Friday, January 8, 2010

David Bowie 20: Ziggy Live

In the wake of the phenomenal success of Let’s Dance, RCA strove to prove they were no dopes when it came to cashing in on their onetime golden boy. First came Golden Years, a collection of some of the more obscure songs he’d performed on that summer’s Serious Moonlight tour, complete with a contemporary photo. Much more effective was Fame And Fashion; subtitled “David Bowie’s All-Time Greatest Hits”, it was an enjoyable expansion of Changesonebowie with a handful of singles from the latter half of the ‘70s.
In between, however, came the long-awaited film of the final performance of the Spiders From Mars from 1973, accompanied by the soundtrack album. Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture delivers the complete show from the Hammersmith Odeon, from the opening crunch of “Hang On To Yourself” to the closing “Rock ‘N Roll Suicide”, before which Bowie famously announced Ziggy’s retirement. It’s a good show, covering the singles and album tracks and adding a few live-only rarities, like Jacques Brel’s “My Death”, the Velvet Underground’s “White Light/White Heat” and even his own “All The Young Dudes”, which somehow fits into a medley incorporating “Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud” and “Oh! You Pretty Things”. The band had also expanded to include a two-man horn section, plus old friends John Hutchinson on guitar and Geoffrey MacCormack (the future Warren Peace) on backing vocals. Unfortunately, Jeff Beck’s special appearance for the encores is not included.
Fans who’d already shelled out for David Live and Stage might have wished they hadn’t had to wait ten years for this. The film itself is worth a watch too, though we wonder why the lighting seemed to consist of a single red bulb.
The album has been issued on CD twice, first by Rykodisc in the ‘90s rollout, and again ten years later in a “30th anniversary mix” by Tony Visconti, which not only better balanced the sound but restored the program to the actual setlist, adding more spoken passages plus intro and outro music by Wendy Carlos borrowed from the Clockwork Orange soundtrack, and extending the songs to their complete lengths. It may not have been the Spiders’ greatest performance — Mick Ronson is a little out of tune, as usual — but it was a historical one.

David Bowie Golden Years (1983)—3
Current CD equivalent: none
David Bowie Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture (1983)—
1992 Rykodisc: same as 1983
2003 30th Anniversary 2CD Set: same as 1983, plus 14 minutes of content
David Bowie Fame And Fashion (1984)—4
Current CD equivalent: none

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