A Contest Winner

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First, a few book-related things:

Amazon has started shipping copies of Rebel Rebel, which I imagine a number of you have received by now. My cousin, seen above, got his copy and already has incorporated it into his daily life. But the official release date is March 27, which is when (hopefully) the e-book will be ready and when the book should be available in stores. If you’ve received the book via Amazon already and if you like it, please consider giving it a rating on the site. If you hate it, maybe hold off on the rating bit.

OK. The contest. I received 60! entries, all of which were inspired, many of which were astonishing in their inventiveness. After I narrowed the entries down to five (itself a difficult process), it became all but impossible to choose one. But a contest’s a contest: someone’s gotta win it. One of the darker scenarios submitted for 1977 Bowie was also leavened with some inspired comical moments. And when I found myself cracking up in the supermarket thinking about “the Ritual of Da’at,” I realized I had a possible winner…

(drum roll)

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Congrats to Tymothi Valentine Loving. Here’s his entry.

“A brief song-by-song recap of the legendary David Bowie Madison Square Garden concert of 1977. It was released posthumously several times, with most versions leaving out several of the end songs, this discusses the only complete, non-bootleg release, 2005’s “DBMSG77.”

1. Five Years

Bowie starts the show as if it were starting with “Station to Station,” only to have it go in to a tar-heroin-slow version of “Five Years,” which then devolved into one of the many noisy jams of the night.  Apocryphally, Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music was played at the opening of the show, manipulated through several effects pedals, to create the twisted version of “Station to Station”‘s live “train sound”. The true story is even stranger; apparently Lou Reed and David Bowie indulged in some “speedballs” before the show, and the sound is actually Reed backstage playing a guitar while Bowie “played” the pedals.  After finally tiring of this, Bowie finally staggered out to start the show.  So, technically, although he was never on stage, this was Lou Reed’s last live performance, since he ODed the next year, infamously exactly one month after Bowie’s own fatal OD.

2. Andy Warhol

The shortest, straightest played song of the night.  Notable only for the minute & 30 seconds after the song is over that Bowie spends repeating “Can’t tell them apart at all”, with different emphasis each time (“CAN’T tell them apart at all”, “Can’t tell them APART at all”, etc.) with the final “Can’t tell them apart at AAAAALLLLLL” howled into a feedbacking mike as the band starts:

3. Red Money/Calling Sister Midnight (Just “Red Money” in the DBMSG77 track listing)

The title of this song is questionable. The version that Bowie performed at this show combines the lyrics of the two known recorded versions; “Calling Sister Midnight” that appears on the 1979 Iggy Pop album Idiot’s Lantern, and the 1980 posthumous Bowie collection “David Lives!“, which, among other things, contains tracks from Bowie’s final, incomplete album, What I Will. Who wrote what on which version is still up for debate. What isn’t however, is the performance itself. The dynamic of the fast pace combined with the stop/start cadence, and the quiet verses and loud choruses is still influential to this day, and some version of this song has been covered by bands ranging from Einsturzende Neubauten to Nirvana on their single studio album.

4. Fame
Seven minutes of the band jamming on a sped up version of the riff, while Bowie was offstage (possibly apocryphally) doing more cocaine. This is where the first signs of serious crowd unrest can be heard. Infamously, this was the inspiration for Suicide’s 1978 performance piece “27 Minutes Over New York”, where they would play a synth version of the riff until, basically, forced by the crowd and/or venue to stop. Nobody stopped Bowie that night, however, and when he comes out at 7:13 to finally start singing, the crowd goes wild. And, as clumsy as the increase in tempo makes some of the transitions in the song, the contrast between the band’s frantic pace and Bowie’s deadpan delivery just works.

5. Stay
Probably the clunker of the show. Although the pace of the song is increased, similar to “Fame,” there’s a notable lack of energy, and the bit of attempted free form disco jamming in the middle is as bad an idea as it sounds on paper, and never really coheres. Mainly known for the brief bit in the middle where, apropos of nothing, Bowie points into the crowd and yells “I see you, Pierrot!”.

6. Sweet Head/Cracked Actor (“Gimme Sweet Head” in the DBMSG77 track listing)
Interestingly enough, an early studio recording of this song has surfaced. Quite a bit less abrasive and charged then this version. It’s also quite a bit slower than the manic pace of this performance. And, it must be said, quite a bit shorter. More signs of crowd unrest are evident on the recording, with some angry catcalling at the end of the song.

7. The Ritual of Da’at
This song has no known recording other than this one. Bowie announced the song title at the beginning (“This here, this is The Ritual of Da’at”). The lyrics are mostly incomprehensible, and gibberish where they can be understood, although the line “Oh my sweet milk and peppers, you are all I can love!” has resurfaced in popular culture after famously being uttered in the midst of a nervous breakdown by the protagonist of Todd Haynes’ brutal, Dogme 96-ish takedown of the glam era, My Velvet Goldmine!. This song shouldn’t work, but somehow it does. Something about how slow it starts, and the incredible, proto-speedmetal finish just coheres into what, despite the sloppiness, many consider to be one of the best Bowie live performance ever captured, and if not the best, then certainly one of the most intense.

8. “Bring Me The Disco King” (“The Disco King” in the DBMSG77 track listing)
This improvisational piece, never recorded other than this once, has no known title other than the line Bowie repeats for the first and last couple minutes, quietly at the beginning of the song, yelling at the end. During the middle section, he is offstage, presumably doing more coke, although it’s not true that he mutters “more cocaine” before leaving the stage, it is, fairly clearly, “keep playing”. The crowd, whipped into a seething frenzy by the previous song, seems bemused by this somewhat melancholy (in comparison, anyway) piece.

9. Blackout
Bowie’s intro to this song (“Here’s a new one for you New Yorkers, it’s called “Blackout!”) was famously sampled on the title track of the debut album of 80’s New York rap pioneers Power Station, Here Comes the Blackout. And, if I can be pardoned the obvious pun, Bowie gave an electric performance here. And the crowd went, in the famously un-bleeped words of one of the attending medics who was interviewed on the live news in the aftermath of the show, “Absolutely fucking bugshit insane”. Reportedly, at least 3 people who had never had an epileptic seizure before experienced one due to the severe strobe light effects employed during this number.

This is where most official releases of the show ended until DBMSG77 was released, although the rest of the show has been available in bootleg form for years. Much has been written about the violence of the near-riot that broke out and the damage done to the classic venue by the small fires set at the end (although, as far as I can tell, the number of fires is often exaggerated, there appear to have been only 2). Even more has been written about the investigation afterwards. I’m going to skip most of that here, and focus on the music itself, other than to say that, no, there’s nothing there that can be considered an incitement to riot, at least not in any legal way. The investigation was a witch-hunt, plain and simple. Edward Koch needed a scapegoat for the underlying tensions of his city (although Abraham Beame earns much of the blame), and he chose Bowie. OK, enough of that, on to the music:

10. Station to Station
A strange version of this song. This was the opener of the previous tour; a sprawling, shambling, genius mass of a song that seems like it would fit right into this show, but here, it runs an abbreviated 4 minutes and change. Starting with “The return of the thin white duke/throwing darts in lovers eyes” sung a cappella a few times, with “making sure white stains!” screamed in the last line, skipping the instrumental jam, and ending after only one time through the last few lines of the song, this is a tight, severe performance.

11. Queen Bitch/God Save The Queen (“God Save The Queen Bitch” in the possibly too clever DMBSG77 track listing)
Truly amazing. Bowie performs his song in a vicious, camped up punk cabaret style. And then he throws in a couple of verses and choruses of The Sex Pistols’ single in the middle. Most of the people at the show probably had no idea who The Sex Pistols were at this point. And Bowie handles their song with relish. Makes you wonder what could have been if he’d been around to make music in the 80s, an angry, anti-commercial punk Bowie may have saved that decade from some of its own excesses.

12. White Light/White Heat
A perennial Bowie cover, since at least the Ziggy Stardust tour, the band tears into this one and leaves it bleeding at the end. Bowie, on the other hand, seems disengaged again, forgetting some lyrics (a somewhat impressive feat, considering how few there are in the song). Which leads to him leaving the stage again as the band rides the riff (for 12! minutes!). He does, once again, seem more energized upon his return.

13. Panic In Detroit (Panic In New York on the DBMSG77 track listing).
This song is what was supposedly being focused on in the investigation of Bowie possibly inciting a riot. And yes, he does change the location city in the lyrics, but it’s a very thin thing to hang such a charge on. Anyway, an intense, stripped down version of the song. And yes, Bowie does seem, in some way, to be feeding off of the negative energy of the crowd. His strident, repeated “Panic in NEW YORK!” starts off brutally, and ends up like nothing else Bowie ever performed, at least that’s been saved for posterity.

14. Hang On To Yourself
This wasn’t supposed to be the last song of the show. Although no known printed version of the setlist still exists, according to members of the band, there was supposed to at least be Suffragette City, Let’s Spend the Night Together, TVC15, Rebel Rebel, Jean Genie, with Diamond Dogs as the closer. Notable in their lack are softer songs such as Changes or Time, or anything similar. It seems the intention was to just have the show almost entirely be amped up versions of (mostly) already fast songs. “TVC15” may have been a bit of a reprieve (although I really, really wish I could have heard the version that would have performed at this show). At any rate, this song barely gets started before the show is shut down, due to the (2, not several) fires that had started. An ignoble end to an astounding show that seemed to indicate an amazing new direction for David Bowie.

Although, I am indescribably happy that DBMSG77 has the complete audio of the end of the show, with Bowie screaming “I’m the laughing gnome and you can’t catch me!” at the NYFD and NYPD just before his mike was cut.”

Runner-up: A masterful piece of writing by Steven Hanna, in the style of Pegg’s Complete David Bowie, detailing not just the MSG concert but the whole “1977 ‘New Wave’ Tour,” with Blondie’s Chris Stein as ill-fated lead guitarist and an opening medley of “Can You Hear Me”/”Son of a Preacher Man.” This was a redemptive tale for Bowie, who cleans up and escapes to Europe after the disastrous Low sessions.

Here it is: enjoy!

Other top contenders: James Scott Maloy, who wrote a retrospective in the voice of a Lester Bangs still alive in 1993; James Alex Gabriel Phillips, whose phenomenal 2,000-word piece included the return of Tony Defries as ringmaster; Alon Schmul, who had Mick Ronson, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, the Bee Gees, Aretha Franklin and Jerry Hall as guests at a Bowie 30th birthday extravaganza; Aaron Rice, who had Bowie sing nothing but duets, including “Win” with Sinatra and “Be My Wife” with Barry Manilow; Ean McNamara, whose set opened with a Buffy St. Marie cover (“sung mostly off stage”) and ended with “Wolves Song” (aka “Some Are”). [Most of these are now in the comments.]

I wish I could send a book to everyone who contributed an entry: I’m very grateful to everyone who took part in this, and the volume of responses bodes well for something I’m planning to mark the blog’s end later this year: a reader survey/ranking of favorite Bowie songs (essentially voting for the Bowiesongs Top 50, or maybe 100).

48 Responses to A Contest Winner

  1. steg says:

    Col may I suggest that you publish also – and at least – the 4 runners up? I am glad I did not try to enter the contest because I would have been ashamed of me. I have the impression there are true works of art in some of the contestants submissions (no Sex Pistols pun intended) and if you will not publish, why not a pdf with them to donwload?

    All the best

    • col1234 says:

      Steven Hanna’s is definitely worth reprinting (it’s essentially a co-winner). I’ll ask and see if they’re interested. Pretty much everyone I listed was possibly a winner at one point. This was a very hard decision, and fairly arbitrary at the end: you’re all winners!

  2. stuartgardner says:

    Tymothi, I congratulate you for winning, but I congratulate you even more for an astonishing bit of writing, very sincerely. Reading your entry was an absolute blast!

  3. SoooTrypticon says:

    Col, that is indeed a very funny piece. Tymothi made me laugh several times. It’s so well timed, and yet so weirdly close to a skit from Benny Hill… which is completely appropriate by the end (:

  4. Brilliant! Includes an alternate-universe necrology of great stars … Please publish the other contestants. (And please reassure us that bowiesongs will at least keep going till you’ve covered The Next Day?)

  5. Alon Shmuel says:

    My copy of the book was dispatched from Book Depository about a week ago, so the participation in the contest was merely for fun, and funtime is was! The winning piece is brilliant, even grimmer than my entry, listed below:

    In late 1976, Bowie (after a partially successful rehabilitation from his Cocaine addiction) was pressured by RCA to release a new album (a “Young Americans 2”, the label executive asked). Bowie duly complied, but since his creative stamina was almost drained (his previous album, Station To Station included only 5 original compositions), the album included cover versions and left-over originals from previous years.
    Bowie declared that the covered songs reflected his fascination with “America’s beautiful tapestry of down to earth Rock’n’Roll, with a touch of Soul diamonds in the dirt.”
    “No, I’m not Thomas Jerome Newton anymore” he joked, “I think that the life of a worker in a gas station in a small rural town in the Midwest is incredibly more interesting than those of an alien. Maybe I should have called the new album ‘Gas Station To Gas Station’, ha ha”.
    RCA, however, named the new album “(David Bowie’s) Wall of Fame”, referring both to the cover versions on the album (“There’s Heartland Rock, there’s California Rock, and there’s David Bowie doing them all”, was the advertising slogan for the new album), and, cynically, to Bowie’s last #1 hit in the USA.
    The set list of the following tour included most of the songs from the WOF album, although several of them were dropped early on (among them the cover versions of the Eagles’ “New Kid In Town” and Bob Seger’s “Katmandu”).
    In order to promote the album, RCA arrange a special concert on Jan-8th 1977 – “Bowie’s 30th birthday concert”. It was held at the Madison Square Garden in NYC, and featured many musical guests. Bowie’s request for the participation of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop was denied by RCA, on the grounds that “No one knows or cares for these has-beens”. From his side, Bowie vetoed the participation of Elton John (RCA planned for a duet on a Space Oddity/ Rocket Man medley. Some people said that Bowie was afraid that his new looks (blue jeans and checkered flannel shirt) will be overshadowed by John’s glam outfits).

    The set list of this special concert was: (the quotes are taken from Bowie’s words to the audience)

    1. Star

    2. Hang on to yourself
    “The next song is from the new album. It was written by a very talented guy named Bruce Springsteen, whom you probably heard of.” (The audience cheers). “When I met him about two or three years ago, I was so confused. I kept thinking “What do I say to normal people?” (The audience cheers). “What do I say indeed?” (Bowie seems a bit melancholic, but he cheers up). “Well, he turned me on blue jeans, and I hope I gave him something in return. Anyway, he wrote this song several years ago, and he just keeps getting better and better, I like him a lot. This song is from my new album and I hope you’ll like it. It’s called “It’s Hard to be a Saint in the City””.

    3. It’s hard to be a saint in the city (a Bruce Springsteen cover, from the new album “Wall of Fame”)
    “Thank you! Those were the players from the string section of the NY Philharmonic. Aren’t they great? They’ll continue with us also on the next song”

    4. Stay
    “The guy who will now join me seldom leaves his house nowadays. I think he had a hit or two in the US, so maybe you’ll recognize him.”
    John Lennon enters the stage, the audience goes berserk.

    5. Across the Universe (A duet with John Lennon)

    6. Jean Genie + Love Me Do (John Lennon sings Love Me Do and plays the harmonica on both songs).
    Lennon quietly leaves the stage during the ending of Jean Genie, the crescendo is followed immediately by

    7. Breaking Glass
    Polite applause from the audience
    “One night, several months ago, I had a sort of a relapse. I was feeling a bit weird and mmm… not so clear minded, and this song just leaped into my brain from nowhere at all. Maybe from the TV. My pal Iggy Pop just loves watching TV’s, a wall of TV’s in front of him, day and night”. (Again, Bowie seems a bit melancholic, and again he lifts himself up). “It might be on the next album, or maybe not, he he”.
    “And now, I’d like to call to the stage a very dear friend of mine, Mr. Jeff Beck”.

    8. Shapes of things (with Jeff Beck)
    “This song goes a long way, doesn’t it Jeff? The next one goes even further back, and it’s from the new album. Let’s Rock’n’Roll !”

    9. Round and Round (with Jeff Beck, from the new album “Wall of Fame”).

    10. Watch that man
    “My next guest used to be a spider from Mars, but now he’s a spider from Hull, England. He made it all the way from Hull to LA to record the next song with me for the new album, and today he made the trip from Hull to NY. Ladies and gentlemen, Mick Ronson!”

    11. I feel Free (with Mick Ronson, from the new album “Wall of Fame”)

    12. Ziggy Stardust (with Mick Ronson)

    13. Diamond Dogs
    “I just caught my next guest backstage, giving dirty looks at my fiancée, but he’s still a good chap and we are best of friends. Please give a warm welcome to the legendary Mick Jagger !”

    14. Let’s spend the night together (A duet with Mick Jagger)
    “During the rehearsals yesterday, we had an idea: to surprise you with a new performance that you’ve never heard before. So, we worked on it last night in my room, and a bit more this morning. The band (especially the sax and horn players) were just FURIOUS with us, but they agreed to play along. It’s an old favorite of ours, originally performed by Martha and the Vandellas, and we hope you’ll like it”.

    15. Dancing in the streets (A duet with Mick Jagger)

    16. 1984
    “My next guests come from down under, and, like me, they discovered the wonderful world of funk and soul. They recently had a huge hit over here called “You should be Dancing”, and they’re about to record a soundtrack for a new film called “Tribal Rites of a Saturday Night”, which sounds very exciting. I’m honored to welcome the Bee Gees!”

    17. Fame (with the Bee Gees on backing vocals)

    18. John I’m only dancing, again (with the Bee Gees on backing vocals, from the new Album “Wall of Fame”)
    “The next one is my latest single. It sounded different originally, it’s better now.”

    19. I am a laser – (from the new Album “Wall of Fame”)
    “I’m very very very excited to call to the stage the First Lady of Soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin!”
    “This is a song that I was privileged to write for Aretha, and it’s going to be featured on her next album “Sweet Passion””

    20. It’s Gonna Be Me (sang by Aretha Franklin, Bowie on backing vocals)
    “I’m so happy, I could kiss Aretha Franklin” (both of them laugh nervously).
    “The next one was written by no other than George Harrison, and I was completely ga-ga over it ever since I first heard it when I was a young songwriter in Beckenham, South London”.

    21. Try Some, Buy Some (A duet with Aretha Franklin, from the new album “Wall of Fame”)

    22. Win
    A parade of friends and guests enter the stage, singing happy birthday. They are led by Bowie’s fiancée Jerry Hall, holding a big birthday cake.

    23. Happy Birthday (Jerry Hall and friends)
    “And they said I wouldn’t make it past 30 ha ha! Did you hear that Neil Young?” (Neil Young is in the audience, smiling politely. Earlier plans for a duet on Young’s “I’ve been waiting for you” were dropped due to “artistic differences”).
    “I dedicate the next song to Jerry, may we have lots of golden years together”

    24. Golden Years (with Jerry Hall on (muted) backing vocals)

    25. Encore:
    “It’s been a very moving evening for me. I’d like to thanks all the guests, my band, the Rodeo Horns, the string players of the NY Philharmonic, and, especially, you. Without your support, I would not have made it through 1976, so give me your hands. Thank you”

    26. Space Oddity

  6. Uor Nefelino says:

    “I’m the laughing gnome and you can’t catch me!” Sorry for the words but…MAN THIS IS SO FUCKING AMAZING! The whole entry is amazing, but this part in particular…God, i did not even know what to say anymore haha.

  7. Tymothi Loving says:

    Thanks, all! Tried to write it as if it was the me living in that alternate word, more drug-addled and bitter. My only regret is that I didn’t make the obvious “thin (white) thing” joke in #13.

  8. Tymothi Loving says:

    *world

  9. jamfree says:

    Congratulations Tymothi and top contenders! The bit about the end of “Andy Warhol” & the “a propos of nothing” factor are especially hilarious… Cheers, all!

  10. Sykirobme says:

    A well-deserved win! Congratulations!

  11. That winning entry was fantastic. It seems so obvious that any late-70s Bowie that didn’t involve his leaving LA was an off-the-rails late-70s Bowie, followed by a dead late-70s Bowie. The conjecture as to how he would play his hits in ’77 was awesomely fascinating.

    Also brownie points for the Laughing Gnome at the end. It’s both hilarious and poignant, imagining an 80-pound Bowie prancing about and screaming Laughing Gnome at the NY police. Fantastic.

  12. princeasbo says:

    Here was my go:

    Having returned to LA, Bowie has gone completely Hollywood and, with Richard Perry orchestrating, re-recorded a selection of his back catalogue for a lavish double Lp duets album with some of America’s best know entertainers, both current and past. Given the star-studded nature of the record, its supporting tour is necessarily truncated, with week-long engagements at Madison Square Gardens, the Hollywood Bowl and the Sands in Las Vegas. It is during the latter run, performing the second set of the Tuesday night show, that a thoroughly coked-up Bowie has a heart attack and, it is presumed, dies. This later turned out to be a publicity stunt, and the owners of the Sands sue Bowie which forces him to record ‘Duets II’ to cover the losses (which it doesn’t).

    The setlist for the MSG gig is as follows (including the duetists):
    First Set:
    John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) (with Joel Gray)
    Wild Is the Wind (with Barbara Streisand)
    Life On Mars? (with Bette Midler)
    Lady Stardust (with Cher)
    Oh! You Pretty Things(with Andy Williams)
    Changes (with Elton John)
    Be My Wife (with Barry Manilow)
    Word On A Wing (with Nat King Cole)
    Second Set:
    Starman (with Starland Vocal Band)
    Reble Reble (with The Hudson Brothers)
    Right (with Marylin McCoo and Billy Davis Junior)
    Sweet Thing (with Marvin Gaye)
    Space Oddity (with Glen Campbell)
    Golden Years (with Captain & Tennille)
    Suffragette City (with Neil Sedaka)
    1984 (with Alice Cooper)
    Queen Bitch (with Liza Minelli [guest appearance by Judy Garland])
    Stay (with Diana Ross)
    Encore:
    Fame (with John Lennon)
    Second Encore:
    Win (with Frank Sinatra)

  13. Deanna says:

    Ah, this was awesome! The line about Bowie saving the 80s from excess really got me.

    Congrats on winning, Tymothi!

  14. Uor Nefelino says:

    Now I can’t wait to see Steven Hanna’s entry.

  15. Anonymous says:

    This was my entry (I’ve made at least two mistakes: it wasn’t funny, it was set in L.A.):

    My Death Live. Bowie Bootleg 1977

    Station to Station / Stay / TVC15 (medley)
    Foot Stompin/Fame (medley)
    Young Americans
    Hang on to yourself
    Rebel Rebel
    I’m waiting for the man/I wanna be your dog (medley)

    (Intermission)

    Sweet thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing
    Win
    Life on Mars?
    Five Years/ Rock and Roll suicide (medley)
    Word on a Wing
    Silly Boy Blue (solo acoustic version)
    My Death (solo acoustic version)

    Encore:
    Who can I be now?
    Let’s dance (Previously unreleased version).

    The Forum
    Los Angeles, CA, USA

    Personnel
    David Bowie: voice, acoustic guitar, alto saxophone, maracas.
    Carlos Alomar: guitar.
    Earl Slick: guitar.
    James Williamson: guitar on Rebel Rebel and I’m waiting for the man/I
    wanna be your dog.
    Roy Bittan: piano.
    Mike Garson: piano.
    George Murray: bass guitar.
    Warren Peace and Robin Clark: Backing vocals.
    Dennis Davies: Drums.

    Notes:
    Stay and TVC15 are included as musical sections on the progressive
    funk odyssey of Station to Station. Almost 25 of an amazing musical
    journey.
    Bowie starts with a cover of The Flares’ Foot Stompin and ends singing his Fame.
    The band uses almost the same minimal repetitive rhythm track in the
    cover of I’m waiting for my man/I wanna be your dog. Bowie sings with
    a touch of parody in his voice.
    James Williamson is invited to do a couple of songs only in this show,
    not on the tour.
    Bowie alternates verses and chorus of Five Years and Rock and Roll
    Suicide. Ending with numerous “Gimme your hands ’cause you’re
    wonderful” responded by the backing vocalists with consecutive “five
    years”.
    Let’s dance appears in an early incarnation. The intro we know isn’t
    there. It’s downbeat and sad, but still funky. Bowie wrote it after
    hearing countless soul and dance records alone in his room. So it
    could happen in 1977.

    After this show, Bowie moved to New York. He retired for three years.
    He sobered up. Let’s Dance was his next record.

    • youri says:

      “Bowie moved to New York. He retired for three years. He sobered up. Let’s Dance was his next record.”
      arghhh, so many bad news in such a few words 😉
      I am kidding, but the alternative timeline you describe made me laugh full of joy… ! OK, I keep OUR timeline ! thank you !

  16. Gavinoski says:

    My entry was nowhere near as brilliant, inventive or as inspired as the winner! The right person won from the sounds of things!

    Here was my entry if anyone is interested:

    I imagine that Bowie in 1977 would have sounded like something between Station to Station and Lou Reed’s Street Hassle or his live album Take No Prisoners. Also I would like to think that he would have had a new album out at the time so I have thrown in a few songs that could have been from this.

    Start off with the lights being really bright and blinding and all you can make out on the stage are the silhouettes of the band as they play the early version of Subterraneans (I’m thinking it would be instrumental) from the aborted Man Who Fell to Earth Soundtrack. Loud and Alien. Suddenly the lights shut off and a single spotlight shines on the stage, illuminating Bowie all in black, thinner from the extended Cocaine use, and a piano player (I’d like to think Garson).

    1. Eight Line Poem (a longer, drawn out and decadent version)
    2. It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City (lights come back on, band kick in, really guitar heavy version) (on the new album)
    3. Sister Midnight (also on the new album)
    4. Win
    5. Running Gun Blues
    6. Suffragette City
    7. Fame
    8. A new song from the album being toured – some version of Laser/Scream Like a Baby
    9. We Are The Dead (end bit segues into Five Years just as Life on Mars did during the 1976 tour)
    10. Five Years
    11. A new song from the album being toured – some version of Tired of My Life/It’s No Game
    12. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed (extended jam leads into the next song, Stay)
    13. Stay
    14. Diamond Dogs
    15. Moonage Daydream

    Encore:
    16. Station to Station
    17. White Light/White Heat (maybe if Lou Reed is around he could come out and duet)

    Encore 2:
    18. The Bewlay Brothers (even weirder end than on Hunky Dory)

  17. Galdo says:

    Mine had Bewlay Brothers on encore too:

    Here’s my setlist:

    1. Station to Station
    2. Hang Onto Yourself
    3. Diamond Dogs
    4. Changes
    5. TVC 15
    6. Word on a Wing
    7. Stay
    8. Life On Mars?
    9. Queen Bitch
    10. Fame
    11. Golden Years
    12. Aladdin Sane
    13. All the Madmen
    14. The Jean Genie
    15. Win

    Encore

    1. Five Years
    2. Space Oddity
    3. The Bewlay Brothers
    4. After All

  18. youri says:

    Hi, congratulations to the winner ! and thank you very much for the story beyond the songs.
    It ‘s a good idea to share everyone’s proposed setlist, here, for fun.
    Here is mine, I found it funny to see that some of the posters -including me- shared some songs. In particular, @ galdo, gavinoski & anonymous: how come have we collectively though of weird things like “silly boy blue”, ‘”after all”, or “scream like [a laser/a baby]” ?
    1- five years
    2- TVC15
    3- rebel rebel
    4- golden years
    5- scream like a laser
    (a new song which roots are the track “I am a laser”, from the Astronettes record and also Bowie’s unpublished sigma sessions, but which would sound somewhere between the parent Astronettes song and the song we know in our timeline as “Scream like a baby”…)
    6- gimme sweet head
    (a frenzy metal funk avatar of the song “sweet head” from the ziggy sessions)
    7- fame
    8- stay, followed by 1st jam
    9- calling sister midnight
    (a new song which we can hear a resembling version of in the Isolar I tour rehearsals in our timeline)
    10- after all
    11- moonage daydream
    12- big brother / chant of the ever cycling family / 2nd jam
    13- quicksand
    (deeply re-worked for 1977)
    14- bring me the disco king
    15- blackout
    16- panic in detroit
    17- station to station
    encores:
    18- silly boy blue
    (have we not read about a gong on stage ?)
    19- all the young dudes

    • Galdo says:

      Yeah, I thought it would be interesting to see Bowie doing some of his funeral songs on the last time he was on stage in our alternative timeline.

  19. Jake Freeman says:

    Welllll… I suppose the joy of sharing our set lists will help me push through my tears at not winning, so I’m posting mine here as well!

    The winning set list was well deserved for its depth and detail and hilarity…I raise my glass high in toast to Da’at and anyway here’s mine:

    “Disco King/Thinner White Duke” period.

    Bowie has stayed in LA and has turned to Iggy Pop as a collaborator in writing and performing, as diversion/inspirational foil. Pop has started to appear in Bowie’s live shows of late and the two produce a bizarre pair of albums, to be known in hindsight as the “Dark Malibu Diptych.”

    Paul Buckmaster becomes a collaborator of some import when it comes to exploring new textures, but Bowie has also leaned hard into the blending of even more debaucherous loud rock guitars with maniacally frenzied funk/disco workouts, thanks to his new listening obsession, the electric work of Miles Davis, especially Davis’ double live record featuring three screeching electric guitarists, “Dark Magus.”

    the Band:
    Iggy, guest vox on a few songs
    Scott Thurston, keys
    Stacey Heydon, gtr
    James Williamson, gtr
    Carlos Alomar, gtr
    George Murray, bass
    Dennis Davis, percussion

    SET LIST:

    1. “Shifting Sands” (instrumental from unused MWFTE soundtrack music)
    2. “Beauty and the Beast” (in slightly different form, lyrics, and substance, as are all 1977 titles in this setlist)
    3. “Rebel Rebel” (4/4 cowbell from Rebel Rebel is underlaid by fade-in of drum beat at half the tempo for…)
    4. “Five Years”
    5. “Sweet Head” (w/ drum solo)
    6. “Blackout”
    7. “Breaking Glass”
    8. “Sister Midnight” (Iggy joins during the song doing call and response vocals w/ Bowie)
    9. “What In the World” (w/ Iggy)
    10. “Funtime” (w/ Iggy)
    (exit Iggy)
    11. “China White” (this reality’s “China Girl”)
    12. “Cracked Actor”
    13. “Fame”
    14. “Station To Station” (the ending of which segues into some kind of long interminable jam with “Bring Me the Disco King” lyric/screaming, segues into…)
    15. “Stay”
    16. Instrumental intro from John I’m Only Dancing Again, segues into and replaces original intro to: “John I’m Only Dancing (Orig) / Jean Genie (Medley)”

    Encores:

    17. “Rock’n’Roll Suicide”
    18. “TVC15”

    Jake (username “jamfree”)

  20. nomad science says:

    Man, the winner is beyond brilliant, but talk about darkest timeline…Bowie and Lou Reed die in 77, and Nirvana only puts out one album!? You know, this ought to be a Doctor Who episode. The Doctor and his companion pop back to 1977 to catch a Bowie gig, only to see it all go terribly wrong…

    • dm says:

      Ok, Dr Who has dealt with some dark alternate history stuff before- Timewyrm Exodus anyone? But does it speak horribly of me that this suggestion is the line that I think it should never cross?

  21. SoooTrypticon says:

    This was a pretty epic contest, and the set lists are all fantastic!

    My submission was prepared for a rumored box set release by the now combined Mainman/Rykodisc. Whether this box set ever saw the light of day is another matter entirely. Why would you need these notes? Did Mainman even have the tapes? Was Rykodisc really based in Salem? (Yes!)

    It was followed by a short account of Bowie’s post-show appearance at his hotel in NYC.

    1977, NYC, Madison Square Garden
    Setlist dictated by phone interview, for the forthcoming Mainman/Rykodisc joint release.
    -Salem, MA, 1984

    1) Little Wheel Spin and Spin – Buffy Sainte-Marie cover, partial instrumental. Not recorded on the bootleg. Very odd. Sang most of it off stage. I wondered if he was playing the fiddle on it. The strings were like old hollywood movie strings. Just, not professionally played. The fiddle was looped live maybe? Started overlapping, like bees buzzing, until it was cut off by the first drum hit from the next song.

    2) Five Years – As described in the partial interview. Appears on stage in a single spot. No other light. The spot just slowly faded up on him. The song was glacial, but there was nothing quiet about those drum hits. A sort of “Young Americans” rhythm kicked in midway. He seemed to wake up then. A bunch of gold tinted spots turned on. A real gold light. Even the people were turning gold.

    3) So Divine – Fantastic strutting song. Suddenly he was completely on. Lights really swung into action here. Lots of moving spots that he’d direct with his cane over the stage, and out into the audience. I think the backing singers were actually Thunderthighs! Certainly Dari Lalou was there… A weird note. When the stage lights came up, you could just barely see that there were people up in the rafters, but not the ones operating the lights. They moved back into the shadows really quick. It was hard to get a look at them.

    4) Jean Genie – A sort of Euro version. Still heavy. Had a layered synth beat. Modulated sax sounded like a herd of animals. Much faster. Backing singers sang bits of something in German code- V2 Schneider? What does that even mean?

    5) Sweet Head – Very camp. Included bits of Specter’s, “And Then He Kissed Me.” Backing singers swooped in for that part. Bowie smiled for the first and only time on stage.

    6) Fame – Very spooky. The change in mood was sudden. Some altered lines. “Is it any wonder, you walk like a ghost?” “Bright white, like a new killer bomb.” Underlit for this song. I mean, Bowie was lit from underneath like that Frankenstein poster. He did this thing with his body, where he sort of contorted it, like he was physically deformed. He shuffled around the stage.

    7) Sister Midnight – Lights went out here, and then a projector ran clips from old black and white movies. They strobed the film, and some people passed out. Something about a lady drawing pictures of cats at a Zoo. Later she was chasing another lady down a street. I remember a swimming pool scene too. Might have been all the same film now that I think about it. The song had a heavy bass disco beat. “Can you feel me/Can you feel it inside/Can you feel me at all.” There was a piano break in the middle. Sang a bit of something else- I remember, “Wait till the stars come out, and see that twinkle in your eyes.”

    8) Disco King (Medley?) – Really odd lyrics. It didn’t seem finished, or maybe was a medley. “No more delights crawling around. Whispering words holding hands.” Stuff like that. Every other bit ended with, “Bring me the head of the Disco King.” It was like a sigh. Sort of like how he’d deliver, “Oh no, no, you’re a rock’n’roll suicide.” It got more frenzied as he went. Like when James Brown had his fits. “Waiting for something! Looking for someone! Is there no treason?! Well, you’ve stayed too long!… Bring-me-the-head-of-the-Disco-King!”

    9) Stay – Sounded a lot like Silver Apples on coke. The guitar was still there, but there were all these bleeps and bloops. He would repeat words, like he was a robot stuck, and at every repeat there was this noise like a busy telephone. The reverb was crazy. There was this part where I think he was doing the handclap bit from “Sinnerman.” The clapping echoed until it sounded like wings flapping… like bats. By the end, it sounded like he was playing from the bottom of a mine shaft.

    10) Blackout – So much feedback on the guitars! He kept shouting, “Take me to the streets!” Looked lost on stage. The backing singers were just chanting “I’ll kiss you in the rain,” over and over while a sax, (or foghorn), blared out into the audience. Before he shouted “blackout” the last time, he mumbled something like, “too, too high a price.” All the lights went out except a single spot on Bowie.

    11) “Wolves Song” – Started quiet, after that frantic last song. Leaning on the mic stand, exhausted. Just Garson on piano, heavy chords. A tape loop of wolves or something started playing, really, really, quiet. He was just mumbling into the mic. The sound of his lips dragging over the mic was louder than his singing. The words stammered, rising and lowering in a sort of nursery rhyme. “Silver caught her blazing eyes. Some are bound to fall. Ooh. Ah… What have you done? Oh, what have you done?” The noises of dogs/wolves got louder and louder, and the spot went lower and lower, until all there was, was that howling sound… it sounded a bit like people laughing… or cackling in the dark.

    He didn’t come back on stage.

    1977, Chelsea Hotel Performance, NYC
    Anonymous Hotel Guest, 1984
    Interview prepared for Mainman/Rykodisc

    What most folks don’t know, is that Bowie went to the Chelsea after the concert. He’d been staying there, working on a series of paintings based around a punk couple he’d met.

    After the concert, he nested by the piano in the lounge, and ran through a very short set for the other guests- obviously I can’t tell you their names- given the rumors connected with his stay in New York and all.

    I’m not sure if anyone recorded it.

    1) Please Be Mine – A real quiet and sad piano number. Barely a song. Slow. “Please be mine. Share my life. Stay with me. Be my wife.” He dedicated it to Mister and Misses Ritchie. Whoever they were.

    2) Better Take Care – Jaunty by comparison. Built around a strange, almost staccato loop. Seemed to be another song about Hollywood. People laughed, nervously, as Bowie listed off a few important names during the song. “When the star turns around. Again and again. Better take care.”

    3) Looking Over from My Hotel Window – A cover he played for a New York artist couple. “If I ever die, please go to my daughter, and tell her that she used to, haunt me in my dreams.” The couple came with a young Somalian model, who became very affected during Bowie’s performance.

    • I think this one’s my favourite. If nothing else, it’s definitely the creepiest entry so far.

      • SoooTrypticon says:

        Thanks! I really love the “Disco King” post Chris wrote. It felt so mysterious- so I hope I tapped into some of that.

        I gotta say, my favorite, as far as bonkers but probably amazing set lists go, is the alternate reality Elvis concert posted by Sunray Jahchild. What a show that would have been.

        I think it’s funny that almost every set list includes some kind of 60’s medley in at least one of the songs. It must be something in the air.

      • J.D. says:

        Agree. The feeling of The Alternabowie is present, and yes, strange. Love that littlest Iman reference at the end too.

        My biggest regret about my own, non-bullet, entry was that I didn’t get the best idea till I had already sent it off.
        That was: that a fourteen year old Gail Ann Dorsey had run away from home to be in the audience my night.
        (As it turns out, she did better to stay right where she was, as she wasn’t winning me a book some thirty-plus years later and her career worked out just fine without any of my meddling.)

      • SoooTrypticon says:

        Thanks! I thought a little Iman and Yoko would be fun. I’ve wanted Bowie to cover either Yoko or Bjork for a while. Something a bit more vulnerable… And then he did with “Heat.”

  22. col1234 says:

    I’ve put Steven Hanna’s “runner up” entry up on the Tumblr: see here: http://bowiesongs.tumblr.com/post/113796275188/a-contest-runner-up

  23. steg says:

    Currently Amazon.UK has blocked the book sales. Perhaps, COL you might want to have a look for yourself. Cheers

    Steg

    • col1234 says:

      noticed that on Sunday; no idea what’s up but the publisher’s looking into it. The other nations’ Amazons are OK. If you’re in the UK, use BookDepository or a local merchant.

      • col1234 says:

        Amazon UK update: a customer got a damaged copy of the book and complained, so Amazon suspended sales until they were sure the rest of the shipment they got from Zero was okay. It apparently is, so sales should resume in a day or so.

      • stefano Galli says:

        Bloody hell, they behave like newcomers. In the past they would’ve only sent a substitute copy. Steg

  24. Lux says:

    Its only because we are grateful to still have him can we imagine the scenario of Bowie leaving this mortal coil in ’77. Keith Richards, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed all were on ‘Who’s going to O.D.  next?’ lists back then. Who would have imagined that Ig would outlive the Stooges?

    The idea of alternate universes where Bowie took a different career turn explored in the last several posts and the contest is endlessly fascinating and often laugh out loud funny. Congratulations to Tymothi! Damn, I hope later in his career Todd Haynes does make a Dogme-95 version of VG!

    One of my favorites aspects of Bowie is his sense of humor. He himself brings up the ‘What if David Jones never left Beckenham?’ in his introduction to Geoff MacCormack’s ‘From Station to Station’ book. Here regular bloke David Jones’ musical career was just a teenage phase and Dave is a now a garage mechanic (and Geoff, never to become Warren Peace, a dentist!) and is thrilled over the publication of his school pal’s fictional travelogue.

    “What a terrifically clever idea this is. I am all kinds of shades of green as I didn’t think of it first. Take the two of us and pretend that we went to America, Japan and, wait for it, f______ Russia of all places, me as a rock star and you as a cheerful backing singer and sidekick and then write a book about it. Brilliant! Will you actually be able to get this stuff published, do you think?”

    Clever, yes, especially his genteel censoring of ‘fucking’, but adding the mundane details of his quotidian existence like how he solved a particular automobile problem is his genius: (“I did a hood job on a nice little ’79 Fiat Spider the other week. Just a bit of rust on the hood hinges and a bad steering bushing, binding it when turning right but it came up lovely. Took her for a little ride before the customer came for it. Very nice”.)

    This is the first time I’ve commented here, the Critchley book sent me here and I’ve been reading to catch up. The work is brilliant and the comments make it even more fun. I saw Bowie several times at MSG in the 70s. Under the influence of cocaine even, haha. The last time I saw him live he was playing keyboards for Iggy at the Diplomat Hotel ballroom 35 years ago this month. Compared to MSG, it was like a high school auditorium and with general admission so we were at the edge of the stage. Security was nonexistent, my friends and I went backstage. Lenny Kaye was there (Ivan Kral was in Iggy’s band) and Iggy and David were suddenly departing to Hurrahs and my friends and I followed to watch David enter the DJ booth there. Debbie Harry joined James Chance and the Contortions on stage. Richard Gere was on the dance floor, his head shaved because he was appearing in Bent on stage. It seems like fiction, it was a fabulous night.

    Congratulations on the book, which I’ll be reading very soon.

    • col1234 says:

      thank you, Lux, and sorry this comment got snared in the spam filter for a couple days. the MacCormack book was one I didn’t read, because it was ludicrously expensive (used copies selling for $700)

      • Lux says:

        I meant to put my reply below here. Thanks for being so gracious, col1234, it’s fun to join the conversation here.

  25. Lux says:

    I was lucky to be gifted the Genesis books Moonage Daydream and From Station to Station on milestone anniversaries/birthdays. Who wants some fancy earrings or whatever when you can have a $500 book about Ziggy Stardust! Last month I was surprised to see Mick Rock hailing a cab near Gramercy Park and took the opportunity to engage him in conversation. He seemed wary at first, perhaps people don’t recognize him often, but he was charming and after I told him I owned his Moonage Daydream book he said ‘Ziggy will never die!’ and that he and David’s new limited edition book featuring unpublished photos with Taschen was expected this May. I have no idea if it will be in an affordable price range, Taschen has brilliant $10 books as well as sky’s the limit exclusives.

  26. Thomas says:

    Man, I really want to read that Lester Bangs entry.

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