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Saturday Deluxe Special: 16 Jan 2015: A life listening to David Bowie

bowie_life

In the first of a special three-part feature, SDE Editor Paul Sinclair, reflects back to his earliest memories of hearing, buying and listening to the music of David Bowie.

Where do you start with a talent like David Bowie? The fact is, the story will begin in different places for different people. Probably my earliest Bowie memory is when a re-released Space Oddity hit number one in the UK in 1975. I remember seeing that rather red-saturated Mick Rock-directed video (filmed in 1972) of a Ziggy-era David Bowie singing his signature song. I was five at that time…

After that, I have little Bowie recall until the Sound and Vision single from Low. This would have been early 1977. My mother must have loved it, because she literally did the hovering while singing “blue, blue, electric blue…” (before mumbling the words she didn’t know). I’m not even sure if I knew what she was singing at the time, but the memory and the melody stayed with me and perhaps I pieced it all together at a later date.


There was another big gap until the Let’s Dance album. I was still a little young to be buying records, but of course the memorable David Mallet-directed video was shown widely and I do remember my sister having a birthday party and a friend of hers giving her the seven-inch of China Girl. That was probably the first David Bowie single to enter the Sinclair household.

bowie_absoluteThe first David Bowie record I actually bought with my own money was the 12-inch of Absolute Beginners. In fact I’m fairly sure this was my first ever vinyl record, because I bought tapes, not vinyl when it came to albums (a bit of a mistake, looking back). Anyway, Absolute Beginners had a fantastic front cover featuring an effortlessly cool Bowie, an intriguing photo on the back of a little kid smoking (!), and it was a glossy gatefold. It also had the full-length eight-minute version of the song and a dub mix.

Never Let Me Down was the first album where I considered myself a ‘proper fan’ where I’d made a point of buying it on the day of release. By 1987 I was a sucker for buying singles in limited edition formats and EMI America obliged when lead single Day-In Day-Out was issued as a cassette single in console-game packaging. Groovy. There were loads of other interesting formats and singles, most of which you can read about here, but although I really love some of Never Let Me Down (the album), it was frustrating being geared up to properly enjoy a brand new David Bowie album for the first time and know that it’s far from his best work. It would be six years until his next long-player (I didn’t know that at the time, of course) so it was time to explore the man’s back catalogue…

David Bowie / Day-In Day-Out UK Cassette single

My Day-In Day-Out cassette single

I was a skint teenager at this time, so there was only one thing for it, find a mate who owns tons of Bowie, bung him a load of TDK SA90s (my blank tape of choice..) and get the albums taped. As a side note, I feel like I can be forgiven for ‘killing music’ by home taping at this point because, I would go on to buy Bowie’s output many times over in the years and decades to come. My school friend Paul Fraser was already a massive fan and was more than happy to try and spread the love for David Bowie. He did the dirty deed and shortly after I had everything from David Bowie (aka Space Oddity) to Scary Monsters taped, minus Pin Ups and the live releases. That’s 12 albums across six cassettes, which paired up quite nicely either side of the tape, as follows:

  1. David Bowie (aka Space Oddity) / The Man Who Sold The World
  2. Hunky Dory / The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
  3. Aladdin Sane / Diamond Dogs
  4. Young Americans / Station to Station
  5. Low / “Heroes”
  6. Lodger / Scary Monsters and Super Creeps

Here’s the bit I’m really proud of, I taped my tapes for another pal and we both decided to ‘get into’ 1970s Bowie simultaneously, but crucially we’d listen to the albums IN ORDER OF RELEASE to try and replicate what fans who bought them at the time would have enjoyed, albeit we’d be squishing ten years into a number of weeks!

There was quite a bit of discipline here. On our commutes to work we’d listen to just one album for a whole week. Actually, that’s what I always thought we did, but thinking back as I write this, that wouldn’t have been practical, since I doubt we were wasting batteries in our respective Sony Walkmans by rewinding completely an SA90, to replay the same side (the ‘MP3 generation’ have it so easy) so we must have listened to two albums per week. So at the beginning it would have been David Bowie/Space Oddity on the way into work and The Man Who Sold The World on the way back. We’d play the same two albums all week and discuss them ad infinitum at the weekend! Then the following week we’d move on to the next two. Only the 9-5 drudgery of work spoiled this Bowie-fest.

spaceoddityThis strategy was really good, because I’ll venture that the first ‘RCA’ album (David Bowie aka Space Oddity – actually issued on Phillips in the UK) is relatively under explored, but not by me because I really got into the folk-rockiness of it. Letter to Hermione and Janine, were both excellent and the long and dense Cygnet Committee was the first indication that Bowie was something really special and wrote songs that other people simply couldn’t write. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed is bonkers with some wonderful lines, like when Bowie (or the narrator) tells his girl “It must strain you to look down so far from your father’s house / I know what a louse like me in his house could do for you”. Of course I knew the song Space Oddity, but only Bowie could write a moving number about a woman stealing a “tin of stewing steak” as he does in God Knows I’m Good, while the trippy, evocative Memory of a Free Festival seemed like a curtain call on the 1960s with it’s Hey Jude style extended coda.


manwhosoldThe Man Who Sold The World was very different, of course with Bowie playing around with the heavy rock genre. I say ‘playing around’, because although the recordings were nothing less than committed, as the years ticked on, it became clear that DB got quickly bored and would want to move on to something else. Like a jacket he’d pick up and try on for size, enjoy it for a bit and then put back on the hanger. With this album it seems to take an age to get past the opening salvo of The Width of a Circle and All The Madmen and I must admit although I quite liked those tracks I preferred the relative ‘pop’ of tracks like Black Country Rock, and the title track and still do today.


For the first of my TDK SA90s, I’d definitely give a points victory to side one of the tape, i.e. David Bowie/Space Oddity.


We’re into ‘week two’ of my journey through RCA Bowie (remember it’s 1988) and this time it’s a heavyweight contest between Hunky Dory (1971) and The Fall and Rise of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (to be referred to as just Ziggy Stardust from here on in).

David Bowie / Hunky Dory

It’s not much of a contest for me. Hunky Dory is significantly better than Ziggy Stardust, which has to rank as one of my least listened to David Bowie albums over the last quarter of a century. I know this is a VERY important album for many fans, and no question there’s some great, great songs – Moonage Daydream, Ziggy Stardust and Starman come to mind – but for a famous rock ‘n’ roll album, it has a rather ‘thin’ production and lacks the craft and variety of Hunky Dory. I’m sure I’d feel differently if I had been a 16-year old and had seen David Bowie live in 1972/3 but remember I’m rather detached from all this fifteen years down the line in the late eighties.

David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars / 40th Anniversary EditionAlso, and I promise you I’m not trying to be controversial here, but for me ‘Ziggy Stardust’ is the least interesting of Bowie’s characters. Think about it, David looked cool as a Mod, interesting with his flowing blond locks, great on Whistle Test with the shorter embryonic version of the Ziggy cut, sharp and dangerous as the Thin White Duke and sexy and svelte for Let’s Dance… but Ziggy with the big red mullet and the one-leg-missing cat suit, and the no eyebrows seemed a bit silly and cartoonish. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great concept and undoubtedly iconic and influential in terms of fashion and culture, BUT I never stood in front of a mirror and tried to look like Ziggy (actually, I did once, but that was for a fancy dress party).

But Bowie knew what he was doing and the commercial success of the Ziggy-era shone a spotlight on its predecessor and Hunky Dory got the attention it deserved, becoming successful after the event (Life On Mars was only a hit when RCA issued in June 1973 – 18 months and two albums later). The album is often cited as people’s favourite David Bowie album, and indeed less than a week after his death, it is number 14 in the UK album charts, the highest placed Bowie album outside compilations and Blackstar (the latter of which deservedly entered at number one).


Tape 2: Hunky Dory trumps Ziggy Stardust


Only four albums (and two weeks of commuting) into the ‘journey’ and I hadn’t even got to 1973. Still to come was the end of Ziggy, the ‘plastic soul’ of Young Americans and the so-called ‘Berlin Trilogy’. Meanwhile back in the late 1980s while I was digesting all this great music, Bowie was about to surprise his fans with Tin Machine and Rykodisc were preparing to re-present Bowie’s 1970’s albums to the world. I would soon get a chance to update my TDK SA90s with the real thing and would see Bowie play live for the first time. Stay turned for the continuation of A Life Listening to David Bowie…

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71 responses to Saturday Deluxe Special: 16 Jan 2015: A life listening to David Bowie

  1. Darren Briscoe says:

    As ever an insightful and we’ll written piece! I am in your age group and have similar memories….just completed my mission of listening to all 25 albums in order and what a pleasure it was! Has any other artist ever released such a continuous run of high quality albums? (Hunky Dory – Scary Monsters )?…I think not!
    I shall continue to listen to the music but it’s going to take a while to realise that David Bowie has left the planet….

  2. Pedro says:

    Hi Paul
    Absolute begginers was my first Bowie record too.I love this song,one of his masterpieces without a doubt.
    And This is not America,another really beautiful song from that period.
    I can’t listen to Bowie actually because remembering bring me to tears like a baby.I’ll need some time to digest all this sadness.

    • Rick says:

      Nice article.

      I don’t understand how so many Bowie fans are saying they can’t listen to his music at the moment. None of us were personally close to him. The only way we, as fans, were close to the man was through his music and we still have that. So continue to enjoy it.

  3. Peter says:

    Brilliant piece, Paul, got me thinking as well, I’m a bit older than you, I remember Juniors Eyes in Glasgow 1969 ish, then consecutive nights in 1978, also in Glasgow, sadly never saw him live again after that.

    Also as I just started work in ’69, I was flush so I got each album as they were released. Still got them all, including original Man Who Sold The World.

    Just showing my daughter my collection, all of a sudden she is interested in what I’ve got, 155 CDs and vinyl

    Look forward to parts 2 and 3.

  4. Francisco says:

    Lovely

  5. Great Post Paul – Here’s my contribution to the mix

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/zane-ouvrez-le-chien-peter-cook

    We are hosting a Bowie Charity event in June as well down in Kent

    Peter

  6. Frank says:

    My first Bowie record was the Let’s Dance single but the favorite track was the B-side Cat People. At the end of the 80s i was a huge Bowie fan, thanks to the Christiane F movie. But here in germany the 70’s stuff was unavailable. Then the Sound and Vision box arrived, with my favorite Helden track, but as a student the box was too expensive for me.
    I bought the Sound And Vision first pressing Ryko box last week and this box brings a lot of memories back.

  7. Michael says:

    I was born in late ’79, but my early memories included listening to my parents’ Diamond Dogs and Aladdin Sane lps. Those gatefold album covers were pretty crazy. About as big as me at the time, I suppose. We had Let’s Dance, and that’s the first thing I remember from Bowie. I must have been about 4 at the time. I loved that record and would look at the cover often. I loved “Cat People” of all things, most. I don’t know why, maybe just the title intrigued me. “Under Pressure” was a big early memory, too. Then I grew up with the summer of “Dancing in the Street” being played everywhere, and a vhs of the Glass Spider concert which I watched often. Perhaps surprisingly I never became too caught up in Labyrinth. I watched it once or twice, though. I didn’t really follow Tin Machine. I liked “Jump They Say” when I heard it on the Singles box, but never got that album until much later. The next time I got back into Bowie was when Outside came out, and I saw him on that tour.

  8. Bleddyn Williams says:

    Thanks for sharing Paul. Articles like yours and places like the Steve Hoffman Forum are helping an old fan like me cope with this because it’s great to hear how other people feel like you do over David’s passing. Looking forward to the next two installments!

  9. Matthew Best says:

    The thing to remember about Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust is that they were recorded more or less at the same time – I think there was about a three week gap between them, so Ziggy Stardust was recorded and sequenced before Hunky Dory was even released.

    I am older than you so my first Bowie record was the original 7″ of Space Oddity in 1969 and the first album I ever bought was “Aladdin Sane” and I worked backwards from there before buying all the following albums as they were released right up until Let’s Dance after which I lost interest I’m afraid (I just listened to Tonight for the first time in years and I still think it’s dreadful). Despite that Bowie was the most important and influential artist ever for me and I already miss him terribly. I only managed to see him live four times – first in 1976 at Wembley, then on the Sound & Vision tour in 1990 and twice in 2002 – at the Royal Festival Hall where he played Low and Heathen in their entirety, and finally at the Hammersmith Odeon where he did probably the best show I’ve ever seen, and most probably the best show I will ever see. I’ve been miserable all week.

  10. Daniel says:

    Great piece! I remember being in 7th grade in 1977 and the cool kid was wearing his Bowie concert shirt from the Nashville gig the night before. Had huge ‘Heroes’ cover art on the front. I was so impressed. I had to have that record! Also the early SNL appearances were just unforgettable for a young kid that was kind of isolated in small town southern US.

  11. england says:

    Mine was a flexi-disc attached to the front of Record mirror – to promote the Knock On Wood single – a series of clips from “RCA records present some of David Bowie’s greatest hits” (according t0 the inter-snippets announcer).
    I had heard a Bowie record before without knowing what it was until the clip on here … “Life on Mars.
    Forty-odd years later LoM would still make it into my top ten favourite songs of all time…

  12. Kevin says:

    My first Bowie record was RCA’s Space Oddity/The Man Who Sold the World 45 in the black-and-white picture sleeve, followed by the respective LPs.

    Of the two LPs, I much preferred The Man Who Sold the World, which was more consistent. I did like the Space Oddity LP, but didn’t particularly like the folkier bits, instead preferring the longer tracks (Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed, Cygnet Committee, and Memory of a Free Festival).

    I wouldn’t get around to Hunky Dory or Ziggy Stardust until Ryko’s CD reissues 17 years later. Of these two, I give the edge to Ziggy Stardust, but neither one lives up to the hype for me.

  13. PAUL FRASER says:

    In case anyone in charge of upholding copyright is reading this, I thoroughly refute the idea that I copied my Bowie CDs for Paul. Honest, guvnor. In completely unrelated news, I’m glad you unlocked a lifetime love of the Dame, as Smash Hits used to call him.

    I agree totally with your Tape Trumps choices, so far. Looking forward to Parts 2 and 3.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Haha… hello Paul. I’m sure I’m misremembering! But seriously, thanks for the ‘gift’ of Bowie. Probably the best present anyone’s ever given me x

      • aubrey says:

        Yes, as the recipient of the tapes of the tapes, I should echo those thanks… nice piece, Paul – obviously brings back lots of good memories. Agree with both ‘tape victories’ – looking forward to the next installment!

  14. Alan says:

    I got into Bowie in 1983, not really through the Let’s Dance album, but the earlier stuff was introduced to me by a friend. I had skirted around Bowie before that but wasn’t sure what I liked. The week after he played me a load of singles I bought Hunky Dory, this was followed a week later by Ziggy and the Heroes 7″, the week after I bought Aladdin Sane and the Breaking Glass EP. The next week I bought Low, Pin Ups and The Man Who sold the world. Next was Diamond Dogs and Let’s Dance, after that it becomes a blur, but by mid 1984 I had all his albums and pretty much most of his songs. I never looked back.

  15. Simon says:

    My first Bowie memory is loving Sound And Vision in 1977. I probably sang as many of the words as your mum Paul and probably as often.

    My first Bowie single was Wild Is The Wind, bought in late 1981. I followed that with the Baal EP and then the original Cat People (Putting Out Fire) single, Giorgio Moroder’s production far superior to Nile Rodgers’s production for the Let’s Dance album, in my opinion. Some English-language students we had staying nicked my Baal EP and it took me about twenty-five years to get a replacement copy. Bowie and Bertolt Brecht made a good combination.

  16. Ben B says:

    For me it was seeing those specially filmed performances for the Kenny Everett Show and Ashes to Ashes going to number 1. I wasn’t too bothered by his 80s output being into a lot of post-punk & metal myself but at the turn of the 90s with Suede referencing him on their early interviews, I went back and discovered the 70s back catalogue and had a monumental ‘DOH!’ moment.

  17. R.naud says:

    September 1980: Pop music rules my world and the teenager I am is finally ready to explore beyond the Beatles. A song keeps playing on the radio and has my entire attention, that song is called Ashes to Ashes. This is the first time I hear about David Bowie (I vaguely remember seeing on TV some Ziggy footage but it didn’t occur to me at the time it was the same artist…). Mum gives me some money to buy the single. I still have that record. In fact, I was holding it in my hand in the early morning of Monday 11 January after my sister texted me to tell me Bowie had died…

  18. trash says:

    Life on Mars, TVC15 and Sound and Vision were all songs I remember hearing on the radio and enjoying at the time (without realising they were all sung by the same chap).
    However, I subsequently got into Eno ad heard he had just created two albums with Bowie so I listened to those. At the time Stage was being promoted to I got into that (which was quite a good career overview) and then I tracked his career from Lodger onwards.
    I left off at Never Let me Down (album) but then rejoined when Jump They Say (single) came out and have never been disappointed since.

    I am definitely one of those that find Ziggy not such a great album (I prefer Hunky Dory and Aladdin Sane frankly and even those aren’t my faves).

    Currently listening to all his albums in reverse (not quit sure why in reverse but there you are). Reached Tin Machine (still not convinced by this period).

    Thank you for the memories Paul. From your comments I think you must be slightly (five years or so) younger than me… :-)

  19. Andy says:

    This is a very moving piece that perfectly illustrates how artists become part of the fabric of our lives. I really look forward to parts two and three, including whether the author got to see him live…

  20. Horslips says:

    Fantastic bit of writing Paul. The love of the music comes through as strong as the music itself.

    Even though I think the first single I ever bought was “Sorrow” – on 45 vinyl – there were some albums that I did not get into along the way. However, I only realised on Monday that a significant part of the soundtrack of my life had died.

    I did buy “Blackstar” on the previous Friday and had already spent the weekend loving it.

  21. Horslips says:

    Oh, and I did spring for the vinyl box on amazon.it so thanks again for the tip.

  22. Tino Stabile says:

    I have been slowly coming to grips with losing a legend, icon, visionary, chameleon of rock, master of the theatre and film and contributor to the world of fashion.
    I am honoring his passing. Last night I got reacquainted with Hunky Dory, great album.. forgot how great an album that is. Of course, had to revisit his masterpiece that is The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, delved into an album that I completely disregarded for far too long and what an album, Aladdin Sane. I then listened to Pin Ups. To be honest last October I invested in his Five Years box set and it is from that that I am revisiting these classics.
    I will continue my tribute and homage to the man by delving into his Berlin trilogy in the upcoming days.
    Yes, it is indeed a lifetime that I have been listening to this artist. I am 49 approaching my 50th birthday this March and I can honestly say that I have been enjoying his catalogue for 35 of those years.

    To all visiting this wonderful website and to SDE, in particular Paul… wish you all a prosperous New Year filled with health and great music and hopefully we will hold on to a few of our other icons/legends for a little longer.

    Peace

  23. tonysp says:

    Great read that as are the other comments.

    I was 11 or 12 years old and used to spend my pocket money on cassettes of the day. Bowie was midway through the success of his Lets Dance phase and as myself and parents were shopping I picked up the cassette of “Fame & Fashion”

    Both my parents talked me out of buying it due to me “not knowing any of the old songs”, to be fair at this point they were probably correct. Instead I begrudgingly spent my money on “Duck Rock” by Malcolm Mclaren.

    Funny how little unimportant things stick in your mind.

    My parents have both long given up on me spending silly amounts on items related to David Bowie.

  24. PDS says:

    Really well written. Great memories. O those days of Walkmans and making your own tapes !

  25. Brian says:

    My first Bowie album was Scary Monsters when I was twelve, closely followed by that K-tel Best of Bowie album that had to be turned up full volume on my mono record player, as the sound quality was so bad. I think they squeezed so many tracks on it the fidelity quality really suffered. Scary Monsters was the weirdest thing I had ever heard. Particularly the less commercial side two.

  26. Randy Otto says:

    The first Bowie album I bought was 1973’s “Pinups” upon its release…This great covers album served me two-fold: Not only did it introduce me to a fabulous musician backed by his killer post-Ziggy band on one of the best-sounding productions I ever heard (Aynsley Dunbar’s drums literally blast through the speakers…Thank You, Ken Scott!), but it also served as a great history lesson on the great bands of London’s Mod Scene! I was already familiar with the Who, Kinks and Yardbirds and was eager to hear Bowie’s takes on their songs, but David the Tour Guide introduced me to the likes of Them, Pretty Things, Merseys (now I knew where George got the “long blond hair” line in “It’s All Too Much!”), “Syd’s” Pink Floyd, etc…Thus began over over 40 years of avid Bowie listening, but even if this were the only album he ever made, I would be eternally grateful for this amazing tour through this great era! Oh, I should also mention his great “Midnight Special” TV show filmed at the Marquee which was shown right after the album’s release….

  27. Andrew Mogford says:

    It’s interesting. To me, I somehow managed to miss David Bowie musically. I love some of his tracks very very much, and I couldn’t do without his greatest hits in my house, and own several compilations, but I can honestly say that I have never listened to a Bowie album all the way through. In fact the only proper album I ever owned was Tin Machine, and my 16 year old self found it unlistenable. I didn’t seek out any more.

    However, it is my firm belief that Bowie was so talented across a wide range of the arts world, that he was capable of meaning much to many in different fields.

    To me, then, although I could not manage without Life on Mars, Starman, Space Oddity, Let’s Dance, Cat People, et al – to me his performance in Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence is where he touched me truly and deeply. It is a wonderful performance and how I chose to have my own remembrance of him the other night.

    With the greatest hits in the car, of course.

    This is a music blog, of course, and is doing a wonderful job of remembering him, but please don’t forget the movie performances too. He was an amazing amazing actor.

  28. Joseph says:

    I am about same age as Paul and first became well aware of David during all the ‘Let’s Dance’ buzz of the early 80’s. Had no older role models around to help introduce me to any of the back catalogue up to then (father followed jazz and my mother was pretty much stuck on Elvis & 50’s oldies). I honestly don’t recall my first Bowie purchase during that time, it really just began to happen organically a bit later on. I do remember being fascinated with the single version of ‘Rebel Rebel’ with the ultra-cool reverse echo on the vocals. News of the Ryko reissues came with perfect timing but of course I still didn’t possess a CD player, so I am the proud owner of all those reissues on cassette including the S&V box set (my first ever SDE, if you will).

    • Joseph says:

      To follow on the point made of Bowie as actor, loved one of his more recent & understated roles as Nikola Tesla in The Prestige. Brilliant.

      • Paul Sinclair says:

        I agree with this. After Memento I think The Prestige is my favourite Christopher Nolan film and Bowie is brilliant in it. I’d highly recommend seeking it out.

  29. Lee Williams says:

    I totally agree with the TDK SA90s. I did a similar thing with the Beatles albums after John Lennon’s passing. I got someone to get me a copy of each album in order. One of my friends who did that also gave me a Bowie compilation, with Life on Mars being a favourite (’cause Lennon’s on sale again). Let’s Dance and the video on ToTP went in my brain and I was aware of all the early 80s bands stating that Bryan Ferry and Bowie were big influences (and I used to bump into both bizarrely frequently in a certain hotel in NYC). First Real Bowie purchase was Tonight, having loved ‘Blue Jean’. In fact I still love that album, and it introduced me to the Beach Boys (via God only Knows) but it never felt complete.

  30. BritinDetroit says:

    Ollie Beak and the Beatles and Starman

    Down the Dorking Grammar School, in a time of O levels and A levels and Triumph Heralds and trouble on the terraces, Hunky Dory was omnipresent and I guess was the album of that Golden Age. David benchmarked as we disappeared in to colleges and clerking jobs and other places. Albums were lent and albums came back crapped out

    I am old now, but I did go to buy Blackstar on the Friday of its release – I didn’t get it. Then I did, Bowies last laugh.

    I can’t find all the vinyl, and 12 ” singles and ryko reissues and all the other stuff. But I can tell you I was a postman when I bought Heroes and wasn’t when I bought Black Tie White Noise.

    The benchmarking will remain, I am sad he is gone and I dread the shameless reissues and greatest hits that lie ahead….Panic in Detroit ? nah but he was special.

  31. Paul English says:

    Well I started with buying the 7″ of Let’s Dance in 1983.

    The album binge came in autumn 1984 when my next door neighbour lent me all the LPs from the 1967 debut to Scary Monsters. So out came the Maxell C90s. I gradually bought them with my own money over the rest of the decade.

    For me Ziggy Stardust > Hunky Dory but it’s very close.

  32. Ken says:

    My first Bowie where I took notice was when my oldest brother came home from university with a David Bowie cassette. The album was lodger and the front cover looked like two legs strangely dancing over a post card. He let me listen to his Walkman which was a first for me and put that cassette on. He talked me through some of the songs as I listened with the headphones on. There were a few songs that I really liked such a DJ, Boys keep swinging and Fantastic Voyage. I never bought the record but I listened to it a few times that summer and really got to like all the songs. I remember looking at the album in the record store and being surprised at the other side of the record that the cassette didn’t show with David looking beat up.
    About a year later I bought my first record by David, BowieChangesOne. I was downtown Toronto with my Dad and the record was on sale for 4.99 at Sam the Record Man on Yonge Street. The display was actually on the street by the door. I didn’t have enough money so I asked my Dad for 5 dollars. He kindly gave it to me and after he handed it over a girl asked him if she could have 5 dollars too as if he was giving 5 dollars to anyone who asked. He smiled and said no to her, I was shocked she asked as I would never have done anything like that and rarely asked my Dad for money. I went in and bought my first Bowie album. I knew about half the songs and really liked the ones I knew like Fame, Space Oddity and Golden Years. I played that record so many times and when I went to the record store I would try to figure out what albums the songs came from by reading the album covers. I still have that record today, I played it last summer. For me one of the best Greatest hits albums of all time.

  33. Scott H says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading that Paul
    I am around the same age as you and my first Bowie purchase was Scary Monsters on cassette in 1980 when I was 10. 3 years prior to that though I was on a night bus trip to my hometown and a girl on the bus introduced me to Bowie via Young Americans. Like you one of my first 80s purchases was Never Let Me Down but I was OBSESSED with the Day in Day out extended mix. Time Will Crawl was a fave but the one that really got me was 87 and Cry as radio played album tracks as well. I don’t think there’s been many artists who I have followed as voraciously over the years as Bowie and am grateful to have seen him live in Oz in 2004. Looking forward to Part 2

  34. Gordon says:

    Warning! My post is quite rambling and long-winded, lol.

    I have to admit, I came to the party VERY late. I was born in 1978 so I heard the 80s material long before I heard the 70s material. And to be honest, I didn’t hear much. I would have only heard what was on the higher reaches of the Australian charts in the mid-to-late 80’s – I was never really a ‘radio’ kid so all I had was ‘Video Hits’ and ‘rage’ on TV. I can’t quite remember my first Bowie moment, but I reckon it was probably “Dancing In The Streets” video. Dave and Mick jumping around looked like a lot of fun and really stuck in my head. I don’t recall much else, probably because Bowie singles didn’t really bother the Oz charts after that.

    I ‘rediscovered’ Bowie in the early-to-mid 00’s (I knew “Ashes To Ashes” and “Let’s Dance”, as well as “Tonight” (via Tina Turner) and “Hallo Spaceboy” (via PSB) but that was it) – I was at a garage sale and bought 2 cassette storage-case thingys, I only really wanted the storage but the seller let me have the cassettes in them (about 50 in each!) and “Tonight” (album) was one of them. It was a strange place to start because DB’s 80’s is quite a departure from his 60’s/70’s and I know it gets somewhat dismissed by older fans, but being an 80’s child with 80’s pop sensibilities I absolutely love it. Still do.

    Ever since then I’ve been collecting his CD albums when I can (the 1999 remasters seem to get a bit of a panning, but I’m on a budget and they’re often my only option) and have managed to score quite a few CD singles off eBay, as well as 1 or 2 second-hand vinyls from charity shops – my record player has crap sound but I really only buy vinyls for the cover artwork.

    I think listening to his (or anyone’s for that matter) material out of order can make it harder to get into, but that’s just how it works out sometimes.

    I look forward to collecting and discovering more in the future, and (selfishly) hope last week’s sad news doesn’t make it an expensive journey.

  35. Al Rearick says:

    TDK SA90 was also my go-to choice for blank tapes back in the day.

  36. Al Rearick says:

    “Oh my TDK SA nine-oh, TDK SA!”

  37. swervymervy says:

    my first Bowie memory is of recording jean genie off of top of the pops using a hand held mic on my new cassette player. My first bought cassette was World of David Bowie, not aware that this was old stuff and not representative of his then current work. Disappointed, this put me off for a while and I made do with the Changesone comp for some time. It was not until 1977 that I started buying his albums proper starting with a Ziggy/Hunky 241er, followed by Aladdin Sane. I remember standing in Bournemouth gardens watching a battle of the bands with the album tucked under my arm, thinking I looked really cool. However as this was 1977, punk had arrived and I still had long hair/dufflecoat and flares I don’t think anyone else would have agreed with me. I only saw him live once and that was at Live Aid, where he was definitely one of the better acts on the day. Fave album, probably The man who who sold the world. A great talent lost.
    PS – I can now listen to the tracks from The world of… and enjoy them , although they are not a patch on what followed.

  38. I first heard about David Bowie via my older sister. She loved Space oddity. I also got in contact with Heroes/Helden from “Christiane F.”. But my real flash-moment with bowie was FASHION. What a new cool sound! From this moment on he was/is one of my all-time-favorites!

    This week I love to hear the sound+vision box. In my opinion the best way to be near the art of David Bowie.

  39. Roberto Bessa Ferreira says:

    I bought my first Bowie Lp in Brazil (1985), Lets Dance was amazing at the time !
    The others Lp i bought in Switzerland (2008) !

  40. Ray judson says:

    Enjoying all of your Bowie themed posts Paul! As someone who got into Bowie later on during his career due to my age, I also explored his back catalogue with enthusiasm via “borrowed” cassettes!

  41. Runicen says:

    “BUT I never stood in front of a mirror and tried to look like Ziggy (actually, I did once, but that was for a fancy dress party).”

    Pics or it didn’t happen, Paul. ;-)

    Great write up. Very much enjoyed reading your recollections and looking forward to part 2!

  42. Lee Williams says:

    The TDK SA 90s used to come in a pack of 5

  43. gb says:

    you have no idea what this post means to me Paul (esp right now)
    thanks for taking the time to write it. reminds me of buying zines and finding out how people got into bands. re: the fancy dress pics. I just love that Bowie meant that much to you that you chose to be HIM. looking forward to reading the rest of your bowie history.

  44. RJSWinchester says:

    The Width of a Circle is one of Bowie’s finest songs! I haven’t listened to any of his back catalogue this week – I’ve had Blackstar on repeat play for the past nine days. It really is a classic Bowie album and it sounds very similar in style to Black Tie/White Noise and the Buddha of Suburbia, only better.

  45. Robin Hills says:

    Thank you to Paul and to everyone for their reminiscences. This has really helped me to gain some understanding of people’s interest on Bowie and why there has been such a focus on 70s and 80s singles this week.

    I saw the infamous Starman on TOTP, along with the rest of the population if the UK. (If everyone saw it who claims they did it would have had a greater audience than the Queen’s speech on Christamas day!)

    I bought the Starman single and my first album ever was Aladdin Sane. Was a great Bowie fan until Young Americans which I hated with a vengeance until I bought it in the mid 80s. Reconnected again with “Heroes” and have everything since.

    Favourite album – 1.Outside, probably because it is so overlooked and undervalued by everyone else.

  46. David says:

    Pinups was the first David Bowie LP I bought. That was too long ago to remember why I chose that particular album, but I do remember loving it. I was too young to know the originals, so I didn’t have any preconceptions. It was perfect to me.

    I can also very clearly remember the first Bowie song I heard on the radio. When “Space Oddity” was released in 1969 it immediately captivated me. It was so different from what I was used to hearing on radio in a small Texas town. This is back when network TV still showed Elvis Presley movies in prime time. It was a different world then.

    “Heroes” was the album that made me a fan. From there I jumped about buying albums randomly and always found more than enough great music to keep me satisfied.

    It saddens me that according to RIAA he’s sold less than 10 million records. How can that be? Time to get the word out…

  47. Robert says:

    My first recollection of Bowie was seeing him on Saturday Night Live- I was very young 12 or so and it was a big deal for me to stay up every Saturday to watch. When I saw him I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. He was like nothing Ive seen on the show before. I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. The first record I bought from him was Scary Monsters. We were fortunate to have MTV when in its earliest days and I remember seeing the Ashes To Ashes video on a regular basis. I then went back and bought several of his 1970’s albums and picked up ‘Lets Dance’ when it came out. I definitely groove with the new album and its nice he went out in typical Bowie style- like no other.

  48. Joei Tan says:

    Hi Paul,

    Really enjoyed reading your article. It was very well written.
    The first Bowie record I bought must have been Diamond Dogs. I got the RCA – Victor Japanese Lp with the obi-strip in a record shop here in Singapore. The shop has boxes of several early Bowie titles all in Japanese pressing. I was lucky to have purchased a few of them. I used
    to listen to John Peel on the BBC World Service in the mid 70’s and he played quite a few Bowie tracks on his programme broadcasted weekly
    on a Thursday. I’ve learnt a lot from John Peel, the obscure stuff – Half Man Half Biscuit, Test Dept., Einsturzene Neubaten, The Fall, The Chefs, Yeah Yeah Noh, Microdisney, Misty In Roots, the list goes on. And one of his favourite was Bowie.
    I used to play his 70s LP on a nightly basis back in 80s. When Ryko
    released his Sound & Vision CD series I got them a day or two after their US Release from a shop here. I also managed to acquire the metal
    box that comes with Lodger/ Heroes/ Stage with the Sound & Vision printed logo to hold all the 18 titles. Also got a special Ziggy book from Rykodisc which they sent me as a complimentary gift.
    Some of my Rykodisc original CDs have oxidized and rotted, which is sad. I spent the weekend revisiting Bowie’s recordings such as Bowie
    narrates Peter and the Wolf (RCA-Red Seal), Baal ep, Bowie – Rare,
    Tonight, Pin-Ups, Aladdin Sane, Ziggy Stardust.
    The last week has been a lousy week with Bowie’s demise. I saw some
    of his youtube interview with his Lazarus Director and he said that Bowie was not ready to die, he thought he had a few more months to go but unfortunately time has caught up on him. He did demoed 5 new songs before he bid farewell to us.
    We will Remember him for as long as we lived! Thanks for your hard work Paul, for bringing to us this very nice blog for all music lovers to enjoy and share with. Hope to meet you one day in London Paul! Cheers and keep Bowieing!

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Great memories. I had exactly the same metal Sound + Vision box (it came ‘free’ sealed with Low, Heroes, Stage and Lodger) but unfortunately it went missing in a house move :( Thanks for your comments. Let me know if you ever make it to the UK. P.

      • Joei Tan says:

        Hi Paul,

        I’m glad that I still have my Ziggy – Sound & Vision poster by Rykodisc. I was in London back in the 80s studying at an Academy in Curzon Street, MayFair. Oh, how I miss London! Greatest city on Earth! Paul, do you have any idea where can I get the Permostat anti-static record cleaner (Milty UK) ? No where to be found, this product!
        Let me know if you’re coming to Singapore, I can show you the
        places that Bowie went to when he was here in 1983. I can also bring you around and check out the Record shops here.
        Looking forward to your Bowie article part 2.
        Yeah,Yeah, Up the Hill backwards,
        It’ll be alright!

      • darren briscoe says:

        I had that set too….. left it in Oxford 4 years ago….

  49. Mikael says:

    Thanks for the read.
    Re. “but for a famous rock ‘n’ roll album, it has a rather ‘thin’ production and lacks the craft and variety of Hunky Dory.”, that is interesting, I thought I was the only one who didn’t quite see the greatness of that album. As far as Ziggy goes, I much prefer Aladdin Sane, one of his top 5, IMHO.
    Maybe because that was when I started listening to him (working backwards from AS). This was all tape, just like you, it wasn’t until Station To Station I bought my first very own DB album, but since that day, I think I have picked most of them up on release day.

    Looking forward the the next part.

  50. adam shaw says:

    Morning Paul .
    Just wanted to say thank you for your posts last week and that I found they were written with much love for the man and his music.
    I got into DB when I was 11 1n 1972 just starting secondary school .
    It was Db . Bolan and Sweet that I got into . Sweet took me to the harder side of rock with their B sides on singles but Bowie took me on the journey of my teenage years . It seemed that as his music changed so did mine . As he started recording his plastic soul music I was learning about soul and Motown and then I started going to discos and clubs , then as he moved into electronic music I was getting into Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream . So as you can see people of my age group grew up with Bowie and as such many many songs mean so much to me. My all time album of his is Diamond Dogs , great music cleaver lyrics and of course a great double cover to look at as I played it over and over until I knew every word .
    Thanks again Paul for making a sad week into a retrospective of a genius .

  51. Le Baron says:

    Great article (as usual), Paul !! :)
    Just one question about the last photo you used in your latest ‘Week-in Review’ newsletter (the one where David is at the top of a building under snowy weather).
    Is this the last official promo photo of David bowie ever taken? Or just a recent photo?
    Thanks !

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      That dates from late “The Next Day” period I think, so it’s not the last official photo. The last photos of the two of a big smiling Bowie with the suit and hat, where he looks like he’s wearing no socks.

  52. steven rosertte says:

    Im around the same age as Paul,I must have started buying records early I quess,Sacry Monsters being the first dip in the water,and that horrible sounding hits cash in.Had one of thoese turntables which had a carry handle!

  53. Pingback:Saturday Deluxe Special / A Life Listening to David Bowie: part 2 | superdeluxeedition

  54. Eric says:

    I would have been vaguely aware of some mid-to-late 70s Bowie via TOTP and the radio on in the house, but the first thing to lodge in my memory was that Kenny Everett video for Space Oddity and the Ashes… promo clip. It looked awfully weird to me as an 8 year old. Fast forward a couple of years, I’m really beginning to get heavily into pop music and Let’s Dance is everywhere. Revisionism has it that Thriller dominated 1983, but for a while I think Bowie was every bit as omnipotent….Let’s Dance album flyposters were all over London, he had three Top 2 UK hits in a row, the Serious Moonlight tour made him a global megastar.

    And that became the Bowie I knew the most, the commercial 80s and 90s star, the film songs, the dodgy albums, Tin Machine. He got slated for so much of it, but I didn’t care. I also bought Never Let Me Down on the day of release (a bank holiday in the UK, a rarity to get new product on those occasions back then). My CD copy had a barcode stuck onto it, as none was on the inlay itself. Silly little things like that you remember. Going home and playing it on a sunny Monday evening in April.

    Older Bowie didn’t especially interest me for a long, long time (that kind of went for the 60s an 70s as a while), but I kept buying the new stuff as soon as it came out. I loved You Belong In Rock N Roll. I fund “…Hours” strangely underwhelming. But then Heathen and Reality made him my favourite artist again for a while.

    I thought we’d lost him after his years away from the spotlight. Then he returned with new albums, new compilations and seemingly a new lese of life. Except it wasn’t. This time we really did lose him.

    But what a catalogue of work he’s left behind!

  55. Andy Walker says:

    Great article! I’m of the age where I put two on one MiniDisc for the run between Hunky Dory and Lodger.

  56. Pingback:Saturday Deluxe Special / A Life Listening to David Bowie: part 3 | superdeluxeedition

  57. Mark R says:

    My earliest memory is either Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby in ’77 or his appearance on The Kenny Everett Video Show (another sad loss) on New Years Eve 1979-1980. Then Ashes to Ashes came out and I thought ‘wow, this is so weird but I like it’. I was 7 years old.
    I liked the Let’s Dance singles but couldn’t get into his Never Let Me Down period. Tin Machine was OK but I truly discovered him again with the Changesbowie hits double cassette, released in 1990. Favourite Bowie track? Probably Ashes To Ashes. It still gives me goosebumps.

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