Like everyone else I know who woke up Monday morning with that gut punch of the news of David Bowie’s passing it caused me to reflect. Immediately my phone blew up. First from my friends in the UK and Scotland specifically Leeds and Stonehaven and then my friends here Huntington Woods et al. and the devastation this news caused. These are some of my closest friends and fiercest musical comrades and even though we have had lengthy discussions and disagreements over the Bowie catalog I still had no idea just how much he meant to them. It then dawned on me how much he meant to me but I realized I was nowhere near the fan these friends are. Why is that?
I recall a poll of David Bowie’s top ten albums about 10 years ago and Station To Station topped the list. So many people name check that album and I just don’t like it. After a spirited email exchange I decided to try it again. I walked into a record shop and looked at it and not one of the songs interest me. Sorry.
Even weirder is the fact I rate Young Americans so highly. YA just seems ..well.. more organic. It is just as soulful. Probably more so. What other album has Luther Vandross and John Lennon on it? The title of this blog pays homage to one of my favorite David Bowie songs ever, Somebody Up There Likes Me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xoXX5XX32xY
I am also one of the only people who rates Scary Monsters as their favorite David Bowie album. The guitars on that record are incendiary at points. It’s No Game, Teenage Wildlife, Because You’re Young, Kingdom Come. Just nailing it. Add Tom Verlaine to the list of musicians David Bowie championed.
Also Heroes. All of it. Yes that includes side 2.
Herein lies the beauty of an artist like David Bowie. There is, or should be, something for everyone in his catalog. I carved my own weird path. Others their own. No one is wrong. It is all the more fitting. David Bowie made it OK for you to follow your own path. I would argue he started that path.
This leads you into just what a monumental figure he is. Who else influenced Music, Art, Fashion, Sexuality so much? He was a true trailblazer. Constantly changing. From the guy who appeared on the cover of The Man Who Sold The World in drag to Ziggy to Aladdin Sane to the Thin White Duke and the Berlin years to the soul/funk era. Always pushing boundaries. Especially in the fashion world. Think about it. No David Bowie means no Glam. No Punk. I cant imagine what the musical landscape would look like had he never existed.
What really sets him apart in my eyes is how had his finger on the pulse when it came to groundbreaking music. He championed the Velvet Underground before anyone else. Ditto Iggy & the Stooges. He saved Mott The Hoople by giving them All The Young Dudes to record. They were about to throw in the towel as a band and along come David Bowie with a song that becomes a massive hit. There are probably more stories like this. People like this don’t change. Once a mensch always a mensch.
I particularly love the way some Detroiter’s paid tribute with various billboards. Glad it was Detroiter’s that thought of it. Another reason to be proud to be from here. No Panic In Detroit. Just love and admiration.
There have been some amazing things said about what a gentleman he was from those who knew him. Those who interviewed him. There is this from Pegi Young. https://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/pegiyoung/videos/1128420060516557/?fref=nf
It is a strange feeling when you know you are a music obsessive or a music snob and it takes 40 years to realize just how much you do love an artist. You are just as big a fan. You just didn’t know it. Glad I bought all those Bowie records years ago. After 5 days of stories, videos, posts and tributes I have let it all sink in and I am in awe of the career of David Bowie. Specifically how he was able to keep his illness private and was able to say goodbye to his fans with one last gift. We could all learn a lesson from him.
May his star shine brightly forever!
Today I attended the funeral of one of my father’s best friends. This group of guys met in elementary school in Detroit in the 1930’s and became best friends for life. In my father’s case 60+ years with best friends he never fought with. In the case of these two gentlemen 70+ years of best friendship. http://www.clickondetroit.com/news/2-michigan-men-share-70-years-of-golf-and-friendship/26764550
These friends had a weekly golf foursome that carried on for over 60 years. They also had a 5 man pinochle game that lasted the same number of years. Sure they had disagreements but they never fought. As a kid growing up in my parents house this was taken for granted. I just thought everyone had friends like this. Was I wrong.
It became pretty evident as I got older the depth of this friendship my Dad had with these friends. It also taught me over the years you cant make new “old” friends so be careful when you draw that line in the sand when it comes to your friendships. You have to treasure those you have become close friends with. I certainly know who I can lean on. I have friends close by and far away that I lean on. Some of whom I have never fought with and some I have but I knew these were not friendships to throw away.
What happened yesterday had such a profound effect on me. The last remaining member of my father’s best friends came over to speak to my sister and I and he was visibly emotional. His eyes red and wet, voice breaking he said this to us. ” I am so lucky, so blessed, that by chance I was seated at a table with those guys in elementary school. It was the beginning of a life long friendship that I am so grateful for”.
What he didn’t say but we knew was the extraordinary depth of this friendship and in this moment of saying goodbye to one of his best friends he had the grace to be so eternally grateful for that random meeting of his two future best friends. Friends who have been through all of life’s happy moments and sad moments and everything in between. It was a conversation I will never forget.
It also taught me a valuable lesson. I am going to call my friends today. You should too.
A break from the music related posts.
I had an unfortunate customer service experience that was totally avoidable yet it happened anyway.
I consigned quite a few clothing items to a mens consignment shop recently. I walked in and had just come from work moving a senior into their new home. I was dressed in jeans, a t shirt and jacket. I was quickly judged by the two men running the shop just by what I was wearing. These two guys acted like bitches. No other way to explain it. That should have been my first clue to walk out. I persisted anyway when I told them I had Armani, Zegna, Calvin Klein sportscoats, dress shirts, outerwear etc. They printed the contract and it said 90 days and on the 91st day the items, if not picked up, become the property of the shop. That should have been my second clue to not go ahead and sign this. Stubbornly I persisted.
I went in a few weeks ago and a new employee helped me out. Were were looking for my unsold items and one could not be found. She mentioned the owner would have to handle this. I said fine. I will stop back when he is in. I did this. The owner, one of the two aforementioned bitches, took down all the info and said he would call in a day or two. I waited a week with no phone call so I went back in and his reply was “we will just have to mark that item as donated”. I said that is not acceptable. I trusted you with my items and you are just telling me I am out of luck. The item was $315 in their shop. He then mentioned no one forced me to sign the contract which “clearly states we are not responsible for lost or stolen items”. It appeared to me he uses that line often and just dug his heels in and stuck to it. My fault again.
My problem at this point is I had just consigned a lot of clothing the week before. A lot of clothing. I then said I want all the items I consigned last week. I do not trust you nor do I trust the way you handle your business. He had no idea just how much I consigned the week before. He hid behind the fact it was still being processed.
Today I went in and took all my items back. I didn’t get nasty. I didn’t get loud. I calmly went thru and found my items and let them pull them out of inventory. This time I know the owner was remorseful because he lost a lot of nice items for his shop. Unfortunately for him I called his bluff.
In a weird bit of irony they could not find one of the sports coats I consigned a few weeks ago. I was thinking to myself I will just cut my losses and leave when he said “I cant do this to you twice. It isn’t right. I am going to pay you for your item we cant find”. If he had only handled the first situation this way we wouldn’t be where we are now.
When someone handles a situation as he did last week it made start thinking all sorts of things like are they just taking nice items, selling them and claiming they are lost or stolen and keeping all the money? The owner kept going on and on about the alarming amount of theft in his shop. Really? I have had two retail businesses in the same area and never encountered that much theft.
I suppose the moral of this story is this:
#1. Read the contract and ask questions.
#2. When confronted with this situation you have two choices. You can dig your heels in and be a dick. For the $120 he may have had to pay out think of the long term goodwill he would have gotten from me. It is pretty easy these days to get your pound of flesh with social media outlets: Yelp, Facebook, Twitter etc. Which incidentally I opted not to.
#3. Dont try and read a book by its cover by pre-judging people. It is so easy to detect and feels really shitty.
I purposely didn’t name the offending shop/owner but if you know me and the area it isn’t that hard to work it out.
I will hasten to add I signed up on Yelp to heap praise on a local UPS store who helped me out big time. Most of my Yelp reviews are positive.
On the heels of this amazing Verve- A Storm In Heaven triple “Japanese” LP it is time for a look back and or celebration of just what an amazing band Verve were.
From the first single- All In The Mind I was hooked. The second single She’s A Superstar just absolutely floored me.
What it was about these two singles was the band just let the music go wherever it took them. Both really long songs but well worth the the time spent listening. Not a great thing for those with short attention spans but a huge payoff for those who just let the songs play out. They bucked a trend.
The debut LP A Storm In Heaven is a stone cold classic. Of any genre. Every song is fantastic. The Brian Cannon cover is stunning. Every attention to detail regarding this band was spot on. The music, artwork, the band persona, everything.
We, my shop, were lucky enough to meet them on their first tour of the US. Wide eyed guys really into their music(and weed). Very energetic and happy to come into shops who championed them. They loaded up on Can & Funkadelic CDs. Smart guys.
I saw two shows on this tour. Detroit and Grand Rapids. The Grand Rapids show at the Reptile House remains the best show I have ever seen by any band ever. It was on Halloween. I actually felt like I was levitating at various points. The way Nick McCabe’s guitar sound flowed off the stage like a rolling ball of lava engulfing the entire crowd is something I will never forget. This was a band in every sense of the word. Even Richard Ashcroft seemed to get swept up in the sound these guys were making. Less a front man and more just a cog in one helluva wheel.
See for yourself.
Then, out of the blue, my shop was offered this Verve Voyager 1 live LP. Turns out is was a promotional tool made to look like a bootleg. We were told there were 1000 pressed up. First I ordered 25 copies. Sold out immediately. Then another 25 copies. Same thing. We sold 100 copies in about 4 months and then they were gone. About six months later I got a call from someone at Caroline Records letting me know 173 copies were found in a warehouse in LA. I know some were ruined by heat. I asked if I took them all could they give me a better deal. They did and I scooped up the remaining stock. We eventually sold them all meaning out of whatever the original pressing on blue vinyl that were not destroyed we sold nearly 275 of them. Easily the best selling record ever at my shop. There are a lot of these in the Detroit area.
We were also the record shop for Lollapalooza’s 4 day run here and saw them every day. I do recall them playing what were two new songs that I think finally made it on to Urban Hymns. Rolling People and Mover. They stopped by the shop to sign for fans as well.
A Northern Soul was less immediate but over time is right up there with ASIH. Just a beautiful record. See Stormy Clouds/Reprise for what is the high point of this LP and also in the live shows on this tour. Once again the live shows were simply amazing.
I must admit I thought Bittersweet Symphony was a great single. In fact I still do. While there some great songs on Urban Hymns it saw Verve head into a direction I didn’t really like. I saw one of the early shows in Chicago on this tour and they were still great live but then saw them later in the summer and the magic was gone. Completely.
I am not going to comment on anything after this point because my Mom always told me if I dont have anything nice to say dont say anything at all.
Still, one of the most underrated bands of the era and those first two alums and the singles surrounding them have stood the test of time and really need the proper, legit, deluxe reissue treatment there is more than enough material.
Those early live shows are burned into my memory. That is a good thing. Trust me.
I used to be a massive Simple Minds fan. I saw them everywhere. Detroit, Toronto, New York City, Edinburgh hell even Poughkeepsie. After a while I kept it quiet because lets face it, they just weren’t cool anymore or so I thought. I owned a record shop that kept up to date with all things Indie. US & UK. My staff kept me on my toes. They seemed destined to be one of my guilty pleasures.
Having said that I cant tell you how happy I am at the resurgence of interest in Simple Minds. In the UK I know the Manics cite them as a major influence. Primal Scream as well. The Cocteau Twins got their name from a Simple Minds song.
The first time I heard them was walking into a record shop and hearing Promised You A Miracle. I bought the 12″ immediately. Then Glittering Prize came out and that was it. I was hooked. The next step- New Gold Dream came out. I read a review in NME and found a UK import at a local record shop and was at first underwhelmed. Then track by track the LP started creeping into my subconcious thus becoming my favorite record ever. I loved every song on that record.
The next logical step was working my way back thru their catalog. This is what I found.
Life In A Day is a synth fueled poppy punk record. I was amazed to find out it was actually released in the US. There are some great songs on this record. The title track Life In A Day, Chelsea Girl among others. The stunner here is Pleasantly Disturbed. This was a glimpse of things to come for Simple Minds. It is worth owning this album for this song alone and it really doesn’t seem to fit. It is 8 minutes long. It builds and builds. It sounds like a prog track on this record.
Reel To Real Cacophony is where things start to take shape. This starts the post punk discordant iciness this period of Simple Minds were known for. A new European influence appears here also. While this is an intense listen Simple Minds show a sense of humor in Carnival(Shelter In A Suitcase). Other standout tracks from this album are the singles: Premonition and Changeling. Digging deeper the title track(again) Reel To Real, Cacophony and Calling Your Name all in their own way stand out.
Empires And Dance continues this direction with more immediate results. This album blasts off right from the start with I Travel. A monster of a song. Celebrate is a funky stunner. This Fear Of Gods and Capital City seem like travelogues. This album finishes with what may well be my favorite 4 1/2 minutes of Simple Minds entire catalog. Kant-Kino & Room. Influenced by either some of the German krautrock scene or maybe Eno. I wish Room was 15 minutes long. It has been reintroduced in the live set. I would love to see that live.
Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call was my next purchase after New Gold Dream. Something I was ill prepared for post NGD. This is now my favorite album by Simple Minds. Where do I start? Sons And Fascination I guess. Definitely inspired once again by European travel or maybe just travel in general. On S&F Simple Minds seem a bit more up front and aggressive. I cant think of many bands who’s songs allow so many band members step in and drive songs. Whether it is Derek Forbe’s bass, Brian McGee’s drums, Mick MacNeil’s keyboards or Charlie Burchill’s guitar. Track by track it changes. If I had pick songs it would go something like this: In Trance As Mission, 70 Cities As Love Brings The Fall, Love Song is a monster finishing with the sublime Seeing Out The Angel.
Sister Feelings Call is simply part two of this set. The amazing tracks continue. SFC starts out with the incredible instrumental Themes For Great Cities and is followed by one of the all time Simple Minds singles The American. My favorite track on this album is Wonderful In Young Life. Punchier than a lot of the other tacks on these albums it is Charlie Burchill’s searing guitar that makes Wonderful In Young Life so unforgettable.
New Gold Dream is Simple Minds magnum opus. The edges are smoothed out. It is a lush and dreamy album. It produced two major singles in Promised You A Miracle and Glittering Prize. It is the other tracks that hooked me and turned me in to the massive fan I am. The title track New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84 is another one of my favorite all time Simple Minds tracks add Someone Somewhere In Summertime, Big Sleep, Somebody Up There Likes You and you have on amazing album. Worth seeking out is the amazing instrumental b-side called Soundtrack For Every Heaven which is beautiful.
The reason I chose to stop after the first five albums is because the band feels strongly enough about this part of their career they put out the 5 X 5 box set which contains all these albums with a lot of b-sides, live tracks and uber rare tracks. They also did a 5 X 5 tour where they played 5 tracks from each of these albums. Who am I to argue?
I am very happy to still be a fan of Simple Minds. I still listen to these records. They have done something very difficult. They have made several albums that have withstood the test of time. Not an easy thing to do. Make timeless music.
Now please tour North America again.