INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Uncut OCTOBER 2016 - by Michael Bonner
WHAT'S NEXT IN THE AFTERLIFE?
Key archivists and collaborators reveal some of the riches in the Bowie archive.
The afterlife of David Bowie is proving to be surprisingly rich. As this issue of Uncut goes on sale, an exhibition of unseen pictures of Bowie taken during 1967 by photographer Gerard Fearnley is underway at the Snap Galleries in London. Meanwhile, to coincide with a new cinema restoration of Nic Roeg's The Man Who Fell To Earth in September, the original soundtrack recording is finally being released, after decades in limbo. A DVD/Blu-ray release of the film will be accompanied by a slew of previously unreleased behind-the-scenes stills taken by set photographer David James.
Inevitably, it is the unseen, the unheard and the unreleased that constitute the holy grail of Bowie's archival material. "We all keep our eyes and ears open," says Bowie's archive intimate. "There are also people who, bless their hearts, are always looking for things, flagging it up. An unofficial team of people keeping their eyes and ears open. It's amazing what can crop up with the right question being asked."
Pressingly, though, Bowie's late burst of creativity has left us with a number of recent projects that remain tantalisingly elusive. The cast of Lazarus - the off-Broadway musical Bowie co-wrote with Enda Walsh - recorded the soundtrack album on the day of Bowie's death, January 10. Alongside reworkings of established Bowie songs, Lazarus featured three new numbers: No Plan, Killing A Little Time and When I Met You. The musical opens in London on October 25; the cast recording will follow close behind.
When Uncut spoke to Donny McCaslin last November, Bowie's bandleader on ★ revealed that "we probably recorded fifteen or sixteen songs" during the album sessions. One is mindful at this point of The Next Day Extra - the deluxe edition of Bowie's 2013 record that carried four previously unreleased songs. A similarly expanded companion release to ★ would likely feature some of those unused tracks. Among the songs that didn't appear on ★, McCaslin identified Somewhere and Wistful - the latter he described as "a ballad with a singer and just a piano player playing this arpeggiated thing. Beautiful."
Further afield, Tony Visconti told Rolling Stone that Bowie had begun demoing five new songs shortly before he died and that the pair were in active discussions about working together on a follow-up to ★. Later, Visconti promised The Evening Standard, "There's going to be some great Bowie stuff coming out."
Beyond Visconti's largesse about unreleased 'new' material, it is evident that Bowie's back catalogue will continue to enjoy a healthy profile. The chronological run of fortieth anniversary seven-inch picture discs will assuredly continue. The last release was TVC15, so the next one for the US would be Stay - although the next UK single was Sound And Vision. Looking at the historical release patterns for these discs, the fortieth anniversary of Sound And Vision is in February and it's likely there'll be something special for the tenth anniversary of Record Store Day in April 2017.
2017 is a critical year for Bowie anniversaries. Both Low and "Heroes" turn forty - in January and October, respectively. After Five Years (1969-1973) and Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976), inevitably the rich period from 1977-1979 will form the backbone of the third retrospective boxset. But what will it contain? It is believed that Visconti has been working on a remix of Lodger exclusively for the set while outside Bowie's studio albums, the Stage live album falls within this period. Logically, Bowie's rumoured unreleased score for The Man Who Fell To Earth - begun after Station To Station sessions with producer Harry Maslin at Cherokee Studios, LA - seems to be a contender for this set - that is, if it even exists as a full piece. Certainly, some reels exist, but no-one outside of Bowie's innermost circle knows how extensive they are or what they contain.
Tape finds are a critical part of the archivist's job. The release of John Phillips and Stomu Yamashta's Man Who Fell To Earth soundtrack, for instance, is possible partly because of the recent discovery of lost tapes. Bowie's archive intimate recalls how a random sweep of a tape library uncovered one recent gem: The David Bowie Pin-Ups Radio Show, a fifteen-minute mock-radio show produced by Bowie and Ken Scott in '73 as a promo tool for the release of the LP.
"With RCA's help, they came up with bits and bobs, but we thought we'd do it again, asking slightly different questions. They sent over this thing which said, 'David Bowie radio show'. We thought, 'That could be anything.' It was a bit of gold dust. First, it was a Spotify exclusive then as a ten-inch for people who pre-ordered the album [Five Years] from davidbowie.com. It was a strange little thing, sitting on a tape. Until you play it, you just don't know."