David Live

Original Release:

  1. ​1984 [3.20]

  2. Rebel Rebel [2.40]

  3. Moonage Daydream [5.10]

  4. Sweet Thing [8.48]

  5. Changes [3.34]

  6. Suffragette City [3.45]

  7. Aladdin Sane [4.57]

  8. All The Young Dudes [4.18]

  9. Cracked Actor [3.29]

  10. Rock 'n' Roll With Me [4.18]

  11. Watch That Man [4.55]

  12. Knock On Wood [3.08]

  13. Diamond Dogs [6.32]

  14. Big Brother [4.08]

  15. The Width Of A Circle [8.12]

  16. The Jean Genie [5.13]

  17. Rock 'n' Roll Suicide [4.30]

Bonus tracks on 1990 reissue:

  • Band Intro [0.09]

  • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow [3.32]

  • Time [5.19]

2005 reissue:

  • 1984 [3.23]

  • Rebel Rebel [2.42]

  • Moonage Daydream [5.08]

  • Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise) [8.35]

  • Changes [3.35]

  • Suffragette City [3.45]

  • Aladdin Sane [4.59]

  • All The Young Dudes [4.15]

  • Cracked Actor [3.25]

  • Rock 'n' Roll With Me [4.18]

  • Watch That Man [5.04]

  • Knock On Wood [3.29]

  • Here Today, Gone Tomorrow [3.40]

  • Space Oddity [6.27]

  • Diamond Dogs [6.25]

  • Panic In Detroit [5.41]

  • Big Brother [4.11]

  • Time [5.22]

  • The Width Of A Circle [8.11]

  • The Jean Genie [5.19]

  • Rock 'n' Roll Suicide [4.47]

David Live

Released:

  • RCA Victor APL 2 0771 - October 1974

  • RCA PL 80771 - 1984

  • EMI DBLD 1 - August 1990

  • EMI 7243 874304 2 5 - February 2005

  • EMI 7243 874304 9 5 - November 2005 (DVD-Audio)

Personnel:

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Guitar

  • Earl Slick: Guitar

  • Herbie Flowers: Bass

  • Tony Newman: Drums

  • Mike Garson: Piano, Mellotron

  • Michael Kamen: Musical Director, Electric Piano, Moog, Oboe

  • David Sanborn: Alto Sax, Flute

  • Richard Grando: Baritone Sax, Flute

  • Pablo Rosario: Percussion

  • Warren Peace/Gui Andrisano: Backing Vocals

Recorded:

  • Tower Theatre, Philadelphia/Record Plant Studios, New York

Producers:

  • Tony Visconti

Recorded over two nights at The Tower Theatre, Philadelphia, David Live is at once a fascinating and frustrating record of the extraordinary Diamond Dogs tour. A major element of the show's impact was visual, and a live album couldn't hope to capture the reality of a spectacular theatrical experience. Even the grainy and unappealing Dagmar sleeve photographs fail to convey the splendour of the set and serve only to demonstrate how unwell David was looking by this stage in his descent into cocaine addiction.

 

The recording, which came near the end of the tour's opening leg and a month before the Young Americans sessions began, took place under far from ideal circumstances. A degree of confusion surrounds the dates of the recordings, which are given incorrectly on some reissues: according to Tony Visconti, the correct dates are July 11th and 12th 1974. The live recording was handled by Diamond Dogs engineer Keith Harwood, marking the end of his brief association with Bowie. Harwood died a few years later in a car accident while driving home from Olympic Studios in Barnes, apparently hitting the very same tree that claimed Marc Bolan's life.

 

Even to the most accommodating critic David Live is something of a curate's egg. As anyone who's heard an alternative bootleg of the Diamond Dogs tour will confirm, the standard of performance - particularly David's voice - seldom gives an accurate reflection of the show's usual high quality. Furthermore, the mix of the original release is hard and unforgiving, which Tony Visconti put down both to shabby recording (for which he wasn't responsible, being involved only at the mixing stage) and hasty post-production decreed by RCA, who wanted to release the album in time for the second leg of the tour. "If you listen to that recording, you'll hear that it's very brittle and lacks depth," said Visconti. "For the twelve musicians or so that he had on stage, it sounds very puny...It was one of the quickest and shoddiest albums I've ever done, and I'm not proud of it at all." The backing vocals and some of the saxophone parts were re-recorded at Record Plant because, according to Visconti, "the backing singers and horn players were often sporadically off microphone due to excitement, I guess." Similarly, Mike Garson re-recorded his piano solo for "Aladdin Sane" because "the original was wiped. It was only 16-track so I guess that was the only way it could be done then."

 

Mixing took place at New York's Electric Lady Studios in July, prior to the commencement of the Young Americans sessions in Philadelphia. The label of a studio acetate auctioned in 2004 revealed that a working title for the album was Wham Bam" Thank You, Mam! (sic).

 

Although it didn't stop the album going top ten on both sides of the Atlantic (securing Bowie's position as top UK album seller for the second year running), press reaction was muted and occasionally hostile. Lester Bangs wrote in Creem that "without all the gauche props and stage business the recent live album is a dismal flatulence". In Melody Maker, Chris Charlesworth found David "hoarse, throaty and often off-key", while Charles Shaar Murray considered the album an example of "outright artifice and self-parody". Bowie himself dismissed David Live in a 1977 interview for Melody Maker: "God, that album! I've never played it. The tension it must contain must be like a vampire's teeth coming down on you. And that photo on the cover! My God, it looks like I've just stepped out of the grave. That's actually how I felt. That record should have been called David Bowie Is Alive And Well And Living Only In Theory" (an ironic reference to the Broadway show, and perennial Bowie influence, Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris).

 

Ryko's 1990 reissue added the bonus tracks "Time" and "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow", but it was not until February 2005 that the David Live recording was released in its entirety, adding the splendid "Panic In Detroit" (previously restricted to the B-side of the "Knock On Wood" single, and subsequently Bowie Rare) and the hitherto unreleased "Space Oddity", freed at last from thirty years of obscurity: "We eliminated "Space Oddity" from the original release because David sang into a telephone on stage and the sound was naff," explained Tony Visconti. "We were able to clean it up with today's technology." The four extra tracks were slotted into their correct places in the running order, making the 2005 reissue the most faithful recording of the Diamond Dogs show yet released. Moreover, Tony Visconti's brand new mix polished with an array of digital tools unavailable to him in 1974, is little short of a revelation: the album remains as gritty and idiosyncratic as ever, but the warmth, depth and clarity of the sound are quite new. Even more impressive were Visconti's 5.1 and DTS surround mixes, released on DVD-Audio in November 2005 and, in Visconti's words, "500% better than the original mix.

 

And so, despite the grim reaction and the unhappy background associated with the album, David Live remains a worthwhile document of the crossover period between Diamond Dogs and Young Americans. Even in the 2005 remix, the recordings are unavoidably a little tinny from time to time, but in the main, it's a fresh, honest record of a great show. The cabaret-style reworkings of "All The Young Dudes" and "The Jean Genie" are fascinating. "The Width Of A Circle" and "Panic In Detroit" are magnificent, and best of all is the quite brilliant "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", reinvented as a melodramatic Vegas torch song.

 

Early pressings of David Live accidentally swapped the second and fourth sides of the double LP. In July 1979 a truncated single album culled from David Live was released by RCA in Holland under the title Rock Concert - Live At The Tower, Philadelphia 1974. It is understood that this unusual move was the result of Stage enjoying particular success on the Dutch market.