David Bowie: Confessions of a Vinyl Junkie
July 28, 2016 6:02 PM   Subscribe

"From his collection of 2,500 vinyl LPs, the rock star has selected his greatest discoveries, and some record-buying memories as well.... In December of that year, my band Buzz broke up, but not without my demanding we play “I’m Waiting for the Man” as one of the encore songs at our last gig. Amusingly, not only was I to cover Velvet’s song before anyone else in the world, I actually did it before the album came out." [From 2003]
posted by marienbad (18 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
 
Bowie was actually very generous with praise to his fellow musicians. In Vegas, by chance, I met the drummer of a fairly well known southern rock band, who told me that Bowie showed up backstage and told them that they were 'bloody good.'
posted by jonmc at 6:07 PM on July 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was surprised to learn he liked Texas blues, and that liking was what had attracted him to Stevie Ray Vaughn. I'm surprised he had time to indulge such catholic tastes.
posted by droplet at 6:35 PM on July 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I find it so endearing to picture him with a pair of scissors, cutting out a homemade cover for a burned CD.
posted by davebush at 6:47 PM on July 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


I knew nothing about Florence Foster Jenkins until this past week when I saw an ad for Meryl Streep's next film (named the same) and now this. Spooky.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:19 PM on July 28, 2016


Seeing Bowie select Music For 18 Musicians for this list made all the hair on my body stand on end. I'm convinced that will be one piece of 20th Century Music that is going to be played as far in the future from now as we are from the music of Bach.
posted by hippybear at 1:44 AM on July 29, 2016 [4 favorites]


This is the first time I've encountered records being referred to as vinyls by anyone other than someone who didn't grow up with them. And by David Bowie no less, unless there has been some creative transcription.
posted by deadwax at 4:31 AM on July 29, 2016


When he bought those albums, vinyl was the best and sometimes only media option. His choices have nothing to do with vinyl other than that's what they happen to be on and he hasn't yet replaced them with CD.
In other words, this is his music collection, not his vinyl collection.
posted by rocket88 at 5:47 AM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is the first time I've encountered records being referred to as vinyls

I wouldn't read too much into it.

I"ve got 2,500 LPs and I don't know how many 45s, 78s and others. I bought most of them during the 1960s and 1970s.

Back then you'd call it your "record collection", which consisted of albums and singles or maybe forty-fives.

The older you are the more likely to use the term forty-fives; which term was used to differentiate a 7-inch disc with a big hole turning at 33-1/3 rpm from a seventy-eight, a 10-inch disc with a small hole turning at 78 rpm -- which were also singles*.

The more connection you had to the music business, the more likely you'd speak of an elpee, but that was really a marketing term ("long player"). Most regular folks called any record 12 inches in diameter an album -- which is a pretty interesting semantic drift.

Even older terms like shellac and wax were and are used humourously to refer to phonograph records generally, even though wax hasn't been used to make recordings since the 1910s and shellac phonograph records were phased out for good by the 1950s.

You might refer to the whole conceptually as vinyl -- like "best thing Bowie's ever committed to vinyl". Again, the more connected to the music biz, the more likely to use the term. But always as a mass noun**. To the best of my recordcollection, I never heard anyone use vinyl as a count noun** in the days when it was the dominant format, nor later when it was 'competing' with tape and digital formats.

The Grammys still awards a Song of the Year and a Record of the Year.
Record of the Year is related to but is conceptually different from Song of the Year or Album of the Year:
  • Record of the Year is awarded to the performing artist, producer, and engineer for a single or for one track from an album. . . . In this sense, "record" means a particular recorded [performance].
  • Song of the Year is awarded to the songwriter who wrote the lyrics and/or melodies for a single or individual track . . . as composed, not its recording.
  • Album of the Year is awarded to the artist, producer, recording engineer, and mastering engineer . . . in this context, "album" means [any] recorded collection of songs (LP, CD, or download).
----------------------------------
* Except for when they bound them together in a book with a sleeve for each disc -- an "album", so to speak, by analogy with photo album. First used in 1903 for a recording of Verdi's Ernani on 40 10-inch discs. And of course, this wasn't vinyl -- that didn't come in until the 1930s/40s -- it was all scratchy, shatterable shellac back then.
**Mass noun: equipment, traffic, luggage
Count noun: tools, vehicles, bags

posted by Herodios at 7:15 AM on July 29, 2016 [3 favorites]


I've been crawling through Bowie's 100 favorite books, and I'm currently on Mystery Train by Greil Marcus. So far I've read about Harmonica Frank, Robert Johnson, The Band and Sly Stone. Sly Stone is the only one I would have ever associated with David Bowie. Seeing his music favorites really completes the circle. He really did contain multitudes.
posted by maggiemaggie at 7:16 AM on July 29, 2016


The older you are the more likely to use the term forty-fives; which term was used to differentiate a 7-inch disc with a big hole turning at 33-1/3 rpm from a seventy-eight, a 10-inch disc with a small hole turning at 78 rpm -- which were also singles*.

I thought 45s were so called because they turned at 45rpm? There was some confusion because 12" singles looked like 33rpm LPs but also turned at 45rpm (John Peel sometimes didn't notice - right song, right time, wrong speed was his slogan), European 45s generally didn't have the big hole, but the standard -sized sprocket. And EPs could be 33rpm on a 7" platter.

And albums were so-called because in the days of 78s, a complete symphony or set of songs came as multiple 78s which were held, like photographs, in a physical album.

Gotta dash - Aphex Twin's latest waxing is on my Spotify playlist. That rug won't cut itself.
posted by Devonian at 9:36 AM on July 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh, by way of atonement for the derail - the David Bowie Prom concert is on the BBC tonight at 22:15 BST. If you're in the UK you can watch it on the TV or iPlayer, but the Radio 3/6 Music stream will be loud and proud worldwide.
posted by Devonian at 9:46 AM on July 29, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought 45s were so called because they turned at 45rpm?

Don't know about elsewhere, but that was the case in the UK.

European 45s generally didn't have the big hole, but the standard -sized sprocket.

Again, don't know about elsewhere, but that was the case in the UK.

And EPs could be 33rpm on a 7" platter.

Again, don't know about elsewhere, but UK EPs played at 45rpm and were the same size as a regular 45rpm single.
posted by Mister Bijou at 10:12 AM on July 29, 2016


7-inch disc with a big hole turning at 33-1/3 rpm from a seventy-eight, a 10-inch disc with a small hole turning at 78 rpm -- which were also singles*.

I thought 45s were so called because they turned at 45rpm?


Sorry, typo -- or rather edit-o. Obviously 45s turn at 45rpm.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:22 AM on July 29, 2016


And albums were so-called because in the days of 78s, a complete symphony or set of songs came as multiple 78s which were held, like photographs, in a physical album.

Thus:
* Except for when they bound them together in a book with a sleeve for each disc -- an "album", so to speak, by analogy with photo album. First used in 1903 for a recording of Verdi's Ernani on 40 10-inch discs. And of course, this wasn't vinyl -- that didn't come in until the 1930s/40s -- it was all scratchy, shatterable shellac back then.
 
posted by Herodios at 10:24 AM on July 29, 2016


Fun fact: 45s were often made of polystyrene instead of vinyl.
posted by TrialByMedia at 11:33 AM on July 29, 2016


Listening right now to The Last Poets (first album in Bowie's list) and IT.IS.AMAZING!!!
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:33 AM on July 30, 2016


It's always so nice when artists are interviewed about their artform. I always feel like I learn so much more about their lives and personalities than when they are asked about their life and personality. From this I got a picture of Bowie as someone who was very much of his time and place. I always had this image of him as somehow outside time, but getting a picture of how his tastes developed, down to which record shop he used to haunt in his youth, puts him very much in a particular milieu. He seems a lot less strange to me now, a lot more human. I feel like I know guys who grew up in similar circumstances and had similar early adulthoods, and that gives me valuable context for Bowie. It's funny, the list of albums in the article is even similar to the ones I can imagine them putting together, both in the good ways (ranges widely around the world and between genres) and the bad (almost no women and then only as interpretative artists). What a marvelous post!
posted by Kattullus at 11:11 AM on July 30, 2016 [2 favorites]


Glad to see The Incredible String Band namechecked. Tiresome trends keep wanting to paint them as some sort of 60's Creed. Mostly, the 60's never even caught up with them.
posted by Chitownfats at 5:37 PM on July 30, 2016


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