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Album 106: Club Bowie (2003)

I am the wrong guy to be writing about “club music.” I have never been to a dance club, and aside from weddings, the last time I went to anything like a dance was in the 1990s (once). From a far, far distance, the concept of “dance music” seems to my alien ears to have evolved from something after a specific dance (“The Twist;” “The Monster Mash”), to disco, to Madonna, to some derivation of drum and bass which is less meant to inspire people to dance as to kind of jump up and down amidst flashing lights. That’s what it seems to me, anyway. Dance clubs that cater to that latter form is what the remixes assembled for this collection are intended.

Though the artists responsible for these remixes apparently worked apart from each other at different times, there is a coherence to this collection. The songs are recognizable, but each of them seems more to have been used as the starting point for an excuse to just maintain a beat. Bowie’s vocals have been reduced in many of these remixes, to the point that the remix of “Heroes” by David Guetta isn’t even called “Heroes”— its “Just for One Day.” That’s because that’s one of a total of two lines repeated between pulses.

Some of the songs seem to spiritually lend themselves to being remixed for this purpose, specifically “Let’s Dance” (three versions) and “China Girl,” while others seem like oddball choices (“Loving the Alien;” “This is Not America;” “Magic Dance”). Speaking of “Magic Dance,” I am reminded of a point I read somewhere that some fans of the movie Labyrinth only, or at least primarily know Bowie through his role in that movie. To that presumably small category, this might be the most recognizable song in the collection. I can imagine 22-year-olds at a club hearing this with a tinge of nostalgia while having no idea what they’re dancing to if one of the “Let’s Dance” remixes came on.

That also reminds me about Bowie’s experimental release of his song, “Pallas Athena,” in which his voice was distorted and name didn’t appear on the dance club singles released to D.J.s ahead of Black Tie White Noise in 1993. The song was a hit in clubland in part because patrons didn’t know they were dancing to Bowie, who at the time had acquired a has-been reputation.

“Pallas Athena” is one of Bowie’s earliest forays into drum and bass, which he explored to some extent in The Buddha of Suburbia and 1. Outside before releasing an (almost) entire album in that genre, Earthling. So there’s a question of who did it better— D.J. (As in David Jones) or these D.J.s? And in case you think that’s a rhetorical question, I actually have a speculative answer— Bowie’s take on this type of music is far more listenable. But I suspect that if any of these remixes came on at an actual club, of the type where people are bouncing up and down rather than aspiring to be the 21st Century Travolta, I think these remixes actually do the job better. But what do I know?

One last note: this album was released in 2003. The back cover includes the URL to Bowie’s website. This was not a bootleg— I don’t think Bowie had anything to do with it other than allowing the use of the source material, but it was at the very least sanctioned by Team Bowie.

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