Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Day Two

As I continue to wrap my head around yesterday's shocking David Bowie news, I've been scrambling for the proper soundtrack. I have never found listening to music so difficult, and I don't mean in ways that are usually associated with losing someone. This isn't a bad break-up, where all songs remind you of the girl. This isn't the loss of a loved one or companion, where silence may work best. This one has caught everyone off guard. I found myself walking aimlessly around the house like Anne Bancroft at the end of 'Night Mother. Yes, those circumstances were far more intense, but the exercise of keeping busy and trying to work, while ignoring the elephant in the room, were not so different.

I began with "Blackstar," listening for the first time, knowing what I know now. Is it wrong to now think the record is a work of art? I didn't feel that on Sunday. I believe it now.

I went backwards and listened to "The Next Day," as if searching for more clues.

Look into my eyes he tells her
I'm gonna say goodbye he says yea
Do not cry she begs of him goodbye yea
All that day she thinks of his love yea

Here I am
Not quite dying
My body left to rot in a hollow tree
Its branches throwing shadows
On the gallows for me
And the next day
And the next
And another day

That was 2013.

I jumped to 1977 and put on "Low." I thought that would work on two levels, getting loud on Side One, and closing my eyes for a meditative listen on Side Two.

Nothing was really satisfying. I knew I wanted more, I wanted to hear more. Not now, though. I wanted more later. Like a year or so later. And that reality made the listening all the more complicated.

At 6:30 this morning, as I sipped a coffee, I started playing songs randomly off of my computer, enjoying the odds and ends, as they caught me off guard, much like their author.

It began with an alternate take of the Tom Verlaine cover "Kingdom Come," originally found on Scary Monsters. I enjoy the unreleased take more with the less exaggerated lead vocal.

I jumped to the U.S. single version of "Rebel, Rebel," which quite frankly, kicks the "Diamond Dogs" version's ass.

Then, it was Bowie's guest spot with David Gilmour on the Syd Barrett gem, "Arnold Layne."

This continued until about 8:00 and that's when I put something together.

I added some other oddities, including the 1979 remake of "Space Oddity," a somewhat countrified version of "Queen Bitch" from a 1971 BBC session, a 1995 rehearsal take of "Andy Warhol" from Elstree Studios, recorded prior to the Nine Inch Nails tour, a BBC recording of "The Bewlay Brothers" from 2002, possibly the very first time the song was ever performed live, "Isn't It Evening," a track from Earl Slick's excellent solo LP, "Zig Zag,"  and a few others, which you may enjoy.

This whole thing is going to take some time, so bear with me.



William Repsher said...

I'll be sure to check this one out. That 1979 version of "Space Oddity" was a holy grail of sorts for me for years, couldn't find it until the early 90's on a highly-priced 45 at a record store in the Village, at which time I was elated to buy it. Of course, it was eventually reissued with the Rykodisc albums, but it took awhile!

There's probably a cool collection to churn out, too, solely of Bowie cover versions, although there must be a few hundred versions of "Life on Mars" to sort through.

I don't think Blackstar is any better or worse with the knowledge of his passing. It sounds like a good album to me, as it did on Saturday when I listened. Bowie was too obtuse lyrically to attach too much of your emotions to his music. He's always been that way - something at times that has made me dislike his work. But then I'm won over by the wonderful pop sense, insane musical arrangements, sense of style, etc. I don't go to Bowie for emotional depth, never have, never will. There are countless more recording artists out there who were much more direct and successful in that sense -- which is not a knock on Bowie. He just didn't seemed geared or interested to do things that way. And what he did, no one else can do!

I don't monkey around with death, now that it's passed so close to me. Someone who raised you, looks you in the eye a certain way, touches your hand a certain way, basically tells you this is the last few moments we're having together, next time you see me I'll be gone, that level of communication ... I'm sorry, no music, no pop music comes anywhere near to conveying what that means in your life. It's not a riddle or word game you have to solve. It's pretty f'n direct, and you don't forget it!

Sal Nunziato said...

I'm sorry you went through what you went through, William. I won't, and no one should, tell you what to feel. And at the risk of making this forum something other than what it should be, I just need to address one thing. That was your experience. Your words in the last paragraph are strong, but I am going to have to politely disagree. That is my experience.

William Repsher said...

Fair enough, and thanks for the sympathy, it's always appreciated. We're all going to go through what I've gone through, happens to everyone along the way. Whatever helps you get by, especially in a situation like that, use it.

What was your experience?

Sal Nunziato said...

I'd be happy to share it with you next time we bump into each other in the hood. Or feel free to e-mail me.

Robin said...

Thank you Sal. I worked from home yesterday so was able to play music out loud so to speak... I listened to Low at first as well. By the evening though something was pulling me more and more to early David, especially "Letter to Hermione" and treasuring the lyrics more than I think I ever did, posting them here and there.

"The hand that wrote this letter sweeps the pillow clean / So rest your head and read a treasured dream / I care for no one else but you, I tear my soul to cease the pain / I think maybe you feel the same, what can we do?"

I also think his passing doesn't change Blackstar so much as illuminate it so you can see (hear) it with a different ear. It is art. It's odd I never found him obtuse- I love how all of us see and feel things slightly differently. David knew what was going on, and I think he knew sort of where he was going.

A walk in the woods said...

I'm looking forward to this mix. Still reeling from the news... and this one is hitting me harder than usual, much like Lou Reed's passing did.

Somehow, when B.B. King or even Lemmy, passed, it didn't strike me like this. They were stylists who did what they did very well - but didn't necessarily open up a world for me.

Reed and Bowie did do that sort of thing - and it's strange to not have their brand of weirdness alive in the world and creating things.

whattawino said...

Tough post...Great mix...Thanks and more to come, I'm sure.

wardo said...

Yup -- I'm the guy that still prefers the album version of Rebel Rebel over the single. But hey, I'll listen to any Bowie right now. Thanks Sal.

Chris Collins said...

I'm still putting this together myself. This feels personal and real. It hurts.

Thanks for doing this.

William Repsher said...

This is a good mix of material, very well done. I'm sure we all have our hidden gems, but you got a few I don't have, which is much appreciated. I haven't really been listening the last two days so much as watching various videos on youtube. And I can't get over his version of "Footstomping" from The Dick Cavett Show. Not so much for him, although it's a solid performance, but more for when the camera cuts over to Ava Cherry dancing. It's jaw-dropping how that woman moves:


buzzbabyjesus said...

I was going to do something like this. For now yours looks exactly right.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Blackstar is one of his very best.

dogbreath said...

A thoughtful compilation and a fine tribute to the man and the artist. I took to "Lazarus" straight away on its release, ignorant of any implications back then, and can't help but view "Blackstar" the album in a different light now - especially after repeated viewings of the otherworldly and haunting videos for "Lazarus" and "Blackstar" the track. What a way to end it! A fabulous back catalogue that flags up many a milestone in mine and countless other people's lives. Great mix, many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks sal

Nice mix to add to the collection