Since I brought a CD player to my office, I’ve been cycling through my extensive collection of Bowie CDs. The exercise takes me away from what I’m otherwise normally drawn to, only to be reminded that even lesser Bowie or Bowie related albums tend to be pretty good. The last three I’ve listen to are:
Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ‘78) (2018). One of the many live albums released since Bowie’s death, this one is from around the same period as Stage and Live Nassau Coliseum ‘76. The downside is that these similar collections blend together in my mind, but the plus side is that the song collection is excellent, there is a lot of music and Bowie sounds great. Much as the case with Stage, Bowie mixes several songs from Ziggy, by 1978 already a throwback, with more recent selections (which to our ears are classics). As more or less a random Bowie album, what you get is what you’d think you might get.
Christian’s F. Soundtrack (1981). The soundtrack to a German movie about a young girl who is addicted to heroin, Bowie didn’t record anything new for the movie but his songs appear throughout, and he makes an appearance as himself in concert (there’s an oddly creepy picture on the album liner of Bowie, dressed as he was in the film smiling for the camera, with the movie’s young star staring admiringly at him). Anyway, the nine genuine songs from the soundtrack are not surprisingly from Bowie’s Berlin period, as well as a few from Station to Station. The one version that’s different than that on their original album is “Heroes/Helden,” in which Bowie breaks into singing the familiar song in German.
But there are another eleven songs on the album, and though I’ve heard this before, the more I think about it, the more I think of this second half as wild. There’s a French version of “Heroes,” the entire soundtrack of Baal, a BBC production of the Bertolt Brecht play starring Bowie, the “Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy” duet Bowie did with Bing Crosby (what’s that doing here?), a German version of Bowie’s mid-60s song, “Love Me Till Tuesday,” and what might be the the most obscure Bowie song ever to make it onto any album, “The Revolutionary Song,” originally of the Just A Gigolo soundtrack. Like I said…wild.
Oh! You Pretty Things. The Songs of David Bowie (2006). If the above collection was wild, this one is flat-out weird. It’s a collection of Bowie covers from a truly diverse set of sources. Several of the songs are from three albums that Bowie was involved with— the three he wrote from the Astronettes’ People From Bad Homes, three from Mick Ronson’s Slaughter on 10th Avenue, and several covers of obscure 60s songs from a band called the Beatstalkers, which I’m guessing were originally all on an album together. Included here is the extremely obscure “Silver Tree Top School for Boys,” recorded in 1967 on which Bowie was supposedly singing backing vocals.
This collection includes covers of some fairly infamous and little-known songs— “Over the Wall We Go,” covered by a band called Oscar, “The Laughing Gnome,” covered by Ronnie Hilton and “I Am A Laser,” attributed to Ava Cherry (but I think more accurately is by the Astronettes. It also has some slightly better known and much better quality covers including Peter Noone’s version of “Oh You Pretty Thing” (his version is singular), Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes,” and Lou Reed’s “Wagon Wheel.” There are also a few excellent songs I have only encountered here— Donovan doing an excellent version of “Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me” and John Cougar Melloncamp performing “The Man Who Sold the World” among them. And there’s more— 23 songs in total. Since some of these recordings are of questionable quality and many of the songs are unfamiliar to all but hardcore Bowie fans (or at least unknown as Bowie-related songs), this one has to have a limited appeal. But in the spirt of, “And now for something completely different…”