Yesterday I mentioned the footage of Bowie performing, “Rock’n Roll with Me” in Buffalo during a 1974 concert at Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium that’s was featured in the documentary, Moonage Daydream. This is the clip from the sequence featuring that performance.
“Rock’n Roll with Me” is my least favorite song on one of my favorite albums, Diamond Dogs, but it isn’t a bad song. To the extent I have a problem with it, its that the song seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the album, which paints a picture of a dystopian future based in part on George Orwell’s 1984. It’s like, “It Ain’t Easy” on Ziggy Stardust— or “Strangers When We Meet” on 1. Outside (come back to this blog tomorrow) nice enough, but out of place. It’s a good example of Bowie teasing the type of song that would feature more prominently on his next album, which in this case would be Young Americans.
All that said, I think the song actually sounds better out of the context of Diamond Dogs, which is how we find it in Moonage Daydream. It stands up better on its own.
As for what the song’s about? It seems pretty straightforward, with a few random Bowie-style lines thrown in (“I would take a foxy kind of stand; While tens of thousands found me in demand”).
Somewhat amazingly, I was able to find the complete set list from that 1974 Buffalo concert, which I’ll reproduce at the end of this. Of note, Bowie performed several songs from Young Americans, which had not yet been released — more than the number of songs from Diamond Dogs, which was actually his most recent album at the time. His choices of this song and “1984” further reveal his shift toward funk and “plastic soul.” Also of note is “Foot Stompin’,” which he would adapt into “Fame.”
OK, one more observation — while Bowie didn’t perform “Space Oddity,” he started the concert with the last song from the album, Space Oddity. “Memory of a Free Festival” seems, to me, to be such a closing song that it’s curious to think about why he began the set with it. The song is kind of an anthem to the dying days of the 1960s, so my guess is that Bowie was trying to telegraph the passing of one musical era in favor of the more current style that would dominate the remainder of the concert.
Set list from the Buffalo concert, November 8, 1974
Memory of a Free Festival
John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)
Foot Stompin’ (The Flares cover)
Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me
It’s Gonna Be Me
The Jean Genie
Can You Hear Me
Somebody Up There Likes Me
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide