Saturday, 1 June 2013

Cassette experiment day 88 - David Bowie 'Diamond Dogs'

When I was but a cute little 11 year old, I finished second-top of my class in junior school. Little did I know, back then in 1975 in that old Victorian school long since demolished, that this would by the pinnacle of my academic career.
In those days the 11 plus had disappeared and the S.A.T.s had yet to arrive, so it was almost another five years before I was academically tested again with my ‘O’ level mock exams and by that time Blondie and The Boomtown Rats meant more to me than academic achievement.
Our cassette subject today is, in my strange mind anyway, David Bowie’s second-best album, ‘Diamond Dogs’. It falls a little bit short of Bowie’s own pinnacle ‘Hunky’ and very slightly ahead of ‘Ziggy’.
Released in 1974, one year ahead of my academic peak, this album is really a lot more about 1984 (the George Orwell book rather than the year). It’s a concept album that you don’t have to hide behind the settee for, set in a dystopian future (that old chestnut) where street kids run wild in ramshackle industrial landscapes, not too dissimilar to the ones close to where we grew up in grey, cloudy 1970s Sunderland.
Album longevity is often achieved in inverse proportion to the number of extremely well-known singles that the album contains. This one only contained two singles, the title track and ‘Rebel Rebel’ and only the latter of these receives anything like regular radio exposure these days. This helps to make it easier to see (and hear) this album as a coherent whole, rather than a mixture of singles and non-singles.
My favourites here are the title track, particularly the opening section which is one of the most exciting 30 seconds in popular music, and the reasonably traditional and often forgotten ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me’.
It’s the last of what I like to consider David’s ‘spiky orange mullet’ albums. After this he changed direction dramatically with ‘Young Americans’ (which has its moments, but I find difficult to love) and then veered off in an entirely different direction with ‘Station to Station’ (which also has its moments and I find incredibly easy to love – possibly partly due to the ‘six track rule’!). In just 21 short months David had left behind the David of Diamond Dogs forever.
And if you have one of the original copies of this LP with the un-airbrushed cover picture please take very good care of it. They’re extremely rare and, literally, ‘the dog’s bollocks’.
Label – RCA International
Year – 1974
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