I take umbrage with a recent Rolling Stone headline declaring >
90'S : WORST DECADE FOR A GREAT ARTIST : DAVID BOWIE
While that's certainly true commercially "we" all know it was a decade of
artistic rejuvenation and risk-taking. Somehow in the 70's no matter how
experimental or weird Bowie's releases became he was miraculously able to
eek out a popular single and bring exposure to otherwise WACKED out albums. Take Rebel Rebel or Heroes....2 great pop songs from
2 very BIZARRE albums.
Yet somehow from the 90's on VIRTUALLY every commercial move fell
completely flat with the help of uncharacteristic "bad timing" from Bowie....
take a breath.....
EXHIBIT A : Sound and Vision Tour 1990
After spending an entire year promoting Tin Machine and attempting to convince the public of his complete commitment to this new phase and
right AFTER completing a credible second album.....what does he do..?
he embarks on a "greatest hits" tour and releases a remixed version of Fame
Bad timing: His back catalog was finally being released and he simply
couldn't pass up this opportunity to promote it.
Saving Grace: Bowie and his elaborate stage looked fabulous and his "I'll
never play these songs again" gimmick sounded promising.
TIN MACHNE 2
Whatever creative momentum & interest Bowie had regained with Tin Machine
was COMPLETELY destroyed by delaying the album & confusing everyone
with a greatest hits tour.
Final Dagger: Releasing "One Shot" INSTEAD of the fabulous Glam-Pop that
is Baby Universal as the first single, ensuring other great songs an untimely
death as well: Goodbye Mr. Ed/Shopping For Girls/Amlapura.
BLACK TIE WHITE NOISE
The initial first impression is that Bowie is desperate by enlisting Nile Rodgers again....this AFTER he SHOULD'VE used him on TONIGHT or NLMD.
It was apparant from the first note that Bowie was back in form though.
Yet according to Rodgers Bowie was adamant (rightfully so) not to release
anything deemed too "dancey" or with "dance" in the title......
so what does he do...?
He releases JUMP (they say) as the first single...
No, not the Pointer Sisters Jump
or Kriss Kross' Jump
or Van Halen's Jump
or House of Pains Jump...!
...trust me...."dance" has nothing on "JUMP"...and a DJ actually mocked
Bowie's song after playing it here in LA....alot of it due to the "title" and
it's connotations.....deserved or not.....great song...unfortunate title....
poor first single....You've Been Around..?....Nite Flights...?
The obvious choice Miracle Goodnight was half-heartedly released overseas
with a FABULOUS charming video that WASN'T....prompting Rodgers to appeal to Iman & claim Bowie was nuts by willfully being uncommercial.
Instead of touring Bowie releases a video of him lip-synching songs from the
album! This after forming a band for a few live TV performances...he could've
easily had a one-off concert and taped it......
Oh, and his record company folded and tried to sue him.
THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA
A less "controversial" return to form. The cover of the soundtrack album is
a VERY unappealing picture of the cast with Bowie's name virtually hidden on
the bottom, ensuring NOBODY would know about it or hear it....& they didn't!
Whew....perfect first single....quibble....releasing the NIN remix version first,
giving the "appearance" again of straining for "edgy" credibility....when
frankly the original version with Reeves' KILLER riff is superior.
Instead of headlining his own tour he bravely takes on NIN who are FAR more
popular & has a THIRD of the audience walk out on him after his duet with
Reznor is over.....where did the "goths" have to go...?....Denny's...?
Bowie was an "outsider" on his own tour....oh, & Morrissey walks out mid-tour denying the public of a great collaboration.
Could it be...?....Little Wonder....great first single...debuted live on Fashion
Rocks with one of Bowie's most confident performances.
Again, Reznors (great, but inferior) version of I'm Afraid of Americans gets
exposure. The exhilerating album is, as became common for Bowie in the 90's greeted with skepticism by ridiculous claims of hopping on the drum
and bass bandwagon instead of just listening to the "damn fine" music
And a proposed live album was scrapped.....and no "official" release of his
50th birthday concert....one of his greatest achievements!
After the sonic onslaught of Outside/Earthling and finally gaining new and old
fans alike....Bowie releases a melancholy, weary album that is actually quite
good.....BUT...WRONG first single....this starts what I'll call the "Grower, not
a Shower" phase of (too subtle) first singles to be released from otherwise
tremendous albums.....as classy as Thursday's Child is, it's simply too
restrained and doesn't have the instant impact radio "requires"...and does
nothing to drum up interest in the album....BUT...Something in the Air...?
ah, the wasted opportunity....this also should've opened the album.
It's been alluded that a video of what would've been ANOTHER great first
single The Pretty Things are Going to Hell had been filmed & SCRAPPED!
Contrary to popular opinion I actually agree with the record company (!) that
this would've been a poor follow-up to Hours and re-introduction of Tony
Visconti.....cover songs of lightweight tunes from the '60s...?.....great idea....
classy arrangements.....but in retrospect, knowing Heathen was to follow....
this could wait.....and SHOULD'VE been released during this 6 (!) year drought.
....perfection.....FINALLY some great promotion....but ALAS....WRONG first
single.....good song....too subtle.....very plain instrumentation in the verses
that simply didn't make a presence, especially during some live TV
performances....and Pete Townshends ragged guitar solo was castrated on
the single and live performance....& Bowie eventually dropped it from the set.
A Better Future would've made a great choice.....catchy....ethereal....or even
the upbeat Afraid which would've sounded great on the radio...
Again, Bowie chooses to co-headline a festival with Moby....by-passing the
hero-worship for a collaborative effort with the likes of Busta Rhymes and
the Blue Man Group.
New Killer Star.....great song....simply another "Grower" like Slow Burn &
Thursday's Child....but in my opinion NOT the ideal first single......
NEVER GET OLD is anthemic....rollicking....defiant....for the young AND old...
and is thematically consistent with the tone of the album. Pablo Picasso
is another great choice and would've caused some (much needed) controversy by the inevitable edit of "asshole".....check out the "original"
spectacular video made for this song on YouTube using animation, etc.....
then ask whether this should've been a single or not!
Lastly, Bowie's effortless cover of the Kinks Waterloo Sunset which he DIDN'T
include on the album has recieved more airplay than ANY other Bowie song
on Steve Jones' (Bowie-worshipping) show in LA...!