DAVID BOWIE - The Next Day, Part 3

This third extract from David Bowie: The Music & The Changes by David Buckley, published by Omnibus Press in May of this year, focuses on the tracks featured on various ‘upgraded’ editions of The Next Day, Bowie’s ‘surprise’ album of 2013.

Bowie might have been ‘away’ for ten years but in his absence, some things never change… and that was the ability of his record company to squeeze as much money from his fans as possible for product they already owned for the tease of something they didn’t have. So we have The Next Day (Deluxe Version), The Next Day EP, The Next Day Extra, and The Next Day Extra (Collector’s Edition), a Japanese version with a bonus track different to the one you can get in the UK, not to mention the temptation of buying the thing on vinyl, or checking out the difference of the version specially mastered for i-Tunes. So, what’s worth having of these extras?

[Limited Edition, Box set, CD+DVD] (UK CD: RCA BB00FANXZL8. Released 4 November 2013. UK Chart:89 [Total weeks in chart: 1]

CD 1: The Next Day (original album).

CD 2: ‘Atomica’, ‘Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix By James Murphy For The DFA)’, ‘Plan’, ‘The Informer’, ‘Like A Rocket Man’, ‘Born In A UFO’, ‘I'd Rather Be High (Venetian Mix)’, ‘I'll Take You There’, ‘God Bless The Girl’, ‘So She’.

DVD: ‘Where Are We Now?’ ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’, ‘The Next Day’, ‘Valentine's Day’.

The highlight of CD 2 is the startling new version of ‘Love Is Lost’, not so much a remix but a complete reinvention courtesy of James Murphy (ex-LCD Soundsystem). The track starts as homage to Steve Reich’s 1972 work, Clapping Music. Applause gives way to a hand-clapped beat before an electronic bed deconstructs the original art rock version of the song. In another moment of inspiration, the melody from ‘Ashes To Ashes’ is recreated in the middle section and is matched perfectly to the lyric and melody of the original. The production is superb and makes one hunger for some more Bowie electronica. The 10-minute track was edited for single release and accompanied by one of Bowie’s most effective videos, released, appropriately, on Halloween, and filmed by Bowie in Manhattan with the help of photographer Jimmy King and his PA and long-time great friend Coco Schwab. Bowie revealed that the cost of the film was the cost of saving it onto his hard drive via a memory card ($12.99). In the film, Bowie is haunted by the shades of his past (the wooden figures of The Thin White Duke and the Pierrot from ‘Ashes To Ashes’ which were made for the aborted ‘The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell’ video were here used to great effect appearing, as they do, out of darkness, while Bowie appears both as ‘himself’ and as a grotesque wood-cut-like figure in what looks like a black cape and capotain hat. Just how this latter effect was created without a budget remains a mystery.
         Another song given the remix treatment is ‘I’d Rather Be High’. Now with a rather grandiloquent faux harpsichord sound, it was the music used for Bowie’s opulent appearance in an ad for Louis Vuitton’s Autumn/Winter advertising campaign, shot in Venice in the summer of 2013. The fifth single off The Next Day (or, perhaps, more accurately, ‘The Next Days’ given the number of versions).
         The rest of the ‘new’ stuff collects tracks which many fans will have already bought: ‘Plan’ is actually a very good instrumental, just Bowie’s guitar and a thudding drum figure. It was used as the opening music in the video for ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ and was previously available as a download or in the Deluxe version of the album along with ‘I’ll Take You There’, and ‘So She’ (which as one famous Bowie fan remarked sounded in places a bit like The Brotherhood Of Man’s ‘Save Your Kisses For Me’!). That Japanese-only release ‘God Bless The Girl’ also makes an appearance.
         There are four genuinely new songs. ‘Atomica’, all big riffs and slap-bass teases ‘Let’s get this show on the road’. ‘The Insider’ is a doo-wop slowie with Bowie taking on the big questions about life and God (again). ‘Like A Rocket Man’, is a pretty pop song, while ‘Born In A UFO’ has a Lodger-esque guitar part (there was some speculation that the song dated from those very sessions).
         The DVD contains four promotional videos. After stepping back from making videos in the main for Heathen and Reality, peeved that ageism prevented their widespread showing, Bowie, perhaps in the knowledge that he would be neither playing shows nor even talking to the media, was back in front of the camera. All four videos are classic pieces of Bowie.
         ‘Where Are We Now?’ gained media recognition for the footage of West Berlin, filmed, according to Tony Visconti, at the time (by whom, or when, we are left guessing). More interesting is Bowie as homunculus; a co-joined puppet, his Siamese wife, played by Oursler’s real-life wife Jacqueline Humphries. The big production, and least impressive of the four videos, was the one suspects where all the money went, Tilda Swinton appears as a clone-like Bowie-wife, in the ‘film’ for ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’. 
         Next up was one of Bowie’s funniest videos of his career. Bowie plays a Christ-like figure to Gary Oldman’s corrupt Catholic priest. The action takes place in a seedy pick-up bar with Bowie, at first, the musical entertainment. Marion Cotillard is Oldman’s lady of choice but their liaison is rudely interrupted by a spot of stigmata with Cotillard collapsing to the floor, blood gushing from her wrists and selfishly splattering a nearby woman’s cleavage. There’s also a woman with eyelashes a foot long, severed eyeballs served on a platter, and a random self-flagellator. The video ends with the cast assembled and thanked by Bowie, before he disappears into the ether with a ping. It was at this point that it became laugh-out-loud funny. However, some people were less impressed. William Donohue, the leader of the Catholic League For Religious And Civil Rights, called Bowie ‘a switch-hitting, bisexual, senior citizen from London’, and so managed in just one sentence to be ageist and homophobic and unintentionally hysterical (with the ‘London’ bit). Others grumped that such a video could never have been made mocking Islam in such a manner.
         The final video is the most simple, and the best. Shot in a disused grain warehouse in Redhook New York City, Bowie, dressed coolly in white shirt and jeans tells the tale of the killer and gives it another visual twist. It is clear that if ‘The Next day’ took on Catholicism, ‘Valentine’s Day’ is facing up to the pro-gun lobby. In a series of subtle, though enduring images, first spotted by Lucy Jones in the NME, Bowie makes a direct attack on Charlton Heston and the National Rifle Association, raising his guitar in a direct copy of Heston triumphalistic poses with a gun. Other images include the silhouette of Bowie’s guitar to resemble a sawn-off shot gun and a bullet travelling at speed through the frets of his guitar. 
         Unfortunately, The Next Day Extra does not include the promos for ‘Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix By James Murphy For The DFA)’ or ‘I’d Rather Be High (Venetian Mix)’ which used archive wartime footage to reinforce the song’s anti-war theme. Also, why a Blu-Ray option was not available is also puzzling.

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