Stage

Original Release:

  1. Hang On To Yourself [3.26]

  2. Ziggy Stardust [3.32]

  3. Five Years [3.58]

  4. Soul Love [2.55]

  5. Star [2.31]

  6. Station To Station [8.55]

  7. Fame [4.06]

  8. TVC15 [4.37]

  9. Warszawa [6.50]

  10. Speed Of Life [2.44]

  11. Art Decade [3.10]

  12. Sense Of Doubt [3.13]

  13. Breaking Glass [3.28]

  14. "Heroes" [6.19]

  15. What In The World [4.24]

  16. Blackout [4.01]

  17. Beauty And The Beast [5.08]

Bonus track on 1992 reissue:

  • Alabama Song [4.00]

2005 Reissue:

  1. Warszawa [6.46]

  2. "Heroes" [6.10]

  3. What In The World [4.16]

  4. Be My Wife [2.35]

  5. Blackout [3.52]

  6. Sense Of Doubt [3.07]

  7. Speed Of Life [2.39]

  8. Breaking Glass [3.22]

  9. Beauty And The Beast [5.00]

  10. Fame [4.03]

  11. Five Years [3.58]

  12. Soul Love [2.55]

  13. Star [2.25]

  14. Hang On To Yourself [3.21]

  15. Ziggy Stardust [3.27]

  16. Art Decade [3.01]

  17. Alabama Song [3.55]

  18. Station To Station [8.40]

  19. Stay [7.17]

  20. TVC15 [4.32]

Stage

Released:

  • RCA Victor PL 2913 - September 1978

  • EMI EMD 1030 - February 1992

  • EMI 7243 8 63436 2 8 - February 2005

  • EMI 7243 8 63436 9 7 - November 2005 (DVD-Audio)

Personnel:

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Keyboards

  • Carlos Alomar: Guitar

  • Adrian Belew: Guitar

  • Dennis Davis: Percussion

  • George Murray: Bass

  • Simon House: Violin

  • Sean Mayes: Piano

  • Roger Powell: Keyboards

  • Dennis Garcia: Keyboards

Recorded:

  • Spectrum Arena, Philadelphia/Civic Centre, Providence/New Boston Garden Arena, Boston

Producers:

  • David Bowie, Tony Visconti

After the unsatisfactory David Live, Bowie appointed Tony Visconti in overall charge of recording and mixing his 1978 live album. Initial plans to record the US tour's two-night finale at Madison Square Garden were abandoned when it transpired that the venue required a substantial fee and a royalty, so instead the recordings were made at four earlier concerts: two in Philadelphia (April 28-29th), and one each in Providence (May 5th) and Boston (May 6th). "What makes the sound of the album so consistent," explained Visconti, "was the fact that RCA loaned us their excellent mobile studio, which we parked outside each venue...Each show was miked exactly the same way and no one was permitted to change the settings on the console from show to show." Visconti considered many of the numbers too fast after the first night's recording in Philadelphia, and the band re-rehearsed on the afternoon of April 29th to re-establish the original studio tempi. So consistent were the band's performances thereafter, explained Visconti, "that we were able to use the intro and outro of "Station To Station" from Boston and the bulk from Rhode Island. The edits are practically imperceptible."

 

While the tour continued, Visconti mixed the album in May at Good Earth Studios in London. Unlike David Live, on which studio overdubs had been deemed necessary, Stage is in Visconti's word "a truly live album - nothing was 'fixed' in the studio later on." Nothing, that is, except an almost excessive favouring of the band sound over that of the crowd. "I just used the audience tracks in the intros and endings to prove that they were there," explained Visconti, "but cut them completely during the bulk of the recording. The sound was so pristine that we were accused of substituting studio recordings for these. I can assure you that they were totally live and very difficult to play, deserving clean sound unfettered by jeers."

 

Another decision taken at the mixing stage was a radical reshuffle of the original playing order, to arrange the vintage crowd-pleasers on the first disc and the new material from Low and "Heroes" on the second. "It was an idea of mine," said Visconti, "and David approved." It was in this form that the album initially appeared, sadly rather demolishing the dynamic of the original concerts, but nearly three decades later the authentic running order was restored for the superb 2005 reissue, painstakingly mixed by Tony Visconti from the original recordings and featuring the additional delights of "Be My Wife", "Stay" and "Alabama Song" (the latter having previously put in an appearance as a bonus track on Rykodisc's 1992 reissue). As with David Live, Visconti also created magnificent 5.1 and DTS surround mixes, released on DVD-Audio later in 2005.

 

In its remastered form Stage is a live album of remarkable impact. There's nothing here to rival the tormented melodrama of David Live or the historical significance of Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture, but the sheer quality of performance and production make for an icily perfect memento of the 1978 tour. Among the highlights are superb renditions of "Fame", "Breaking Glass" and "Heroes", but sadly still missing are "The Jean Genie", "Suffragette City" and "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide", all of which were performed at one or more of the recorded dates.

 

With sleeve photography by Gilles Riberolles, the original Stage was released on September 25th 1978, during the four-month break in the tour while Bowie was recording Lodger in Montreux. In Britain, a limited run was pressed in yellow vinyl (coloured discs being all the rage in 1978), while in Holland it appeared in both yellow and blue. The original cassette release inadvertently switched the second and fourth sides.

 

Despite a respectable UK performance Stage was a relative flop in America, peaking at number 44. As Bowie's relationship with RCA cooled during 1978, a disagreement arose about whether Stage constituted one or two albums towards fulfilling his contract. Backed up by the precedent of David Live RCA won the dispute, but by the end of the year Bowie had resolved to complete his obligations as soon as possible and move to a new label.