Despite multiple reissue campaigns, some David Bowie gems remain out of print – here’s ten of the best
A group of men walked past stacks of dusty master tapes gathering in hallways, and found the concrete cell they were looking for. They had wandered around a jail-like New Jersey storage facility (without climate control) anticipating this moment. The Holy Grail. For inside this bunker was David Bowie’s tape library (masters, multi-tracks etc) from the 1970s. If that wasn’t enough, it also contained original artwork, including the hand painted photo used on the cover of Ziggy Stardust.
It was early 1989, and small US label Rykodisc had stunned industry competition by securing the rights to reissue the RCA-era David Bowie catalog. Everything from 1969’s Space Oddity to 1980’s Scary Monsters would be reissued, with Rykodisc responsible for producing all the new packaging and artwork and remastering the entire catalog. The label’s presence wasn’t strong outside North America so EMI handled the rest of the world –Rykodisc would send them the art and the masters and EMI would simply add their logos. The whole reissue campaign would go on to win widespread acclaim for the quality of the packaging and the care and thought that went into the track listings and remastering.
As a teaser for this campaign, Rykodisc issued a lavish 50-track Box Set called Sound+Vision which contained around three or four tracks from each Bowie album from the reissue campaign. As well as three CDs, it also featured an additional CDV (CD Video – now obsolete) containing a further 3 audio tracks along with the video to Ashes to Ashes.
What is significant is that amongst the well known tracks such as Young Americans and Changes, Sound+Vision also included eight previously unreleased tracks and some rare single mixes. This reflected what was to come, as Rykodisc reissued Bowie’s catalog in stages, from 1990 to 1992, with most (but not all) albums containing previously unreleased outtakes and demos. None of the rarities from the Sound+Vision box were repeated on the individual CD releases, meaning that you had to own the box and the individual album reissues to ensure you had everything.
In the late 1990’s Bowie’s entire catalog was reissued again, this time without any of the additional bonus tracks found on the earlier Rykodisc/EMI reissues, which were effectively out of print. In the last decade various anniversary editions and deluxe editions have included some of these ‘lost’ bonus tracks, but not all of them. Indeed, there are many tracks released by Rykodisc during the catalogue reissue campaign which are still out of print today. The only way to get most of them today, is to track down the original CD releases from the period via ebay or your local used record shop (if you can find one!).
Here we take a look at the top ten Rykodisc-era ‘lost’ tracks by David Bowie (dates are when the track was recorded).
1. Candidate [Diamond Dogs demo, 1973]
Recorded in 1973, this track is notionally a demo of the album version of Candidate but bears no similarity at all to it’s namesake and doesn’t sound much like a demo. The lyrics, tune and arrangement are all totally different. However this track is a corker and it’s amazing to consider that it sat unreleased for almost 20 years. It turned up again on the 30th Anniversary edition of Diamond Dogs, but like the original Rykodisc reissue, that is now out of print.
2. After Today [Young Americans Outtake, 1974]
Issued on the Sound+Vision box set and never issued on any Young Americans CD, including the 1991 Ryko and the most recent EMI deluxe reissue from 2007, this is a classic slice of Bowie’s ‘plastic’ soul which by all accounts would have made the album were it not for Bowie writing Fame with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar and then deciding to cover Across The Universe. All the elements are present and correct, Bowie’s falsetto, David Sanborn’s sax, a great funky rhythm track and some solid Bowie lyrics. A fine track which ends charmingly – as the music finally breaks down after 3:50, Bowie almost carries on singing, then laughing, declares “ooh, I was just getting into that!”
3. Growin’ Up [Diamond Dogs Outtake, 1973]
Bowie was an early admirer of Bruce Springsteen and recorded this track from The Boss’ debut Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J. with Ron Wood on guitar, Aynsley Dunbar on drums and Mike Garson on piano. It was originally released as a bonus track on the 1990 Rykodisc reissue of covers album Pin Ups, but actually dates from early in the Diamond Dogs sessions. Bowie would end up recording Springsteen for three albums in a row (excluding Pin Ups) because a demo of It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City (from the same Asbury Park album) was recorded with the Young Americans band, and then a finished version of the same track was recorded during the Station to Station sessions. This final version appeared on the Sound+Vision box set and is currently available on David Bowie: Best of 1974-1979.
4. Space Oddity [Remake, 1979]
Often referred to as the ‘Kenny Everett version’ courtesy of it having been performed on the UK radio presenter’s television show (see unique performance below), this track was originally the b-side to the Alabama Song single from 1979. It’s a completely new recording of Bowie’s breakthrough single that Rykodisc added to the 1991 reissue of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). A bleak, stripped down version of the song with dramatic piano chords, the despair and isolation of ‘Major Tom’ is all too apparent. This was Bowie ending his incredibly creative decade the way it had begun. It should really have been saved as the b-side to Ashes to Ashes given the ‘Major Tom’ name-check in that song.
5. 1984/Dodo [Diamond Dogs session track, 1973]
Another track originally featured on the Sound+Vision box set, this dates from when Bowie had decided to write material for a musical based on George Orwell’s 1984. However, in the end Orwell’s widow withheld the rights and Bowie was left to reshape the material he had into what would become Diamond Dogs. This song is also notable for being the last to be recorded with The Spiders in November 1973. Dodo was also tried as a standalone track. It didn’t make the final album, but did appear on the Rykodisc reissue of Diamond Dogs in 1990 as a bonus track, and again on the anniversary edition of the same album in 2004 (both now out of print).
6. Velvet Goldmine [The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars Outtake, 1971]
This track never made it to the final album, but was the b-side of the re-released Space Oddity single in 1975. The title is probably better known than the actual song, since it became the name of the 1998 glam-rock film starring Ewan McGregor. Velvet Goldmine was a bonus track on the 1990 Rykodisc reissue of Ziggy Stardust and appeared on the 30th anniversary reissue in 2002. Since then, it can only be found on David Bowie: Best of 1969-1974.
7. Lightning Frightening [The Man Who Sold The World Outtake, 1970)
Recorded in 1970 this track was a bonus track on the 1990 Rykodisc reissue of The Man Who Sold The World and has been long out of print.
8. Sweet Head [The Rise And Fall of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars Outtake, 1972]
Recorded during the Ziggy sessions, this track would stay in the vaults until Rykodisc reissued the album in 1990. It has that classic Spiders period sound and is a solid if not outstanding track. Certainly deserving of release, although probably considered too provocative at the time. Reappeared on the now out of print 30th Anniversary Edition of Ziggy Stardust in 2002.
9. Ballad of the Adventurers [Baal EP, 1981]
Bowies appearance in the BBC TV production of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal was transmitted in February 1982 and a five-track EP was released in the UK to coincide with this. Ballad of the Adventurers is one of the tracks on the EP and remains unreleased on CD. Rykodisc’s reissues from the early nineties did not include any of the Baal EP and since then only two of the five tracks – Baal’s Hymn and Drowned Girl – have appeared on the CD format (both appeared on the reissued and expanded Sound+Vision box from EMI in 2003 and Drowned Girl also popped up on David Bowie: Best of 1980-1987). The other two unreleased-on-CD tracks are Remembering Marie A and The Dirty Song. Bowie stalwart Tony Visconti produced.
10. I Pray, Ole [Lodger Outtake, 1979]
Recorded during the sessions for the rather underrated Lodger album, this track was a solo Bowie composition that features Brian Eno on synthesizer as well as the usual Lodger rhythm team of George Murray on Bass and Dennis Davis on Drums. Hasn’t been heard of since it’s inclusion on the 1991 Rykodisc reissue of the album.
The EMI 2003 expanded Sound+Vision box is still available and can be ordered by clicking here.
Let us know if you agree with this selection? What would you include? Leave a comment below!