A Contest


We’re now a month away from the release of Rebel Rebel, and as a first bit of hype I offer a reader contest. The winner will receive (drum roll)….a copy of the book mailed to them, before the publishing date. If you’d like, I’ll sign the thing, too. And I will write whatever you’d like me to, barring it being obscene or potentially libelous.

The “Bring Me the Disco King” entry opens with a fictional account of a woman who attended a Bowie concert at Madison Square Garden in August 1977. The conceit is that in this alternate universe Bowie, instead of escaping to France and Berlin in late 1976 and recording Low and “Heroes,” instead found himself back in Los Angeles and, a year later, was touring again.

So, my challenge: what would the set list of this 1977 show be? The most inspired one wins a book.

Some parameters. Here are a bunch of set lists from the 1976 tour as a first guideline. Bowie typically played 15-20 songs a night in ’76, which would likely be what an even Thinner White Duke would do in 1977. Let’s not have him doing some marathon 35-song set, for my sake.

My fake account begins with him singing “Five Years” and later has him playing “Sister Midnight,” “Sweet Head,” “Fame” and “Stay,” but you don’t have to include these songs. Feel free to do so, though.

Songs on the list should be confined to anything Bowie recorded prior to 1977, and given the path of our fictional narrative, it’s unlikely any of the Eno instrumentals would have been written, so no “Warszawa” exists in this world, for instance. If you make the case that Bowie would be singing something from the ’80s, explain why, and it had better be a good reason.

Points awarded for originality and flow (would this have worked as an actual set? Don’t just throw a bunch of songs together). May the best person win!

Send your ballot to: bowiesongs@gmail.com (put “setlist” in the subject line) by Friday, March 6. I’ll choose a winner on the auspicious date of Friday, March 13, and will try to get the book in the mail that weekend. Obviously, if you’re outside the US (where I live), the book will take a bit longer to reach you, but you should get it prior to the official publication date (edit: well, it looks like the book’s begun shipping to pre-orderers,so you won’t get it before they do. But hey, you won’t have to pay for it).

Best of luck.


39 Responses to A Contest

  1. Brendan O'Lear says:

    Great idea. We’re assuming pretty much the 1976 band plus A Guitarist?

    • col1234 says:

      yeah. say it’s Alomar-Murray-Davis-a keyboardist and 2 other guitarists (feel free to pick ’em)

  2. StevenE says:

    1.She Can (Do That)

    a funkier version, Bowie’s hooked up with Worrell for the next few years. it was a short gig tbh.

  3. Patrick says:

    If I recall, at that concert, he left the entire set to his friend Philip Glass who premièred his full orchestra tribute, the “Laughing Gnome Symphony”. The last time riots like that were seen was Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
    As reviews said at the time “They paid to go in and after four hours, they were willing to pay to get out. ”
    His “Heroes Symphony” later was a little better received by audiences.

  4. I remember reading that during the Station to Station sessions there was a recording made of “Too Fat Polka (I Don’t Want Her, You Can Have Her, She’s Too Fat for Me)”. The tapes of which were described as being ceremonially destroyed the following morning. I’d like to imagine that the Thinner White Duke would revisit this one in concert – “Hope you like our new direction!”

  5. jamfree says:

    In the interest of making this something of interest for you to sift through, do you, col1234, prefer we stick to existing titles in the repertoire, or do you allow license to include “new” songs from an imagined narrative?

  6. col1234 says:

    some really good entries already! this will be hard to choose.

  7. “Songs on the list should be confined to anything Bowie recorded prior to 1977”

    But wait! Doesn’t he play “Blackout” in your fictional entry as well?

    • col1234 says:

      he does. should amend to say: if you can get a Low or Heroes song in there that makes sense (i.e., it’s something DB could’ve written regardless of location & collaborators) go for it.

  8. Uor Nefelino says:

    I would love to heard a ”funky” version of Sweet Head.

  9. Deanna says:

    I wouldn’t put it past the Duke to attempt a 35-song marathon…

  10. Personally I don’t think he could have survived another year in LA. Marc’s death may well have proven too much to take that year.

  11. Mike says:

    Future Legend
    John I’m Only Dancing (Again)
    Fame/Shake It/Beat of Your Drum/When I’m Five (medley)
    Dopey Joe (Velvet Underground cover)
    God Only Knows (Beach Boys Cover)
    God Knows I’m Good
    Across The Universe (Beatles Cover)
    Too Dizzy
    Zeroes (Just For One day)
    Across The Universe (Reprise)
    It Ain’t Easy
    Song For Bob Dylan
    Song For John Denver
    ’77 and Cry
    Across The Universe (Reprise)
    Ziggy Stardust (with Marilyn McCoo)

    Don’t Sit Down

  12. col1234 says:

    Thanks for all the responses so far! Some really, really inspired ones.

  13. NiggyTardust says:

    1. Leon Takes Us Outside
    2. I Am With Name (65-minutes jam version)
    3. Station to Station
    4. Stay

    • Deanna says:

      I don’t know why, but I absolutely lost it when I read this. I think you win.

    • Kenneth Holzman says:

      Best. Set list. Ever.

      Seriously, this is so good I’m not sure I’m going to enter now.

    • Galdo says:

      The setlist of my dreams. You deserve to win.

    • I really want this to win, I think even DB himself would find it hilariously insane. The underdog of setlist entries.

    • NiggyTardust says:

      Thank you all! It’s just that I love Outside so much and there is so much unreleased music from Outside sessions (all these long avantgardy jams) that I thought it would be cool if Nathan Adler made a timetravel to the past with this performance as a part of his investigation.

  14. s.t. says:

    Nevermind the Disco King…Here’s David Bowie!

    1. Blackout
    2. Gimme Some Truth – Lennon cover
    3. Queen Bitch
    4. Always Barking Up the Same Tree
    5. Rupert the Limey
    6. Chickenshit – Cale cover
    7. Seventeen – Pistols cover
    8. Break the Glass
    9. Liza Jane (1 minute version)

  15. col1234 says:

    including the ones left in the comments, I’ve got 42 entries as of mid-Wednesday. Two more days to enter!

  16. Low and Heroes are so integral to the essence of 1977 that this is a tough exercise… in fact it’s testament to the trajectory of Bowie’s career that it’s *really* tough.

  17. sunray jahchild says:

    This is the parallel bowieverse where Elvis records golden years in early 76 and it makes his “mature years” career, he becomes the hippest act in the world. DB cleans up and does Vegas, guesting often with the King, before they tour the UK together in late 76. By the time they hit MSG for the final dates of the US leg of the tour, Elvis’ “ELVISCHANGESNOW” and DB’s “The Young Americans Get Down at Muscle Shoals” albums are battling each other for the number one slots on both sides of the pond, while their joint CBS TV special “The King and the Duke – A Hollywood Clambake”, has beaten The Beatles’ Ed Sullivan audience.
    On stage at MSG LizTaylor introduces the band: Alomar-Murray-Davies-Scotty Moore-Bobby Womack-Garson-Sweet Inspirations.

    The band:
    Changes/Life on Mars? (instrumental)

    Elvis :
    In the Ghetto
    Always on my Mind
    Lady Stardust
    Lady Grinning Soul

    Can You Hear Me
    Word on a Wing
    Burnin’ Love

    Liz Taylor introduces special guest
    Stevie Wonder:
    Golden Lady

    Elvis joins DB and Stevie as they segue into:
    Golden Years

    Elvis and DB:
    Sweet thing
    Sweet thing reprise
    Suspicious minds

    • J.D. says:

      I can just hear The King intoning “..it’s safe .. in the city ..”

      And if ever there was a lyric that should have been DB :
      “we’re caught in a trap .. I can’t walk out,
      because I love you too much, baby …” a little something he worked up with Luther and Ava at Sigma Sound..

      Will mention though, that I see coordinates here –Liz Taylor and Stevie Wonder– for a double duet wherein Stevie introduces a new number he’s working on called “I Can’t Help It” and– brings on Michael Jackson for that number.
      Segues nicely into Golden Lady and the King has always been big on ‘ineffectuality’ numbers (cf “Heartbreak Hotel”, “(I can’t help)Falling In Love With You”, etc)

      And it adds another dead person to the parallel world.
      Maybe there’s a way to work out a drinking game here ?

      • Patrick says:

        This has probably been posted before here ? but for a bit of fun this is as close as we are going to get to a DB/Elvis late 70s duet.
        In the same alternate universe I can imagine Elvis making his cameo appearance in a David Lynch production, while David Jones says ” I was asked but I don’t do any of that weird stuff. Too arty for me.”

      • sunray jahchild says:

        I can’t help it …
        yeah, I like it,
        and Carlos A would LOVE it

    • SoooTrypticon says:

      I just mentioned this set list as my favorite over on the contest winner post, so I thought I should thank you for posting it over here. I would love to hear a Bowie/Elvis “Sweet Thing.”

      The Liz Taylor addition is a wonderful period flourish.

  18. Douglas Wolk says:

    (Not an entry, but:) …I just imagine it would have to open with “Memory of a Free Festival,” whose “sun machine is coming down” section would build up into a dance groove and segue into a full-on disco version of “My Death.”

    • J.D. says:

      Yes, without question. Think I was there this night ..

      “My Death” slams into the high-bpm ‘moscow-cold-cut’ version, “Life On Marx?”
      Then morphs into rhumba beat, for a smoking latin romp, “(Mi Vida Loca) In The Port Of Amsterdam”
      Then the crowd-pleaser finale, Iggy Pop comes on, for what else, “The (crème) Brûlée Brothers” with DB on accordion.

  19. SpeedofLife says:

    Amazon inform me the book is in the post.

    A couple of questions come to mind.

    1. Will Rebel Rebel replace The Complete David Bowie as the bible?

    2. How the hell will the rest of Bowie’s songs fit into the 2nd volume??

%d bloggers like this: