Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Cassette experiment day 93 - David Bowie 'The Buddha of Suburbia'

I wonder if you, like me, were ever a member of the mighty Boy Scout ‘movement’. I started as a cute little Cub with a cap and a woggle and tassels on my socks, and progressed, inevitably to become a fully fledged Boy Scout resplendent in green Frank Spencer beret.
Our Scout patrol had a famously useless football team (most embarrassing score 0-31) but boy oh boy could we knock up a magnificent bivouac.
The Scouting year had four major highlights;
1.    Annual Scout Camp, with camp-fires, knots’ billy cans and sunstroke.
2.    ‘Bob-a-job’ week, when we all spent seven days washing cars, digging gardens, walking dogs and fetching shopping for old ladies in return for a small remuneration.
3.    Indoor sports day (one year I was cruelly denied the Subbuteo championship, losing on penalties when the referee allowed my opponent to move his goalkeeper before the penalty was taken. It still smarts over 30 years later as I’m sure you can tell. Family pride was restored the following year when my little brother (Hi Andrew!) took back the Subbuteo crown).
4.    The Gang Show. I was never in a Gang Show, but I did have a slight brush with show business when asked to act as a Gang Show usher at Sunderland Empire. Dressed in my lovely green uniform I’d show members of the audience to their seats and then marvel from ‘The Gods’ as the more musically talented Scouts sang their Gin Gang Goolies out.
Someone else who has recently been ‘Riding along on the crest of a wave’ is David Bowie. A recent (and unexpected) album release has seen David’s star well and truly in the ascendant, but it’s easy to forget that for quite a while this wasn’t the case. In fact for a while David, unlike many entertainers who were at their most successful in the 1970s, couldn’t get arrested.
So much so that in the early 1990s David recorded and released a soundtrack album to a TV series that didn’t trouble the top 40 album charts at all. It’s this album, the original soundtrack to ‘The Buddha of Suburbia’ that is our cassette of the day.
Many of the tracks are not particularly standard David Bowie fare (if there is such a thing), with only the two versions of the title track (the second with a brilliant Lenny Kravitz guitar) and the side 2 opener, ‘Strangers when we meet’ likely to have made any of David’s 1970s albums – even then they wouldn’t get within a hundred miles of the better ones!
The sleeve notes from David himself tell us that ‘South Horizon’ is his own favourite here, but it’s a ‘tune’ that only its own composer could love. The rest of us would have to be fairly charitable to consider it anything other than 5min 26secs of tuneless piano noise.
‘Bleed like a craze, Dad’ shows that David had been spending, like most of the rest of us at the time, more time listening to The Stone Roses than was strictly healthy.
My favourite is the understated ‘Untitled No. 1’ which proves very difficult to dislodge from your mind once it’s nestled in there.
The sleeve/insert notes are fantastically comprehensive, and as such I think it’s probably best to leave the final word to David himself. I’m sure you’ll appreciate David giving us all a few pointers on the art of lyric writing;
‘Fifty percent of the lyrical content is used merely semiotically, the rest either with implied abstruse connotation or just because I like the sound of the word’.
Label – Arista
Year – 1993
Bought for 99p from the sorely missed Brotherton’s Music in Newgate Street, Bishop Auckland.
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