David Bowie, "Black Country Rock"

>> Friday, January 15, 2016

One of the things that's happening with listening to a lot of Bowie and reading a lot of retrospective articles is that you constantly run into stuff that you... didn't forget about, but that maybe you overlooked.  And in terms of your own engagement, you're thinking, "Am I the ten-thoudandth person this week to share '"Heroes"'?"  (Yeah, I was.)  "Is everybody posting a link to 'Under Pressure'?"  (I'm not; because it's a fantastic song, but everybody's posting a link to "Under Pressure" this week and you've heard that fabulous song a million billion times already even before; and if I'm one of the people who could never hear it enough times, that doesn't mean I couldn't hear it enough times, if you know what I mean.)

But then you're reading an AV Club piece on The Man Who Sold The World (1970), and Annie Zaleski writes a bit about how "Black Country Rock" came to be, and you're like, "Oh shit, how'd I miss that one?  Why isn't that one going into one of your hundreds of Bowie-memorial posts this week?"  (You should totally read the Zaleski piece at that link, by the way.  She's got some really interesting stuff from drummer Woody Woodmansey and bassist--and long time Bowie producer and collaborator--Tony Visconti.)

I mean, one of the things that's amazing about Bowie is... was, as Visconti told Zaleski, how he came into everything he did saying, "What can we do that’s different?"  And we think about Bowie the crooner, Bowie the alien, Bowie the disco king, Bowie the folk singer, etc., etc., etc.; well here's Bowie basically doing Zeppelin, and nailing it, you know.  "Black Country Rock" is the kind of thing you might expect to hear on Led Zeppelin III (came out on October 5th 1970, and Man Who Sold The World was released in the U.S. on November 4th, for whatever that tells you about airborne rock infections or folk-blues ESP).  Not the kind of grungy rock that Bowie and this backing band (the musicians on Man Who Sold would become The Spiders From Mars) would pour out during the Ziggy era, not the folksy stuff Bowie had been mostly doing up to that point.  Pure old classic blues-rock, most like Zep, although it's not hard to imagine Faces cutting this track, either.

Except, you know--it's totes Bowie.  Tony Visconti told AV Club the track originated in a ten-minute jam session (this may explain some of its traditional inflections), but Bowie just kind of dominates it.  I really, really don't mean that to be any kind of reflection on Mick Ronson, Visconti, or Woodmansey, who are just aces on this track.  They're pretty fabulous (okay, maybe not quite McLagen, Wood, Lane and Jones fabulous, but nobody ought to take offense at coming out second to what was arguably the best rhythm section in rock history plus one of the greatest keyboardists ever joined by a pretty legendary guitarist).  But then Bowie comes in--

There's a point where you worry you're just babbling.  Read the Zaleski profile.  Listen to the track again and maybe put Man Who Sold The World on and listen to the whole fantastic thing.  Damn.


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