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The Rise And Fall Of "David Bowie"

Posted 1 year ago by Dog_Faced_Boy - 37 comments Link: http://phi.sh/b/50b91899

Most Phish fans recognize the band’s early composition “David Bowie” as belonging to a full quiver of songs with improvisational potential. It sits among a select group of 10 songs that have been performed more than 400 times. Perhaps fewer fans realize that once upon a time, “David Bowie” (DB) was one of the primary, if not the leading jamming song. Following its debut in 1986, DB quickly developed into a workhorse and “go to” jamming song, as Tim Wade (@TheEmu) has noted in several of his many early show reviews. Even while such stalwart classics as “Mike’s Song” and “You Enjoy Myself” were played fairly straightforward from 1985 - 1990, DB was fast becoming the choice song for serious, significant “Type II” improvisation. During its peak years, from 1993 - 1995, DB was a super heavyweight for regular and longer duration exploratory jamming, one of a very small group of contenders that included “Mike’s Song,” “YEM,” and “Tweezer.” But after 1995, DB sadly fell into period of steady, and then more precipitous decline. Despite upticks in 1997 and 2003, the trend line was downward. Not only was the song played less frequently, and placed less prominently in setlists, it also lost much of its improvisational fortitude, becoming more of a proverbial horse put out in the pasture for retirement, and typically played in a straightforward, “Type I” (non-exploratory) manner.

While other veteran songs like “Stash,” “Split Open And Melt,” “Run Like An Antelope,” and “Runaway Jim” have lost some of their luster over the years, none of these has risen so high, or fallen so far as DB. Why did this song more than any other fall by the wayside? The truth is that no one, except perhaps the band itself really knows. I’ll pose a couple a explanatory theories. Just recognize that these thoughts are purely speculative. But before that, let’s take a look back at this important song, its rise to glory, and subsequent fall from fame.

Rewind the clock to Halloween, 1986, date of the first known live performance of this complex Trey-penned composition. DB quickly joined the ranks of other classic Phish jamming songs, such as “Run Like An Antelope,” “Mike’s Song,” “You Enjoy Myself,” and “Possum,” all of which debuted in either 1985 or 1986. But while “Mike’s” and “YEM” took a few years to grow improvisational legs, DB and “Antelope” were the most prominent late ‘80s vehicles for extended improvisation-based music. Some early, notably exploratory versions of DB worth checking out include 10/26/89, 9/15/90, and 11/7/91. The “David Bowie” Jamming Chart, recently substantially revised and updated, documents more completely the improvisational performance history of this song. There are a lot of really fantastic versions on the chart, with particularly important, exploratory versions noted in bold. And don’t overlook early versions, say 1987 - 1991. You’re more likely to find great versions in this earlier period than you will casting about over the last 15 years for good stuff.

What exactly constitutes a good version of DB? To me, it’s the unstructured jam section of the song that makes all the difference. In particular, what I pay attention to most keenly is whether or not the jam departs or breaks free from the standard structure and theme into more pure collective improvisation. As DB moved into its peak period, more and more, in fact most performances broke into this “Type II” style jamming. Conversely, in the period of decline, DB rarely ventured beyond standard form. There are many DB versions which include teases, signals, or segue briefly into other songs before returning. To my ears, these features embellish an already good exploratory jam, but do not compensate for a standard, plain-vanilla one. Compare for example the versions performed on 11/2/90 and 7/3/95 to the one from 6/15/12. While all three include multiple teases and similar enhancements, the former two boast robust, powerful jam segments, while the latter is unremarkable. And to me, quality of the jam outranks duration. 8/26/89 clocks in at 14:21, 12/3/97 at 26:26. Both are strong versions, and have “Type II” jamming for at least a portion of the jam. But I’ll take the Townshend Family Park version from ‘89 over the Philly ‘97 version every time. There’s far more exploratory jamming in the ‘89 version than the ‘97. And this dense, fully-loaded version gets it all done in 14 minutes. The Philly version doesn’t even go “Type II” until minute 18 or so. In fact, a lot of the good jamming chart versions (excluding those in bold) clock in somewhere between 11 and 15 minutes, yet are filled with 6 to 10 minutes of improvisation beyond standard fare.

DB and “Antelope” are perhaps best thought of as the progenitors of a family of jamming songs that often have a dark, tension-filled, dissonant, and downright mean, nasty tone to the jam segment. It’s worth noting that like DB, “Antelope” rose up swiftly in the late ‘80’s, peaking about the same time DB did, before also suffering a decline of “Type I” malaise. Offspring members of this dissonance clan include “Stash,” “Split Open And Melt,” “Maze,” and later on, “Carini” and “46 Days.” Songs like “Bathtub Gin,” “Reba,” “Possum,” and “YEM” can be incredibly improvisational, yet rarely do these jams fall into the same dark and dissonant family of psychic tone. “Mike’s” and “Tweezer” really defy easy categorization; their jams have at times gone in so many different directions, there is less of a predictable sentiment to the jam segment.

The peak period for DB was 1993 - 1995. After rising steadily as a workhorse jamming song from debut through 1991, DB had a bit of an off year in 1992. For much of the year, the band seemed more concerned with teases, Secret Language, signals, etc. than focusing on the jam portion. All that changed abruptly with the first show in 1993. The band performed a number of excellent versions in the spring of 1993, and while teases, signals, etc. were still part of the mix, the jamming was considerably better and more improvisational. 1994 was, by almost any measure the peak year for DB. And while 1995 boasted a number of very strong performances, there was also a disturbing and growing number of well played, but essentially straightforward versions. From 1993 - 1995, DB was performed 95 times, compared to 86 for “Tweezer,” 114 for “YEM,” 84 for “Mike’s,” and 105 for “Antelope.” Whereas historically, DB had often been placed as a Set I or II closer, it now more frequently appeared as the first or second song of Set II, indicative of its importance as a jamming vehicle.

Also during this period, the band more frequently began to perform longer, very exploratory versions with multiple “Type II” movements and with a duration of 18 to 36 minutes. Most fans are familiar with the legendary Providence Bowie (12/29/94), its soul-mate from 11/26/94, and the “Mind Left Body” Jam -> DB from 6/18/94. But there are other extended and incredibly improvisational versions from this peak period that stand on similar ground. Serious DB fans should be sure to check out performances from 5/8/93, 8/17/93, 4/24/94, 11/14/94, 6/29/95, and 12/11/95, for example. In 1994, only 6 performances of any song exceeded 30 minutes in duration. These serious jams were the versions of “Tweezer” performed on 5/7/94, 11/2/94, and 11/28/94, “Simple” from 11/16/94, and the 11/26/94 and 12/29/94 versions of DB.

To understand DB’s rise to prominence and subsequent decline, consider the following:

Year Performances 2nd Set Opener or #2 Song
1987 8 3
1988 18 1
1989 33 3
1990 38 1
1991 42 4
1992 37 2
1993 33 5
1994 38 21
1995 24 11
1996 19 4
1997 17 4
1998 15 2
1999 12 2
2000 11 1
2003 11 0
2004 5 0
2009 14 0
2010 13 1
2011 11 0
2012 7 0

After 1995, DB began a period of improvisational decline that unfortunately continues to the present. More and more often, the jam portion of the song rested along familiar, “Type I” patterns with little or no exploration beyond. The solid versions from 12/3/97 and 12/29/97 both include somewhat brief mode shifts to major mode, giving the jams an upbeat, feel-good vibe somewhat unusual for DB’s typically dark sentiment. But compared to the peak period, these “Type II” departures are relatively brief in duration compared to the much longer “Type I” jamming that accompanies them.

DB also lost its prominent set placement in the years following 1995. Consider: the last time DB opened a Set II was in 1998! Those jaded vets who derisively scorn DB’s performances in 3.0 really need to turn the clock backwards a number years and apply an equally critical view towards its performances in the late ‘90s and through 2.0. DB was already pretty much of a “has been” by the end of 1.0. However there are a handful of standout, “Type II” versions from the period of decline that merit mentioning. For comparison to some of the extraordinary performances from the peak period, check out 7/30/97, 10/3/99, and 7/25/03.

I fully expect to get upbraided in the comments to this post for my generally dismissive view towards post-1995 versions of DB. Frequent .net contributor @Waxbanks goes to considerable lengths in his recent book to paint the 12/3/97 DB as a masterpiece, while he finds plenty to criticize in the 11/26/94 version. To quote the author, from page 149 of his book focusing on fall tour, 1997, “What’s interesting about this jam [12/3/97], though, what sets it apart from, say, the monumental 11/26/94 Bowie...is that none of the players lashes out against the song’s form at any time.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself. But his point is precisely why I am more drawn to these earlier, improvisationally hefty performances. I tend to view this song like an angry, caged beast that wants like Hell to get out of its (“Type I”) confinement and thrash about and terrorize the neighborhood. To my ears, I find the darkness, the incredible tension, the dissonance, the sudden and jarring rhythmic shifts, and the multiple “Type II” movements common in earlier versions more exciting and stimulating than the patient, gradual, well-orchestrated building movements of the later years. There is a certain fearless creative spirit, an almost reckless abandon to pre-1996 versions that I find lacking in the years I characterize as the decline. Frankly, I find these later period DBs somewhat boring. Yes, the Philly ‘97 DB (finally) gets to an ecstatic, uplifting groove at about 18:00. But it’s really one mode shift, and after 5 minutes or so, it’s back to normal DB. However, @Waxbanks makes a valid, well-argued point, and my personal stylistic preferences may not be yours. And I don’t mean to pick on 12/3/97, it’s really a pretty great version, especially compared to the vast majority of versions performed in 1998, 1999, and 2000. The great thing about Phish is there is so much music, you are free to choose the songs, periods, styles, etc. that best suit your individual taste, and you can still love the band and its music as much as anyone. My personal preference for DB is for versions performed between 1987 and 1995. My advice: listen to versions from all periods (early, peak, decline) and reach your own conclusions.

Whether or not you agree with my assertion that DB went into decline in the years after 1995, there is little room for disagreement that appeared it less frequently, or that it lost its prominent placement early in Set II, compared to 1994. So lastly, I will pose a couple of theories to explain this dramatic shift:

1) Competition from other jamming songs. Prior to 1989, there was no “Tweezer,” no “Reba,” no “Stash,” no “Runaway Jim,” no “Split Open And Melt,” and no “Bathtub Gin.” When the band wanted to go deep and dark into improvisation with one of its own compositions (as opposed to covers like “Timber” and “Whipping Post”), there were few serious options outside of DB or “Antelope.” (remember, “Mike’s” and “YEM” had yet to grow real jamming legs). As these other songs developed their own improvisational styles, there can be little doubt that some of the band’s creative juices flowed elsewhere. Yet DB held its own, even as “Tweezer,” “Mike’s,” “Runaway Jim” and others came into their own.

But after 1995, a whole new cadre of jamming songs emerged that further diminished the attention once devoted to DB. “Down With Disease,” “Wolfman’s Brother,” “Ghost,” and “Piper” all developed as major jamming songs in 1997 and beyond. Plus there were some “oldies” that became jamming songs in this period, like “AC/DC Bag,” “Gumbo,” “Halley’s Comet,” “Tube,” “Ya Mar,” etc. etc. With time, more new songs and covers emerged as palettes for improvisation, songs like “Seven Below,” “Scents And Subtle Sounds,” “Rock & Roll,” “Drowned,” “Light,” and “Sand.” With this growing arsenal of jamming alternatives, is it any wonder that the focus shifted away from DB?

2) The band felt it had done all it could with DB. With many more jamming songs in its quiver, and having successfully climbed major DB mountains in Minneapolis, MN, Providence, R.I., Sugarbush, VT, Portland, ME, and elsewhere, maybe the band just decided to move on to more fertile ground for improvisation. This premise is purely speculative on my part. But it makes intuitive sense to me. After the epic performance in Providence, where else could the band really take DB that would “out-improvise” this stunning masterpiece? Some very strong performances in 1995 suggest there was still virgin soil out there, but how much? A lot of things changed for the band after 1995. Is it really such a leap of faith to consider that with DB, the band, consciously or not, decided it had ‘been there, done that,” and then shifted its focus to other songs and styles?

One last question, for which I don’t have a good answer: Why is it that some classic Phish jamming songs like DB, “Antelope,” “Mike’s,” “Stash,” “Split Open And Melt,” and “Runaway Jim” seem to have fallen by the wayside in recent years, while other older-generation songs like “Tweezer,” “Gin,” and “Down With Disease” just keep plugging away and adapting an improvisational style into the present? Topic for a future post, perhaps.

The good news is that many of these old war horses saw glimmers of a hopeful future in 2012. In most cases, nothing earth shattering, but a ray of light nonetheless. “Antelope” went “Type II” on 7/3/12, “Stash” on 8/22/12, seriously big “SOAM” on 8/18/12, the HUGE “Jim” on 8/31/12, and yes, even old “David Bowie” made a brief, but notable appearance on 8/19/12. I think and hope that the 8/31/12 “Jim” was cathartic for the band; it’s almost like they had to relearn how improvise and explore with this song. But learn they did, and as impressive as the jam itself was, more importantly, it signals to a me a willingness by the band to revisit the old masters with renewed enthusiasm. I hope they’ll do the same some day soon with DB. It’s a tall order. It’s been a LONG time since the band really took DB for a wild ride. I’d never expect anything on the magnitude of 1994, but I’d still like to see this tale have a happy ending.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you’ve enjoyed this not-so-little essay on the life and times of “David Bowie.” Whether you agree, disagree, or otherwise take exception to what I’ve written, I welcome your critical comments, either as comments to the blog post, or via a pm. In all likelihood, I’ve listened to more versions of DB than you. But that doesn’t make me any more of an “expert” than anyone else, and I’m alway eager to learn more, or think about this song (my personal favorite jamming song) in a new or different light. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and do, by all means, check out some of the versions on the jamming chart. It’s all about the music.

Comments

funkybch Reply
nice article. i agree, but i would say if you're going to mention any 3.0 version of Bowie as something worth talking about, it has to be the 6/3/11 Clarkston Bowie. This version has no equal since the comeback. It hits that, "what song are they playing" mode, while not a particularly frenetic or evil escapade into the unknown, it does leave the structure, somewhat. regardless, i love this Bowie.

i'd also throw in the Vegas '03 Bowie> Catapult opener. but i agree, Bowie has never been the same since '95.

i think the biggest downer is Stash. WTF? and Melt has been formulaic throughout 3.0. even the recent praised SF version to me isn't the return of my favorite song.
Score: 6
AllForYourDelight Reply
AllForYourDelight As much as I love the more exploratory DBs, I love the good type 1 Bowies.

8/2/2003 IT
4/4/1998 Island Tour
2/28/2003
Score: 2
LawnBoy0925 Reply
LawnBoy0925 what happened to the friday vids of the week??
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stimbuck Reply
stimbuck Good read, thank you!
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Kurtzboy Reply
Kurtzboy @stimbuck said:
Good read, thank you!
I'll second that.
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i_yam_highdrogin Reply
i_yam_highdrogin excellent food for thought! it is indeed sad that the most distance this vehicle has seen lately is a modal shift to a major key jam, usually in G. while this is in fact by most standard definitions "type II", it is incredibly boring.. stash has taken the same road, often exhausting the type I jam to the point where trey finds a niche in the major 3rd, ultimately resolving moments later to the original key, which boosts the energy of the performance, but not by much.
that being said, i could listen to the boys rage a type I bowie untill the day i die! this tune, though perhaps past its prime, always brings the energy to an unparalleled level, regardless of the ground they cover. i can't WAIT to see what they do with it at MSG!
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funkbeard Reply
Great read.

I think that Bowie has explored many interesting stylistic shifts over the years, without really leaving the type I form. Versions that come to mind: 12/29/96 where the band's interplay outdoes any type II concept that could have been. (one example)

2012 was a good year for Bowie, or the most part. 7/4/12 surprised the hell out of me with that "what song are we listening to" quality. 8/19/12 came out of its shell. And 8/26/12 (I think) was so beautiful and straight up. Incredible jamming there.

One version that impressed the hell out of me: 10/24/10. That jam is wild and chaotic, as Mike finds one tonal pedal after another, and the band flows like a raging river over his shifts. Type I, yet nasty to the core.

Great read. I do think that the style of jamming was molecular through '94, and in the following years, moved into groove. The context clearly changed.

Thanks again for posting this!
Score: 1
meanpete Reply
i would add that bowie has seen a decline since 2.0. i saw bowie on 7/12/99, 12/31/99, 7/10/00 and 8/2/03 and all 4 were highlights of their respective shows (granted, cypress bowie is overshadowed by a good 10 other moments).
of the 10 or so bowies i've witnessed in 3.0, only super ball registers in memory. even then, the opening jam out of reba is the memorable part.
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EastRutherfordTheBrave Reply
The 10/30/2010 Bowie from Boardwalk Hall is one of my "go to" jams. Such tight, focused playing. I never get tired of listening to it.
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MiguelSanchez Reply
MiguelSanchez i don't know how many assessments of david bowie i have read, but i assure you this is the best. great write up.

1) i agree with your 11/26/94 and spectrum '97 comparision. for me, i'm with you. i prefer the more dissonant/off kilt ones. it is not so much getting weird for the sake of getting weird. i love to see them "fight against the structure," and then, for me, the reward is seeing how they bring it all back home. i have similar feelings about melt and stash. on the flip side, it is also a mood dependent thing for me. some times it is just nice to hear them carve through the middle section and land seamlessly into the coda. i think of the 11/14/98 bowie when i think of these types. it's a very fine version. is that the last 2nd set opener you alluded to?

2) as for 3.0 bowies, i thought the '10 a.c. version was splendid. in fact, i thought the whole 2001> bowie combo harkened memories of '95. granted, not quite up to '95 snuff. otherwise, i agree with @funkybch. the clarkston bowie is awesome. that's the other thing about bowie. like tweezer, it is a song that easily adjusts to "the mood of the set," and i think clarkston is a shining example of that.

3) i feel like there is more hope for better bowies in the future. i really enjoyed the creek bowie. it was not an all time keeper, by any means, but it fit the mood of the set and it seemed they are feeling more cozy with the song again. i thought it was something they could build upon, but they didn't, not in leg 2 at least.

4) i think your bowie, melt, and stash bundling is spot on. unlike bowie and stash, i think melt has delivered on a much more consistent level in 3.0. it's not always delivering, but it does much more frequently. i also think stash is even lagging way behind bowie though. don't know why...just is.

5) thanks for mentioning the sugar bush '95 bowie!! i was thumbing through my ipod trying to figure out what to listen to, and this one is a freaking peach. one of my all time favorites. time to hit play and listen to those sick gin and timber teases!! yes!!
Score: 1
DollarBill Reply
DollarBill Great article, though I don't particularly care about what happens to most songs over the years, at least they still play Bowie. Not so for songs like Spock's Brain or In a Hole and many others. Just the simple fact that there is more songs to choose from each passing year in their repertoire can answer the main question posed here.

Bowie also has a somewhat difficult composed section in the beginning, which might deter the band from going there again and again, where as Antelope and Jim and Gin doesn’t. Or Disease, or Tweezer, or Light, or Ghost... you get the point. When I grade songs in my reviews I always check the composed sections first. Jamming over E minor to D for any length of time isn't all that impressive to me if the composed section sucks. Just my opinion of course...

Now this is pure speculation on my part, but I've got to believe that the band just gets tired of songs over the years. We are all witness to Trey's famous ripcord that pulls us out of great jams into something else when we want to continue raging the first song. He seems to be a very forward thinking individual who is never satisfied staying in one place for too long. And let us remember that "David Bowie; you be forty" probably started off as a joke within the band, and most of the time jokes just aren't as funny as they were twenty five years ago.

When I listen to shows I've taken it upon myself to play along with whatever I can on guitar and now piano. I encourage all of you to do the same. Put yourself in their shoes for a while. It's hard to keep up with the boys and I even get tired of playing some of the songs for fifteen minuets. I can't imagine what they've been going through for thirty years!

Great article, and worthy of a great continued discussion!
Score: 0
deBebbler Reply
deBebbler Two thumbs up.

This read was much more enjoyable than any 3.0 David Bowie.
Score: 1
MiguelSanchez Reply
MiguelSanchez @deBebbler said:
Two thumbs up.

This read was much more enjoyable than any 3.0 David Bowie.
hahahahahahahahaha, well played sir
Score: 1
kyediggs Reply
yea the DB I will always remember you Im, getting mind bent by cypress sand now having flashbacks of that show this instant. Ive let bowie go for now and allowing light to take its place if that makes any sense on this bitter cold mxe super k saturday. Flashbacks are the best and sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Some day Bowie will return but if it doesnt I have many things to go back to like 11.14.97 slave that just switched from cypress sand as my eyes try to keep up up ok ya know there is so much flowing idk i just want strange things to happen as i listen to a playlist that takes me from 90 to98 to 97 to 12 to 03 to 88 to 94 to cypress to honestly i have no idea where i would be without this wonderful music scambling my brain this very second. Thank you phish.net hope this makes sense if you were me it would.
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MrJones Reply
MrJones Great read!
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nichobert Reply
nichobert "Those jaded vets who derisively scorn DB’s performances in 3.0 really need to turn the clock backwards a number years and apply an equally critical view towards its performances in the late ‘90s and through 2.0. "

The most spot-on sentiment in this article, and it applies outside of Bowie as well.

People thought they'd never hear another blowout Jim until Dicks.

On one hand, I'm happy that they don't go back to the same jam stalwarts from the early 90s for all their improv. Because something like 90% of the improv from 92-95 came from about 10 songs. I just wish that the songs they WERE jamming out would rotate a little quicker. But considering how few songs broke the jam plane between the debuts of Stash & Ghost, i guess it shouldn't be too surprising. To me, I think that specific angry desire to hear a jammed out *BOWIE* is asking Phish to Nostalgia Act it, just to Nostalgia Act in the way that you want them to instead of the way they want to.

They play the song plenty, so I don't think the composed section is what bothers them. Especially since they're playing the composed sections of Bowie and most other complicated songs better on a consistent basis than they have since what, 96?

It's a Type I jam now, no question, but holy crap they're finding some interesting little asides in every version. If I had it my way, Bowie would be a 9 minute exclamation point after a jammed out Halfway To The Moon or Unfinished Roggae or a groundbreaking 20 Minute Heavy Things. "Do it like you used to!" just doesn't work for me, especially now that Phish is improvising in a way that is at least as impressive as anything they've ever done before. And if they have to keep it in small doses in order to make it potent, so be it.
Score: 4
nichobert Reply
nichobert And how many versions of Jim were legitimately jammed out? Maybe 15? Not really on the same level as a Bowie. Every tour for Jim was like 94 for Tweezer (When there was what, 14-15 Tweezers that just sorta > Lifeboy'd) - a few big blowouts, and a lot that stayed in the pocket.

I don't want them re-learning anything, revisiting anything, I don't want them coming out and calling themselves Space Antelope and joking around about how shit used to be. Leg 2 was such a monster because the jams felt so freaking fresh and didn't feel like some callback nostalgia. They sound like a band who is- however lightly- engaging the better prevailing trends in contemporary music. So many snippets sound like they could come from a new Radiohead or Jamie XX or TV On The Radio song. That shuffly purple sound. Cactus!
Score: 4
kyediggs Reply
^^^^ I agree They have other great jam vehicles now. I mean like you said it was most promininant from 86-95. 1986 is like 25 years ago. I would be really disappointed in phish if they were still jamming bowie the way they did rather than other newer songs. I agree but do we want phish to be like say the rolling stones and just play the same shit over and over again. I like the fact that its changing and Ive been around a looooooooooong time so lets keep this ball rollin hope they bustout a type II bowie here and there in the future but keep some new stuff coming, Great read btw really interesting facts but to say its fallen from glory is a little dramatic considering the boys are almost 50. I mean do we eat, read, watch etc the same stuff the same way we did 20-25 years ago. I sure as hell dont.
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Dog_Faced_Boy Phish.net Staff Reply
Dog_Faced_Boy @nichobert and @kyediggs - I agree with much of what you write. I certainly don't want Phish to be a retro or nostalgia act. And it's great they've moved on to so many other great jamming songs. A jammed out Halfway To The Moon or Heavy Things would be awesome. I just wish 2 things as far as Bowie goes:

1) Once in a while, let it breathe, just a little - not in '94 style, in '12 style, the same way that happens currently with Tweezer or Light or Sand;
2) If most of the time, it's going to be played Type I, that's fine, but make it great Type I - check out 11/5/88, 12/7/90, or 5/27/94 for fantastic Type I versions.

But your points are excellent. Thank You!
Score: 1
dogman Reply
dogman The longest Bowie of 3.0 is 6/3 Clarkston
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MDosque Reply
MDosque I was at 12/3/97 and I probably need to go back and listen in the near future, but that song totally blew my mind.

Personally, I think it just happens to be whatever mood I'm in. Some days I reach for a frantic early 90's Bowie if I want to do some serious, attentive listening, but I also go for a straightforward powerhouse if I have a 10 minute drive somewhere. Also, I find that I really enjoy Bowie out of the appropriate song - nothing like finishing up a really heavy, weird jam with Fishman tapping on that symbol. I like an extended, tension filled intro. Just my thoughts.

Thanks for the great article. I didn't realize there was so much consensus around the 97 Philly Bowie being elite. Personally, I think the 12/29 Philly Bowie from the previous year was more enjoyable.

Sincerely,
Dosque
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officercookies Reply
officercookies 12 01 1992 DB is worth a listen, good analysis. I have not encountered a SOAM 3.0 that was fully worth listening to. For me that song has seen the most decline in 3.0 era in quality of performances
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Jephwa14 Reply
@funkybch said:
nice article. i agree, but i would say if you're going to mention any 3.0 version of Bowie as something worth talking about, it has to be the 6/3/11 Clarkston Bowie.
Fun read. Agreed on the Detroit 3.0 Bowie; although it might get its accolades from that whole set as a whole. hot.
Score: 0
Dog_Faced_Boy Phish.net Staff Reply
Dog_Faced_Boy Fwiw - the 6/3/11 Bowie is on the Jamming Chart - no question that it belonged there. I just didn't mention it in my piece on DB.
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phishroc Reply
phishroc "DB my man, you got tossed into the right dumpster!"
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LawnBoy0925 Reply
LawnBoy0925 @phishroc said:
"DB my man, you got tossed into the right dumpster!"
LMAO.. dumpster baby ref.. that shits heroic
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Thunder Reply
Thunder Wonderful article. Seriously, thanks. Lots of food for thought, I definetly haven't spent enough time on early Bowies.

David Bowie has always been a wild card to me. I've always thought of it as Phish's own Dark Star. When I wrote my fantasy setlists for Woosta '12, Bowie was in the second song second set placement (FWIW: Set II: Curtain With -> Bowie -> Piper -> Mist, La Grange -> Walk Away -> Slave E: Julius, Show of Life). I too have been craving a truly exploratory Bowie. And there's not a damn thing wrong with that. Many great comments here about other/newer great jamming vehicles. That is great, I love those all as well. I happen to agree with the @Dog Faced Boy 's sentiment ... that it is high time that we get to experience David Bowie in all it's glory through a modern lens. That's not living in the past, that's wanting a new experience with an old friend.
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ProfJibboo Reply
ProfJibboo Great read.

While I can't argue that its not the jam vehicle it once was....one can't entirely overlook the fact that, in 3.0, the song has been a stalwart. It one of 20 or so songs that still appear on a 4 show rotation and the band has really focused on it as a high energy set closer. While you have a great chart of the times the song was the 1st or 2nd songs of the second set - I think it speaks volumes that the band so often chooses to end the first set with it. It also speaks volumes that the band ends so many second sets with it. So while it hasn't been jammed, the song has consistently shredded to end sets in 3.0.

I also wanted to throw out the 2010 NYE run. The band has 100's of songs. They had any number of songs to choose to bust out twice during that five night run. They chose two: Backwards Down the Number Line and David Bowie. I think that says alot about how they view the song.
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LawnBoy0925 Reply
LawnBoy0925 great read... bacon
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FACTSAREUSELESS Reply
really enjoyed the article. If nothing else, it shows how deep and expansive (I mean, really) our experience with this music is.
For the record, my favorite Bowie of all time (admittedly have not heard as many as you) is from 2/28/03, which is in the scary/life-changing realm of music that was previously reserved for Dark Star, circa '72, in my little realm of spatial reasoning.
My favorite Bowie of 3.0 thus far is from 7/30/09 (Red Rocks), which makes my skin boil in ecstasy every time I hear it.
It's true.....Phish provides fodder for all our tastes and moods. Appreciate a poster below who mentioned 10/24/10 (Amherst, MA). I like that one too! Thought it was just me.
Great work!!
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taargus Reply
taargus the bowie will always eat the soul
without a doubt one of the greatest tune known to phish it takes you to the peak of Everest and throws you back down no gentle touch to it and then sends you back up when anastasio decides to fuck your face and you are unwilling to it all so it is defined by the ear rape or the face rape

cunt rag
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lysergic Reply
"[DB] now more frequently appeared as the first or second song of Set II, indicative of its importance as a jamming vehicle."

Is there any support for the claim that set two's #1 and #2 songs generally have more significant jams? I'm not doubting this claim but I wonder how it could be tested.

On a related note, I would love to see a chart of which songs occur in these positions most frequently. Would DB be at the top?
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BonnieMeredith Reply
I also like the 10/24/10 Bowie :)
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Sprachtor Reply
Sprachtor Average Bowie is still better than most their catalog.
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telascomet Reply
telascomet I couldn't agree more with the article. The only thing is Certain" Type I" Are very good. Which You can probably understand. An undoubtedly my favorite has to be 12-29-1994. I can only hope that "Type II" Does reappear in bowie and other jams.
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