I Feel So Bad/ One Night (2002 Tour)


Part 1: Taxidermy

Near-complete Low and Heathen (live, Roseland Ballroom, NYC, 11 June 2002).
Near-complete Low and Heathen (live, Meltdown, London, 29 June 2002).
Half-complete Low (live, E-Werk Festival, Cologne, 12 July 2002).
Near-complete Low (live, Montreux Festival, 18 July 2002).

The closest Bowie has come to being the curator of himself was the 2002 tour to promote Heathen. This was first intended as a minor tour of the European summer festival circuit, with a few TV dates between gigs, but soon Bowie’s theatrical instincts kicked in and he devised the most fannish set-list of his life.

He would perform all of Low in sequential order, wearing a (slightly) looser version of his Thin White Duke outfit. Then, after a change to Burberry tweed, he would perform all of Heathen in sequential order. The albums “feel like cousins to each other,” he said. “They’ve got a certain sonic similarity.” His recent work with Lou Reed (see “Hop Frog“) may have been an influence, as Reed had performed full-album live sets for New York and Magic & Loss.

But Bowie was also doing a bit of trend-chasing. Around 1998, it became increasingly common for bands (especially older bands) to play their “classic” LPs in sequential order live. The trend ballooned in the 2000s once live performance became a primary way for musicians to make a living. (“You’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left. It’s terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what’s going to happen,” Bowie told the New York Times in June 2002). You could see why the “play your whole LP” shtick worked: get the old fans who’d stopped buying CD reissues out of the house to hear It Takes a Nation of Millions or Fun House or Entertainment! on stage.

Was choosing Low a cynical touch? The album had little to do with Heathen besides some superficial resemblances (it’s as if Bowie recalled Low being eleven variations on “Warszawa” and had forgotten the little fractured funk tracks on its first side). But 2002 was the apex of Low‘s critical reputation: it was now considered, in the Pitchfork age, to be his masterpiece and most influential release. So there was some ad man’s hustle (“Heathen is the new Low“) and keyed-in nostalgia in the mix.

The full performances of Low were tailored to what fans wanted (on the Montreux tape, you can hear some guy lose his marbles when “Breaking Glass” kicks in)—the performances were sung well and played well, with Earl Slick tracing over his old nemesis Carlos Alomar’s guitar lines, Gail Ann Dorsey singing “Warszawa” like a muezzin and Sterling Campbell as a dynamic foundation (he’s a monster on stuff like “Speed of Life”). The guitar-heavy arrangements (Slick on lead, Mark Plati on rhythm and acoustic, Gerry Leonard on what Bowie termed “atmos”) and the supplemental vocals of Catherine Russell and Dorsey gave a density to the sound.

But there’s a constriction in some of the performances: there’s a sense that Bowie’s working with a common audience memory of each song and feels unwilling to challenge it. This was most noticeable in the instrumentals, which cried out for some sort of revision, some fresh improvisation or just an instrument swap. Instead Bowie kept reverent, a tour guide pacing his audience through an old cathedral of his making.

The track-by-track album live homage also suggested a sad endgame for Bowie: to be doomed, ever so often, to trot out another classic to showcase to fans. The Second Year of the Diamond Dogs. Major Tom’s 40th Birthday Party. Hunkier Dorier 2011.


Boredom (the most constant of Bowie’s muses) soon put an end to it. After playing Low and Heathen in their entirety at a BowieNet-only show at the Roseland in NYC, he began monkeying with the song order, first jumbling the Low songs to break up the run of instrumentals. By his 1 July 2002 performance in Paris, he’d made a salad of the set-list, also throwing in oldies like “Ashes to Ashes” and “Fame.”

On he went, through Horsens and Oostende, from Manchester to Cologne to Lucca, earning the sort of reviews that had become de rigueur by now. “The hits were pitch perfect” (Daily Star). “An incredible rebirth as a performer” (Daily Telegraph), “More relaxed than he’s been for years” (Manchester Evening News), “His voice: that indispensable sound which ricocheted against the square’s walls like some operatic singer” (Sunday Times of Malta). Having done enough, he sailed home to New York on the QE2.


Part 2: Theology

I Feel So Bad (Chuck Willis, 1954).
I Feel So Bad (Elvis Presley, 1961).
One Night (Smiley Lewis, 1955).
One Night (Elvis, 1958).
One Night (Elvis, 1968).
I Feel So Bad/ One Night (Bowie, live, 2002).

[Elvis was] a kid who was monstrously acquisitive, but also fundamentally passive, looking to be counselled and led. In his own wholly pragmatic way, Col. Parker foresaw several future directions that showbiz would take. He saw how Elvis, the real Elvis, with all his moods and problems, could be left to sit at home and do whatever he did, while the spangly, malleable Elvis image could be sent out into the world to work…

Ian Penman, “Shapeshifter,” London Review of Books, 25 September 2014.

The next leg was an alternating-headline slot Moby’s Area 2 Festival, a three-week cross-country North American tour that also included Busta Rhymes (sometimes a no-show) and the Blue Man Group. (“What’s most striking about this collection of acts is the lack of novelty,” Kelefa Sanneh wrote in his review of a Holmdel, NJ, stop.) Bowie said he didn’t mind playing second fiddle to Moby on some nights, as it let him cut out early and (if he was in the Northeast) get home to say goodnight to his daughter.

The set-lists were essentially the same as the latter European shows: a mingle of Low and Heathen tracks, with some popular oldies for seasoning (“Fashion,” “Life on Mars?” “Space Oddity,” “Let’s Dance”). Bowie was drawing the sort of crowd for whom the appearance of “Stay” in the set-list “generated a bit of puzzlement,” according to a review of a Toronto gig. “Bowie devoted two-thirds of his set to songs that were 20 or even 30 years old. But the move didn’t seem like a surrender to the commercial reality that fans want to hear the familiar,” wrote Robert Hilburn, reviewing the LA stop. On and on it went, in the pages of American and Canadian papers: Timeless perfection. A still-commanding voice. He’s still beautiful. As steely as sinuous as ever. A nearly flawless musical time capsule.


On the last night of the Area 2 tour, at the Gorge Amphitheatre east of Seattle, Bowie did something different at last for the encore. He noted that it was the 25th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death (which he’d learned about while on safari in Kenya in 1977). He mock-griped that Presley’s birthday had always eclipsed his own. “He gets all the birthday shit and nobody knows that I ever got born…Jimmy Page was born on the 9th: you can make something out of that. But the 8th of January? You lose out, innit.” And he sang two Presley songs in commemoration.

Like any British rocker born in the Forties, Bowie was fascinated by Elvis, who’d seemed like an extraterrestrial to him at age 10. Elvis was a swiveling mass of American bad intentions. There’s even a touch of Elvis in Bowie’s singing at times, in the swagger of “Janine” and, oddly enough, in some of his “Song For Bob Dylan.”

At first Bowie seemed to be paying tribute to the pantomime Elvis, the dead Elvis of common tabloid memory. Fat, pilled-up Elvis, the sweaty kung-fu-chopping “thankyouverramuch” Elvis: rock and roll in its buffoonish red giant phase. But the songs that he chose were a fan’s picks.

“I Feel So Bad,” which Presley cut in Nashville in March 1961, was Presley’s take on a Chuck Willis R&B number. It was fitting for Elvis at the time, about to vanish into a morass of cheap, endless movies and soulless soundtrack LPs (“sometimes I wanna stay here/then again, I wanna leave“): its moroseness chased away by an alliance of Floyd Cramer’s piano and Hank Garland’s guitar, and capped with a Boots Randolph saxophone solo that Presley walked over to cheer during the take, as if he’d bet on Randolph in a horse race.

“One Night” was a dirty Smiley Lewis song, an open account of a man caught in an orgy (“the things I did and I saw/would make the earth stand still“), that Elvis cleaned up (slightly) in his 1958 take, a minor hit. Elvis went back to “One Night” in his 1968 TV special, where he tore into the song, retrieving the original Lewis lyric. You can see in the clip what made him maddeningly, exotically Elvis. He’s joking around, mugging for the camera and his friends, parodying himself, not seeming to give a shit about the song and then suddenly in a breath he’s there, committed like a zealot, screaming BEEN TOO LONELY TOO LONG! like he’s confessing to a killing. He lurches up, forcing one of his buddies to rig up a mike for him, and he stands there, balancing his weight with his foot, slashing at his guitar as if he wants the strings to snap off in a pack.

Bowie’s versions of the songs (respectful, even modest) couldn’t compare. Elvis was too high a cliff to climb, to even consider climbing. He paid his respects and called it a tour.


Part 3: Cartography

The New York Marathon:
Music Hall at Snug Harbor, Staten Island, 11 October 2002.
St. Ann’s Warehouse, Brooklyn, 12 October 2002.
Colden Center at Queens College, Queens (queen borough of the 5), 16 October 2002.
Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe, Bronx, 17 October 2002.
Beacon Theater, Manhattan, 20 October 2002.

Well, not yet. Bowie seemed unwilling to stop playing. He went back to Europe in September for more TV and radio spots, some record store signings. At a Radio 2 concert he filmed some of the audience with a handheld camera (“to show my daughter exactly what sort of person I associate with”). He offered more prizes for lucky winners, like the first-ever live performance of “Bewlay Brothers.”

On 22 September he played Max-Schmelling-Halle, his first concert in Berlin since 1995. The hall, built in 1996, was at the edge of the Mauerpark, near where the Wall once had cut through Prenzlauer Berg. “Half the audience [that night] had been in East Berlin that time way before [in 1987],” Bowie told Performing Songwriter in 2003. “So now I was face to face with the people I had been singing to all those years ago. And we were all singing it together.”

It was as if his tour had become a leyline of his past lives. A stop in Munich, where he’d recorded some of The Idiot. A return to the once-Hammersmith Odeon (in 2002 it was “the Carling Apollo”; it later became the “HMV Hammersmith Apollo” and is currently the “Eventim Apollo”), with Eno, Bowie’s old schoolfriend George Underwood and his once-drummer John Cambridge in attendance. This gig, finally, was supposed to be the finale.


But back in New York, Bowie realized he still had some TV appearances booked for October, so why not keep the band together a bit longer (“before they drifted off to family and friends for the winter“)? Bowie credited a friend “Bill” (likely his financial adviser, Bill Zysblat) with the idea of doing a set of shows that roughly followed the route of the New York marathon. It would be a tribute to his still-recovering adopted city, with Bowie playing clubs.

First Snug Harbor, a park two miles west of the Ferry terminal on Staten Island (“Earl Slick country,” Bowie wrote. “Earl was freaked and excited at the same time. ‘Oh God, I’m gonna see some really old faces. We’re gonna get Joey Bag-a-Doughnuts…And then there’s family. I’m never gonna survive this.”). Then up to the rapidly-gentrifying DUMBO (one sign of gentrification: getting an acronym like “DUMBO”) neighborhood of Brooklyn, at St. Ann’s Warehouse. I’d seen Joe Strummer play there earlier that year: he’d been late, complaining his cab didn’t know where to go, then ripped into “Bank Robber,” singing it like Elvis.

Colden Center at Queens College, which the band likened to a high school hall. Jimmy’s Bronx Cafe, visited by everyone from Fidel Castro to Bill Cosby (and which would close its doors in 2004). Finally the Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side. Bowie closed with “Ziggy Stardust.”

When Gail Ann and I slow-danced through ‘Absolute Beginners’ that night…it didn’t seem like the end of a long and grueling year, but a new time with a horizon that went on forever,” Bowie wrote in 2003, when he was making a new album and planning a global tour. Was this hyperbole? Of course not. It would go on forever. Wouldn’t it?


“One Night” and “Feel So Bad” were performed 16 August 2002, The Gorge, WA.

Photos: “Elvis Bombay” and “Vigil One: Elvis Death March, Memphis,” Ted Barron, 2002; Giacomo Pepe, “Bowie in Lucca,” 15 July 2002; Adam Bielawski, “Bowie in Chicago,” 8 August 2002. The other shots of Bowie in NYC, mid-October 2002, are from David Bowie: Live in New York, a fine photo collection by Myriam Santos-Kayda.

57 Responses to I Feel So Bad/ One Night (2002 Tour)

  1. Anonymous says:

    I was lucky enough to see the Seattle show, and really enjoyed Bowie’s banter (including the bits about the British term “innit?”). Coincidentally, he said something at the end of the show about the last time he’s in America, he’ll end with “Ziggy Stardust” and I thought I heard him basically say “this will be my last show in America” (because he did indeed end the set with ZS). Back then I was a Bowienet member so I went into the forums there and asked if anyone heard what I heard, and ol’ Sailor himself replied and clarified that no, it wasn’t his last show in America, he was just saying that when he plays his last show in America, he’ll end with ZS. I thought that was pretty cool.

    Oh, and this show was great, too. Super easy to get up within 15′ of the stage. And the ampitheater in which this show was held was one of the most beautiful in the country.

  2. Vinnie says:

    Never heard the first live version of The Bewlay Brothers.

    Good for Bowie – he found himself and found ways to please the fans.

    With even more coming from him, I hope he plays a handful of shows. Just a handful. And make tickets will-call only with ID/Card. No scalping. Play obscurities, play some hits, do some new songs, end with Ziggy.

  3. Anonymous says:

    hunkier dorier
    “thankyouverramuch” Elvis
    Joey Bag-a-Doughnuts
    Brilliant stuff

  4. Ramzi says:

    There’s an interview on youtube somewhere from what I’m guessing is early in 2002 where he talks about hating performing live, so it’s interesting to see him ending the year touring so much and going to create an album for the specific purpose of being played live.

    On another note: the wardrobe for this tour was absolutely spot on.

    • Ramzi says:

      also: as you mention his performances on Speed of Life, where do people rank Sterling Campbell as one of Bowie’s drummers? I’m a big fan personally.

      • col1234 says:

        never rated him in the top rank but listening to all these 02 live shows changed my perspective. he’s got a great tone and he was the main reason that band was the tight crew they were

  5. Al Pachinko says:

    Hello all, this is my first post, indeed my first post anywhere on the web as it happens. Enormous fan of this blog and the warm and enlightening comments from everyone. I was spurred into action by Ramzi’s question about Sterling Campbell, I couldn’t resist staying quiet any longer. I always found Campbell to be a quintessential session man, polished, professional, restrained in a supremely “tasteful” way. He’s an unquestionably great drummer, just not a very exciting one. Zachary Alford on the other hand is second only to Dennis Davis in my opinion, and is one of that rare breed of drummers oozing personality. His fills are so inventive – strange, awkward tumbles of toms that sometimes sound as though he’s learned how to play them backwards. Even better, he swings. “The Next Day” (track) is a great example of him laying down a straight-up beat but making it swing in a way Campbell never would (the latter going more for on-the-target precision perhaps), and on the album as a whole his playing far outshines Campbell’s two contributions (my personal favourite is “How Does The Grass Grow”). Ever since seeing Alford play on the Earthling tour (his playing on that album is remarkable) I’ve been a fan and always wondered why Bowie seemed to favour Campbell (who was first choice for TND). I associate Campbell’s playing with a certain MOR aspect to some of Bowie’s later stuff, his sound is so slick, although (as I learned from this blog) he did lay down “A Small Plot of Land” which is one of my favourite drum tracks of all time, and he’s monstrous on “Looking for Water”. Still, there is Dennis Davis. The longer I listen the more I realise how incredible he is, he’s the ideal of the “musical drummer” who at the same time knows his place in a Bowie number. What do you all think? Are we open to discussing the rest of the many great players who’ve worked with Bowie?

  6. Neu 75 says:

    Is Low still the critics favourite these days or has opinion shifted again? I’m of the opinion that “Heroes” shades Low amongst the Eno trilogy…

    • StevenE says:

      I’ve got a perspective on this as someone young enough (well, 22) to grow up as a Bowie novice.

      IMO the only albums a music fan not actively interested in Bowie is particularly to know well are Low and Ziggy, with much more emphasis on the latter, with a smattering of singles from Lets Dance and obviously the title track on Heroes. I’d say Ziggy is by a mile the one that’s still in fashion, and whenever you see a Bowie doc on TV they almost never go beyond Ziggy.

      For me and most people I know Bowie is Ziggy and, most affectionately, the man with a bulging crotch in Labyrinth.

      It’s probably why I only got into Bowie about three years ago to be honest. Good tunes and all but my starting point was Ziggy Stardust…, which, blasphemous as this is may be, has never resonated with me and I still don’t actually care that much for. I suspect I’ve probably actually played it less than NLMD, despite owning it for nine years not three.

      My journey to Bowie love was properly retarded by the fact that I bought Lets Dance straight after Ziggy failed to stick. From the reputation Lets Dance and China Girl have I went in expecting a classic, like Hounds of Love or something, and thought it was a bit shit and put Bowie in a drawer for the next five years. As I think I’ve said before, it wasn’t til I was housesitting a crumbling country mansion (which contained an entire room filled to the brim, to the point you couldn’t actually open the door fully, with empty pringles cans) that was home to a copy of Reality that Bowie clicked. And that was basically because of Bring Me the Disco King.

      • StevenE says:

        I think a good indication of what Bowie songs have cultural capital today is that teen-angst sort-of comedy Perks of Being a Wallflower from a few years back. It’s terrible but is a good example of one of those whitey’s-so-special teen flicks that make all the money. Culture and that.

        One of the plot motors is that the white boy’s mad friends play him a song in a tunnel, and it’s amazing and blows his mind and he’s gutted that he can’t find out what it was, and then stuff happens and he gets rejected or something and he works out the song is Heroes by Bowie.

        Suggests that, despite having the song name in the lyric quite prominently, as despite the 9/11 performance rendering it one of the most iconic songs of all time, (if it wasn’t already) it’s meant to be credible that a teenager could hear it, have their mind blown, and not know what it was.

      • col1234 says:

        if i recall, that Wallflower movie was set in the early ’90s, so it’s a touch more credible the kid would spend years wondering who sang that “heroes” song Emma Watson was into. It was tough back in the pre-Google days, kid (creaks off)

    • Galdo says:

      Funny thing, the second Bowie album I listened to was ‘Low’. I find it boring and gave up on him in 2010. And the first was Ziggy, i find it cool – I was 18. I only just came back to him in 2013 after listening to ‘TND’. Someone said the track ‘Heat’ has a similar sound to the ‘Outside’ album – that made me listen to it and I was blown away. Now I’m a fan and I love ‘Low’, though I prefer “Heroes” and ‘Lodger’ before it.

      • dm says:

        It was labyrinth for me. In my teen years I tried Heroes and it freaked me out. I don’t know why but I bought Outside with my 16th birthday money. I got some of it (these days I adore it). Then one day (at 17 I think) I bought Scary Monsters and Heroes suddenly clicked and became my Favourite Album Ever. I tried and enjoyed Ziggy but it is by far my least favourite of the glam trilogy (Aladdin Sane>Diamond Dogs>Ziggy). I then bought Station to Station at 18 and loved it. I also found Low while house sitting, Sound and Vision aside it took a while to sink in but now it’s up there. By this point I was a hardcore enough fan that basically everything else clicked.

  7. s.t. says:

    “The guitar-heavy arrangements (Slick on lead, Mark Plati on rhythm and acoustic, Gerry Leonard on what Bowie termed “atmos”) and the supplemental vocals of Catherine Russell and Dorsey gave a density to the sound.*

    Perhaps I have perceptual deficits, but I don’t see the annotation that expands upon this content.

    A very fun read, nevertheless.

    • col1234 says:

      oh, forgot about that. something i was going to write about DB favoring female backing singers post 95 compared to his earlier live shows. obv didn’t get written.

  8. Allan Joffroy says:

    The concert in Paris was at “L’Olympia”, July 1st, 2002…

  9. crayontocrayon says:

    Bowie somewhat reclaimed January 8th with the surprise release of the next day. Your move Elvis…

  10. MC says:

    As to the question of what is the current consensus-best Bowie album, I remember reviews of Tv On The Radio’s Dear Science (a seminal album for me in its own right) back in 2008 which compared it to Station To Station Then, there was the press the S&S reissue got 2 years later. I tend to think S&S would quite possibly come out on top if you were to poll, not fans necessarily, but critics and bloggers at large. (If push came to shove, I’d probably agree, actually.)

    I caught Bowie in Toronto on the Area 2 tour, a concert I recorded off CBC Radio a few months later. Listening to the show, the band sounds great and DB is in great voice (an impossibly arthritic Fame aside). I remember thinking at the concert, though, that the general vibe was too relaxed, sleepy almost, as if the man was headed into the Perry Como stage of his career. I think he only began to seem truly engaged towards show’s end, as the sun set, and the band went into Heathen (The Rays). In general, DB seemed to me in better, peppier form at the Reality concert I attended about a year and a half afterwards. Really, nothing in the latter performance indicated that a health crisis was in the wings. (Of course, it could be that going on before Moby at Area 2 might have had something to do with what was lacking there.)

  11. Darren Bailey says:

    I think Station to Station is no longer viewed as transitional and more as a best of both worlds.

  12. twinkle-twinkle says:

    Hi Chris,

    I was just wondering, have I mis-remembered, or did you say somewhere that your only Bowie gig was during 1990’s Sound and Vision Tour?

    • col1234 says:

      it was! I regret missing the Queens College show here, as it was like 4 subway stops away from me.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Lol, you fan-boys, what are ya like? Yeah, I’m sure you were gutted, lol.

      • col1234 says:

        bit truculent today are we?

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Lol, truculent? No more than usual. I just wanted to check I remembered correctly, so I could fully enjoy a quiet chuckle. I may share, when I finish laughing. 24yrs, eh, lol? And such concern for all those encores you never heard… So many questions…

      • s.t. says:

        8:15, train is due soon, concert is too.
        No ticket, four stops too far, I’m staying home.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Hi s.t.

        Lol. One minute the summer is ahead of us, then, it’s gone. Months ago I started a two line comic reply to your last post to me on TND page, but things got out of hand.

        I was continuing the song titles thing you were doing. It grew some. Now it’s just gruesome. Nearly 3,000 words, lol. It became my fun way to relax, rather than taking up knitting.

        Sorry it’s too long to post, but ‘hello’ again, anyway.

      • s.t. says:

        Hello to you too, and is this 3,000 word poetry slam going to be included as an extra in the PAotD publication?

  13. gnomemansland says:

    Interesting to read how Bowie is doing things somewhat randomly, driven as you say as much by boredom as much as anything else. This was an approach, which in the 70s had effortlessly paid great dividends as magpie like Bowie moves from thing (fling) to the next but now it just yields the odd nugget. With McCartney it is much the same; they both carry on as before almost bemused that what once worked so easily doesn’t seem to now. Arguably they both needed a new strategy – a far more systematic approach to extending their oeuvre…

  14. twinkle-twinkle says:

    Thought some might find this of interest:

    An accomplished guitarist, Mr Gabrels has delved into industrial electronic music with Nine Inch Nails and recorded with hip hop group Public Enemy, and said: “It’s adventurous guitar playing – I do not do instrumental music like a lot of people expect guitarists to do.”

    Mr Gabrels said the work he had done with such iconic musicians shaped his career: “I knew from the moment I started working with Bowie I was going to be a parenthesis. No matter who else I worked with, whether that was the Rolling Stones or Public Enemy, David Bowie was always going to overshadow it.

    “He opened doors for me – together we probably wrote 40 or 50 songs, more than I have done with anybody else. The only thing I had to do was be there – he liked guitar and wanted me to play how I liked. The only thing he ever asked was that it was louder. He has such a strong personality on stage; you could really could push against musically. Nothing you can do is going to overshadow him.”

    Read more at http://www.courier.co.uk/Guitar-legend-performed-David-Bowie-Cure-comes/story-23050071-detail/story.html#f7UyRweOIFt2dhg7.99

  15. Anonymous says:

    “Bowie said he didn’t mind playing second fiddle to Moby on some nights…”.

    Well, that’s depressing.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Zzzzzzzz…. Lol! db – damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. Were, ‘ didn’t mind playing second fiddle’, Bowie’s ACTUAL words, or another of Chris’s twisting and amplifying for potential ‘negative’ effect. It seems to be Chris’s raison d’etre in what, round these parts, we now call Pissing All Over the Dame, lol!

      As I remember it, Bowie decided to do Low/Heathen for his contribution to his curating of Meltdown. New york was a kind of rehearsal. Clearly doing the short European tour got Bowie in the mood to keep things going. Moby was a friend, possibly with venues already booked. As I say, Chris doesn’t like Bowie over-planning, Chris doesn’t like Bowie being spontaneous. If Bowie is not ‘Chris’s Bowie’ he will be punished, lol.

      • col1234 says:

        That wasn’t a negative connotation in the slightest. Do you not see the irony in how much projection YOU put into MY writing? How on earth you thought this most recent entry was a scathing criticism of Bowie is beyond me, but apparently not you.

        I think it’s perhaps time for you to take a break from reading this blog, since you obviously get no enjoyment out of it.

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        Hi Twinkle,
        I’ve been away from this blog for a few days, so first up let me apologise for the late reply to your greeting further up the page. I’m very well thanks, hope you’re happy too. However, on my return I see you’ve become embroiled in a bit of an imbroglio.
        Chris, all I can say on Twinkle’s behalf is that we Bowie fanatics, and sadly I include myself in this category, tend to get a bit edgy by slights, or what we may mistakenly perceive to be slights on our hero.
        I think it’s just an unfortunate side-effect in our collective character from years of persecution from the dull and worthy rock’n’roll authenticity police. Anyway, I hope you two can shake hands and make up.

      • col1234 says:

        His comments are now in moderation. The comments in which he chooses to act like an adult, I’ll let through. The ones in which he wants to shadow-box with his jaundiced caricature of me will go in the trash.

      • Stolen Guitar says:

        A Letter to twinkle-twinkle (after David Bowie)

        I can’t really see what you find so objectionable in that sentence; if it’s true, and thus far I’d suggest that Chris’ research has been flawless, then I’d agree with Anonymous that that is ‘depressing’, but that wasn’t Chris’ judgement.

        He made no subjective observation, merely a reason for Bowie’s acceptance of the state of affairs and how it actually benefitted his own lifestyle arrangements. Where’s the perceived subjectivity there?

        This has been, and remains, one of the most enlightening and engaging blogs anywhere out there and the level of critical objectivity that Chris has maintained throughout has been admirable and, quite frankly, remarkable given some of the crap that your hero, and mine, has produced at times.

        Your unreasonable and irrational post is absolutely inappropriate for this site.Oh,and please don’t tell me that your a bigger Bowie fan than me, or anybody else, for that matter, as that stuff should have been left behind in the playground. You do yourself a disservice with this type of behaviour as I have found much to admire, and concur with, in your previous contributions here.

        Pushing Ahead of the Dame has done Bowie a great, no, actually that’s a GREAT, service, as it’s afforded him the same level of critique that Dylan and The Beatles have long inspired. This, in turn, has led to a re-appraisal, albeit not universal nor uniformly favourable, of his life’s significant achievements in 20th century popular culture.

        I still love Bowie just as much as I did when I first ‘borrowed’ my girlfriend’s pristine and virtually unplayed (she never got past the death of Ziggy!) copy of StationtoStation in 1976 and was hit by the metaphorical sledgehammer. I was 16 and did what all normal, rational teenagers do when first love hits so hard. I became obsessive and immediately went out to get the haircut, the white shirts and all of the other potentially life endangering (well, it was mid-seventies Manchester and life was grim…) affectations.

        It can’t have been a pretty sight, but I was smitten and cared not a jot for the bootboy’s taunts and the squares’ uncomprehending indifference. I knew then, as I do now, that I was lucky to have come across Bowie; his music has been a constant for me and I cannot imagine its effect or power over me ever diminishing. I know, from following this treasure trove of an archive, that I’m not alone and though I don’t really like belonging to a club or an organisation, I’m very happy and proud to be amongst this number. We’re all of us, if I may speak collectively, very lucky to have got Bowie.

        But, love is never straightforward and he has tested my fidelity and patience on more than one occasion.Divorce might have been a possibility but, to paraphrase James, I couldn’t leave for poorer pastures because I’d seen such riches previously. Apologies for the crimes against syntax there (and James!), but you get the gist.

        StationtoStation is my Desrt Island disc, which won’t come as any surprise to readers of my infrequent posts, but it was an awfully long time ago and I have lived half a life since its first release. Nevertheless, it’s the most important record in my life and despite some other great, good and, unfortunately but inevitably, poor records it’s endured.

        I can accept the paucity and patchiness of Bowie’s total creative output, and the commensurate criticism that naturally follows, because I’ve been in the presence of greatness, as you all have, and I’m just grateful for that. It’s his flaws that make him so alluring to me and because of the earlier riches I can live with them.

        I think you should be able to do so, too, and recognise that Pushing Ahead of the Dame has greatly contributed to the appreciation and understanding of Bowie’s near unique ebbing and flowing in the popular conscience; very few other artists have reached his peaks and, equally, not many have managed to make their failures as glorious as his.

        I’m no fanboy and I trust I’ve not conveyed that essence here but I am sufficiently disappointed and a little taken aback at your criticism of Chris. I hope you’ll reconsider your comments.


        A Fellow Traveller

  16. Sky-Possessing Spider says:

    Hi Chris,
    Would it be possible for you to edit out that bracketed line from my above post? Naturally it was written in jest. But what seemed flippant and light-hearted when I wrote it, now just looks tasteless and ill-timed in the light of current world events, and I apologise in advance.

  17. twinkle-twinkle says:


    Seeing as I am in moderation rather than persona non grata, I would very much like to reply to Spider and s.t. Also, I am happy to clarify my thoughts to you Chris when I catch my breath. I appreciate you got the emotional ‘leakage’ rushed in passing, rather than a cogent discussion.

    As I am now rushing again, I will just say to Spider and s.t. – catch you a little later.

  18. gnomemansland says:

    Lets not fight boys – we are probably all Bowie fans to varying degrees of obsession. Personally some significant portion of my life has been spent listening to his music but despite playing everything post 81, the inescapable conclusion is though his voice is in great shape (much better than almost any of his contemporaries) the songs for whatever reason post 1981 just can’t compare to the golden period from 1969 – 81. Being Bowie they are still better than most of what is out there but I usually find that after a period of listening to a new release intensely for a couple of months I don’t return to them other than occasionally. In many ways this blog can be painful reading not because Chris is overly critical, he never is but because one thinks after reading the detailed entry OK maybe missed something lets give this track another spin only to be disappointed again…

  19. Maj says:

    I know I’m a week late but woah, 40 comments? Damn!
    I’m sure y’all made all the smart analysing comments before me so what can I share with you all? Ah yes: Bowie looked really good during this tour. Perfectly shaggable. I often say I’d only be “romantically” interested in Bowie between ’77 & ’83 but 2002 Bowie definitely had the silver fox (without much silver) going on.

    In all seriousness, he seemed in good spirits during this time, sort of in the groove. I quite like the jolly uncle Bowie phase. Really have no problems with it. Him playing greatest hits etc.
    It’s also during this time I entered the fandom (for that’s what we are, let us not forget) and started to discover his music – and I guess I had it easier than people who got into him during other, more hardcore-fan- or mostly-crappy-music- oriented phases.

  20. terrific write up as always and nice show links. Can.t wait for The Next Day (and Reality).

  21. twinkle-twinkle says:

    I am happy to clarify what some may be confusing hyperbole on my part and I have no problem admitting there was an unnecessary sarcastic edge in one post.

    But I would also like to stress that I was not talking only of this post, or simply one part of this post. I did not say it was a ‘scathing’ review either.

    As I’ve said, I ‘leaked’ the emotion without fully explaining where it was coming from as regards the blog. I understand people’s confusion, Chris’s hurt, and I will happily, probably over the weekend, explain my thoughts.

  22. Roman says:

    I like Maj’s description of Bowie in this phase as the ‘jolly uncle’. But unlike Maj, I never felt comfortable with it. Bowie to me is a natural outsider – awkward, odd and alien. When he’s ‘everyman’, he’s just kind of naff and irritatingly ‘too happy’. Where’s the pain, man! 🙂

    I first saw Bowie at Slane in 87. He was chatty but still had an aura of other-worldliness about him. Especially when he stopped the gig to berate the rowdy Irish crowd.
    Then in 1990 in Dublin, he was just like I’d imagined he was in the 70’s – saying very little, a rare ‘thank you’ and that was it. It was great.
    In 1995, again in Dublin, it was even more glacier. Morrisey had said derogatory comments about him on stage and left in a huff and Bowie came on, stalking the stage and even snapped at Reeves and Carlos at one point, during a rare moment of speaking rather than singing.
    But it all changed on the Earthling tour. I was at the rehearsal gig in Dublin and he was still ‘the aloof one’. – berating a fan for calling out for Changes but otherwise keeping the talk to a minimal. But when I saw him in London and Dublin on the tour-proper, he was suddenly in the chirpyand, frankly bizarre, Uncle-David mode – rabbiting on with lame jokes and anecdotes inbetween songs – even breaking into The Laughing Gnome at the Olympia one night.
    This continued with the Hours Dublin club gig and right on to Heathen (though I missed that tour) and Reality.
    I find it very refreshing that he’s no longer talking to the public since The Next Day. Business as usual, I say!

    • Mr Tagomi says:

      Interesting. What were the crowd doing at Slane? And what did he say to them?

      • Roman says:

        Mr Tagomi, it was a big outdoors gig in the countryside near Dublin. The crowd had been ‘imbibing’ since noon. Big Country were pelted with fruit. The lead singer threatened to walk unless ‘whoever’s throwing banana skins, stick it in your own f&@k’n mouth and keep it to yourself!’
        When Bowie came on – or rather levitated to the stage – the crowd was hammered and mayhem ensued near the front. All ‘de rigour’ for an Irish audience but it unnerved Bowie. For the first few numbers he repeatedly appealed for the crowd to chill out. Before ‘Beginners’ he lectured, “I don’t think you’re taking me seriously. Someone’s going to get hurt. Do you want me to leave?’ He got halfway through the song and stopped it. ‘Someone has collapsed. Get them out of there’. Basically some girl had feinted – again the norm for a big Irish gig – and Bowie waited for her to be taken out. The crowd got very restless during this drama and started jeering [U2 would’ve rolled with a feinted girl better than this ;-)]. Bowie quickly sensed his error as the jeering increased. He therefore started berating his helpless security – ‘C’mon guys, get it together!’
        Anyway, eventually the gig got back on track – as much as it could considering it was daylight in the middle of a field full of 50k people, of whom about 45k had come to hear Ziggy Stardust and Life on Mars and not 87&Cry and a 10 minute long Big Brother! But what hell – I enjoyed it!

  23. Mr Tagomi says:

    That’s amusing. A couple of friends of mine went to that Slane concert. I was 16 at the time, and that was the year got into Bowie, although not really because of that album. I was a bit envious of them.

    I got a listen to a bootleg cassette of the concert not long afterwards. The quality of the recording was crap, and I certainly got no hint from it that it was so chaotic there.I wish I’d listened to more of it. Bowie’s admonishments must have been on it!

    • Roman says:

      I was 16 too! But I got permission to go, ya big mammy’s boy!! ;-). I too have the bootleg tapes (up in the attic somewhere) – the quality wasn’t too bad on them. You can definitely hear all the drama at the start of the gig – hence why I can quote a lot of what Bowie said. At some point later in the gig, Bowie also slagged Bono. He said, putting on a crap Dublin accent, “I was talking to yer man ‘Bone-oh’ the other night in Paris. Anyway, he sends his love.”

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