AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The supporting tour for Diamond Dogs was supposed to be a theatrical extravaganza, yet as he headed out on the road, David Bowie became infatuated with Philly soul and changed his entire approach to reflect his new interest, as well as his backing band in the process. As a result, the double-album David Live captures Bowie in transition, as he moves from glam rock to plastic soul. The set list draws heavily from Ziggy Stardust-era songs, yet there are a few surprises, like a stilted cover of “Knock On Wood” and an inspired version of “All the Young Dudes,” a song Bowie gave Mott the Hoople. Since Bowie‘s attempts at soul are a little awkward at this stage, David Live is primarily of interest as a historical document, yet there’s enough good material to make it worthwhile for fanatics.
Track Listing – Disc 1
|8||All the Young Dudes||4:15|
|10||Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me||4:18|
|11||Watch That Man||5:04|
Track Listing – Disc 2
|1||Knock on Wood||3:29|
|2||Here Today, Gone Tomorrow||3:40|
|5||Panic in Detroit||5:41|
|8||The Width of a Circle||8:11|
|9||The Jean Genie||5:19|
|10||Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide||4:47|
Artist Biography by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
The cliché about David Bowie says he’s a musical chameleon, adapting himself according to fashion and trends. While such a criticism is too glib, there’s no denying that Bowie demonstrated remarkable skill for perceiving musical trends at his peak in the ’70s. After spending several years in the late ’60s as a mod and as an all-around music hall entertainer, Bowie reinvented himself as a hippie singer/songwriter. Prior to his breakthrough in 1972, he recorded a proto-metal record and a pop/rock album, eventually redefining glam rock with his ambiguously sexy Ziggy Stardust persona. Ziggy made Bowie an international star, yet he wasn’t content to continue to churn out glitter rock. By the mid-’70s, he developed an effete, sophisticated version of Philly soul that he dubbed “plastic soul,” which eventually morphed into the eerie avant pop of 1976’s Station to Station. Shortly afterward, he relocated to Berlin, where he recorded three experimental electronic albums with Brian Eno. At the dawn of the ’80s, Bowie was still at the height of his powers, yet following his blockbuster dance-pop album Let’s Dance in 1983, he slowly sank into mediocrity before salvaging his career in the early ’90s. Even when he was out of fashion in the ’80s and ’90s, it was clear that Bowie was one of the most influential musicians in rock, for better and for worse. Each one of his phases in the ’70s sparked a number of subgenres, including punk, new wave, goth rock, the new romantics, and electronica. Few rockers ever had such lasting impact.
David Jones began performing music when he was 13 years old, learning the saxophone while he was at Bromley Technical High School; another pivotal event happened at the school, when his left pupil became permanently dilated in a schoolyard fight. Following his graduation at 16, he worked as a commercial artist while playing saxophone in a number of mod bands, including the King Bees, the Manish Boys(which also featured Jimmy Page as a session man), andDavey Jones & the Lower Third. All three of those bands released singles, which were generally ignored, yet he continued performing, changing his name to David Bowie in 1966 after the Monkees‘ Davy Jones became an international star. Over the course of 1966, he released three mod singles on Pye Records, which were all ignored. The following year, he signed with Deram, releasing the music hall, Anthony Newley-styled David Bowie that year. Upon completing the record, he spent several weeks in a Scottish Buddhist monastery. Once he left the monastery, he studied with Lindsay Kemp’s mime troupe, forming his own mime company, the Feathers, in 1969. The Feathers were short-lived, and he formed the experimental art group Beckenham Arts Lab in 1969.
Bowie needed to finance the Arts Lab, so he signed with Mercury Records that year and released Man of Words, Man of Music, a trippy singer/songwriter album featuring “Space Oddity.” The song was released as a single and became a major hit in the U.K., convincing Bowie to concentrate on music. Hooking up with his old friend Marc Bolan, he began miming at some of Bolan‘s T. Rex concerts, eventually touring with Bolan, bassist/producer Tony Visconti, guitaristMick Ronson, and drummer Cambridge as Hype. The band quickly fell apart, yet Bowie and Ronson remained close, working on the material that formed Bowie‘s next album, The Man Who Sold the World, as well as recruiting Michael “Woody” Woodmansey as their drummer. Produced by Tony Visconti, who also played bass, The Man Who Sold the World was a heavy guitar rock album that failed to gain much attention. Bowie followed the album in late 1971 with the pop/rockHunky Dory, an album that featured Ronson and keyboardist Rick Wakeman.
Following its release, Bowie began to develop his most famous incarnation, Ziggy Stardust: an androgynous, bisexual rock star from another planet. Before he unveiled Ziggy, Bowie claimed in a January 1972 interview withMelody Maker that he was gay, helping to stir interest in his forthcoming album. Taking cues from Bolan‘s stylish glam rock, Bowie dyed his hair orange and began wearing women’s clothing. He began calling himself Ziggy Stardust, and his backing band — Ronson, Woodmansey, and bassistTrevor Bolder — were the Spiders from Mars. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released with much fanfare in England in late 1972. The album and its lavish, theatrical concerts became a sensation throughout England, and it helped him become the only glam rocker to carve out a niche in America. Ziggy Stardust became a word-of-mouth hit in the U.S., and the re-released “Space Oddity” — which was now also the title of the re-released Man of Words, Man of Music — reached the American Top 20. Bowie quickly followed Ziggy with Aladdin Sane later in 1973. Not only did he record a new album that year, but he also produced Lou Reed‘s Transformer, the Stooges‘ Raw Power, andMott the Hoople‘s comeback All the Young Dudes, for which he also wrote the title track.
Given the amount of work Bowie packed into 1972 and 1973, it wasn’t surprising that his relentless schedule began to catch up with him. After recording the all-covers Pin-Ups withthe Spiders from Mars, he unexpectedly announced the band’s breakup, as well as his retirement from live performances, during the group’s final show that year. He retreated from the spotlight to work on a musical adaptation ofGeorge Orwell‘s 1984, but once he was denied the rights to the novel, he transformed the work into Diamond Dogs. The album was released to generally poor reviews in 1974, yet it generated the hit single “Rebel Rebel,” and he supported the album with an elaborate and expensive American tour. As the tour progressed, Bowie became fascinated with soul music, eventually redesigning the entire show to reflect his new “plastic soul.” Hiring guitarist Carlos Alomar as the band’s leader, Bowie refashioned his group into a Philly soul band and recostumed himself in sophisticated, stylish fashions. The change took fans by surprise, as did the double-album David Live, which featured material recorded on the 1974 tour.
Young Americans, released in 1975, was the culmination ofBowie‘s soul obsession, and it became his first major crossover hit, peaking in the American Top Ten and generating his first U.S. number one hit in “Fame,” a song he co-wrote with John Lennon and Alomar. Bowie relocated to Los Angeles, where he earned his first movie role in Nicolas Roeg‘s The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). While in L.A., he recorded Station to Station, which took the plastic soul ofYoung Americans into darker, avant-garde-tinged directions yet was also a huge hit, generating the Top Ten single “Golden Years.” The album inaugurated Bowie‘s persona of the elegant “Thin White Duke,” and it reflected Bowie‘s growing cocaine-fueled paranoia. Soon, he decided Los Angeles was too boring and returned to England; shortly after arriving back in London, he gave the awaiting crowd a Nazi salute, a signal of his growing, drug-addled detachment from reality. The incident caused enormous controversy, and Bowie left the country to settle in Berlin, where he lived and worked with Brian Eno.
Once in Berlin, Bowie sobered up and began painting, as well as studying art. He also developed a fascination with German electronic music, which Eno helped him fulfill on their first album together, Low. Released early in 1977, Lowwas a startling mixture of electronics, pop, and avant-garde technique. While it was greeted with mixed reviews at the time, it proved to be one of the most influential albums of the late ’70s, as did its follow-up, Heroes, which followed that year. Not only did Bowie record two solo albums in 1977, but he also helmed Iggy Pop‘s comeback records The Idiot andLust for Life, and toured anonymously as Pop‘s keyboardist. He resumed his acting career in 1977, appearing in Just a Gigolo with Marlene Dietrich and Kim Novak, as well as narrating Eugene Ormandy‘s version of Peter and the Wolf. Bowie returned to the stage in 1978, launching an international tour that was captured on the double-album Stage. During 1979, Bowie and Eno recorded Lodger in New York, Switzerland, and Berlin, releasing the album at the end of the year. Lodger was supported with several innovative videos, as was 1980’s Scary Monsters, and these videos — “DJ,” “Fashion,” “Ashes to Ashes” — became staples on early MTV.Scary Monsters was Bowie‘s last album for RCA, and it wrapped up his most innovative, productive period. Later in 1980, he performed the title role in stage production of The Elephant Man, including several shows on Broadway. Over the next two years, he took an extended break from recording, appearing in Christiane F (1981) and the vampire movie The Hunger (1982), returning to the studio only for his 1981 collaboration with Queen, “Under Pressure,” and the theme for Paul Schrader‘s remake of Cat People. In 1983, he signed an expensive contract with EMI Records and released Let’s Dance. Bowie had recruited Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers to produce the album, giving the record a sleek, funky foundation, and hired the unknown Stevie Ray Vaughan as lead guitarist. Let’s Dancebecame his most successful record, thanks to stylish, innovative videos for “Let’s Dance” and “China Girl,” which turned both songs into Top Ten hits. Bowie supported the record with the sold-out arena tour Serious Moonlight.
Greeted with massive success for the first time, Bowie wasn’t quite sure how to react, and he eventually decided to replicate Let’s Dance with 1984’s Tonight. While the album sold well, producing the Top Ten hit “Blue Jean,” it received poor reviews and was ultimately a commercial disappointment. He stalled in 1985, recording a duet ofMartha & the Vandellas‘ “Dancing in the Street” with Mick Jagger for Live Aid. He also spent more time jet-setting, appearing at celebrity events across the globe, and appeared in several movies — Into the Night (1985), Absolute Beginners(1986), Labyrinth (1986) — that turned out to be bombs.Bowie returned to recording in 1987 with the widely panned Never Let Me Down, supporting the album with the Glass Spider tour, which also received poor reviews. In 1989, he remastered his RCA catalog with Rykodisc for CD release, kicking off the series with the three-disc box Sound + Vision.Bowie supported the discs with an accompanying tour of the same name, claiming that he was retiring all of his older characters from performance following the tour. Sound + Vision was successful, andZiggy Stardust re-charted amidst the hoopla.
Sound + Vision may have been a success, but Bowie‘s next project was perhaps his most unsuccessful. Picking up on the abrasive, dissonant rock of Sonic Youth and the Pixies,Bowie formed his own guitar rock combo, Tin Machine, with guitarist Reeves Gabrels, bassist Hunt Sales, and his drummer brother Tony, who had previously worked on Iggy Pop‘s Lust for Life with Bowie. Tin Machine released an eponymous album to poor reviews that summer and supported it with a club tour, which was only moderately successful. Despite the poor reviews, Tin Machine released a second album, the appropriately titled Tin Machine II, in 1991, and it was completely ignored.
Bowie returned to a solo career in 1993 with the sophisticated, soulful Black Tie White Noise, recording the album with Nile Rodgers and his now-permanent collaborator, Reeves Gabrels. The album was released on Savage, a subsidiary of RCA, and received positive reviews, but his new label went bankrupt shortly after its release, and the album disappeared. Black Tie White Noise was the first indication that Bowie was trying hard to resuscitate his career, as was the largely instrumental 1994 soundtrack The Buddha of Suburbia. In 1995, he reunited with Brian Eno for the wildly hyped, industrial rock-tinged Outside. Several critics hailed the album as a comeback, and Bowie supported it with a co-headlining tour with Nine Inch Nails in order to snag a younger, alternative audience, but his gambit failed; audiences left beforeBowie‘s performance and Outside disappeared. He quickly returned to the studio in 1996, recordingEarthling, an album heavily influenced by techno and drum’n’bass. Upon its early 1997 release,Earthling received generally positive reviews, yet the album failed to gain an audience, and many techno purists criticized Bowie for allegedly exploiting their subculture. hours… followed in 1999. In 2002, Bowie reunited with producer Toni Visconti and released Heathen to very positive reviews. He continued on with Visconti for Reality in 2003, which was once again warmly received.
Bowie supported Reality with a lengthy tour but it came to a halt in the summer of 2004 when he received an emergency angioplasty while in Hamburg, Germany. Following this health scare, Bowie quietly retreated from the public eye. Over the next few years, he popped up at the occasional charity concert or gala event and he sometimes sang in the studio for other artists (notably he appeared on Scarlett Johansson‘s Tom Waits tribute Anywhere I Lay My Head in 2008). Archival releases appeared but no new recordings did until he suddenly ended his unofficial retirement on his 66th birthday on January 8, 2013, releasing a new single called “Where Are We Now?” and announcing the arrival of a new album. Entitled The Next Day and once again produced by Visconti, the album was released in March of 2013. Greeted with generally positive reviews, The Next Day debuted at either number one or two throughout the world, earning gold certifications in many countries. The following year, Bowie released a new compilation called Nothing Has Changed, which featured the new song “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime).” This song turned out to be the cornerstone of Bowie‘s next project, Blackstar.
David Bowie, the infinitely changeable, fiercely forward-looking songwriter who taught generations of musicians about the power of drama, images and personas, died on Sunday, two days after his 69th birthday.
His death was confirmed by his publicist, Steve Martin, on Monday morning. No other details were provided.
Mr. Bowie had been treated for cancer for the last 18 months, according to a statement on his social-media accounts. “David Bowie died peacefully today surrounded by his family,” a post on his Facebook page read.
His last album, “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a jazz quartet that was typically enigmatic and exploratory, was released on Friday — his birthday. He is to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.
He had also collaborated on an Off Broadway musical, “Lazarus,” which was a surreal sequel to the 1976 film that featured his definitive screen role, “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”
Mr. Bowie wrote songs, above all, about being an outsider: an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut. His music was always a mutable blend — rock, cabaret, jazz and what he called “plastic soul” — but it was suffused with genuine soul. He also captured the drama and longing of everyday life, enough to give him No. 1 pop hits like “Let’s Dance.”
In concerts and videos, Mr. Bowie’s costumes and imagery traversed styles, eras and continents, from German Expressionism to commedia dell’arte to Japanese kimonos to spacesuits. He set an example, and a challenge, for every arena spectacle in his wake.
If he had an anthem, it was “Changes,” from his 1971 album “Hunky Dory,” which proclaimed:
Turn and face the strange,
Oh look out now you rock and rollers,
Pretty soon now you’re gonna get older.
Mr. Bowie earned admiration and emulation across the musical spectrum — from rockers, balladeers, punks, hip-hop acts, creators of pop spectacles and even classical composers like Philip Glass, who based two symphonies on Mr. Bowie’s albums “Low” and “Heroes.”
Mr. Bowie’s constantly morphing persona was a touchstone for performers like Madonna and Lady Gaga; his determination to stay contemporary introduced his fans to Philadelphia funk, Japanese fashion, German electronica and drum-and-bass dance music.
Nirvana chose to sing “The Man Who Sold the World,” the title song of Mr. Bowie’s 1970 album, in its brief set for “MTV Unplugged in New York” in 1993. “Under Pressure,” a collaboration with the glam-rock group Queen, supplied a bass line for the 1990 Vanilla Ice hit “Ice Ice Baby.”
Yet throughout Mr. Bowie’s metamorphoses, he was always recognizable. His voice was widely imitated but always his own; his message was that there was always empathy beyond difference.
Angst and apocalypse, media and paranoia, distance and yearning were among Mr. Bowie’s lifelong themes. So was a penchant for transgression coupled with a determination to push cult tastes toward the mainstream.
Mr. Bowie produced albums and wrote songs for some of his idols — Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Mott the Hoople — that gave them pop hits without causing them to abandon their individuality. And he collaborated with musicians like Brian Eno during the late-1970s period that would become known as his Berlin years and, in his final recordings, with the jazz musicians Maria Schneider and Donny McCaslin, introducing them to many new listeners.
Mr. Bowie was a person of relentless reinvention. He emerged in the late 1960s with the voice of a rock belter but with the sensibility of a cabaret singer, steeped in the dynamics of stage musicals.
He was Major Tom, the lost astronaut in his career-making 1969 hit “Space Oddity.” He was Ziggy Stardust, the otherworldly pop star at the center of his 1972 album, “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.”
He was the self-destructive Thin White Duke and the minimalist but heartfelt voice of the three albums he recorded in Berlin in the ’70s.
For a far-reaching change of environment, and to get away from drugs, Mr. Bowie moved in 1976 to Switzerland and then to West Berlin, part of a divided city with a sound that fascinated him: the Krautrock of Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! and other groups. Mr. Bowie shared a Berlin apartment with Iggy Pop, and he helped produce and write songs for two Iggy Pop albums, “The Idiot” and “Lust for Life.”
He also made what is usually called his Berlin trilogy — “Low,” “Heroes” and “Lodger” — working with Mr. Eno and Mr. Bowie’s collaborator over decades, the producer Tony Visconti. They used electronics and experimental methods, like having musicians play unfamiliar instruments, yet songs like “‘Heroes’” conveyed romance against the bleakest odds.
As the 1980s began, Mr. Bowie turned to live theater, performing in multiple cities (including a Broadway run) in the demanding title role of “The Elephant Man.” Yet he would also reach his peak as a mainstream pop musician in that decade — particularly with his 1983 album “Let’s Dance,” which he produced with Nile Rodgers of Chic; the Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan also performed on the album. By 1989 Mr. Bowie was determined to change again; he recorded, without top billing, as a member of the rock band Tin Machine.
His experiments continued in the 1990s. In 1995, he reconnected with Mr. Eno on an album, “1. Outside,” — influenced by science fiction and film noir — that was intended to be the start of a trilogy. Mr. Bowie toured with Nine Inch Nails in an innovative concert that had his band and Nine Inch Nails merging partway through. Mr. Bowie’s 1997 album, “Earthling,” turned toward the era’s electronic dance music.
By the 21st century, Mr. Bowie was an elder statesman. He had been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2001, he sang “Heroes” at the Concert for New York City after the Sept. 11 attacks.
His last tour, after the release of his album “Reality,” ended when he experienced heart problems in 2004. But he continued to lend his imprimatur to newer bands like Arcade Fire, joining them onstage, and TV on the Radio, adding backup vocals in the studio.
In 2006, he performed three songs in public for what would be the final time, at the Keep a Child Alive Black Ball fund-raiser at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.
His final albums were a glance back and a new excursion. “The Next Day,” released in 2013, returned to something like the glam-rock sound of his 1970s guitar bands, for new songs suffused with bitter thoughts of mortality. And “Blackstar,” released two days before his death, had him backed by a volatile jazz-based quartet, in songs that contemplated fame, spirituality, lust, death and, as always, startling transformations.