David Bowie “Floating In A Most Peculiar Way” (The Godfather Records GR 966)
Rebel Rebel / Be My Wife #1 / Be My Wife #2 / Be My Wife #3 / Changes – Take 1 / Changes – Take 2 / Changes – Take 3 / Changes – Take 4 / Changes – Take 5 / Space Oddity / Changes – Take 6 / Queen Bitch / Cracked Actor / The Jean Genie / “Funny Talking” / Ziggy Stardust – Take 1 / Ziggy Stardust – Take 2 / “Member Introductions”. (45:50)
Sound And Vision Tour Rehearsals, unknown location, January 20th 1990.
With each label and his dog still going mad over Bowie a year after that post-retirement album it seems strange that only a few of the more well known labels had dipped their toes in as far as newly-unreleased tapes were concerned.
It therefore dropped to the Godfather to be the first to come up with the goods – a disk of “Sound + Vision” tour rehearsals from an unknown location in 1990 (Wikipedia points out that most rehearsals were set in a rehearsal hall in Manhattan’s West side. The first appearance of some of these rehearsals was, according to Bassman’s excellent if recently un-updated website, in 2001 with a set titled “Overtures and Beginners” on the Switch On! Japanese label – more of a full set run-through than a series of rehearsals proper so we must assume that this Godfather release, although undated, is dated prior to the Switch On! release.
It’s a great soundboard recording with the band sounding like they’re having a great deal of fun, David certainly is, having given a lot of control to Adrian Belew to coordinate the show, taking the work out of Bowie’s hands. The mix is of Rick Fox’s keyboards and Adrian’s guitar sometimes being a lot higher than David’s vocals, Michael Hodge’s drums and Erdal Kizilçay’s bass.
Rebel Rebel – The tape fades up. This rendition initially sounds a little messy due to a lot of emphasis on both Bowie and his band all at the same time. It soon begins to make more sense as it untangles itself. Towards the end it speeds up to a forceful crescendo.
Be My Wife – next 3 takes on the ‘Low’ track, “Be My Wife”. An awesome rendition, again, the tape starts midway through the rendition with Bowie reciting lyrics from around half way through the track. At around 1:40 on take 1, Adrian turns his hand at running a backwards guitar trick through his sequencer. Take 2 is mainly instrumental, beginning shortly before the backwards guitar part kicks in, ending at around a minute when Adrian gives a little feedback on the performance. Take 3 sounds more like a true rehearsal than the rest. Bowie is back, he’s not pushing his voice as much as he would in concert of course but he’s positioning his mark in the songs. This song runs out a beautiful, pensive and gentle coda. Theres a little studio chatter afterwards as the “Rebel Rebel” riff is played, it being considered the next song to be played. It sounds like they’re about to play it before it before it’s cut off for ..
Changes – A full 5 takes of this song get played out, this time Bowie’s improvising a little more, ad-libbing between lyrics, it runs to a natural halt as Adrian admits that none actually knows how it’s supposed to end. Take 2 remedies that fact as Bowie goes through his endings as the band rehearse their own parts and harmonies. Takes 3 and 4 is more of the endings work, the tape cuts sometimes when there’s no need to keep the material. There is however, a little studio chatter that’s kept in. Take 5 is Bowie, essentially taking the piss out of his own song, he knows he doesn’t have to be serious at this moment so instead mutters and gabbles through this take. Apart from this, it’s a perfectly good run through which sounds like a keeper. Theres a burst of laughter at the end as presumably Bowie is goofing off. After this there is a little discussion between Adrian and David discussing the set list but it’s mainly inaudible.
Space Oddity – A simple rendition of the track, and one of the fullest renditions on the CD. After it’s play, the band are happy and turn their attentions back to “Changes” but this breaks down to much hilarity.
Changes – The take continues, with another powerful version but this time with the additional runs of the electric guitar, boosting the overall sound of the song.
Queen Bitch – A take of the ‘Hunky Dory’ track – The introduction ramps up, David offers back something to one of the crew members, the band break in to the song but again it quickly breaks down.
Cracked Actor – A true first in this track was not included on the tour – in fact it missed the “Glass Spider” tour too and had originally been performed on the ‘Serious Moonlight’ tour. The metallic riff is a good clue as to it’s appearance though and, strangely, it appears fully formed here. It was obviously considered at some point but dropped either falling out of the remit of the tours selection or for time. It’s a fantastic take and one of the highlights of the disk. it’s not the full rendition though which is quite the shame.
The Jean Genie – This version has David finding a voice modulating peddle and really having fun with it – pushing and pulling his voice throughout and it’s this formula that he’ll stick with for the rest of this session. The music is, again, full shaped up and ready for the stage, Adrian throwing in a good few solos in to the long coda, Bowie happy to mess around with the effects.
“Funny Talking” – is chatter between the band between takes, or rather, it’s Bowie playing with his new toy, the voice modulator. Unfortunately the dry wit that he’s known for doesn’t surface instead it’s a rather confusing minute or so of jabber.
Ziggy Stardust – Two attempts at the Spiders track and arguably, one of Bowie’s better known. He attempts a vocal through out the first part of the track then it’s down to the band to furnish an instrumental version of the rest. On the second take, Bowie returns partly but is another instrumental version, this time playing with the guitar lines, flexing them through out.
“Member Introductions” – Finally some more fooling around with the modulator – Around 30 seconds of messing about, saying good evening and saying Turkish born, bass player Erdal Kizilçay’s name. Another chance to kill a few moments of rehearsal tedium.
That it’s a new tape was reason to be excited enough but personally it feels like there just wasn’t enough interest within sometimes. The Godfather’s brilliant trifold sleeve includes many rare, era correct photos (Including one taken at London’s “David Bowie Is ..” V&A exhibition) along with informative liner notes but as for surprises or real humour there’s not quite enough sometimes. It’s recommended for Bowie completists especially but for the casual listener it may get a little tedious.