david bowie and all the old dudes…the last of a trilogy
In one week…..The Beach Boys, Neil Young and now…David Bowie. I wrote about the first two already and wasn’t blown away by neither of them. Beautiful moments indeed, but poor choices mars (not Mars) each. And then I get this Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars remastered disc in the mail, celebrating the 40 year anniversary of the release and damn…it’s a keeper. What a smooth move to not go in and do some new fangled sounds, but to take a classic album and sonically clean it up with studio pixie dust.
(I could probably include Paul Simon’s Graceland remaster as well in this post, but then it wouldn’t be a trilogy and I’d have to change the title so I’ll keep it the way I started it.)
David Bowie. Nothing to do with roots music or Americana or surf or acoustic or folk. Glitter and glam fairy (a Jerseylicious reference) rock from the early seventies that is as anti-anti as anything we here at No Dep-ville say that we like. Some of you must be cringing this wasted space that we could best be using for more about Neil or Bob or Gram or Alejandro or Townes or any number of our hunky dory heroes (a Bowie reference).
But once upon a time when I was just a young Deadhead before they even came up with that term, the east coast promotion man for RCA Records laid tickets on me for every night – three of them in a row – that Bowie debuted Ziggy and The Spiders from Mars, with Mott The Hoople opening up for them. Long haired, denim bells and cowboy boots…I didn’t quite fit in with the boys and girls in dresses and makeup that lined up outside the Tower Theater in Upper Darby. I thought I was going to some stupid concert, but I walked into a movement. Glam. Wham. Bam.
Mott blew the hair off my back and were one of the most powerful bands I’d ever seen live. And when Bowie comes out in just a suit with a sax around his neck to play on “All The Young Dudes” it was a dark cherry chocolate moment. Rich and deep sound as the walls pulsed in and out. Electricity in the air and then the theater went dark for a moment, the lights came up and they were gone. And we waited for the man.
Except for a carnival sideshow I went to as a little kid and saw a two-headed man, bearded lady and lizard skinned kid, Bowie in full Ziggy regalia was as if…as if…as if…he had just landed from Mars. A strange alien creature. The Dead and New Riders and the Stones and the Byrds and Gram and Pete Seeger and Dylan and Spooky Tooth and Duane Allman….none of those guys looked like David Bowie. They just played music. Ok….maybe Alice Cooper, the Fugs and Mothers and a few others were hitting up mommy’s closet too, but nothing like this. And here it is almost 40 years ago and I can remember every note, every song, every move. I was transfixed and bewildered and no…I didn’t trade in my acoustic and stop playing bluegrass and folk music. But I was psychedelicized by the performances.
Now let me tell you about Dynaflex. RCA called it a “flexible formulation” that made your records lay flatter on the turntable. Less breakage and warping. And, oh by the way, much lighter and cheaper to ship. And the funny little secret about this disc was that the plastic shrink wrap would tighten up and actually increase warpage…making your record look like a post-modern ashtray made in high school pottery class. And it made the sound go wah wah wah wah wah. From 1969 to 1980 those little Nippers’ at RCA pushed it on us like heroin in Needle Park.
So to the point or stylus if you must: 40 years after the fact we have a remastered Ziggy album released that sounds the way it’s supposed to sound and you know what? Screw Neil Young and his Americana grunge and the Beach Boys’ “let’s prop up Brian and suck his blood again” album and listen to me: if you want to re-experience your youth and wax nostalgic about the old days, get this one for sure. I’m hearing sounds on it that I’ve never, ever heard before. And although I’m not a huge Bowie fan, for three nights in 1972 this was the shit. As I sit here and listen to it all cleaned up and pretty…consider me a happy little spider.