie and Duran Duran. He currently works on made-to-measure as well as Daphne Guinness’ line of shirts.
His latest project is the ‘Priceless’ range for Topman, consisting of suits, overcoats and shirts. The emphasis is on tailoring and quality, which is reflected in the prices (£50 to £180 for a suit). The collection debuts on November 3rd, and it will be available from the London flagship store as well as online.
It’s always a bit depressing when you see your heroes doing adverts; admittedly this French Vittel advert isn’t too bad but it still hurts to see the Thin White Duke hamming it up. Set in an imaginary flatshare he has with Ziggy Stardust and some of his other alter-egos Bowie is exasperated at their mineral water consumption (how selfish!) and wanders down the street to purchase another bottle of Vittel.
Another icon, this time the wonderful David Bowie who
is curating an H&M sponsored music festival in New York this May. The High Line festival is a new multi-discipline arts festival that will be curated by a different artist each year. Spread over ten days there will be music, comedy, film, visual art and performance all handpicked by the Thin White Duke himself. The festival is named after the area which contains the High Line, a disused
elevated rail structure soon to be a community space with wetlands and meadows which runs
through the Meatpacking District, West Chelsea and Hells
Kitchen. Bowie picks for the festival include Arcade Fire, Laurie Anderson, art by Claude Cahun and comedy with Ricky Gervais.