DAVIDBOWIE: ALBUMTOALBUM

ALBUMTOALBUM

Each David Bowie album is unique. Some are universally lionised, some regarded as merely legendary, some, pretentious codswallop. But we all have our favourites. In this series of podcasts, I meet up with writers, musicians, critics and assorted woodland folk, to explore their choice of album in rambling roundelays of free-form facting, anorak-grade geekery, pompous pontification, impassioned argument and highly-contentious chat. I like to think these podcasts exercise the minds of some of the world’s (well, at least the bit I am in) most eminent Bowiebores, my lugubrious interrogations spurring them to wax lyrical and entertainingly - just for you. I hope you enjoy listening to them. Presented and produced by Arsalan Mohammad Music by http://bensound.com read less
MusicMusic

Episodes

S4 Ep7: Earl Slick on Station to Station
Jan 28 2024
S4 Ep7: Earl Slick on Station to Station
Back in 1974, Earl Slick was a 22-year old jobbing session guitarist fast developing a reputation for his supple, searing style and versatility in all idioms. Hired by Bowie to join his Diamond Dogs tour, Slick then had to suddenly pivot from apocalypto-rock to sleek Philly soul at a moment's notice - but acquitted himself so well, he was invited to play on tracks destined for Young Americans before forming the core band, alongside Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis, George Murray and Roy Bittan to cut the extraordinary Station to Station, in LA, during October 1975. Bringing his charismatic flair to the sessions, Slick rose each time to Bowie's demands for an esoteric sonic palette, turning in one bravura performance after another despite, by his own admission, almost matching Bowie's ridiculous drug consumption levels at the time. Although his boss's directions could be at times gnomic - Bowie instructed him on one occasion to simply play a Chuck Berry riff repeatedly throughout a track - the pair sparked off each other, forging a deep bond. Despite a contretemps between Bowie's management and Slick at the end of the sessions, Earl returned to the Bowie band in 1983 for Serious Moonlight and then again during the early 2000s, when he became again, a key member of the group, up to The Next Day.  Today, Station to Station stands out as one of Bowie's finest records, the pivot from Young Americans' funk and soul to the electronic abstractions and experimental textures which would emerge fully with Low. Despite the frenzied sessions, the album's six tracks are each mini-masterpieces. In this episode, the first of two devoted to the album, we take a leisurely stroll down memory lane and begin with Earl's reminiscences of pre-Beatles America, his first audition for Bowie and Visconti, bafflement at the Philly soul era, meeting and forgetting (and then meeting again) John Lennon, and the intense sessions that made up the first side of Station to Station. Thanks to Earl, Oliver and of course the regal Tank for all their time and help in assembling this episode and as ever, please do let me know what you think of our chat and share this podcast far and wide! Follow Earl Slick on Instagram and Facebook Intro/Outro music by Leah Kardos
S3 Ep25: Reeves Gabrels: Part Two
Apr 17 2022
S3 Ep25: Reeves Gabrels: Part Two
He's back! Join me and Reeves Gabrels for more tales from the rock'n'roll frontline. It's not surprising that the calm, can-do polymath Reeves, who barrels from rock to roll in the blink of an eye, so appealed to David Bowie’s need for a foil, friend and co-conspirator. It had been apparent from their first proper collaboration, the 1988 Reeves/La La La Human Steps performance in which Reeves oversaw a coruscating rendition of 1979’s Look Back In Anger, at London’s ICA. Explaining to Bowie what he wanted to do to the song, the guitarist said he wanted “the repeated forms of the buttresses going down the sides of the sculpture”. Bowie instantly clicked with him. And as Tin Machine I melded into Tin Machine II, the pair’s creative sparks were flying.  In this episode, we find Reeves still belongs very much in rock’n’roll as he talks Strats, Steinburgers, the Sales brothers, vibrators, eclairs, male pattern baldness and of course, DB. Along the way, via an abundance of entertaining Gabrelsian digressions, we revisit the making of Tin Machine II in Sydney, and the stories behind the otherworldly rhythms, tones and textures Reeves summoned to Bowie’s songwriting whilst keeping that back-to-basics ethos live feel and how, despite the energy pouring into the project, the cracks in the machine began to appear… Subscribe and share albumtoalbum! An occasional bream in April’s tooth of gold.  https://reevesgabrels.bandcamp.com
S3 Ep23: Mark Plati & Sterling Campbell on Toy (Part 1)
Dec 10 2021
S3 Ep23: Mark Plati & Sterling Campbell on Toy (Part 1)
Welcome back to Albumtoalbum, the David Bowie albums podcast with me, Arsalan Mohammad. And it’s a very exciting podcast indeed today as we welcome not one but two Bowie alumni, producer/musician Mark Plati and drummer Sterling Campbell, to talk about a new old classic lost collection of remakes, the legendary TOY.    TOY was released last month as part of the Brilliant Adventures box set, which covers the 1992 – 2001 period, an era in which Sterling and Mark worked with Bowie, together or individually, on albums like Black Tie White Noise, Outside, Earthling, hours and TOY as well as some of the most high profile live shows of the era – the Glastonbury performance in 2000, the BBC Radio Theatre show of the same year and the subsequent TOY sessions, where Mark and Bowie selected a number of David’s songs from the 1960s to remake and remodel with a full band.  Strangely, from the perspective of 2021, when TOY was offered to Bowie’s then-record label Virgin, it was met with some degree of perplexity, a distinct lack of energy and never got released, although the energy and positivity of those sessions led naturally onto 2001’s magnificent Heathen. By all accounts, these were amazingly creative, enjoyable sessions, a fact that is audibly evident in the charismatic interpretations of the songs. Tunes that were barely heard by the record-buying public at the time, subsequently ignored by their creator for thirty years were now lovingly revisited by a band who knew just what to do with them.  In part one of this conversation with Mark and Sterling, we begin by going back to New York in the late 70s and 1980s, rediscovering the music that shaped their lives and creative outlook. It’s the stories of two future musicians growing up in the midst of a cultural new wave shaped by punk, hip hop, disco, techno - and Bowie.  Fast forward to the 1990s and the pair fondly reminisce about their time in the studio working with David Bowie and his collaborators, including Brian Eno, Gail Ann Dorsey, Gerry Leonard and many others. The group dynamic was productive and creative – and hugely enjoyable. Sterling recalls Bowie’s devotion to British contemporary comedy colouring the mood of sessions, with David frequently insisting on group breaks to watch videos of Alan Partridge and The Office. Mark affirms how, in the studio, Bowie would pounce on random ideas and accidents, a characteristic recalled by so many of his collaborators over the years.  The pair also reflect on the shifts in pop culture and technology from the time of the Beatles to the present day as successive generations have accrued a shared pop culture history and debate how the pandemic might change things for the future.
S3 Ep19: THE 198MORE SHOW WITH NICK PEGG PART ONE
Mar 9 2021
S3 Ep19: THE 198MORE SHOW WITH NICK PEGG PART ONE
The 1980s were Bowie's lost decade. True? No, says Nick Pegg. Join me and the much-loved author of The Complete David Bowie for a reappraisal of Bowie's musical adventures around and beneath the official albums released between 1980 and 1990. We're looking at Baal, Queen, Pat Metheny, Cat People, Live Aid, Band Aid, Labyrinth, Absolute Beginners and of course, as is always the case with Mr Pegg, a whole load of assorted trivia, facts, opinions and theories. Whatever you think of Bowie's notoriously divisive EMI albums, one thing's clear - there's much more to Bowie in the 80s than Never Let Me Down and Tonight.  Recorded via Zoom in November 2020, with some occasional input from my dog Otto in the background.  If you enjoy this podcast, please do follow us, review and share the episode and let me know what you think!  Nick's book, in case you haven't yet read it, is something of a Holy Grail of Bowie info and detail - available here:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-David-Bowie-Revised-Updated/dp/1785653652/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2VA9CC0ZX6SVO&dchild=1&keywords=nicholas+pegg+the+complete+david+bowie&qid=1615294898&sprefix=Nicholas+Pegg%2Caps%2C228&sr=8-1 Furthermore, edited out due to space, but we briefly talked about Nick's fleeting cameo in the recent, brilliant TV series "It's A Sin". If you've missed THAT and can access UK TV, then really, what are you waiting for, go and watch it and then come back. It is a superb, heartrending and life-affirming piece of drama (and Pegg-watchers, look out for the Dalek). https://www.channel4.com/programmes/its-a-sin OK, thanks for reading, thanks for listening, thanks for supporting us - let's dive in!
S3 Ep18: Adam Buxton & Chris O'Leary on Scary Monsters (Part 2)
Jan 8 2021
S3 Ep18: Adam Buxton & Chris O'Leary on Scary Monsters (Part 2)
Part Two of my megachat with comedian and author Adam Buxton and in this episode, we’re joined by the one and only Chris O’Leary, returning to Albumtoalbum after his chat with us on ‘David Bowie’ (1967) some months back, author of Pushing Ahead of the Dame blog and collected essays on Bowie’s canon in ‘Rebel, Rebel’ and ‘Ashes To Ashes’. We travel through the album’s tracklisting in this episode, from Ashes to Ashes to the closing Its No Game Part II and a bit beyond too. Chris and Adam swap nuggets of Bowie trivia and anecdotes and Adam blesses us with his incomparable tribute to Gary Numan. We talk about pirates, midwives of history, broken pizzas, bad theatrics and s-s-s-s-s-ociet-t-t-t-t-ty. Additionally, Chris shares a prized Tom Verlaine anecdote whilst I generally burble and chuckle along.   A fuller meander through my thoughts on the absolute belter Scary Monsters is included in the notes for Part One, but if you want to explore Adam and Chris’s work in greater detail, as well as following up on some of the topics that arose in the chat, here’s a handy cut out and keep list:   Chris O'Leary's study of Scary Monsters at 40  https://bowiesongs.wordpress.com/2020/10/08/scary-monsters-at-40/   Adam’s Bowie Spotify compilation https://open.spotify.com/playlist/6ZtTS8N3Qwx2oX1X8jRxL2   General Buxton stuff   www.adam-buxton.co.uk   ‘David Bowie in New York 1980 • The Elephant Man, Scary Monsters & Other Strange People’ by Nacho  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1fTtwGqdQw&t=5s
S3 Ep17: Adam Buxton on Scary Monsters
Dec 15 2020
S3 Ep17: Adam Buxton on Scary Monsters
Welcome back to Albumto album with guest Bowie obsessive Adam Buxton!  Scary Monsters is a milestone album. It is one I have long wanted to tackle here and I have quite a few thoughts about it. Here are a few of them.  David Bowie entered 1980 restless for change and a new sense of purpose. The generally lukewarm reaction to his previous album Lodger clearly prompted an internal audit and the 33-year old artist, on the move from Europe and now soaking up the energy of New York city, felt the time had come to harness the spirit of adventure and experimentation of the ‘Berlin’ era with a scaffold of tough, catchy rock.    The songs, constructed by the dream team core combo of producer Tony Visconti, guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis, came together fast. Gone were the conceptual hi-jinks of the Eno era and instead, Bowie crafted these tracks with painterly care and attention. Each has a dynamic chiaroscuro, silhouettes and shadows are everywhere. Bowie’s interest in Expressionism and surrealism filters through these songs that tease the listener, before giving up their charms with sluttish abandon.    Bowie recorded the album at a brisk clip in spring 1980, working hard and fast at the New York Power Station studios with his band and assorted guest musicians including left field guitarists Chuck Hammer and Robert Fripp, both of whom left their distinctive fingerprints on the record. The former, with his customised guitar-synths, aroused Bowie with talk of “guitarchitecture”, the latter, a veteran of strange spontaneous sessions for Heroes and Lodger, scrawled atonic graffiti phrases across the title track, Its No Game, Fashion and so on, while a delighted Bowie would give gnomic instructions, “Play like Ritchie Blackmore, without sounding like Ritchie Blackmore!”   The lyrical content of the album gives us a fascinating insight within the author’s brain. Clear-headed, relatively sober and facing down the barrel of his 30s (many messianic men feel weird at 33, especially those of self-mythologising bent) and for the first time, seeing the results of his influences on a new wave of foppish romantics. His constituency had always been in the margins of the mainstream, but now, in the sulphurous afterburn of punk, it seemed as if his legacy was everywhere. From the so-called Blitz kids, some of whom he rather smartly re-appropriated for use in the Ashes To Ashes video to his swipes and bitchy asides aimed at the younger generation in songs like Teenage Wildlife and Because You’re Young, it seemed as if the unwilling role as older statesman of rock was sitting uncomfortably. His ambivalence to the generation of ‘Blitz kids’ who followed in his wake, was understandable. Bowie had always valued the courage to move on, look ahead and explore. His cadre of imitators that reached a peak around 1978, 1979 - pale, robotic - staccato of delivery and alienated of mien - irritated him, outweighing any personal gratification and flattery.    As Bowie the artist would tend to leg it, on achieving a degree of success and acclaim, Bowie the viable record label investment and going concern was in deep shit, thanks not only to the aftermath of his disastrous mid 70s breakup with avaricious manager Tony DeFries, but generally dismal sales figures. The need to generate serious cash with serious moonlight would dominate the years ahead, leading to questionable artistic decisions and generating much unhappiness for fans, peers, record label and not least, the actor himself.    But that was all still in the future. Looking back, we can mythologise 1980 as being the year that Bowie came of age as a recording artist. The self-referential myth-making wove throughout his year. It can be seen in the small, roughly obscured covers of Low, Heroes and Lodger on the Scary Monsters album artwork, the revisiting of ‘Space Oddity’s  Major Tom in the astonishing ‘Ashes To Ashes’. It’s the howling anguish in opener ‘It’s No Game (Part One) and the resigned indifference of the track’s reprise at the close of the record. The lurking Pierrot of the cover figure, an affectation that stretched back to Bowie’s days in mime with the Lindsay Kemp company, was also something of a marker, closing the blinds on yesterday as a ‘cunt in a clown suit’. And this was the last time the alchemical magic of Alomar, Davis, Murray and Visconti would burn in the crucible of the studio. Shortly after the album was released, on September 17, 1980, Bowie was starring in a successful Broadway run as The Elephant Man, his close friend and inspiration John Lennon would be dead and the actor would return to his Swiss fastness, to plot yet another about-face. From now on, every album featuring Bowie that was released, would be compared to ‘Scary Monsters’, a millstone around its creator’s neck who, despite the decades of artistic, critical and commercial successes and flops to come, would never again quite match its extraordinary moment and magic. For more Adam Buxton shenanigans, check out his site at: www.adam-buxton.co.uk Subscribe to his podcast here (The 2016 'Bowiewallow' episodes ate especially recommended) https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-adam-buxton-podcast/id1040481893 Adam's cartoon on the making of 'Warszawa'  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FODvjYoVEi8&t=58s Chris O'Leary's masterful Pushing Ahead Of The Dame blog special on Scary Monsters at 40  https://bowiesongs.wordpress.com/2020/10/08/scary-monsters-at-40/
S3 Ep16: Tim Worthington on Holy Holy
Nov 17 2020
S3 Ep16: Tim Worthington on Holy Holy
Tim Worthington - writer, podcaster and cultural archaeologist - is someone who digs deep and delights in obscure details. So, it follows that in this episode of Albumtoalbum, he chose to eschew the album format and instead, picked an intriguing slice of Bowie history - the 1971 single 'Holy Holy', originally recorded in the weird dead period just after the recording of The Man Who Sold The World in 1970, after a disillusioned Mick Ronson had returned to Hull to work as a municipal gardener, marking out rugby pitches on council playing fields instead of living it up with the Bowie gang at Haddon Hall. David recorded the single for his record label Phillips, with guitarist Alan Parker and bassist Herbie Flowers and despite its very voguish cocktail of sex, black magic and religious torment, nothing much happened. But a year later, when a reinvigorated Ronson and the Spiders were cutting tracks for the Ziggy album, they recorded a new, spikier more glam version for the LP, but for some reason, Bowie dropped it from the running order at the last minute, relegating it to the B-side of Diamond Dogs in 1974.  In this episode, Tim teases out numerous lines of enquiry leading from Holy Holy and looks at its importance as a pivotal moment in Bowie's fledgling career. As a summation of intent, an assault on the charts, a fabulous slice of black occult glam it succeeds in significance where it failed commercially (as did most Bowie releases at the time. It also suffered an ignominious afterlife, a remake, being shunted onto b-sides and bonus discs.  Do please review and share this podcast if you like it and let me know what you think. And if you enjoy it, check out Tim's numerous activities at tomworthington.net and pump up your Twitter by following him at @outonbluesix  Thank you all as ever for all the support and encouragement - I do have a Patreon account at @albumtoalbum if you would like to buy me a pie and a pint that would be lovely https://www.patreon.com/user?u=23724958
S3 Ep14: Chris O'Leary on David Bowie (1967)
Aug 31 2020
S3 Ep14: Chris O'Leary on David Bowie (1967)
Following on from our conversation about Bowie’s final album, this episode of albumtoalbum whizzes us back 53 years to his first, the eponymous debut, released in Britain on June 1 1967. Of course, any other artist in the world might be nervous about releasing an album - a debut album! - on the same day as The Beatles dropped their long-awaited follow up to Revolver, but that's showbusiness baby. Still, one can only imagine the sense of panic felt in the Decca boardrooms, when puce-faced executives heard just exactly what their newest star would be releasing in competition with the Beatles' masterpiece. And history proves that for record buyers hotfooting it to their local disc emporioum, pounds shillings and pence burning a hole in their kaftans, Sgt Pepper beat Uncle Arthur and company hands down, in face of stiff competition from other new releases, which included The Parable of Arable Land by the Red Krayola, the debut album by The Bee Gees and Mr Spock’s Music from Outer Space. Hardly surprising, but still disappointing, when the album barely grazed the charts, reaching 125 in the UK and something even less impressive in the US.  ’Aarrghh, that Anthony Newley stuff, how cringey,' recalled a Tin Machine era Bowie in 1990. 'No, I haven’t much to say about that in its favour. Lyrically I guess it was striving to be something, the short story teller. Musically it’s quite bizarre. I don’t know where I was at. It seemed to have its roots all over the place, in rock and vaudeville and music hall and I don’t know what. I didn’t know if I was Max Miller or Elvis Presley’ Max Miller and or Elvis Presley don’t really come to mind when listening to it now. Instead he was consciously creating songs that would span his palette of interests at the time, solid songs that turned out to stand him in good stead for the next year or so as his interests veered towards theatre, mime, Buddhism and the emerging singer-songwriter genre.  Here, he flits magpie-like, alighting on this style or that, immersing himself in the art of crafting songs. He’s moved away from the rough RnB of his first few years and is experimenting with characters and scenarios that owe something to the general mood of acid-tinged weirdness of the times. But as we can see, these mini capsules of narratives and characters were like Bowie opening up his playbox for the first time, and donning the first of many many costumes to come. From the slightly Syd Barret esque Uncle Arthur to the chilling spoken word murder ballad of Please Mr Gravedigger, these songs aspire to pretty broad palette, veering between enchanting, entertaining, unsettling and ephemeral.  This album is 60s London at its height, Britpsych and sci fi pop jostling with folky sensibilities, Anthony Newley-infused story songs with a Weimar-era Berlin side eye.  So in order to look at it further, I’m glad to welcome on board the man behind the best Bowie blog ever, Chris O Leary, whose essays on each song and album in his blog Pushing Ahead Of The Dame have become to Bowie what Ian McDonald’s Revolution In The Head was to the Beatles - intelligent, enjoyably opinonated, well researched beautiful slices of prose that manage to conjure fresh perspectives and insights into Bowie’s work. Chris’s blog has been revised and edited into two brilliant volums, Rebel Rebel and Ashes to Ashes and if you haven’t yet read them or the blog, I strongly recommend you do either immediately after listening to this podcast.  As ever, please do share and recommend this podcast where you can and follow the lovely O'Leary on Twitter if you don't already at @bowiesongs