Just because I own 34 David Bowie records on vinyl I never listen to does not make me a hoarder.
I didn’t spend my twenties playing ultimate frisbee, exploring different career options, and having lots of casual sex. No, I spent those years collecting Bowie. Record shops, flea markets, garage sales. I would check the garage sale listings on Thursday afternoons in something called a “newspaper,” plan the best route using a large piece of folded paper called a “map,” then get on my bicycle on Saturday morning and go.
(by the way, kids, in olden times, not only did people not shave their pubic hair, but, to listen to music, you had to play LP’s, or “long playing records.” These consisted of soft blobs of vinyl that were pressed into a flat disc by a big machine, and then other special machines would cut grooves into the vinyl, punch a hole in the middle of it after it hardened, and then a magic little needle would turn those grooves into pleasant sounds which your ears would discern as “music.”)
Let’s get to what I DON’T OWN first.
There are two biggies for all David Bowie collectors.
If you happen to have them lying around collecting dust in your basement, I’d be happy to take them off your hands. Or you could list them on EBay and collect around $5000 each for them. But all that data entry could be a headache. If you live west of the Mississippi, I’d be happy to drive out and meet you at your convenience.
Here’s the copy of Diamond Dogs I own:
Here’s the copy that’s worth thousands:
Look at the dog’s crotch. In my copy, the dog’s dick is hidden in shadow. In the valuable copy, the dick is exposed. I know, I know, you have to look closely to even see it. If you’re a rational person, you’re asking, “So what? Who cares? Why would you pay thousands extra when the music on the record is exactly the same, and who cares about a dog’s flaccid dick anyway?
Here’s the problem: those are rational questions. And collecting records is thoroughly irrational. I can’t explain to you why I would die to own the “Genitals Cover” any more than I could explain to you why my favorite color is purple or why I like cheddar cheese more than monterey jack. I just do.
Here’s the other biggie:
Bowie in a dress. Somehow, somewhere, someone - in the decadent, coke addled, sexually polymorphic early 70′s!!! – still thought this was scandalous.
In terms of what I DO own, I’ve broken it up by category to make it a little less tedious for you.
The first category is called “Really Early, Super Corny Bowie – ‘Uncle Arthur,’ ‘Rubber Band’ etc. – That I Never Listen To, But Own Because I Fancied Myself A Bowie Completist At The Time:”
Now we will move on to the opposite category: Litmus Test Bowie.
These are the Bowie records that, if you don’t like them, then there isn’t a shred of a chance – not a shred – that you and I can be friends. And if you don’t absolutely love my all time favorite David Bowie desert island song – “Heroes” – then there’s something seriously, seriously wrong with you, and there’s nothing I, or anybody else, can do for you.
How much do I love the song “Heroes?” I love it so much that having it sung in English wasn’t enough for me. I have two 45′s where Bowie sings it in a different language:
The German version was included in a dreary, depressing movie about teen drug addicts in the Berlin subway:
Other desert island favorites:
…actually, I do have a semi-rare version of “The Man Who Sold The World.” I have the “Cowboy Cover.” Not sure if mine’s the real deal, though, or just a bootleg:
…and – something I don’t like to talk about – I had a version of “Space Oddity” before it was titled Space Oddity…
…when it was issued as “Man of Words, Man of Music.”
But one day, low on cash, and knee deep in a Nirvana phase, I traded it at a record shop for a 6 CD Bootleg called “Into The Black.”
…and actually, the rarest Bowie that I still do own is from his unlistenable early period:
This next category is called “Other David Bowie I Love – Almost As Much As His Work During The Thin White Duke Period – Heroes, Low, etc – When Brian Eno Was A Heavy Influence.” (David Bowie is the rare chameleon who goes through many different phases without seeming like he’s floundering or pandering or panicking. Because he’s Bowie, it’s just cool.)
If my man crush isn’t already completely transparent, let me show you this one single. It’s just a reissue, no big deal, but this picture from the Thin White Duke period captures Bowie, for me, at the height of his detached, handsome coolness:
…you can see why it was chosen as the cover for the pre-80′s Bowie record most people have if they’re only gonna buy one pre-80′s Bowie record:
So the question of decades brings up a huge gap in my collection: where’s the 80′s stuff? Where’s “Let’s Dance?” you’re asking (or not). Where’s “China Girl?” you’re wondering (or not). I like both those songs okay, but somehow, I didn’t buy those records. I had decided that Bowie didn’t exist after about 1980. So much for my completism. And yet I did buy a couple Bowie records that came out after his “Let’s Dance” period:
So why did I buy some less well regarded 90′s stuff and not the still-to-this-day-popular 80′s stuff? Again, who knows – we are not in the province of the rational.
I’ll wrap up with a few stray 45′s from my collection:
Even these next two legends thought Bowie worthy to share the stage.
(well, actually, I think it’s Freddy Mercury who should feel flattered. But Bing deigning to perform with a young whippersnapper like Bowie? Now that’s something).
So do I ever still play any of these records?
When I want to listen to Bowie, do I play CDs or MP3s instead because they’re just so much more convenient?
Then why am I hanging onto all these old records, letting them take up way too much space in my living room?
Now that question, I’m afraid, is entirely too rational.