While I don't knock myself out doing this show, I do put a modicum of effort into it, a labor of love, or of like at the very least.
Let's get our preliminaries taken care of before we get on to Bowie.
I played Sharon Jones singing Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land." My thought: In this day and age of increasing income inequality, when a segment of the political world believes that the solutions to our economic problems lie in increased privatization, and, on the other hand, we have a serious presidential candidate who unabashedly calls himself a socialist, maybe it's time to revisit the work of Woody Guthrie. I'll tell you this: his memoir, Bound for Glory
, is a fantastic read. Steinbeck would be jealous; he studied it but the Woodchuck lived it.
John Mayer's "Stop This Train" and Joshua Redman's cover. Beautiful music.
Coltrane playing a beautiful ballad; Rollins killing it, as usual, this time on Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye." I'm glad to have the lyrics in my head.
There's no love song finer
but how strange the change
from major to minor
Ev'ry time we say goodbye.
OK, on to Bowie. When I heard of his death, my first thought was, "this is going to be all over Facebook," and, believe me, it was. More than I could have imagined. It struck me first as an over-reaction, but I have been studying up, getting caught up, as it were. And I'm starting to understand. I still have a short Bowie essay up my sleeve, so I don't want to write to much; why steal your own thunder? So I'm going to let Chris O'Leary do the talking.
I admire his writing. He had a great blog, Locust Street
, which he suddenly abandoned to start a song-by-song Bowie blog
. I thought, why? Locust Street was so much more interesting. Only now am I beginning to see the light. The blog is linked, I imagine, to Chris's book on Bowie, Rebel, Rebel
So today, besides the usual nonsense, jazz, and shenanigans. I played Bowie's Ziggy Stardust album in its entirety. It may be true that it's not Bowie's best album, but it's the one that most connects with my personal history. But I'm going to let Chris do the talking.
Catamount Community Radio, Sunday mornings, 10-12 at 90.5 FM, and still not streaming on the internet.
Chris O'Leary, cut and pasted:
...David Bowie’s Christmas carol. It offers a promise of deliverance, that the human race has been redeemed by greater powers, with a chorus built for a crowd to sing it. It’s the song that finally broke Bowie, whose performance of it on a July 1972 Top of the Pops made him a nationwide, and soon worldwide, pop star. So while the Ziggy-era Bowie is remembered today for his outrageousness, the song that made his name is warm, reassuring and most of all familiar.
"Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide"
... isn’t much of a rock & roll song, either. As with much of Ziggy Stardust, “rock ‘n’ roll” happens off-stage, like naval battles in Shakespeare plays….Bowie saw “Suicide” as the ember stage of a rock singer’s life, a plastic rock star wandering, burned-out, through the streets, realizing he’s suddenly no longer young; he’s discarded, and destroyed, by his audience.
“HEY man” is the first thing you hear after the engine-revving intro. It’s not the singer, but his friend or his roommate or his lover. It’s a flat, stoned-sounding, but insistent request—it disrupts the singer’s flow, gets him flustered. (The line pans from left to right speaker, as if the ‘roommate’ is buzzing around the singer.) The needling is just one of the singer’s problems. “Suffragette City” is a ball of agitation, the frenzied thoughts and speech of someone who’s sure he’s going to get laid if only things would work out for him, if his deadbeat roommate would just get the hell out of the house for once, or if his boyfriend wouldn’t mind if he just brought this chick over for a bit. “She’s a total blam-blam!” he pleads, realizes how ridiculous he sounds, and keeps going.
Of all of Bowie’s dystopic and apocalyptic songs (and we’ve many to go), “Five Years” is the most unsettling. The key’s in the details, what Bowie discloses and, more importantly, what he doesn’t—that is, why the world is going to end. It’s as though the planet has received a terminal prognosis and has to get its affairs in order. And Bowie also wisely keeps his perspective on the street, on the masses who, having gotten the news (the same news that “all the young dudes” are carrying, Bowie later said), despair, collapse, debase themselves.
"I was in love once, maybe, and it was an awful experience. It rotted me, drained me, and it was a disease. Hateful thing, it was."
David Bowie, interviewed by Cameron Crowe in Playboy, September 1976.
It’s only five seconds in each duration but is perfect and complete: a slammed G chord, a fanfare, then the tough connective tissue leading to the next G chord. To make a riff like this, for guitarists, is like forging a passkey to Valhalla.
Most of all, there was Marc Bolan, Bowie’s greatest creative rival and, for a time, inspiration. While in early 1972 Bowie was still relatively unknown, Bolan had become a pop star (four consecutive UK #1s in 14 months) and the Ziggy Stardust storyline is in part a weird parody of Bolan’s rise to fame. Bowie watched Bolan as through a one-way mirror, mimicking his voice on “Black Country Rock,” drafting variations on Bolan in songs. A commenter noted that “The Prettiest Star” was likely as much a homage to Bolan as it (allegedly) was to Angela Bowie. “Lady Stardust,” originally called “Song For Marc,” was more overt: at the Rainbow Theater in August 1972, Bowie sang “Lady Stardust” while Bolan’s face was projected on a screen behind him.
It could be a number sung by a teenage girl in a Broadway show, it could be a paying-your-dues anthem by a metal band. “Star” has no sense of reality, of rock & roll as a business: rock stardom is a fairyland contrasted to the weary business of politics or art. The singer sees his friends commit to activism or violence (like Tony, who goes off to fight in Northern Ireland) and decides he’s not cut out for sacrifice. Instead he just wants to be a rock & roll star, which seems easy enough. “So enticing to play the part,” the singer imagines, pouting into the mirror.
I first heard “Moonage Daydream” when I was 16 years old, which is when you should first hear it. I was in my car, listening to some dubbed cassette of Bowie hits, when suddenly:
I’m an ALLIGATOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’m a MAMMAPAPA coming FOR YOU!!!
Teenage bliss. I can’t remember what my exact response was, but it was along the lines of “Jesus! What is this?”
"Hang on to Yourself"
"America is the noisiest country that ever existed."
Oscar Wilde, Impressions of America.
On 27 January 1971 David Bowie finally came to America. He had dreamed of an entrance like Oscar Wilde’s: Wilde had stepped upon a New York City dock after a cross-Atlantic cruise and was met with a mob of reporters eager for choice witticisms. Instead Bowie had to endure a flight (which he hated) and when he landed at Dulles Airport, with his Lauren Bacall haircut and “wearing a purple maxi-coat and a white chiffon scarf” (Christopher Sandford), he was detained by customs agents, who searched him, sniggered at him and finally released him after an hour.
1. Abdullah Ibrahim – Moniebah
2. Louis Armstrong – I’ll Get Mine Bye and Bye
3. John Coltrane – Why Was I Born
4. Sahib Shihab – End of a Love Affair
5. Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings – This Land is Your Land
6. Cannonball Adderley (remixed) – Bohemia After Dark
7. Porter Wagoner – Be a Little Quieter
8. David Bowie – Conversation Piece
9. Sonny Rollins – Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye
10. John Mayer – Stop this Train
11. Joshua Redman – Stop this Train
12. Pressure – Stop this Train
13. Sacri Couri – La marabina
14. Toinho Alagoas – Caráter duro
15. The Staple Singers – For What It’s Worth
David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (16-26)
16. Five Years
17. Soul Love
18. Moonage Daydream
20. It Ain’t Easy
21. Lady Stardust
23. Hang on to Yourself
24. Ziggy Stardust
25. Suffragette City
26. Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
27. Ethnic Heritage Ensemble – Freedom Jazz Dance
28. Jimmy McGriff – On the Way Home
29. Tipsy – Tuatara (remix)
30. David Bowie – Growing Up