Once There Were Mountains

A year ago today we woke up to the news that David Bowie had died. After that, the whole year went to shit.

Station To Station is my number one Bowie album, one I’ve been listening to since a very cold winter in a student house in Childwall, Liverpool in 1989. The album is only six songs long, marking a transition from the Bowie of the USA to the Bowie of Europe, from Young Americans to Low. The influence of West German bands, mechanical rhythms, detachment, the flight to Berlin, the after-effects of years of cocaine use, a Bowie who needed change and to be saved are evident. All this and more- and plenty of things that even now I haven’t got under the skin of.

Station To Station

And just after the The Last Five Years documentary finished on Saturday night a new e.p. was released online, the last recordings including this sax and vocals dominated piece No Plan.

Oh look, Newton Electricals…

Remain

The author Robert Harris tweeted last week ‘How foul this referendum is. The most depressing, divisive, duplicitous political event in my lifetime. may there never be another’. Which just about covers it. Nigel Farage has forced a ‘discussion’ into public, a discussion which has unleashed all kinds of racist and xenophobic forces which have at least partly contributed to the murder of MP Jo Cox last week. Farage is a political charlatan, a fraud, a man who basks in a man-in-the-street image despite a wealthy, privileged background. A demagogue who hates the EU yet is paid by it, who represents constituents at the European parliament but rarely goes. A man who poses in front of Nazi inspired posters and complains that the murder of Jo Cox has ‘taken the momentum out of the Leave campaign’. On every and any level, he is a disgrace.

David Cameron has to take the blame here too- despite being the leader of the Remain campaign, he is the one who called this referendum, a cynical response to the rise of Ukip and the defection of Tory votes, a piece of political opportunism that has blown up in his face, shown the cracks in his party and that he’ll pay for politically at some point, win or lose.

Let’s Kiss And Make Up

This is original The Field Mice version covered by St Etienne with their Eurocentric cover art.

A vote to Leave is a backwards step, a vote for a past that doesn’t exist. I can’t see any positives in leaving. Taking back control, taking back sovereignty is a smokescreen- how is leaving the ‘undemocratic’ E.U. increasing democracy in a country which has an unelected second chamber and is a constitutional monarchy? My vote today is to Remain. Let’s stay together.

Enough preaching.

Stay

Stay is off Bowie’s Station To Station, sometimes my favourite Bowie album. The choppy guitar part, Carlos Alomar I assume, is wonderful.

And finally Portishead have released this cover of ABA’s SOS, a tribute to Jo Cox.

We Learn Dances, Brand New Dances

I’m not sure if this is a 1977 themed week or an Iggy Pop themed week. Or if it’s a theme week at all. In 1981 Grace Jones covered Nightclubbing, from Iggy’s The Idiot- it was the name of the album as well as a cover of the song. Rhythm kings Sly and Robbie on bass and drums root the whole thing in dub coupled with a New Wave sheen and some hiss. In Iggy’s version he’s in the nightclub but dazed and distanced, an outsider looking in, numbed by party drugs. In this version Grace is imperious, glacial, in the middle of the dancefloor.

Nightclubbing

To Dusseldorf City

…meet Igy Pop and David Bowie.

The title track to their March 1977 release Trans-Europe Express. Peerless and perfect, a sound in motion. Invented pretty much everything that came after it.

Calling Sister Midnight

Iggy Pop’s The Idiot is a remarkable album. Released in March 1977 (and followed in the same year by Lust For Life) it is the first of the Bowie Berlin albums. All the songs on The Idiot are co-written by David Bowie and his fingerprints- words, tone, chords, structures- are all over it. The Idiot was Iggy’s first solo album and doesn’t really sound too like the rest of his work. No cartoon stagediving here, no songs chasing the sound of two chord Stooges. The Idiot sounds thought out, a piece of work. It is also sounds dislocated- Iggy and Bowie loose and lost in West Berlin. On most of the songs- just listen to Nightcubbing- the beat is always a bit behind where you expect it to be, a fraction deliberately late.

Opening track Sister Midnight is a blast. Played live by Bowie throughout his Station To Station tour, it’s a powerful opener, a punch. Bowie’s guitarist Carlos Alomar plays on it. Many of Bowie’s songs from Chateau d’Herouville and Hansa Studio have a certain funkiness and a lightness. Sister Midnight has Alomar’s wonderful guitar sound and playing but is murkier, with the synths and rhythm keeping it more earthbound. Three note bassline. Iggy in a hole looking out- ‘what can I do about my dreams?’ he sings at one point after a verse re-working Oedipus.

Sister Midnight

His voice is the human touch on an album inspired by the men-machines Kraftwerk, an album with a European heart moving away the blues base of the music of the 1960s and early 70s, written and played by men trying to kick different drugs. Sister Midnight re-appeared with new words as Red Money on Bowie’s Lodger album in 1979, the album generally considered to be the final part of the Berlin series, completing the circle nicely.

Run For The Shadows

I’ve been doing what everyone else has been doing- a solid diet of Bowie, digging in and around his extensive back catalogue. These two extras came up and I thought you’d like them. The first is an edit of Golden Years. You might think that as possibly Bowie’s greatest moment from a life of great moments that it didn’t need mucking about with but this is a funky mid-set dance edit; loop that riff, add those beats, a smidgeon of vocals and lot of spirit. Strictly unofficial but very, very sweet.

Golden Years (Mano Le Tough Edit)

The Secret Life Of Arabia (off ”Heroes” in 1977) always had more than a touch of disco about it. So why wouldn’t someone beef it up, disco-not-disco style, and send it under flashing neon lights to dance? Little Leaf did so, very nicely.

Eno Returning

Brrrr- it’s chilly out. How about some Brian Eno to start the week? In fact, how about an hour long mix of Brian Eno, originally put together by the Test Pressing website back in 2010, no longer available at their website as far as I can tell.

The Producers 2 Brian Eno

Many of the tracks selected here have that late 70s and early 80s sound rather than the ambient soundscapes he’s as well known for. Strange syncopated rhythms, treated guitars, African influences, multitracked vocals, funk bass, oblique strategies.

Tracklist…
Brian Eno: Sky Saw
Brian Eno: No One Receiving
Brian Eno: Strong Flashes Of Light
Brian Eno: More Volts
Talking Heads: Double Groove (Demo)
Brian Eno: The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch
David Bowie/Brian Eno: Abdulmajid
Brian Eno & David Byrne: Into The Spirit Womb
Brian Eno: St Elmo’s Fire
Brian Eno & Harold Budd: The Plateaux Of Mirror
Eno Mobius Roedelius: Foreign Affairs
Brian Eno: In Dark Trees
Brian Eno: Mist/Rhythm
Brian Eno: By This River
Brian Eno: Just Another Day
Brian Eno: Bone Bomb
Brian Eno: The True Wheel