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2023 Albums Thing #028 - David Bowie “David Live"

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The first of Bowie’s live albums. Recorded at the Tower Theatre Philadelphia at shows on 14th and 15th July 1974 on the first leg of the Diamond Dogs tour. By the 2nd leg much of the band had changed, the tour had been renamed the Philly Dogs tour and Bowie was heading toward his next incarnation.

The Diamond Dogs tour stage set featured a city-scape complete with walkways, bridges and platforms from which Bowie would perform and a cherry picker which extended him out over the audiences heads for some songs. The band were meant to be hidden away behind the scenes, unseen, but at times they took great delight in popping into the limelight occasionally.

It has been said many times about “David Live” that, compared to other shows on the tour, the performance was lacklustre. This may, or may not, be explained by a story that tour bass player Herbie Flowers, a very experienced session man, was wandering across the stage at the Tower before soundcheck when he noticed extra microphones around the stage. He immediately went to Bowie/management to enquire if the show was being recorded and if so an extra fee for the musicians in the band would need to be negotiated. A bit of a stand off is said to have occurred before extra payment was agreed, but it had somewhat upset the musicians which may explain the less than spirited performance.

The cover gives us a sight of Bowie’s first great image change since Ziggy Stardust. The hair is still flame red but in a very different style. He’s clad in a powder blue suit with baggy trousers and a short, bolero jacket. He is also very pale and thin, almost skeletally thin, the result of a developing Cocaine habit and living on not much more than peppers and milk ! As Bowie himself later said of the sleeve “And that photo. On the cover. My God, it looks as if I’ve just stepped out of that grave. That’s actually how I felt. That record should have been called ‘David Bowie is alive and well and living only in theory”.

The set itself is made up of songs from all Bowie’s previous 5 albums plus a take on “All The Young Dudes” and a cover of Eddie Floyd’s Southern Soul classic “Knock On Wood”. But the sound is markedly different from previous tours, much more laid back, less of a rock show, funkier, already pointing toward the changes to come on the 2nd leg of the tour and what was beyond that. A 2005 re-issue restored some tracks from the show that had not made it on to the original release, “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, “Space Oddity”, “Panic In Detroit” (which had been previously issued as the B-side to the single “Knock On Wood”) and “Time”.

As a document of the tour it serves its purpose and as the Diamond/Philly Dogs tour never made it out of the US, for the rest of us this was the only way to hear where Bowie was at during ’74 and moving toward ’75. The music journalist Robert Christgau once described it as “quite possibly the best live rock album I’ve ever heard“, high praise but definitely over the top. It’s a nice document of a time and place.

All The Young Dudes - https://youtu.be/A01T8GzcGrs

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