I picked up a copy of Bowie at the Beeb yesterday and have been loving it ever since. In a way, it was fitting to get it on my last day of college since I spent the past four years loving every David Bowie song I heard. I’ve been very meticulous about getting into Bowie. About every five months or so I’ll pick up a new album of his and obsess over it until I’m ready to move on to the next album. My last purchase was Station to Station; I spent last week wondering why “TVC15” never gets any love.
But Bowie at the Beeb is a bit different than adding something new to the mix. I believe there are only three or four “rare” songs on there, ranging from a few covers to some songs that never got a real proper release (like the wonderful “London Bye Ta Ta”); but that’s not the real appeal of the album. It’s both highlighting songs I often overlook (like “Andy Warhol” from Hunky Dory) and showing a different side to ones that I love (“Moonage Daydream,” possibly my favorite song, gets a looser recording with more attention to the piano).
MP3: David Bowie – Memory of a Free Festival (live at the BBC)
Bowie at the Beeb gives a great alternate version of “Memory of a Free Festival,” a song I’ve always enjoyed but wished that it could be tweaked just a bit (maybe shortened?). In this recording, Bowie keeps everything that made the original so emotional — the organ, voice heavy in the mix, bass that creeps in the outro — but still manages to improve on it. For one, the organ’s key clicks aren’t there in this recording, making the chord transitions more fluid and making him sound less like Donovan and more like Sly Stone gone hippie.
I guess the real selling point of the album might be the twin Velvet Underground covers, though. “White Light/White Heat” popped up on the Ziggy Stardust movie soundtrack, but I think “I’m Waiting for the Man” might be exclusive to this record. (Apparently it’s on the Almost Famous soundtrack, but I bet it’s this version. Anyone?) But suffice to stay, neither disappoints. I can’t say that Bowie completely destroyed the original like he did when he covered the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” but he made a version that we’re all better for having heard.