A few stray bits and pieces to complete Bowie Week.
Since his heart attack on the Reality tour in 2004, Bowie’s made only a handful of appearances, most notably with Arcade Fire in 2005 (which resulted in a 3-track EP on iTunes). He’s expressed frequent admiration for the music of TV on the Radio and added guest vocals to their song “Province” from their 2006 Return to Cookie Mountain.
That Bowie would enjoy TV on the Radio is unsurprising; I think you can hear large chunks of that band’s sound in Bowie’s “Big Brother,” to the extent that I think a TV on the Radio cover of that track would work quite well. We have the murky masses of sax, the sampled backdrop (of course, the Bowie song being recorded before the availability of modern digital samplers, its “samples” are in the form of analog tape (the strings and choirs from the Chamberlin) and synthesizer (the “trumpet” part). The vocal mix, including the octave-doubling technique Bowie nearly invented, is another similarity to TV on the Radio’s sound.
While putting together this batch of entries, I ran into an acoustic version of “Dead Man Walking,” broadcast on an Atlanta radio station in 1997. I was surprised to hear that the opening guitar chords are exactly the same as those in the BBC version of “The Supermen” (the studio version obscures the guitar track, if it’s even there, beneath other parts), although the rhythm of the part is different. Score another one for Bowie the recycler!
David Bowie “Big Brother” (Diamond Dogs, 1974)
TV on the Radio “Province” (Return to Cookie Mountain, 2006)
David Bowie “Dead Man Walking” (1997 acoustic radio performance)
David Bowie “The Supermen” (rec’d 1971; Bowie at the Beeb: The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 68-72)