Last month, David Bowie’s official website announced the upcoming release of Five Years, the first in a series of career-spanning, retrospective box sets. The most notable inclusion: the original version of Holy Holy, a rare 1970 A-Side that has never been issued on CD before. That’s right. It has taken 45 years for this to finally happen.
This got me thinking recently of other Bowie rarities that for whatever reason have also been denied a proper CD release. True, some of the following songs can be legally downloaded online but for old school fans, it’s always preferable to own the best quality physical copies of their favourite music.
At any event, here are the only remaining officially released recordings in the Bowie catalogue that can’t be purchased on CD:
1 & 2. Space Oddity (1969 US Single Edit & 1973 Longer US Single Edit)
The full version of Bowie’s first major hit runs five minutes and fifteen seconds. But when it was first released in the United States, it was severely cut down to just a little under three and a half minutes. (No wonder it flopped.) A second US single release restored most of the original mix minus twelve seconds.
In 2009, in honour of the song’s 40th Anniversary, Bowie released a special EP that featured all the different single versions of the song plus individual elements of the original on separate tracks so fans could make their own mixes. Unfortunately, this was an online-only release.
The Five Years box set will include the rare four and a half minute UK single edit but not any of the US edits.
3. The Man In The Middle (1971 Arnold Corns B-Side)
While making the Ziggy Stardust album, Bowie slyly released three songs under the name Arnold Corns (a reference to his favourite Pink Floyd song, Arnold Layne). Two of the tracks, Moonage Daydream and Hang On To Yourself, would be reworked and re-recorded for Ziggy. (The originals can be heard on the 1990 Rykodisc version of The Man Who Sold The World and the 2002 30th Anniversary edition of Ziggy.) The third, The Man In The Middle, would only be issued as the B-Side to Yourself. It has not been released in any other form.
4. John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) (1979 7″ Single Edit A-Side)
Two years after recording three versions of John, I’m Only Dancing (two of which would be issued as stand-alone singles in 1972, the third as a bonus cut on the 1990 Rykodisc and 2002 30th Anniversary editions of Ziggy Stardust), Bowie decided to do a funked-up disco remake entitled John, I’m Only Dancing (Again). Rejected for Young Americans, it sat in the vaults for five years before finally getting a proper single release in 1979.
The full seven-minute 12″ version would eventually appear on CD on The Best Of David Bowie 1974-1979 and the 2007 reissue of Young Americans. But the edited three and a half minute 7″ version remains only available on vinyl.
5, 6 & 7. Remembering Marie A, Ballad Of The Adventurers & The Dirty Song (from 1982 Baal EP)
In 1982, Bowie starred in the BBC TV adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s Baal, a play originally written during the First World War. He sang five songs for the production which were later collected for the Baal EP, his final release for RCA. In 2003, The Drowned Girl & Baal’s Hymn made their CD debuts on the expanded version of the Sound + Vision box set. Drowned Girl would also pop up on disc three of The Platinum Collection in 2005 which was given a separate release as The Best Of David Bowie 1980-1987 in 2007.
But the other three tracks from the EP – Remembering Marie A, Ballad Of The Adventurers & The Dirty Song – have never been put on CD. However, the full EP has been available as a digital download since 2007.
8, 9 & 10. Life On Mars?, Wake Up & Five Years (from the 2005 Live At Fashion Rocks EP with The Arcade Fire)
On September 8, 2005, David Bowie & The Arcade Fire performed live at the Fashion Rocks event in New York City. The three songs they performed that evening (Bowie’s Life On Mars? from Hunky Dory and Five Years from Ziggy plus Arcade Fire’s Wake Up from Funeral) were later issued that same year on the Live At Fashion Rocks EP (or Live EP as it says on the digital cover) as an iTunes exclusive. Unfortunately, they have all since been removed from the site.
11. Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime) (2014 Single Edit)
The obligatory new song recorded for last year’s Nothing Has Changed compilation features the full seven-minute version. The four-minute single edit can only be downloaded or purchased on vinyl.
12. ‘Tis A Pity She Was A Whore (2014 B-Side)
The B-Side to Sue is only available with both versions of the A-Side as a three-song digital download and on 10″ vinyl.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunday, July 5, 2015