David Bowie

ARTICLE ABOUT David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Kansas and Argent FROM BILLBOARD, March 15, 1975

I thought that these record reviews from Billboard would be fun to share with you. It is especially interesting to read these because of their recommendations to dealers. You`ll see what I mean.
Read on and enjoy!

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Record reviews

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DAVID BOWIE-Young Americans, RCA APL 1-0998.

David Bowie is back with his latest musical look, this time an excursion into the land of soul. It works well. The key here is that Bowie’s sophisticated soul sound (with strings, big arrangements and lots of soulful backup voices) does not sound the least bit put on. He sounds as at home here as he has in all his other musical changes, and in parts, more so. The vocals do not sound nearly as strained as they have on some of his more raucous rockers, nor do they sound as camp. Guest artists John Lennon, Willy Weeks, Andy Newmark and Jean Millington add a fine touch to the set, which should not only endear Bowie even more to his current fans but should open up an entirely new avenue of fans for him. Expect soul play on this set, for he is truly handling the music, not copying. Some non-soul oriented cuts are also included.
Best cuts: “Young Americans,” “Fascination,” “Right,” “Across The Universe,” “Can You Hear Me.”
Dealers: Bowie is one of the major superstars in pop. All you have to do is display the set.

Alice

ALICE COOPER-Welcome To My Nightmare, Atlantic SD 18130.

Solo set from Alice is by far the best musical project he has yet undertaken. LP is soundtrack to upcoming TV special, and is vastly different in parts from his group efforts, but similar enough to retain old fans. Fine use of horns and strong arrangements throughout, as well as the powerful metallic sound (Dick Wagner on guitar) and razor sharp vocals Alice is associated with. More universally appealing than previous LPs, with the vocals simply better than on recent LPs, the arrangements more interesting and sophisticated and the package more commercial. There’s a John Lennon type song here that is beautifully arranged and sung, some material reminiscent of “School’s Out,” and a variety of other things. Alice has always been recognized as a masterful rocker, but we see here there is far more to him than that. He proves himself able to handle many kinds of music, though the rock is still dominant. A truly superb effort.
Best cuts: “Devil’s Food,” “Some Folks,” “Only Women Bleed” (the Lennon styled cut), “Department Of Youth” (like “School’s Out “), “Cold Ethyl.” “Steven” (a truly frightening piece of rock theater), “Escape.”
Dealers: First new product in over a year from this superstar, and he and his group are set for an 80-city world tour this spring.

Kansas

KANSAS-Song For America, Kirshner PZ 33385 (CBS).

The group whose debut LP caught a lot of people by surprise with strong sales offers a much stronger effort this time around, mixing the kind of synthesizer oriented /harmonic vocal sounds that characterize groups like Yes with some more standard sounding blues-oriented rock and a touch of country added to both, courtesy of an electric violin. The long, electronic cuts lend themselves best to FM exposure. The mix of electronics and more familiar rock is a clever one which should broaden the base appeal of the band, and while there are touches of several other groups here, the set is undoubtedably the property of Kansas.
Best cuts: “Song For America,” “Lamplight Symphony,” “Lonely Street,” “The Devil Game.”
Dealers: Band built a loyal and strong following with first effort and this is a musically superior set. Expect this to be a big album.

Argent

ARGENT-Circus, Epic PE 33422 (CBS).

Back within several months of their charted live LP, veteran British rockers change format a bit and move from the metallic rock they are best known for to a concept type LP that is dominated by Rod Argent’s work on a variety of keyboard instruments and solo and harmony vocals that dart in and out of long instrumental solos. A general feeling of “flow” throughout the LP featured by the Yes school of bands. The change for Argent works well, for they are skilled musicians and vocalists, and the concept is present without being overbearing. Set should surprise fans, but will not alienate them. Several ballads help break up the LP’s general focus. FM should be the launching pad here.
Best cuts: “Highwire,” “Trapeze,” “Shine On Sunshine,” “Clown.”
Dealers: Another band with a strong following. You might want to display this with first solo effort of departed guitarist Russ Ballard, also on Epic.

ARTICLE ABOUT Tony Visconti FROM SOUNDS, September 28, 1974

This one should also be of interest to fans of T. Rex and David Bowie as they are heavily featured in this article. I really like to read articles that involves the great record producers as they have “been there and done that” to a whole legion of different artist. They are the people that really have stories to tell and many of them were sober enough to tell them correctly. Mr. Visconti is 75 years old on April 24th this year and is still active in his trade.

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The spider who nearly got to mars

By Geoff Barton

The name Tony Visconti pops up with fair frequency at the bottom of record labels. The man is a record producer, as you probably know. He has been involved with Bolan, Bowie, Cocker, Procol, etcetera, ad infinitum.
But to look at him you wouldn`t believe he`d been anywhere remotely near such people. When you meet him the impression you get is of a clean-cut American – why, he even looks like one of the Osmonds. This time, however, you can throw your first impression to the wind. He`s been around, has Tony.
Tony comes from Brooklyn, New York, and has been a professional musician since he was 15 – he`s 30 now. He grew up with the likes of Fats Domino, Little Richard and Alan Freed. He studied classical guitar for three years, played bass and tried to be a jazz musician. “I did everything,” he says. “I was into every musical involvement in New York City.”
When he was 22 he was trying desperately to break into recording. He had visions of being a singer, a guitar player or a songwriter, or maybe all three. Instead, he was offered a job as record producer.
“My publisher was impressed by some home demos I`d made, and he reckoned I had a talent as a record producer. But I didn`t even know what a record producer was. The few times I`d been in the studio I`d only noticed the engineer and not the other guy – in those days he was called an A and R man.
“But I said I`d have a go. I did it for about a month, and then I met Denny Cordell, who had come over from England. He was looking for an American producer to bring back to England with him and introduce an American sound in Britain. He said he`d consider me.
“He failed to bring back Phil Spector so I got the job.”
Visconti spent his first six months over here as assistant to Cordell. He sat in on a lot of the early Move and Procol Harum sessions, and co-produced a few of the tracks on “Shine On Brightly”.

Then he met Marc Bolan in the UFO club, and watched what was then Tyrannosaurus Rex`s third gig.
“Tyrannosaurus Rex were the first group I discovered,” he says. “I went out and found them all on my own.”
So he came to produce “Prophets, Seers And Sages”, the first Tyrannosaurus Rex album, on a really low budget. “That was very sad. We made it in about four sessions, and it sounds drastically different from the ones that followed. `Prophets`, the next album, we got on a higher budget. But I think it really happened on `Unicorn`, when we had total control and I had started to develop lots of technical tricks. We were making guitars sound like violins and pianos like brass sections. We had a ball.”
Much of “Unicorn`s” individual, distinctive sound, he told me, is due to the fact that a large part of it was recorded in the gent`s loo at Trident Studios – which, as you might guess, had acoustic properties all of its own.
“Marc and I both had a passion for Phil Spector in those days, and we were into our Spector thing on the `Unicorn` album. Of course, it turned out completely freaky because Marc Bolan and Spector just don`t mix.”
And then, Marc went electric.
“Well, that was just a slow development. Marc got himself a little Strat, and that was it. Although he`d always wanted to play electric, Steve Took was more into electric music at the time. He was dying to pick up a guitar and play. He was writing loads and loads of songs around the time of `Unicorn`, but as we all know Marc isn`t about to share billing with anybody. They broke up about that, really.
“Steve was very frustrated, he wanted to play electric but it just didn`t happen. Had Marc allowed him to write I think that Tyrannosaurus Rex would have developed into a very different thing today.”
Do you approve of the “thing” T. Rex has now become?
“No. Quite honestly, no. I think Marc had something extremely unique in those days. I was really surprised that he switched, and tried to appeal to the mass market. You shouldn`t make hits for the public`s way of of thinking. You can`t live to please the public – there`s too many of them and they have too many different ideas. You have to be true to yourself.

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“When we went over to electric I still tried to innovate new sound techniques, but one thing I had no control over was the quality of the songs.
“When I look back on it I think the most important thing to Marc Bolan was to be successful. He really wanted to be successful, and that lead to our break up.”
At the same time Visconti was producing Bolan he was also producing Bowie. And, conversely, he`s really pleased with the way Bowie has evolved.
“On one hand I had Marc Bolan, an aggressive little go-getter who really wanted to get somewhere, and on the other I had David Bowie who, at the time, was the laziest, most untogether person in the world.”
So, he split with Bolan and continued with Bowie. Well, for the time being at least.
“When I was involved with Bowie originally, he was trying desperately to become a pop artist. He didn`t want to be underground. I was producing him when he had his hit with `Space Oddity`.”
But, strangely enough, Visconti didn`t produce that single. Apparently he considered it to be a rip off, a “nick” as he calls it, of a number of other records including “Sounds Of Silence”. So, he didn`t want to know. Gus Dudgeon eventually produced the single, but Bowie came back to Visconti for the album of the same name.
“He must have respected me for not wanting to produce the single and we did both the `Space Oddity` and the `Man Who Sold The World` albums together. That last one was particularly gratifying because I got to play bass on it. I would have been a Spider From Mars if David and I hadn`t fallen out over domestic matters.
“Recently we`ve got together again, though. Bowie said to me: `the best time I ever had was making “Man Who Sold The World”. Can we do it all over again?` So, we did.”

Result: what Visconti calls Bowie`s “black album”. Like “Ziggy”, it`s another identity album, and it`s due to be released early next year. It was recorded in studios in Philadelphia, the centre of America`s black music industry, and is apparently unmistakably Bowie but with some “black treatment” – whatever that is.
Then, of course, there`s the Bowie live double album, mixed in quad, that was recorded over two nights in Philly, once again. They both should be interesting to hear.
Visconti has produced hundreds of albums, but I wondered if there were any he thought should have received greater acclaim.
“Yes. Two albums, in fact. The first one is an album I produced with my wife (Mary Hopkin) called `Earth Song, Ocean Song`. Mary has always been a folk singer, but when she won `Opportunity Knocks` she was taken into the glamour of it all, and it took her a long time to recover.
“She had been trying for years to do a folk album, and when I was first approached to produce it, I turned it down, saying `Mary Hopkin isn`t capable of doing a folk album`. The second time I was approached I actually met her, and we hit it off great. I found she knew her folk music very well. I ended up producing her, and the end result was a beautiful album.”
Mary was anxious to lose the image of the “Knock Knock, Who`s There” girl, but she couldn`t promote the album because she had to do a Summer season in Margate as the “old” Mary Hopkin. That finished her, and by the end of the Summer she had lost all her nerve. Tony hinted that she could now be on her way back, though.
The other album Visconti thinks should be better known is Carmen`s first album. That, he feels, was a victim of the energy crisis – the band couldn`t go on the road to promote it because of lack of petrol at the time.
Now, he`s making his own records as well.
Isn`t that just a bit of an ego trip?
“No. I`ve been writing songs for years, and I`ve always been an active musician.”

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Ron Wood, The Sharks, John Cale, Michael Fennelly, John Sebastian, Sparks, John Entwistle, Maggie Bell, CSNY, Scott English, Tommy Aldridge, Tom Scott, John Grimaldi, Brian Robertson, Steve Howe, Lorraine Ellison.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT David Bowie FROM SOUNDS, June 29, 1974

Should be a good article for you Bowie-fanatics out there. Enjoy!

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Broadway`s got nuthin` on this

Bowie`s new show features the kind of sensational stage effects that even Broadway could only afford for brief periods in the 30`s and 40`s. Martin Kirkup reports on Bowie`s `new style` debut from Montreal.

This may be the last big production type of tour that I do,” Bowie had told me back in April. At that time I`d wondered why, cynically assuming that there`d be a touch of the old “His first farewell tour” promotion behind the remark, since it was apparent that Bowie`s direction was towards greater use of theatricality in his performances.
After watching the debut of his new tour at Montreal on June 14, however, it finally seems inevitable that if he`s to continue performing in public he`ll have to do it as a smaller kind of production, because after this tour I simply can`t imagine what he`d do to top it.
His new show features the kind of sensational stage effects that even Broadway could only afford for brief periods in the 1930`s and 40`s, when Florenz Ziegfeld had his dancing girls walk through streams onto rising staircases built in the great old theatres. I doubt whether even Ziegfeld linked so many outrageous effects together into one two-hour show, as Bowie now does. By comparison, the timid “rock theatrics” of an Alice Cooper or a “Jesus Christ Superstar” look decidedly like a `Punch & Judy` show, and right now it`s hard to imagine how any other rock star could go further than the new limits Bowie`s established.
Bowie aimed for the maximum possible visual effect, and I think that he succeeded entirely in what he was trying to do. “Come on up to Montreal for the first night, it`ll be worth your while,” he suggested earlier in the month, “it`s a show, and I think it`s very exciting.” Retrospectively, I can see that the words “show” and “exciting” weren`t just casually used, they convey the essence of what his new tour is all about.

When he arrived in New York on the S.S. France on April 11. Bowie had moved straight into a suite in the Sherry-Netherland Hotel on Fifth Avenue, and begun a routine that persisted for the next two months. Rising after noon, and usually as late as three in the afternoon, he`d start a strenuous series of rehearsals that often ran from five o`clock to well into the next morning, when he`d head to a bar or club to unwind and perhaps check out the new talent.
During those ten weeks he could often be seen flitting behind the stage at a concert, by Roxy Music for example – “well, they`re the only English band worth seeing, aren`t they”, at a reception, like Todd Rundgren`s, or in a small club seeing new bands. “Yes, I`ve seen a lot of good new bands this time. A lot of bands with good names, anyway, how d`ya like `Leather Secrets` and `Television`?”. And if you talked to him then he was friendly, witty, and perceptive about anything at all except his own music. A question about how the long rehearsals were going would elicit only “Oh, you don`t even have to ask, I`m so happy with this band”, and that`d be that.
Now it`s revealed that those rehearsals had as much to do with practising and perfecting the tricky stage techniques as they had to do with preparing his new band. Bowie had hired Jules Fisher to collaborate with him on the stage presentation and design, and Fisher`s the best designer around at the moment in America. He`s got a list of awards that starts with shows like “Hair”, “Pippin” and “Lenny”, and runs on as long as your leg. I`ve seen Broadway plays like “Ulysses in Nighttown”, where Fisher`s lighting and design were the only good things about the show.
The set that he and David have created for the tour is impressive from the moment you walk into the arena and see it. The stage is dominated by a huge scaffolding arch with a cat-walk looking like an imported section of Tower Bridge set thirty feet above the stage. Even higher than this are two gigantic lighting towers, disguised as skyscrapers. The immediate effect is of looking into a surreally distorted city. Off to the right is the area set aside for the band, with two whole keyboards complexes and a large drum-kit, while off to the left stands a six-foot tall red, spurting cock! RCA may have castrated the “Diamond Dogs” cover with their sneaky airbrushes, but Bowie has his revenge here.

Bowie had come up to Canada the day before the concert to give everything one last run-through. Since it`s a nine-hour, 600 mile drive from New York City I had decided to do the same thing, a fact worth mentioning only because David`s going to be driving to every gig too. He still refuses absolutely to fly, so most of the concerts have been arranged at convenient hundred mile intervals across the continent.
His band and entourage were leaving the Hotel Windsor just as I arrived, informing me that they were off to “a final dress rehearsal” – yup, those were the words used. As the elevator doors opened and I stepped forward to enter, I could see a flash of red hair surrounded by tall and muscular men. Bowie emerged in a wedge of bodyguards, pausing briefly to say “Hello” – I stuck out a hand to shake his, but pulled it back quickly when an ultra-efficient guard flexed himself at me. I mean, there are things I`d rather not go through just to shake someone`s hand.
For the whole day before the concert it became impossible to turn on the TV or radio without hearing either a track from “Diamond Dogs”, or – more importantly – an advert for it and the concert. The whole campaign that`s been mounted by “MainMan” and RCA should become a model of its type.
“The album of the century” voices proclaimed regularly on all the dozen different radio stations, “century”?. And since Montreal is a bi-lingual city (just imagine one of those cute sexy French accent marks over the “e” of Montreal) all the papers informed one of a “Concert rock avec ce fameux chanteur anglais”, ah mais Oui! et maintenant le pouf celebre, Monsieur Bowie. But oddest of all, on television a short colour film of Bowie in the studio leering at the camera and muttering “Awright then?”.
Nevertheless, the next night at the Forum it was apparent from the empty rows of seats that the concert was only about 90% sold-out. The biggest anomaly in American rock shows now is that the British bands who are hugely successful in the States. Foghat, Robin Trower, Peter Frampton and Sharks among them, tend to mean very little back home, while groups like T. Rex, Slade, and Roxy Music have failed to really dent the American charts or consciousness.

Bowie falls into this latter group, he just hasn`t the stature in America that he`s won in Britain. He does very well in some areas, and for example he sold two concerts in Toronto and a whole week in Philadelphia very quickly indeed, but in other regions he may not be playing to full houses.
In Montreal, though, there`s a hard-core Bowie following, and the usual painted faces, dyed heads, and Bowie lookalikes make an appearance. RCA has even run “lookalike” contests for free tickets. From the moment you enter the arena you`re enveloped by the sounds of moog hisses, tolling bells and howling dogs that emerge from the huge speakers positioned along the hall, and soon the crowd are involved in studying the stage set, and you can feel the tension rising. After all, this is David`s first gig since he announced last July 3 that he was quitting live performances and then disbanded the hugely successful “Spiders from Mars” band.
As the houselights finally dim, searchlights begin to sweep the hall, the “1984” theme blasts out, and there`s Bowie in a white suit, flanked by two singer/dancers and with his band almost invisibly positioned well to stage right. Throughout the first three numbers the sound balance is tinny and distorted, but with “Sweet Thing” it all suddenly comes together. For this number Bowie`s walking along the bridge set high over the stage, with a raincoat pulled over his shoulders and looking very much like that old “Strand” cigarettes advert. He stays there, removing his coat and jacket, to do a cooler and clearer version of “Changes” than he`s previously done, then gets down to ground level for a fast “Suffragette City”.
The songs themselves have changed much more in this show than they previously did in live performance. The next song, “Alladin Sane”, for example, is now done as a boogie number, with those manic, fragmented melodies turned into solid and chunky chords with organ and sax leads replacing Garson`s mad piano. This segues into “All the Young Dudes”, which is taken at half the pace Mott the Hoople do it, it`s slow and final, and more of a requiem than an anthem.

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Now here I`m deliberately avoiding describing the stage effects that accompany the songs. This tour may hit England in the autumn, and to describe all the staging in detail is a bit like recommending an Agatha Christie novel and then telling you that the butler did it. But perhaps one example will give you an idea.
The stage blacks out for just five seconds at the opening acoustic-guitar chords of “Space Oddity”, and when a spotlight suddenly flashes on simultaneous with the lyric we see Bowie sitting inside a rocket segment high in one of those fake skyscraper lighting towers, quietly singing into his astronaut`s microphone. The spot illuminating him is the only light in the whole arena, everything`s pitch black, and then suddenly the seat and Bowie begin to glide out of the capsule, just like a scene from “2001”. Very slowly Bowie is lowered out into mid-air high over the audience for the rest of the song, until as he slumps and the astronaut dies he is retrieved into the space-ship. It`s all done with a crane, of course, but the first ten seconds before you work that out are very exciting indeed.
The whole two-hour show`s like that, each shock surpassing an earlier one. The set never runs out of tricks and surprises.
Visually and dramatically I don`t think the show can be faulted, but this kind of staging has played some strange tricks with the music too. The band are so anonymously presented that you`d never recognise any of them again, Bowie never speaks, even to introduce them. However, they`re very good indeed, and they play the new versions of Bowie`s songs very solidly and precisely.
“Drive-In Saturday” is now done by David on a twelve string acoustic, with just sax and piano backing, and it`s fine in a rather Jacques Brel way. That one works perfectly, but then you also find “Jean Genie” being performed as a slow Frank Sinatra-ish night club song, with David sitting astride a chair, ciggie in his mouth and hat flopping in his eyes. I thought that song was the best thing on the “Alladin Sane” album, but without its raw blasting edge it`s just a prissy joke.

Really, the problem is that Bowie is now doing a one-man star show. There`s no Mick Ronson in the new band to share his lime-light or edge up to a mike with him, just these fine, ultra-competent guys in suits standing in the shadows, and you barely look at them twice.
They`re fine musicians of course, they know their trade and have paid their dues. On bass guitar there`s Herbie Flowers and as Bowie says, “He`s got to be the best in the country”. Herbie`s really a session-man, it was him doing that lovely bass line on Lou Reed`s “Walk On The Wild Side”. If you`ve ever seen him on TV then it was probably with Blue Mink a year or two back, and he was the big tall guy grinning.
On drums there`s Tony Newman, the original drummer in the Jeff Beck Group, and Beck`s one of Bowie`s early idols from the London club scene days. Newman`s very precise and adaptable, and that`s probably why David picked him. Mick Garson is the only survivor from the last touring band, and his style continues to develop and change. These three were the original nucleus of the `74 Bowie band, and early in April David was planning on using two black guitarists to get “a really funky sound”.
However, by the time serious rehearsals had started in May he`d changed his mind. “I dropped the idea of a second-guitarist and decided to have lots of keyboards people”, he says, “so I ended up getting two guys from the old New York Rock & Roll Ensemble. Earl Slick will be lead-guitarist, and Michael Kamen will be second keyboards player. They`re both very talented, Mike`s written a ballet about Rodin which will be performed at the Harkness soon”.

The keyboard sounds are effective and wide-ranging, and have a lot to do with Bowie`s new sound. Earl Slick gets few chances to really extend himself, but when he takes a solo, as in “Moonage Daydream”, he reveals that he excels at strong power chords in the tradition of Pete Townshend. I`d like to have seen him really work out on “Jean Genie” if David had stuck to his original arrangement of it.
Considering that along with the rest of the audience I was so entirely surprised and mesmerised by the visual show, I felt strangely disappointed the next day, and a little cheated in some vague way. I could clearly recall only five or six songs out of the whole show, and the emotional content seemed far less than I`d felt seeing Bowie a year ago.
Over the past three years “decadence” has become a catch-all word used to describe anything in glitter and make-up, but there`s a real and useful meaning behind the word. Apart from its dictionary definition of “deteriorating, declining, decaying” I think it also implies an artform where style has become more important than content. If so, then David Bowie at present is surely a decadent artist.
As a composer and arranger he`s creating some of the best songs of his period. As a performing artist he`s obscuring the form and content of those songs with a style which is flashy, sensational, superficial, and perhaps trivialising. He said recently that “just writing a song is not good enough”, and whether it`s his own inclination or because of the demands of his audience, he can`t simply stand up and play his songs. He has to deliver them within a “jack in the box” stage setting which must constantly thrill and titillate the audience.
On record his music has often thrilled and provoked me, but in concert I simply sit back to be entertained by the spectacle. I`m glad to have seen just how far he could take visual spectacle, but having seen it I`m looking forward to seeing him do a straightforward set, in a small club, because that`s the highest art of all.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Eric Clapton, Bill Henderson, Moody Blues, Laura Nyro, Carly Simon, Eddie Riff, Leonard Cohen, The Rats, Alex Harvey, Dave Edmunds, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Gordon Lightfoot, Rick Wakeman.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT David Bowie FROM SOUNDS, March 3, 1973

This was a really strange idea. Put the staff of Sounds in a room together and let them discuss one contemporary artist, then print it in Sounds later. Does it have value? Not so much at the time maybe, except for the fact that these people to a certain extent were closer to Bowie than most other people. Today I would say that this article have more value than when it was originally printed, as these are first-hand impressions of the man as he was seen by these writers at an early point in his career. This is what people actually thought at the time, and because of that it is quite interesting to read.
Enjoy this one.

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A new series in which Sounds` staff analyse today`s leading artists

OUTERVIEW

Bowie: Man and the mask
“Nobody knew how to handle Bowie – he was a total unknown quantity right up to `Hunky Dory` really”

Sounds writers, I assume like Sounds readers, tend to spend a fair amount of their time sitting around talking – about music and musicians as often as not. As a change from straight interviews or the single-minded bigotry of our personal opinion pieces, Jerry Gilbert (hereinafter referred to as JG) had the bright idea of recording a series of these conversations and getting them down on paper – some multi-minded bigotry for you. So, the scene is one rainy night in the Holloway Road in an otherwise deserted office, on the desk is a tape recorder, a bottle of wine, several packets of peanuts and a stack of David Bowie albums, and sprawled around it are JG, Penny Valentine (PV), Martin Hayman (MH), and myself, Steve Peacock (SP). We chose David Bowie as the first subject for these highly subjective quadrologues. We hope it provides you with some food for thought, and maybe some fuel for your letter-writing pens.

SP: The point that struck me listening to some of those earliest songs was that he seems to have projected himself totally into a certain image for that album, and the same applies to “Ziggy” – he`s put himself completely into this figment of the imagination which is Ziggy Stardust. It seems to be an approach he`s used fairly consistently.

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PV: But he must be very upset at the moment that his image has taken over from his songs.
SP: No, I`d think he`s very pleased. What used to upset me, or annoy me, when “Ziggy” came out and all these new people started going for David Bowie, was that the guy who`d made “Hunky Dory” was getting lost somewhere back along the line.
I think that`s true still, but I think it`s his intention that David Bowie doesn`t really exist, and all that really does exist at the moment for the purposes of music and performing is this creation, this mask which at the moment is Ziggy Stardust but which is gradually being phased into Aladdin Sane or whatever comes next.
MH: So he`s operating from behind a mask, which releases his personality to do and think as he likes.
PV: But there`s still a difference between the live gigs which he did, say, three or four years ago and the live gigs he does now, as far as image is concerned, because he was just David Bowie sitting on stage with a guitar – there was no outward show except that he was pretty, basically, and perhaps a little bit vulnerable. That`s where the difference has occured so much, in the live performance.
The point about Bowie which is maybe responsible for how he is today, partly anyway, is that when he released that very first album everybody within the business thought it was an incredible album for that time because nobody had been writing those kind of songs before within that context, but he couldn`t get any commercial success – partly because he wouldn`t do many live gigs and he wouldn`t take the business seriously. Or so he said anyway.
They were really the first songs that were slightly quirky, slightly unusual in that way – even the early Beatles` things were fairly simple. I think he was the first English “pop” artist to really bring any kind of lyrical quality, and even melodic on occasions, peculiar little ideas into music. It was commercially unviable at the time and he had no real direction through a lot of his work, and I think this was half of his problem, and I think this is why he`s so strong on direction at the moment – at last he`s found “A Wav”.

But the fact about Bowie is that I think in many ways he felt very insecure for a long time because I don`t think anybody actually ever believed in him – I don`t know whether he believed in himself, but certainly there was never any direction within himself about how he would go. He would only do the odd concert, he would never do anything…
SP: You knew him at the time. Did “Space Oddity” take him by surprise when it became a hit? Because he didn`t follow it up.
PV: Yes, but you`ve got to remember that at that time he didn`t want to do any gigs – he did one tour with Humble Pie when they first started, which was a complete fiasco of a tour, and what he found was that when he sat on stage with his guitar and sang numbers like “Cygnet Committeee” for instance off that album, the audience were incredibly restless – all they wanted to hear was “Space Oddity”. And he became incredibly disillusioned in a funny way, because I think he felt that “Space Oddity” would be a kind of lever to get all his other songs heard, but because it was such a commercial proposition, far more than his other songs on the face of it…
JG: But if you can forget that “Space Oddity” was a hit, was that a stronger song than his others of that period?

FLASHY

PV: I`d say as a commercial proposition it was.
SP: I think the point comes out that his commercial success has always come with a rather flashy, rather flip and superficial kind of imagery – I mean “Cygnet Committee” didn`t make it, but “Space Oddity” did. It was a clever little story, a bit “weird” because it was about space and stuff….
MH: Spacey things were very much in vogue then, because it was about the time of Hendrix and the Byrds… it was in the air as it were.
SP: OK. Then he dived, and then came back with this mythical Ziggy Stardust figure.
MH: No, no, no – Ziggy Stardust surely was preceded by “Hunky Dory”.
SP: But “Hunky Dory” wasn`t a success commercially – it didn`t sell well at the time.
JG: Even so it did sufficient…
PV: But the thing you`ve got to remember is that up until Ziggy Stardust there were very few people who`d seen Bowie live on stage – I`d reckon that probably only five per cent or less of the audience he gets now ever saw him live up until then, and I don`t think they even knew about him until then – he was a minority appeal artist.
MH: It seems to me he`s gone from one extreme to another – from being extremely elitist with only a small band of people who were going to get into what he`s writing, to a very, very broad spectrum. It seems conscious.
PV: I have a feeling it was more very clever timing – whether on his part or not. His career went through so many peculiar patches and up until “Hunky Dory”, say, I`d seen him a lot and he never, never wanted to get involved in the business, never wanted to do gigs, couldn`t take it seriously. I don`t know how much of that was that he had no confidence in himself, which might partly be because he couldn`t get off the ground, couldn`t do any big gigs, but he always said he didn`t want to.
SP: So what do you think changed his mind?
PV: I think having a new manager.
SP: So why did he get a new manager?
PV: I don`t know what happened. I know that he was with Ken Pitman. I know that came to a halt. His argument directly after that and just before DeFries – he told me about DeFries – was that finally he found somebody who gave him confidence. I think more it gave him direction. See, nobody knew how to handle Bowie – he was a total unknown quantity, right up to “Hunky Dory” really.

DIRECTION

He had these ideas about mime and things like that, and the business as a whole couldn`t quite see him in any kind of context. It`s very difficult to find out whether suddenly he fitted in or whether he suddenly found a direction.
SP: At the time of “Hunky Dory” or just after, I felt he started consciously creating this kind of wall between him and the public David Bowie.
PV: Well yes, but since none of us have met him since it`s hard to tell which is which now. The only thing that gives you a clue – from our experience at work – is that it seems he doesn`t want to talk to anyone who might have known him earlier on and all he seems to want is somebody who will reflect the image that he has now.
JG: So why is it that a few people have suddenly become a whole lot of people – is it just the songs, is it the image…?
PV: I don`t think the actual songs have changed much over the past, say, six years, so it must be that the audience taste has changed, that the promotion`s better…
JG: The presentation`s changed completely, not the songs.
MH: I think Bowie`s appeal now is very broadly based. I mean obviously – shall we say discriminating listeners – realise that the guy`s got quality, real quality to his songs which is something that he`s always had but hasn`t been appreciated up until now, plus the image is much more broad based – this kind of hermaphroditic thing that he has means that he appeals to blokes as well as chicks. Also in a fairly broad spectrum; young kids can take it straight because he`s a beautiful character, and the 25-year-olds can appreciate that he`s got this mask and is working the business very cleverly from there, and still appreciate that he`s writing good songs.

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BALANCE

PV: The only worry I have about him actually is that at the moment – and I don`t think this is going to last because I think the image will finally die and the songs will stand up – the majority of people buying the albums are buying them because of Bowie. I don`t think the songs have the importance the image has, I don`t think the balance is there.
I think he`s being very clever in a way, getting the songs to the people, and I think eventually the importance of the image will fade slightly and the songs will be left.
JG: Do you think they will, or do you think the songs will fade too?
PV: No, I don`t think the songs will fade – well, as much as anyone can say.
If you look at him and hear him now, he`s the epitome of everything that`s happening in its strongest and most obvious way now, in the same way that Pete Townshend was the epitome of everything that was happening in its most volatile way at that time (the time of “My Generation”). I can`t quite express it, but he seems to have captured the freneticism of the kind of 1984 syndrome – I see something from the future as opposed to something that`s happening now.
JG: A sort of “Clockwork Orange” future.
PV: Yes, very much – he always reminds me of steel buildings. Very strange.
SP: But to put it another way, he`s not so much a projection of the future, as of a kind of future he`s created that wouldn`t necessarily have happened without him. He`s taken a load of elements from science fiction and all that kind of stuff and made himself into a kind of hero of that generation – and people are beginning to believe in it.

PV: The other great thing about him is that he has this sense of outrage where he outrages all but his followers – when you think how the Stones used to outrage all the adults, he brings out that same kind of response.
Half of the attraction young kids have always felt towards a hero – and you can forget all these little groups who wear make-up and all that rhubarb, they`re not heroes – is something that another generation would maybe find slightly distasteful. And I think to a great extent he`s taken a lot of his influences from what`s going down in New York, for instance, which is not particularly happening in England but which English audiences like to relate to because they love to relate to things American, to something they haven`t actually experienced but it is a kind of trend image. I think Bowie and DeFries between them decided to go out and provide a great shock factor to English rock music – it may not be so much that now, but certainly at the beginning it was; there`d never been that kind of a person up from the British rock scene, ever.
JG: Bowie`s American thing though was very strange – he had the tour set up, and he did it, and he did it really well, and then they started ploughing in these extra dates on the West Coast, until he got to San Francisco which is where I saw him on Hallowe`en. And it was the freakiest show I`d ever been to in my life – I could have sworn I saw Bowie four times before he actually got out on stage, there were people there who looked so like Bowie, but then there were hardly any people there anyway.

FREAKS

The general consensus seemed to be that San Francisco, which is supposed to be the great trend maker, has got its own freaks and it doesn`t really need imported English ones.
PV: Which is why I don`t think he could have started this whole thing in America, or in New York, but the English rock audience by and large is wanting to get in on what`s going on there but is still alienated by the distance…
I think the thing is, you see, that Bowie has at last found a place to belong, after all these years – I mean it`s been a long time he`s been ligging about, whether he took it seriously or not, for all the mitigating reasons that he didn`t get off the ground. I think at last he`s found a place he kicks off from – everyone needs a jumping-off point and I think he`s got it now.
JG: But I just think the metamorphosis might start wearing very thin very soon and I don`t think he can keep forcing a concept change without the material. I wonder whether his sort of end was after “Hunky Dory”, because I find the rift between “Hunky Dory” and “Ziggy Stardust” rather more… I mean “Hunky Dory” turned me on to David Bowie who I`d always been aware of, but “Ziggy Stardust” held me by virtue of the image but not by virtue of the songs, and the next album won`t do that for me.

CRITICAL

PV: Yes, but you`re now sitting in a critical capacity – you see things in a different way, we all do, let`s face it, and I don`t think you can say he hasn`t got a lasting quality just because it did that for you. I think the fact is that after all these years he`s got success, what he does with it is another matter, but I don`t think he`s very easily going to let it go. But the other thing is that a lot of the things he`s always wanted to do, like the mime company and things, he`s now able to do because when you get success you have the facility to do things like that.
SP: People say that, people say that the success of having hit records and being on the front pages of the papers, has allowed him to put into practice the ideas he`s always had – but I thought the Rainbow concert with the mime company was mediocre in the extreme. It didn`t take the mime far enough, it didn`t take the music far enough, the musicians were used as props, stuck under bits of scaffolding.
So does it mean that having got to this pitch of commercial success, he isn`t really able to put into practice the things he was doing before – that the commercial pressures on him make him water everything down for public consumption? I didn`t speak to anyone else who felt it wasn`t as good as it could have been – everyone I spoke to thought it was great, Bowie has brought mime to a mass audience. Yet what he`d done was to bring an apology for mime to a mass audience, and they loved it.

MH: And his policy of record releases seems to be taking him further and further away from the kind of audience he could present a mime show to – for example to me, “The Jean Genie” sounds exactly like T. Rex on a pub juke box.
PV: This is what makes me think that he`s been so influenced by Bolan, from an outward point of view, from a show point of view. They`ve been friends for an awful long time, so now you think of a guy that cannot get any success, and who`s been sort of half trying – I mean, despite the fact that he always denied he wanted to be involved. I`m sure that you don`t make records unless you want people to hear them and you want to get some kind of recognition. So he sees Bolan suddenly projecting an entirely new image to an entirely new audience – I think it had a great influence on him, far more than he`d ever admit to.
I think their careers run very parallel actually, except that T. Rex supplied a want to a very young audience and Bowie has manoeuvred his image in a slightly different way.
SP: I`d say T. Rex supplied a need whereas Bowie created a demand.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Darryl Way (Curved Air), Geordie, Nazareth, Steve Marriott, Average White Band, Elton John, Francis Rossi (Status Quo), Slade, Thin Lizzy, Stackridge, Peter Gabriel, Mike Heron, Jesse Winchester.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.

ARTICLE ABOUT Mott The Hoople FROM SOUNDS, February 3, 1973

This is a really good one, not only for Hoople and Ian Hunter-fans, but also quite a bit about their relation with David Bowie. Sort of ambivalent it strikes me reading this. Band member Verden Allen would actually quit the band, as it was revealed in the next edition of Sounds. Have fun reading this old article!

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Mott: Punk rock rolls back

an exclusive interview by Cameron Crowe on the west coast

It`s a delicate business being involved with David Bowie,” explains Mott The Hoople lead-singer Ian Hunter, while soaking in the California sun by an all-American Holiday Inn pool. “We want to maintain a group personality, yet at the same time we`re grateful to Bowie for having given us the hit that`s helped a lot.
“Bowie`s so big, though, you get people making observations such as… he`s taking us over… we`re one of his extensions… he`s using us. It`s just total crap. Rubbish.”
Mott The Hoople are in a bit of a dilemma, you see. Hit singles can be dangerous things, and while the success of “All The Young Dudes” brought to the band their well-deserved recognition, it also may have carried with it a definite stereo-type.

VICTIMS

After a lengthy existence spanning three years and five albums, Mott have suddenly found themselves the victims of their association with fellow-Englishman, David Bowie. Bowie, who convinced the band to re-form (and also wrote the title track and produced Mott`s newest album, “All The Young Dudes”) is also responsible for creating the image that he has “taken the band under his wing”. According to Hunter, nothing could be further from the truth.
“We`ve always been like we are now… I`m amazed at this photo of Edgar Winter (on Winter`s new album “They Only Come Out At Night”) because anybody with an ounce of sense should know that the glamour and glitter thing is just the same as the flower-power thing. Pink Floyd came out of it and Bowie`s gonna come out of it. Nobody else is gonna come out alive.
“I mean, even if we wanted to, which we don`t, it would be almost suicidal to go out for all of it. I`m like a lumberjack, I wouldn`t look anything but ridiculous if I came on stage looking like Bowie. Everybody in this band is your ace heterosexual straight.”
The whole story of how the band met up with Bowie, broke-up, re-formed and recorded “Dudes” all begins last April.

RELIEF

“We`d had about enough,” admits Hunter in retrospect. “We broke the band up in Switzerland. We owed twenty-three grand and were having difficulties with our record company. So we got this demo tape from David Bowie in the mail one day, and it was `Suffragette City`, he`d sent it because he`d liked the band.”
Hunter pauses a moment to adjust his biker-like sunglasses and reconsider the ramifications of that last statement. “I don`t actually think he was particularly into the band,” he continues, “He just liked what we represented. I think we were about the first punk rock band to come out of England. He likes that sort of thing.
“Overend, our bass player, sent the tape back to David, along with a note explaining that we`d broken up. Bowie went mad. He was on the phone with Overend for about two hours trying to convince him that the band should stay together. In the meantime, the rest of us were having a party. All the pressure was off. We were finished with Mott The Hoople, and it was a great relief.”
“Bowie came over to see us about three hours after he`d hung up with Overend. During the interim period, he`d written `All The Young Dudes`, which was about the way David viewed the band and our image. He had already booked some time at Olympic Studios for us and asked us to just get together for the session.” Hunter pauses again, this time for effect.
“When we got to the studios,” he picks up, “it was just like magic. We needed a kick up the ass, and after that session it was just like the beginning again. We decided to stay together.”

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Now under the management of Tony DeFries, the shrewd Colonel Parker behind Bowie and Iggy Pop, the band is now starting to work their way out of financial pressures, the factor that caused them to temporarily disband in the first place.
Another beneficial event was their signing to CBS Records only seven months ago. Now the only major obstacle remaining is to get out of that David Bowie shadow, a difficult feat, to say the least.
Hunter`s vocals are the most distinguishing characteristic of Mott The Hoople`s music and with the “All The Young Dudes” LP, it has grown quite Bowiesque, or so it seems.
“If you listen carefully to the earlier albums,” Hunter contends, “you`ll see that my voice has always been the same. It`s been the treatment of it that`s changed its sound. I`d always wanted presence on the voice. I listened to American music.. Randy Newman, I listened to Dylan on `Nashville Skyline` where the vocal sound is just incredible. The presence is just amazing.
“I just never had it myself… I knew it was there in the studio, but they won`t help you. You`ve got to know what you want.
“I did all the vocals for `Brain Capers` in two hours. With David, I found the sound I`d always been looking for… a first repeat echo. That`s the sound I`ll continue to use.

Hunter has always tended more towards the semi-spoken, semi-vocal treatment in his material. “Dudes” was far from the first quasi-narrative the band has performed. On “Brain Capers”, the band`s last album, Dion`s “Your Own Backyard” contained an almost identical vocal line.
“I guess I`ve always leaned towards that type of thing, you`re right. That`s where the whole Dylan thing came in…”
“Mott The Hoople”, the group`s debut album (released several years ago) unveiled a very much Dylan influenced band. Hunter`s vocals all matched, missed-note for missed-note, that of the Dylan of that period in time. As one astute reviewer noted, “It was an exact replica of the whole `country pie` scene.”
“… I always tended to slide down at the end of notes because I knew I couldn`t hold them. So, obviously, that`s where the parallel was going to be… with Dylan, because he also slid down at the end of notes. So does Sonny Bono… Lou Reed… David Bowie. But that doesn`t mean that I sat down and studied them because I didn`t.
“It was just that I`d never been able to sing; I`d wanted to, and here was my chance. With singers like Randy Newman and Leonard Cohen, I knew I stood a chance.”
After the release of that first Mott LP, the band, through their many British appearances, began to rack up a substantial following and went on to record “Mad Shadows”… a more consistently rocking album than its predecessor.
“`Mad Shadows` is the album you`ll find the most fanatical Mott fans behind,” reveals Hunter between sips of Mott`s Apple Juice. (An ardent fan sent the band a case of the drink after their extremely successful appearance at the Los Angeles Palladium.)
“We never wanted to be that rough… and we didn`t think we were that rough. It just came out that way. You wouldn`t believe what was going on while we were recording `Mad Shadows`.”
The interviewer takes the bait. “What was happening?” he asks.

POLITE

“We wrecked the studio,” answers Verden Allen, Mott`s organist. “I don`t know, we were in a hell of a mess… and it came out on the album. The songs were pretty good on that one, but if you listen to the production work on it…”
By the time Mott appears in America again there will be a new album and single, also produced by Bowie and a new stage act to boot. Sit tight. Mott The Hoople have come a long way, and still have a long way to go, but all the signs point to Ian Hunter, Verden Allen, Overend Watts and Buffin sticking it out.
“This is your ace-diplomatic band,” Hunter states looking over at his fellow band members. “That`s why it`s taken us so long. If one of us freaks out for six months, we all have to wait for him. We`re too polite to say something.”
Mott The Hoople. They`ve been wanting to do this for years.

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I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!

This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Neil Hubbard, Yoko Ono, Pussy, Jan Akkerman, David Gates, Moody Blues, Al Stewart, Atomic Rooster, Savoy Brown, Gentle Giant, John Martin, Esperanto, Captain Beefheart, Rolling Stones, Spartacus, Tom Paxton, Eric Andersen, Amazing Blondel.

The original music paper this article came from (pictured at the top) is for sale!

1. Send me an e-mail if you are interested. Send it to: geirmykl@gmail.com
2. The offer should be 20 $ (US Dollars) to be considered. (This includes postage).
3. We conduct the transaction through my verified Paypal account for the safety of both parties.