David Bowie shares 50th anniversary scene with friends
David Bowie’s 50th anniversary concert was a lot like the man himself: glamorous, exciting, fashionable and not soon to be forgotten.
“It’s my birthday – it’s my birthday,” Bowie said. Rolling stone after the show, which took place on January 9, 1997, a day after her actual birthday. Bowie had initially balked at the event becoming a celebrity affair, fearing it might take a turn for the nerds. “I just didn’t want the thing to be heavily peppered with people who would make it a nostalgic trip,” he said.
So the likes of Mick Jagger or Iggy Pop weren’t included, but it was a move that left more room for other never-before-seen collaborations. Bowie took the opportunity to play songs with artists who compared to him hadn’t made albums for so long, like Foo Fighters, Sonic Youth and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. But he also took the time to connect with one of his strongest influences: Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground, who joined him for several songs during the concert’s first encore. (A full list can be viewed below.)
Backed by a bunch of usual suspects – guitarist Reeves Gabrels, keyboardist Mike Garson, bassist Gail Ann Dorsey and drummer Zachary Alford – David Bowie and his friends: a very special anniversary concert, was also filmed for a pay-per-view TV show and released on DVD in 2005.
In original order of appearance, revisit the collaborations that marked Bowie’s 50th birthday celebration – and the lasting impact Starman had on his guests.
1. Frank Black from Pixies
“You must be playing my 50th now,” said Frank Black, singer of the Pixies and the evening’s first guest star, quipped after singing the first of two songs with Bowie, “Scary monsters (and super creeps). ”“ It’s been about 90 years, hasn’t it? ”Bowie replied jokingly, before moving on to the next song,“ Fashion. ”Bowie was a Pixies fan from the start:“ I have find [the Pixies] pretty much the most compelling music outside of Sonic Youth in all of the 1980s, ”he noted later. “I always thought there was a psychotic Beatles in them.” Bowie also ended up covering their song “Cactus” for his 2002 album. Pagan.
2. Foo Fighters
“I always promised myself that I wouldn’t be on a stage playing rock music when I was 50,” said Dave Grohl, frontman of the Foo Fighters. Rolling stone in 1997. “But when I see David Bowie so happy and alive, and still so creative, I say to myself, ‘I don’t want to stop’. at the age of 50. At the anniversary celebration, Grohl played drums behind Bowie and the rest of the Foo Fighters for a rendition of “Hallo Spaceboy”, a track from Bowie’s 1995 album, Outsider, which was re-recorded in 1996 with Pet Shop Boys. Grohl then took a guitar and walked over to the mic to duo with Bowie on “Seven years in Tibet. “
3. Robert Smith of the remedy
“Here’s a friend,” Bowie said casually, introducing Robert Smith, whose band, The Cure, Bowie described as “one of the best British bands, I think, the most eccentric.” As a teenager, Smith and his early bands often rehearsed Bowie songs. “David Bowie was probably the first artist I felt was mine. He sang to me,” Smith said in a subsequent maintenance. “It was the first album I bought; Ziggy stardust was the first vinyl album I have ever bought. … I like this idea of being an alien and creating characters. In 1995, Smith and Bowie asked informally in a taped conversation to what was then Britain XFM radio, discussing everything from the songwriting process to life in London, finding out that they had a lot in common. At Bowie’s birthday show, the duo performed “The Last Thing You Should Do”, a track from Bowie’s most recent album, Earthman, which came out a few weeks after the concert.
4. Sonic Youth
The members of Sonic Youth were blown away by Bowie’s invitation to perform in 1997. “The fact that he even knew who we were was amazing to us!” guitarist Thurston Moore recalled in a tribute written shortly after Bowie’s death in 2016. “We’ve been so inspired and influenced by his music for so long, and it was a huge pleasure to join him in the performance. Hanging out with him before the gig, he was clear that he was always fully engaged and informed about all kinds of music and art around him, curious and open to new influences. Few of his generation tuned in to the kind of thing we did, but he sure was. “Bowie even had, at one point, considered setting up a record company for his favorite bands – “like Sonic Youth and the Pixies”.
5. Lou Reed
For the first encore of the evening, Bowie brought in one of his oldest friends, “The King of New York himself, Mr. Lou Reed,” for a mini-set featuring Bowie’s “Queen Bitch,” own “Dirty Blvd.” and two songs from Velvet Underground, “I’m Waiting for the Man” and “White Light / White Heat”. Bowie considered the Velvets to be a big influence on him – the performance of “I’m Waiting for the Man”, which appeared on the Velvet Underground debut album, was of particular significance to him that night. “I think ‘Waiting For The Man’ is probably the most important of the four in a way,” he told PBS after. “My manager at the time brought back an album, it was just a plastic demo of the very first Velvet album in 1965, something like that. … He said, “I don’t know why he makes music, this music is as bad as his painting”, and I thought, “I’m going to like this. I had never heard anything like it. It was a revelation for me.
6. Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins
Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins ended the night as the final guest on the Birthday Bill, performing two of Bowie’s biggest hits, “All the Young Dudes” and “Jean Genie”. Corgan and Bowie would continue to cross paths after the show: They were on the same label for a short time in the late ’90s, a period Corgan later said “dealt with. [Bowie] horribly. “” What I’m trying to say in my own language is that he was not treated with the respect he was due “, Corgan said at a pre-show event in 2016. “It’s one thing to say ‘I don’t like that [Bowie’s new music]’, but people treated him badly as if they forgot who he was. So it was amazing that he was able to go through that and persevere to the end of his life and make this beautiful music. “
David Bowie’s 50th anniversary concert, January 9, 1997, Madison Square Garden
1. “Little wonder”
2. “The disgusting lesson of hearts”
3. “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” (with Frank Black)
4. “Fashion” (with Frank Black)
5. “Telling lies”
6. “Hallo Spaceboy” (with Foo Fighters)
7. “Seven Years in Tibet” (with Dave Grohl)
8. “The man who sold the world”
9. “The Last Thing You Should Do” (with Robert Smith)
10. “Quicksand” (with Robert Smith)
11. “Battle for Great Britain (The Letter)”
12. “The voyeur of total destruction (like beauty)”
13. “I’m afraid of Americans” (with Sonic Youth)
14. “In search of satellites”
15. “Under Pressure” (Queen cover)
17. “Queen Bitch” (with Lou Reed)
18. “I’m Waiting for the Man” (cover of The Velvet Underground) (with Lou Reed)
19. “Dirty Blvd.” (cover of Lou Reed) (with Lou Reed)
20. “White Light / White Heat” (cover of The Velvet Underground) (with Lou Reed)
21. “Moonage Daydream” (With group presentations)
23. “Happy Birthday to You” (Performed by Gail Ann Dorsey)
24. “All the Young Guys” (with Billy Corgan)
25. “Le Jean Génie” (with Billy Corgan)
26. “The strangeness of space”
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