BOWIE NCIANT BOX SET THOUGHTS
As many of you have no doubt heard (or experienced first-hand) the latest release in Parlophone's series of Bowie box sets, an 11 CD or 13 disc vinyl set covering the "Berlin"-era is causing Bowie fans unprecedented agita.
Not that it doesn't have fans - it truly does. I think everyone would agree the packaging is of a high standard. No one doubts the quality of the music. But the way that music has been handled this time is causing controversy and the excuses are raising eyebrows, including my own.
The sheer volume of negativity "A New Career In A New Town" has generated is so significant, Amazon UK has stopped selling it (an Amazon practice that kicks in when customer complaints and return requests flags a product in their system as having issues). It has 2.1 stars on Amazon US and is still for sale there as of this writing (despite using the same masters as the UK versions). A remarkable 54% of Amazon reviews are single stars, many quite harsh, some including tales of partial refunds to appease angry buyers. Steve Hoffman's infamous audiophile forums have 213 (!!) pages devoted to the box. Henry Rollins has warned fans to avoid the release. With the internet's ability to turn a spark into a wildfire A NEW CAREER IN A NEW TOWN is taking a brutal critical beating the previous boxes avoided. The (by comparison) nitpicking complaints Parlophone got about the earlier boxes must seem like a beautiful dream. Under this kind of fire I'd imagine they are significantly panicked.
To wit, they are freaked-out to the point that Paul Sinclair of the excellent reissue website Super Deluxe Edition was called in to the London Parlophone offices to have a nearly two hour sit down during which the label attempted to explain away the problems with a mix of curious, and at times, conflicting, reasoning. This was followed by a press release from Bowie's team. Neither gesture has seemed to quell the unrest and it's not hard to see why.
The box retails for between $120-$200 depending on which physical format you choose. From Parlophone's perspective, they have considerable money invested in just manufacturing. Plus, this is a product they've got a high expectation to generate significant financial rewards, especially in the crucial holiday period. And before everyone piles on about commercialism triumphing over art, realize this is a company that has an obligation to perform both financially and artistically at peak, especially in an industry with significantly diminishing returns. Making money isn't evil and no one is forcing anyone to buy anything. That said, I still have many reservations about what I view as fan-predatory practices of the program to date, going back to the initial, bonus track-free versions of 1999.
I've been on both sides of this equation, so before I go deeper, let me say that a project of this scale, by an artist of this stature - especially when it features music many of Bowie's hardcore fans hold particularly dear - is an enterprise not undertaken lightly or without fear of fan wrath. These boxes have been coming at a steady rate and there's no doubt many inside the walls of Parlophone - no matter how big a Bowie fan they may be - are human, and may be, at this point, somewhat Bowie-fatigued. After going through so many reels listening to and cataloging the vault, I certainly was.
In short, I'm sympathetic. The Ryko titles contained mistakes. We were lucky - when the Ryko releases were prepared, David was alive. He signed off on all the re-masters we created, so we could safely deflect to him, regardless of who was initially responsible for any slip-ups. And, thank God, they came out before the internet was a thing, or I might've offed myself while reading comments.
Since the fuss started, I've discussed the issue with a range of people who've spent time with ANCIANT, from fans to renowned re-release producers. This has provided interesting fodder for my own thoughts.
Parlophone and Bowie's publicist categorically deny any of the issues are unintentional. In fact, they claim these perceived problems are absolutely critical to the concept of this particular box. Yet that pretense conflicts with the apparent logic behind the previous boxes.
I hate it when people presume to know what my thoughts are or were without asking directly, so I'm hesitant to state categorically that the first two boxes were intentionally envisioned to be at odds with NCIANT, but logic follows that if you've set a standard, you ought to maintain that thread throughout the campaign.
Conversely, if you're planning a deviation, that should be clearly communicated prior to release. Otherwise, well, here we are.
The brick walled mastering is unfortunate but not uncommon. While audiophiles balk, many consumers DO prefer it because it is LOUD. If you don't brickwall, your release sounds quiet next to a contemporary pop album - and this was especially obvious during the MP3 heyday when 1989 CDs dumped into iTunes didn't sound as loud as 2005 CDs did - resulting in jarring volume disparity. I'll admit that, on occasion, depending on the music, I can enjoy brickwalled mastering.
But this is some of Bowie's most complex and cleanly recorded work from his Great Decade, and the mastering choices aren't compatible with the music. Yes, Visconti was there for the recording and certainly knows what at least he (if not David, or Eno) was after on the original sessions.
On the other hand, David signed off on the Ryko masters and we never got any notes to boost the bass, which we could've (and would've) done if requested.
It's worth noting Tony's work has become increasingly bass-y over the years. Maybe this is by choice or perhaps he's (understandably) lost some hearing range as he ages. Maybe the fact that he's a bass player is a factor.
All this considered, mastering choices are subjective and driven by many factors including source material and end goals. So let's agree that maybe you don't like the choices made, but someone had to make a choice somewhere.
This might seem like a brush-off of a fairly significant issue, but I am moving past this it because it's wholly subjective, and therefore least problematic, IMO. FWIW, I think the "Lodger" remix is excellent, a real improvement (unlike the "Ziggy" remix, which didn't have the ferocity on the basic multitracks Bowie hoped for). Conversely, I do not like the "Lodger" remaster, and neither do the fans.
Even so, I find throwing Tony under the bus an odd move considering the label must have heard the box before it was manufactured. One assumes this would give them an opportunity to reconsider.
Or it's not out of the realm of possibility that quality control just failed / dropped the ball.
Sinclair details accounts of a mind-boggling number of test pressings, so the final approval process must've taken months, at least.
This indicates there was trouble early on in the process, but it's also important to remember that listening and re-listening to the same music, slightly modified, over and over, will cause a listener to develop ear and / or material fatigue and possibly lose the plot on the entire exercise, forgetting the original goal.
Maybe whoever was in position to pull the trigger finally threw their hands up in frustration after the 50th test pressing hit their desk - "I just can't tell anymore! Make the damn thing!"
Labels are businesses. They have annual sales goals. That's not inherently an indication there's malicious foul play afoot. It's in everyone's interest if most fans like the final product, at least enough so they don't try to word-massacre it online.
But the rationale behind the "Heroes" flux is..... not well thought out, to say the least.
Which brings me to my next point; it's flat out fucking bizarre that, all of a sudden, they've decided to use ONLY original (un-EQ'd, I assume) master reels as the source material, warts and all. This MIGHT make sense if they were touting these as flat transfers, but instead they've remastered them drastically, altering the sound of the original recordings.
Again, we shouldn't be so quick to blame Parlophone. It may not be the label's fault. Perhaps this was the deal with Bowie prior to his passing; leave the job to Tony and release what he delivers, no compromise.
In my view, the sole point of using un-EQ'd master tapes is to get the best possible sound quality, period. Those tapes, presumably, are the closest to what the artists and producers played back in the studio and signed off on before some mastering guy EQ'd the record for whatever format was active at the time. This is indeed the right place to START, but not necessarily the source material you WANT to use throughout.
When Ryko handled Bowie's work, Toby Mountain, his team, and I vigorously reviewed ALL the source material at hand, including multiple safety copies, reels made for cassette duplication, different territories, etc, etc.
Using the un-EQ'd master tape wasn't always desirable because some masters WERE damaged and wouldn't have provided the purest reproduction. In those cases we'd review all tapes containing the damaged songs. Once we found and agreed on the best-sounding version, we'd use it. This generally worked, but also led to our snafu of using "Gouster" mixes of "Young Americans" tracks, without realizing they were slightly different. I do NOT recall the "Heroes" master having any issues, but that was 25 years ago. I may have forgotten, or it may have been damaged since.
Previous Parlophone Bowie boxes may not be mastered to everyone's liking, but this is an impossible result, despite insistence to the contrary by hardcore audiophiles - there are no absolutes in art, boys! But it's reasonable to say were generally well received.
Now, if the label's being honest, when they included Romanian-only single edits or similar on recent comps and boxes in the interest of serving / praying on the completist, they were rarely (if ever) sourcing what are most likely long-lost master reels of regionally mutilated single versions from the 70's. Instead they're very accurately re-creating an edit they've heard on a 7 inch 45, using far more reliable tools than a reel of oxidized plastic, tape and a razor blade. Mastering studios have significantly better gear now than we did in 1989-92 when the bulk of Ryko's Bowie titles were mastered. Even by 1996, mastering software had made huge leaps and bounds, prompting us to remaster in 20 bit for the gold AU20 series.
So why is master tape purism suddenly the be-all-end-all with box #3? We can only guess.
If it's not bullshit and they're deliberately deviating from the process and standards established by the previous boxes, don't fans who are most likely $250 to $400 into these sets already deserve a friendly heads-up instead of a "this was intentional" excuse after they've already laid their money down? I'd think so.
Again I can only guess at the kind of snafus that'd create such a derided product. The hiss, the flutter, the unintentional clipped fade-in; all would probably be forgiven with the explanation the label has offered.
It doesn't MAKE SENSE, but fans would probably accept it.
But the "Heroes" dropout? That's a mistake, plain and simple. You can fix that within minutes in a digital studio while still maintaining the integrity of using the original source tape barring a few seconds. WHO WOULD NOTICE? WOULD VISCOUNT BE UP AT NIGHT TOSSING AND TURNIG BECAUSE OF THREE SECONDS FLOWN IN FROM ANOTHER SOURCE? HAVE WE FALLEN SO FAR THAT FANS WANT TO HEAR ALL THE DAMAGED TAPES? Of course not. For Parlophone to insist otherwise is a little insulting.
I've maintained all along that the current spate of re-releases is designed by trainspotters to serve trainspotters. The packages are nice, but what "new-old" content are they adding? "The Gouster"? Please. Remixes? Edits? Spare me. I like the "Lodger" remix, but let's not pretend it's anything but bait on a hook as the catalog takes a final (?) victory lap before physical product fades from the mainstream.
Again, I'm not an anti-capitalist. If Bowie and Parlophone want to milk the catalog, without offering anything significantly new to the fanbase, that's their right. But this approach and the poor QC displayed on ANCIANT may have finally gotten us to the the point where even the most fervent completists feel they've been taken advantage of.
That 80's box just became a significantly harder sell.
OFFICIAL ANNOUNCEMENT OF OUR NEW LABEL,
SUPERMEGABOT MUSIC CONCERN LLC!
Former Rykodisc Staffers Launch CD-Only Label, Supermegabot Music Concern,
Encourage Music Fans To Take the Supermegabot Challenge To Win First Year’s Worth of Releases!
September 27, 2017 – Salem, MA - This Fall, consumers of physical music will have a new, yet instantly classic record label to thrill them with sounds current and vintage. Jeff Rougvie and Thomas Enright, both formerly of Rykodisc and EMI/Caroline are launching Supermegabot Music Concern, LLC with six releases before the end of the year, all on CD (with select download sales).
Supermegabot plans to release all titles on CD only, at least initially. “We get that some people prefer vinyl, but CD is the better format when it comes to sound reproduction,” says Rougvie, adding, “Vinyl isn’t out of the question at some point, but for now we’re sticking with the format that doesn’t degrade every time you play it.”
Rougvie, who produced David Bowie’s Grammy-winning Sound + Vision series and A&R’d many of Ryko’s most beloved releases (Big Star, Sugar, Elvis Costello, Morphine, Meat Puppets, Nine Inch Nails, Bill Hicks, Golden Smog) is Executive-Producing all of Supermegabot’s re-releases with the same kind of care and attention to detail that music lovers came to expect from Rykodisc. Fans can look forward to expanded track listings and special packaging wherever possible.
“Much like when Ryko started, our original focus was on catalog, but an amazing artist came along that was too good to turn down. Now we’re taking a unique approach to developing a new artist,” says Enright.
In an unconventional twist, the label is launching without announcing any upcoming titles. Instead hardcore music fans are invited to compete in the Supermegabot Challenge to try and guess the releases. On https://www.supermegabot.com/ fans can see tantalizing visual and written clues about the albums. The first person to accurately guess all of them will win a copy of each of the label’s first year of releases. If no one correctly guesses them all, a winner will be picked at random, so even a guess could win!
“We’re music obsessives launching a label for music obsessives – so we want to reward one of them for proving their depth of knowledge. A contest seemed like a fun way to launch and engage music fans at the same time”, says Rougvie.
Enright, whose career in independent music artist development, sales and marketing spans three decades, adds “These aren’t all super-obscure titles, either. Our first batch includes a band with three Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members in it. Supermegabot refuses to be tied to one musical genre; initial releases include punk, power-pop, art-rock, new wave, and 80’s funk. That said, we are all about discovery – lots of great records and artists never got a fair shake. Uncovering these gems is key to the label’s DNA.”
SALEM HORROR FEST, MORRISSEY 25 YEARS AGO & MORE
First, it may seem easy and obvious to have a horror festival in Salem in September & October, but it's hard to imagine any more exciting or thoughtfully planned than this first of (hopefully) many annual events, Salem Horror Fest. The festival looks at fear from a variety of viewpoints and examines subtext in horror films.
I can't begin to get into the depth of great guests, programming and amazing selection of films (including some that wouldn't traditionally be considered horror, but really are) like Cruising, an 80's Al Pacino flick that's rarely screened in theaters, with an incredible punk soundtrack.
Check out the full program here, and if you're on the fence about coming to Salem, consider that Metallica's Kirk Hammet is exhibiting his incredible collection of horror movie posters and memorabilia at the acclaimed Peabody Essex Museum.
In addition to the usual Haunted House and Seafaring events that typically take place in Salem every Fall, there's a lot of opportunity for new kinds of high-end thrills in Salem this year! I encourage you to take part so we get similar activity in the future!
Click on the image below for a link to the PEM's Hammett exhibit page.
ORPHEUM THEATER, SEPTEMBER 12, 1992
It was 25 Years Ago Today (he said again) that I saw Morrissey for the first time at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis. It was the opening night of the "Your Arsenal" tour. YA is still my fave record he's ever done, including the Smiths catalog, probably because of the amazing arrangements by Mick Ronosn, who produced the album.
Gallon Drunk opened the show. They had recently become a Rykodisc act after Howie Klein called and told me the band had signed to Sire (Morrissey's label), but their new album wasn't going to be ready in time for Sire to get it out for the tour, and they needed someone fast and nimble who could get two older GD albums out before September 12th. I figured the tour would be enough marketing to sell sufficient copies of the albums to make the deal worthwhile (it did, but not spectacularly).
Since Morrissey had hand-picked Gallon Drunk as the opening act, I figured there was a good chance I might get an opportunity to meet the Man Himself and maybe talk some Bowie, and I lived in Minneapolis at the time, so I went over to the venue in the afternoon to say hi to Gallon Drunk, who acted like assholes. Instead of offering to buy them dinner as intended, I split the dressing room and hung around in the hallways of the backstage area hoping to run into S. Morrissey.
Sadly, no luck, so I went out in the street to meet up with my GF at the time. The crowd was spilling out into the bus lanes of Hennepin Avenue and there were clearly lots of people who'd flown in for the opening date ion the tour. Kids were crying everywhere, they were so excited. The whole situation felt very safe but highly volatile, at least emotionally.
The show was amazing. Well, the Morrissey show was - his band was incredible, way more rocking than the album, which was a surprise considering YA is one of his meatier recordings. The crowd was largely baffled by Gallon Drunk - no surprise, they were a difficult listen.
The kids had been going wild, jumping onstage and getting tossed off, a few of them connecting with Morrissey and dancing with him. Unfortunately, this only encouraged more fans to get onstage and the encore was interrupted by a massive stage invasion, which abruptly ended the show during "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful."
Top night out. Here's the setlist:
You're Gonna Need Someone on Your Side
Girl Least Likely To
Certain People I Know
Sister I'm a Poet
The National Front Disco
November Spawned a Monster
Such a Little Thing Makes Such a Big Difference
My Insatiable One
We'll Let You Know
He Knows I'd Love to See Him
You're the One for Me, Fatty
Seasick, Yet Still Docked
We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful
(stage invasion, show ends abruptly)
I'm still holding off on news (how do people do this on the regular??) but I did want to let you know two things I'm very excited about:
1) My pals at the amazing Omnivore Recordings are having a SALE!
50% off all CDs, the superior format!
Does not include pre-orders, so don't add as-yet-unreleased titles to your cart or the order will be delayed & you won't get the discount (discount will show in your cart, not on the product page).
Titles include their new Chris Bell pre-Big Star collection, Raspberries Live, their amazing Big Star releases, Game Theory, Jellyfish, Bob Mould, The Muffs and many, many more - all loving curated!
GO GET 'EM!
2) In my view, the greatest rock band of the 21st Century was the LA band Tsar, who, like Big Star before them, were buried in history by record company shenanigans. Their Facebook page mysteriously hints at things to come, and there are rumors of Jeff Whalen issuing a solo album. If you heard my interview on Rock & Roll Geek Show (hit the link and find the Celebrating Bowie episode), you'll know I'm a huge fan (as is RnR Geek Michael Butler!) and if Whalen's album is anything near as great as the Tsar albums were, I expect it'll be my record of the decade.
Find them @rockgroupTsar on Facebook.
Finally, really, BIG ASS NEWS IS ON THE WAY!
Still on the brink of major announcements (some are only 5 years in the making), but in the meantime, I did an interview with "Always Never Yesterday" - an e-mail magazine about the future.
The subject of this issue (#10) is "Future-Proof" edited + curated by Ean McNamara, a talented artist who worked on the film adaptation of Neil Gaiman's "Coraline" amongst others.
We talk about Star Wars, the music business, audio formats, Capitol Record Shop, and (of course) David Bowie.
Amazingly, after the interview was completed, we discovered the interviewer is the son of friends from my Hartford days!
You can sign up to get the issue delivered to your e-mailbox when it's released later this month. Here's the link.
SO MUCH NEWS... BUT NOT QUITE YET
Wish I could divulge more, but after years of working on a variety of projects, it seems like they are all coming together at once - which is very exciting.
I'll be dropping clues here, but as my talented friend (and future collaborator) Butcher Billy says, "Find what you love and LET IT KILL YOU!"
Yours truly, ready to die doing what I love.
MY THANKS TO ALL WHO CAME OUT ON MARCH 12th TO THE PALACE DANBURY!
To be blunt, I was quite nervous about doing the presentation without a band for the first time. You guys were great and I must give special thanks to the staff of the Palace, especially the lovely Carol Spiegel!
I'll be talking about David's history and how he got happy again after a rough patch in the 80's based on conversations he and I had between 1990-1997. Also, I'll show some rare material, discuss the history of Rykodisc, and we'll have a Q&A!
Tickets available here or click on the image above.
Sunday afternoon, show at 3pm!
To all who came out for a very successful (300+) second show at Arlington's historic Regent Theater on March 3rd - you guys are the best, and I hope you enjoyed it!
The Daily Pravda killed playing Bowie classics and the Regent Staff was amazing! And we got to the Q&A and you guys had great questions! It was great meeting so many of you after the show.
NEW VIDEO FOR 'NO PLAN'
Keeping the mythology going from beyond....
Saturday Jan 7, 2017 at the REGENT THEATER, ARLINGTON, MA
Presentation by JEFF ROUGVIE
BOWIE MUSIC played by the DAILY PRAVDA
Join us as we celebrate one of our era’s most creative artists! This event will bring to life the magic of David Bowie, offering a first-hand glimpse of his uniquely-gifted and chameleon-like genius.
In 1989, Rykodisc, a tiny independent record label located on Pickering Wharf in Salem, Massachusetts, was hand-picked by David Bowie to curate his amazing body of work spanning 1969-1980, including classics like Space Oddity, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Young Americans, Low, Heroes, and Scary Monsters.
What followed then set a new standard for audio-visual presentation, re-affirmed David Bowie’s genius for a new generation and helped him rediscover his creative powers. One man behind the scenes in this amazing story was Jeff Rougvie, Rykodisc’s VP of Special Projects, who worked directly with Bowie on nearly 20 releases over 10 years.
During this special live event Rougvie will discuss the magic of Bowie using visuals, unseen material, accompanied by Boston’s own Daily Pravda, who will perform live versions of some of Bowie’s most memorable songs, followed by a Q&A session.
All tickets are reserved seating:
TICKET PRICE: $17.00 ALL SEATS
Get them here!
ABOUT THE REGENT:
Built in 1916, the historic Regent Theatre remains true to its roots as a vibrant vaudeville house. An intimate 500-seat performing arts center with superior acoustics and comfortable seating, "Arlington's Show Place of Entertainment" features live music concerts, theatre, dance events, family entertainment, comedy, film specials, and more.
Conveniently located just minutes from Cambridge and Boston, the Regent is MBTA and handicap accessible with free parking across the street (nights and weekends after 3pm on Saturday) and a variety of great restaurants and shops within easy walking distance.
The Regent is dedicated to bringing the highest quality events to the area, and while we are a community theater attracting audiences from Arlington and the surrounding towns of suburban Boston, we have a number of exclusive events throughout the year with nationally and internationally known performers-many of whom are bona fide legends.
LAST CHANCE TO ORDER LAZARUS VIA AMAZON PRIME & GET IT ON RELEASE DATE!
Order here - plus you get auto rip, so you can sell the sealed CD and still have the music!
BIG STAR: COMPLETE THIRD IS RELEASED FRIDAY, OCTOBER 14th
This long in-the-works, and impeccably executed 3 CD set is out on Friday!
Finally bringing together the sprawling sessions that led to Third, this box includes stunning music (much of it officially released for the first time), and many previously unseen pictures.
The booklet has stellar liner notes telling the story of this masterpiece from people who were there, along with reflections on the work by artists who were influenced by it. The many facets of Third are explored by musicians like John Stirratt, Ken Stringfellow, Pat Sansone, Steve Wynn, Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey, Gary Louris, Mitch Easter, Susanna Hoffs, Debbi Peterson, and Mike Mills. I'm honored to be included among these legends.
If you're a fan of Big Star, power pop, or dissecting masterworks, this is a must-buy release. You can buy here and get it on day of release - why not?
WHY YOU SHOULDN'T GET BENT OUT OF SHAPE ABOUT "LEGACY"
In the wake of "Who Can I Be Now" and another hits compilation "Legacy", there's been a lot of grousing about the quality of the product. Not the music, mind you, the product.
My voice has been part of that chorus as I find it disingenuous to tell people "The Gouster" is an "unreleased album" in order to get them to buy a $125 box set without a scrap of unreleased music on it.
I recently responded to some friends on Facebook about the "Legacy" collection, coming just in time for Christmas. For what it's worth, here's what I said:
“One of the last truly prescient quotes from the man himself was this: "in X years copyright will be meaningless" - and he's not wrong.
Certainly all of these releases are sanctioned by either DB or the estate and, with the end of the rock era and people actually paying for music on the horizon, it's probably smart to make hay while the sun still shines.
There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to build as much wealth as possible in the wake of a passing. After all, if you were he, would you not want to provide for as many generations of future Bowies as you possibly could?
Refreshing greatest hits packages every few years is commonplace and this is the first since DB left us. This package isn't designed for hardcore fans, it's designed for the masses.That said, the marketing of these things as containing "new" material is deplorable, abusive of the fanbase and predatory, IMO.
A big part of the Ryko pitch to DB was to limit the number of compilations, especially in the wake of RCA's post "Lets Dance" cash-in comps. I had to be dragged kicking and screaming into compiling "The Singles" and we outright rejected three comp ideas DB himself had proposed because I thought they were maybe good for the bank account in the short-term but bad for long term cred (ours and his).Even though I'd guess he was befuddled by that decision, I'm happy we held the line and I'm sure it has helped his legacy, but those were different times.
Remember, you don't HAVE to buy as much as you may feel ritualistically compelled.”
Thanks to everyone who came to the Gloucester, MA Bowie Event! Read about it on AXS Boston!
Check it out here
Here We Go Again: Talking About Bowie In Gloucester at Cape Ann Cinema & Stage on September 25th with the Daily Pravda!
I'm pleased to announce my next Bowie presentation on Sunday, Sept 25th at Gloucester, MA's prestigious Cape Ann Cinema & Stage, right above Mystery Train Records. I'll be accompanied by the Daily Pravda, who'll be playing Bowie songs for your pleasure and delight. The program will commence at 6:30 pm.
For those who came to my previous presentation in Salem, please note Gloucester will be considerably less Ryko-centric (although if there's time for a Q&A please feel free to ask any Ryko questions you like).
The presentation back in May was largely spurred not only by Bowie's death, but also because few folks remember Rykodisc anymore, never mind that it was right in Salem, a situation I thought should be rectified. That said, Ryko was briefly HQ'd in Gloucester, too, for about three years at the end of the 90's/early 00's. I'll give a dollar to anyone who attends and knows where the office was.
This time, the talk will be almost entirely about Bowie and I'll get into more of the career minutiae we didn't have tie for in May.
There will be specific discussion of his activities during the Ryko era (89-97) and the first public showing of a mock-up of a 4 CD unreleased Ziggy Stardust 25th Anniversary Box Set that never happened, amongst many other gems & witticisms, I'm sure.
To the turd in the punchbowl who griped about my swearing at the last program: I guarantee a similar amount of cursing (if not more) will ensue at this one.
August 15th, 2016: Big News for Big Fans of Big Star; Complete Third Sessions Box Set!
Honored to have been invited to contribute to the set by Omnivore Recordings. You can read more about it and listen to a track from the upcoming box right here.
August 8th, 2016: Malcolm Gladwell Is Out Of His Elvis Costello Idiot
Check out this piece on pseudo-intellectual Malcolm Gladwell's podcast, where he pontificates a theory on artist's methods, using an Elvis Costello song as an example, one that disproves his theory in the process. Oops! Find it on the Elvis Costello page in the "MORE ARTISTS" dropdown menu.
August 05, 2016: I Answer More Of Your Questions:
Planned Ryko Bonus Tracks
Steve Jones asks:
"i saw images of proposed additional tracks of Pin Ups and Space oddity(Salem may, 12 2016), can you reveal for me proposed additional tracks for Aladdin Sane, Diamond Dogs and Young Americans , please?"
If you're Steve Jones from the Sex Pistols, yes.
Otherwise, I'm not sure how, if or when I'm going to be releasing more of the proposed Ryko tracks. Once I figure that out, I'll announce here. Sorry!
That said, it's often assumed we didn't know about tracks or didn't ask for them. The proposed track lists you've seen in pictures from my presentation were our wish lists, and we had to clear approvals with both David and Tony DeFries to include anything we were asking for.
It's logical David wouldn't want to release any more pre-76 tracks, because these would've then ended up in the pool of material generating revenue for Tony, so it's possible he wanted them kept under wraps. All that is water under the bridge now, but it certainly was an issue back then.
My Opinion of Sound + Vision 2004 Version
Since I get loads of question through the site, I thought it might be best to answer them here, as they are often of broad interest. Here we go:
"As an owner of a used copy of the last Ryko S+V (3disc and book) I was fascinated reading your blog about the backstory of how the set was compiled. I've shared your blog with several friends.
I'm wondering what you think of this latest release of S+V that adds a 4th disc with Tin Machine material. Perhaps you could add a new blog post sharing your thoughts."
I've touched on this before, but happy to recap.
In my view the original S+V encapsulates a very specific period that hangs together quite well, with a clear beginning and end. If we're honest, it's Bowie's greatest body of work.
Each disc in the set was designed to highlight an era and, as seamlessly as possible, follow a thread through the work. The idea is to show musical genre switching that may have seemed like jarring stylistic changes at the time are shown as logical progressions of work that came before.
Back in 2003, when EMI first rejiggered it into a 6x12" set with a fourth disc, the 3 CD Ryko version had been out of print for years, had never been released outside North America, and still included a bunch of otherwise unreleased music.
So there were plenty of good reasons for getting the set back into the marketplace, especially globally.
On the other hand, if you're going to do it, do it right.
If they'd expanded content within the years covered in the original S+V, that may have worked. But chopping the first three discs apart loses the graceful arc of the innocent intro to "Space Oddity" through the onstage killing of Ziggy and the Spiders. And from the first song on disc one to the last on disc three we don't end with Major Tom's (at the time) grand mystery solved.
Instead they tacked on songs from the deleted "Singles" 2-CD set, oddball "rarities" and less than stellar album tracks, ending with a live version of "Pallas Athena"? Because Thank God there are TWO versions of that song included, instead of something a little more interesting.
That said, Bowie's work post-"Scary Monsters" should be properly compiled and made digestible, I just think this was a shit attempt. Listen to everything from "Cat People" on and tell me if the programming shows any thought. I can't find the thread.
A better idea than expanding the first iteration would've been releasing "Sound + Vision 2" - maybe a 2 CD set that would represent the 80's (obviously there's much less 80's material than we had from the 70's), and then S+V 3 for the 90's and so on.
For the most part, I don't know exactly what the architects behind the post Ryko catalog handling were thinking or what challenges they faced. That said, I was told by people in the room that EMI was dead set against adding the Ryko bonus tracks (or any bonus tracks) to the initial re-re-releases of the individual albums, because they wanted fans to buy updated versions later.
To me, and I think a lot of fans, the handling of David's catalog by subsequent producers feels like an exercise in bean-counting and trainspotting; here's a remix, b-side or obscure edit that's never been compiled, tack it on here! It's all by the numbers, with no heart. The latest series of boxes is exactly the kind of taking advantage we promised NOT to do when we sold David on Rykodisc. I mean, "The Gouster"? How desperate and sad to use THAT as a tease to get fans to buy a $100+ set.
We got things wrong at Ryko (sometimes at DB's insistence!) but respect for the fans was at the top of our priority list. We rejected compilation ideas he had because they added nothing to the campaign and felt exploitative. I'm sure he was shocked by our refusal, but I think we did him and the fans a massive favor and I have no regrets.
PS: I see the reference to "S+V" as a teaser for the series is back again on Wikipedia, this time credited to me - when in fact, the link used to illustrate this point is me specifically denoting that S+V was NOT designed as a teaser. Fuck me.
Anyway, if you have questions, feel free to send them to me through the form on the contact page. I'll answer as I can.
GUNNING FOR HITS:
Here's the logo for my upcoming comic book. Design seem familiar?
On May 12th I gave a presentation at CinemaSalem about Bowie & Rykodisc - and the amazing Daily Pravda performed Bowie songs!
Thanks to everyone who came - I'll be doing it again this fall!
CLICK ON IMAGE BELOW TO READ A REVIEW!
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Jeff Rougvie is an American record label executive and founder, music consultant, IP expert, music expert witness in legal matters, music producer, DVD producer, artist, writer, publisher, toy & collectibles expert, DJ (who isn't?), music historian, and partner in Supermegabot, a company that produces & sells limited edition Compact Discs, Art Toys, Novelties & other collectibles.
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