Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Station

I should have connected the dots a little better on that Station to Station item: The finished album, as I mentioned, ended up with only six tracks, but David Bowie recorded some other material around that same time, including a cover of Springsteen's "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City." (That particular recording is available on the Sound + Vision box set.) So Bowie had been a Springsteen fan from the early days, and may have been impressed with the piano playing on Bruce's first records.

Except, of course, it was the great David Sancious tickling the ivories on those forst two Springsteen albums, and not Roy Bittan. But as messed up as Bowie was in those days, I can easily believe he wouldn't know the difference.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Seriously, They're Almost All There

At first I thought it was amazing how many emotions Amy Adams could register on her face at the same time. Then I started thinking, okay, there are way too many emotions happening on Amy Adams' face at the same time.

Zoo Station


I recently picked up the expanded version of David Bowie's 1976 album Station to Station, which came out last year, and as good as the album is, it's no match for the liner notes. There's an essay by Cameron Crowe, who is as good as always, but the real keeper is the sort of diary of Bowie's activities, from the inception of the sessions in May 1975 through the filming of The Man Who Fell to Earth over the course of that summer, and continuing through Bowie's Isolar Tour, which ended in May 1976.

This was a totally nutty period for Bowie, during which he hoovered up half the GDP of Bolivia, made his frightening appearance on Soul Train and his much-beloved appearance alongside Henry Winkler on Dinah!, and stayed awake for days on end, greatly irritating his collaborators. (Please note that I had earlier described that appearance on Dinah! as being from 1975, but according to these liner notes, it was actually January 3, 1976. My apologies, and happy new year.)

Among the other facts I learned:

* Bowie's pianist on Station to Station was a young man named Roy Bittan, who had just joined an East Coast group called the E Street Band. Bittan's first album with Bruce Springsteen was Born to Run, which was released on August 25, 1975. Less than a month later, he was in the studio with Bowie, who must have moved quickly after hearing Bittan's work on that much-hyped record.

* On September 8, 1975, Bowie attended Peter Sellers' 50th birthday party in Los Angeles. An impromptu band, made up of Keith Moon, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Bobby Keys and Bowie, bashed away for a while. "Neither David nor any of the other musicians seemed to be playing the same songs," noted Bowie collaborator Geoff MacCormack, a/k/a Warren Peace.

* Also appearing on that Dinah! show was a karate instructor, who showed a few moves to Dinah and David on camera. Impressed by this, Bowie then hired a karate instructor to help keep him in shape on the upcoming tour.

* This has nothing to do with the liner notes, but it boggles my mind that there are only six tracks on Station to Station. You couldn't get away with something like that today, but you couldn't really get away with it in 1976 either, could you? The Wild, the Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle has seven songs on it, but I can't think of another major rock album with only six.

* Just before he started work on the album, Bowie did an interview with Tina Brown (!) wherein he declared: "Me and rock-and-roll have parted company.... I think I've made enough rumpus for someone who's not even convinced he's a good musician."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Beatles Note for the Day

The film A Hard Day's Night was presented in South America under the title ¡Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Paul, John, George y Ringo!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Dylan Note of the Day

The version on Self-Portrait is called "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)." The version on Greatest Hits Vol. 2 is called "The Mighty Quinn (Quinn the Eskimo)."

The latter is the one you want.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beatles Note for the Day

After the Beatles broke up, the four individual members went on to have twice as many Number One hits as the Rolling Stones have had in their entire career as a group. If you add in Billy Preston, the Used-to-Be-Beatles had as many Number One hits (18) as Elvis Presley.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Teacher Teacher, Teach Me About Rockpile

I've written before about the 1980-82 ABC television show Fridays, which was kind of a pathetic attempt to rip off Saturday Night Live, except that the musical guests they got were almost uniformly excellent. Let's face it, SNL's musical guests tended to be pretty hit-or-miss: You'd never know if you'd get Elvis Costello or Chuck Berry or Leo Sayer or Libby Titus. In the premier episode, Lorne Michaels supposedly wanted Stevie Wonder and Carole King, but had to settle for Billy Preston and Janis Ian. I think that sums things up pretty well.

Now, Fridays had the occasional Franke and the Knockouts as well, but they also had the Clash's first American TV appearance, and the Blasters and the Jam and the Pretenders, et cetera. Today, let us take a look at the excellent but short-lived pub-rock outfit Rockpile (I almost said "British pub-rock outfit," but that would be redundant) performing their totally boss "Teacher Teacher" on a Fridays from December 1980.

The guy who isn't Nick Lowe or Dave Edmunds makes a valiant but ultimately futile try at his harmony vocals. Lowe, insouciant devil that he is, chews gum throughout, putting him on a list with John Lennon, Dave Grohl and MCA as rock stars who are willing to indulge in a little Wrigley's onstage.



OK, are you done with that? Now let's see Nick Lowe's solo hit "Cruel to Be Kind," which should be thoroughly familiar to anyone who bought into MTV in the very early days:



Hey, it's the same four guys as in Rockpile! It turns out that Rockpile really wasn't all that short-lived after all. The band that recorded Seconds of Pleasure, the only official Rockpile album, also recorded Nick Lowe's nominally solo album Labour of Lust and Dave Edmunds' nominally solo albums Tracks on Wax 4 and Repeat When Necessary. So that's really four Rockpile albums, for a catalogue that's about the same heft as those of the Shins or the Lovin' Spoonful.

I wonder if they even bothered to tell the guys who weren't Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds when they showed up for work in the morning whether they were cutting a band album or a solo project.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mi ─Łojus i vid tio

In 1966, William Shatner starred in a horror film called Incubus, whose dialogue was written and spoken entirely in Esperanto.