David Bowie, “The White Room Master” (Golden Eggs – Egg 122)
Introduction / Look Back In Anger / The Hearts Filthy Lesson / The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (as Beauty) / Under Pressure [I] / Under Pressure [II] / Hallo Spaceboy / Boys Keep Swinging / Jump They Say / We Prick You / The Man Who Sold The World / Teenage Wildlife
Bonus Tracks; Introduction / The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) / Under Pressure / The Man Who Sold The World / Hallo Spaceboy / Strangers When We Meet
The White Room TV show, Westway studios, London, UK – December 14th, 1995. Bonus tracks recorded at Taratata TV show, Studio RTL, Paris, France January 28th, 1996.
The ‘White Room’ was an alternative music programme broadcast on late night Channel 4, an alternative to Auntie Beeb’s much more pop orientated ‘Top Of The Pops’ and a starker version of Channel 4’s ramshackle ‘The Tube’ which had ended a good few years earlier.
The show was set, as you might imagine, in brilliant white settings. The idea that there was to be no inane banter, no skits or interviews – serious or jovial – pure music and from an alternative muso’s point of view. The guest list was as alternative as the indie / dance cross over would allow at the time – From Oasis to Massive Attack, Moloko to Dubstar with a few classic artists mixed in – Ray Davies, Prince, Lou Reed and, most famously, Iggy Pop – A star waiting to ascend again and, this being Channel 4, they were looking for controversy from their acts, so up rocked a shirtless Iggy in a pair of plastic, transparent trousers and, short of the full Jim Morrison “exposure”, proceeded to give us a glimpse of his short and curlies earning him some much required exposure in the music press as well as on our telly boxes.
It was David Bowie’s appearance on the show that’s included on this disk, recorded on the 14th of December, 1995 in promotion for “1.Outside”. The original broadcast featured 4 tracks, ‘Under Pressure’, ‘The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)’, ‘Hallo Spaceboy’ and ‘Boys Keep Swinging’. In 2019, the complete audio recording was leaked, 11 tracks (Not including an introduction), expanding what we already had by 7 extra recordings – Inclusive of a second, un-broadcast take of ‘Under Pressure’. These recordings have been taken from the station masters and sound incredible – A great bridge between a concert soundboard and a set of new studio tracks.
The show begins with a little bit of banter between Bowie and the crowd, David asks if anyone, has any opposition as to whether the band play a few more tracks than they’re expected to (The resultant choir of ’No’’ was surely anticipated. While waiting for the crew to take place, Bowie suggests a pause in proceedings to which one wag In the audience asked him to perform a little mime, to which he shoots back, “How about a Moondance?”. The band are finally allowed to start and crack through a sulky, ‘Look Back in Anger’. The follow up is a later track, the industrial, statically weird, ’The Hearts Filthy Lesson’, a single from from the album, an abstract, disjointed muses that Bowie was so adept at – Sounding like a Lodger / Aladdin Sane / dance mash up with the regular fusion of deathless lyrics. “The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction’ follows similar kind of lines.
The first take of ‘Under Pressure’ is the unbroadcast version – Breaking down in the middle as Gail-Ann Dorcey’s bass fails. Bowie puts on his best Iggy Pop impression, exclaiming, “Ladies bass went off”. The band question the mystery until it’s realised the lead seems to have got caught in a camera barrows wheels to which David cheekily admonishes him. The son then has a retake – It’s a powerful take, and while Gail is no Freddie Mercury, she certainly holds her own and gives it all – I would argue to a very similar effort.
Returning to the new material, the band play another single, ‘Hallo Spaceboy’, the Pet Shop Boys produced, drum and bass barnstorm. Pulsating and rapid, it’s a very atypical track for Bowie – Plenty of ambiguity, weirdness and churning tumult, it’s the drumming of Zachary Alford that helps throw the song to a thundering climax.
The next two tracks turn back the clock a little, the first by a couple of decades, the second not so far away. The plan is that the band would play, ‘We Will Prick You’, when the producer suggests otherwise there’s a frenzy of suggestions that get thrown back from the audience – ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ wins the toss and is played out to the nearly breathlessness of the crowd, the band then roll straight through, ‘Jump They Say’, Bowie’s tribute to his much amended half brother.
The crew finally ready for ‘We Prick You’, a clattering, demented skittle of a track with a eminently singable chorus, despite it’s irregularity. Promotion over, Bowie suggests sticking around for another couple of tracks (It’s evident that he’s having a great time here), he then leads the band through a minimalistic, deeply dark, ’The Man Who Sold The World’ – A much removed version of the original that somehow manages to keep the rhythm of the lyrics and displaces pretty much everything else – It sounds awesome but comes from an altogether different direction. ’Teenage Wildlife’ has also had a make over, determinedly different to the original with the merits hint of a screaming guitar line through the back of it, aping Pete Townshend’s improv, until it blossoms at the end to something a little more correct, it’s a thrilling listen and at just over six minutes long, is quite the journey.
The bonus tracks on this disk come from the Taratata TV show, captured from an FM radio broadcast. The show was recorded 4 days before the White Room show and so the set list is relatively the same. With the addition of one extra track, ‘Strangers When We Meet’ – Originally recorded for “The Budda Of Suburbia” then recast for a part on “Outside”, it is played here in it’s reinvented, poppy style – It’s sound is typical of a stereo FM broadcast at the time and is very, very wide and deep stereo.
The packaging for this Eggs release is the standardised tri-fold sleeve with a mixture of several full colour and B&W photos from c. “Outside”. There’s a short write up about the appearance and the bonus tracks inside too.
The set was also released by the Eastern no label producers but with different bonus tracks. I preferred their front cover to the Eggs release but the bonus tracks fit a little better on this release. Exceptional and worth a space in your collection.
Additional review from relayer67:
The White Room was a music program that ran on the U.K. television Channel 4 for a two year span. The show was hosted by Mark Radcliffe with a simple premise, no talking or messing about, just the music. It would intermix new current music and live performance with archival video clips. The show features a simple stage with audience surrounding and had an intimate and in your face feel to it, like a small club show. David Bowie would make an appearance on the program in December 1995, the subject of this new title from Golden Eggs. While only four songs were broadcast on the show, this new release features the complete performance.
Being a television show, one would expect typical crap sound, thankfully The White Room understood this and presented live music in the best possible quality. The sound is excellent, the audio engineers captured a perfectly balanced recording that is clear and detailed and captures a very enjoyable performance by Bowie and his band. The four songs that were broadcast are available on youtube and is a great watch, the band look relaxed and look like they are having a great time, this also translates to the audio portion. There has been another release of this recording recently, The White Room (The David Bowie Archive Series DBAS04) features an audio CD and DVD-R of the video.
Bowie plays master of ceremonies by greeting the audience and telling them that since they are breaking after this performance for the Christmas holiday, they are going to play a few more than the allotted four song set, this of course get a huge ovation. After the band is ready, they launch into the Lodger classic Look Back In Anger, Bowie would rework the song brilliantly by making it harder and heavier with an Industrial edge, certainly inspired by his work with Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails. Bowie was utilizing two guitar players on this tour, Carlos Alomar and Reeves Gabrels, the duo play different parts in unison making for an electric razor sound, the latter part of the song features some eclectic piano from Mike Garson. This period of Bowie’s career found him touring in support of his 1995 Outside record, in joint performances with Nine Inch Nails. Bowie and band play several songs from Outside, all work well in the live setting, both The Hearts Filthy Lesson and The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction have an avant garde sound, structured yet free electronic music played on instruments, Mike Garson again plays an important part to these songs, interesting piano runs that stray outside the rhythm, and Carlos plays some stunning guitar leads.
Under Pressure is stopped a minute and a half in for an equipment issue, being for a TV broadcast they replay the song. Most familiar with live performances during this period, Bowie does the Under Pressure duet with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey that can only be described as stunning. Gail Ann does an incredible job on the Freddie vocal, a bit softer with a bit of Soul, just wonderful. The song that follows is in complete contrast, Hallo Spaceboy is electronic fusion, dark and bleak and a song Bowie described as Metal Doors (doors being The Doors). The Outside tour was notable as being the only tour where David played the Lodger deep track Boys Keep Swinging, for this set it is pure straight ahead Rock and Roll.
Another unique song to the Outside tour is Jump They Say from the Black Tie White Noise record, certainly a very dark song if one takes the video into consideration. I love Bowie’s reworking of The Man Who Sold The World, electronic ambiance that is as unique as the original and is simply stunning. The set ends with Teenage Wildlife from Scary Monsters, one of Bowie’s longer songs clocking in at over seven minutes, its sound and feel harkens back to Heroes, in the best way, Reeves plays a really nice solo to boot and the multi textured vocals are very lush sounding.
The remainder of the disc is made up of the 23 minute performance done specifically to promote the Outside album. The special was done for the Taratata TV Show in Paris, France and the full show would feature music and brief conversation with Bowie. This is from an excellent sounding FM Broadcast and features the music only version. The sound quality is again excellent and of similar quality to The White Room material, the audience noise sounds enhanced and the sound lacks the intimate feel of The White Room and more of an actual concert. The performance is very good, very straight forward and aggressive.
The introduction is a French announcer, I had to take a look at the footage online to get an idea of the setting and it was certainly an intimate performance with the audience in close proximity. This was recorded just days before The White Room performance and very closely matches in terms of feel. This performance has a version of another Outside track, Strangers When We Meet and is thus much welcomed. While it does not have the intimate feel of The White Room, performance wise it is its equal, both are musically diverse and very well played, and both work well together presented in this format.
The packaging is the tri gate-fold sleeve we are accustomed to from the Golden Eggs label. The interior and exterior all feature shots of Bowie from this time, always photogenic. The interior features liner notes that give perspective to this period. Golden Eggs has been steadily releasing a diverse selection of Bowie material since its incarnation, this is a title that couples excellent sound quality and performance.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)