Christmas is over for another year. The year is 1992. The day? That would be Tuesday, December 29th to be precise. I am on my way into the city with my Christmas gift in hand, $20 from my parents. Before I had even left home I knew where I would be going and what I would be buying.
A few days before hand I had spent a good portion of a Saturday night watching video clips by an artist who would have an incredible impact on my life. This was, of course, David Bowie and now I was excited to be buying my first albums containing his music. The only question was which ones would I be able to buy from the Record Exchange, a brilliant second hand record and collectables store in Brisbane City. At the time it was the only place to go for musical discoveries. They sold just about everything you could imagine. Aside from records, cassette tapes and vinyl they were flush with clothes, books, old television sets and even smoking devices. The guy that ran the joint, Van was this old school hippy from Canada.
Dad parked the car just a few blocks away from our destination. We dodged our way through the shopping crowds and made the religious like saunter up the stairs and into what was heaven to me! The vast surrounds that made up the interior of The Record Exchange greeted my eyes.
Once inside the excitement became a little much and I had forgotten where the cassette tape section was. It was soon found and my eyes scanned the racks for the “B” section. With no real alphabetical order it was a matter of flicking my way through the mess that was the “B’s” in search of Bowie albums. And goodness me there were plentiful amounts to choose from. But which ones?
I could have bought one of the more expensive tapes however I wanted value for my $20 so I kept my eyes out for any tapes that were $8 or less. If perhaps the total came to a little more than $20 dad would help out with a couple of coins. For as long as I can remember he was always god for things like that.
First off the racks and into my hands was CHANGESONEBOWIE! I scanned over the tracks on the back cover to find out what was on it. Plenty of hits from his 70’s period. Bingo! And at $9.95, a little more than my budget would allow for I kept it to one side.
More perusing along the racks produced more Bowie album finds. I remember picking up Lodger at one point. The only songs I knew on that album at the time were “Boys Keep Swinging” and “D.J” so that went back into the racks. There were also a copies of Never Let Me Down and Aladdin Sane however both tapes were in poor condition and less than $3. Dad advised me that there would be a good chance neither would play properly given their poor condition and cheap price. So why even try and sell them I wondered?
My second choice was the Scary Monsters album. It had “Ashes to Ashes” on it and that was the first video clip I had seen on Rage a few nights before. And, at $7.95 this second hand gem was well within my budget. A proper bargain even if I do say so myself.
There was now only a couple of dollars left from my Christmas money but there was also every chance I could rely on dad to cough up a few extra coins out of his pocket. Time to press on and find a bargain.
Literally moments later I turned up a copy of Let’s Dance which was plumped with the princely price tag of $4.95. It looked in good condition and at the asking price it was far too good an offer to turn down. So with that I took my three cassette tapes up to the counter and handed over my $20 note and dad’s change. With all three in a little bag I practically ran down the stairs with dad following behind safe in the knowledge the drive home would be a guaranteed success with one of my new tapes playing on the old car stereo!
As the drive home commenced, approximately 30 minutes, we churned down the freeway with CHANGESONEBOWIE playing at a relatively high volume. The sun shone through the right hand side of the car and I continued my new found fascination with the sounds of David Bowie.
Not content with just hearing CHANGESONEBOWIE before dinner I headed out for a long walk around the dull suburban surrounds of my area with my purchases in hand along with my walkman. I played the albums over as I walked the back streets. My aural senses were, unbeknownst to the inhabitants of the surrounding houses being blown away! My distinct recollections from that summers afternoon of musical education was the variety in Bowie’s vocal delivery and the stark contrast from the various periods of his career that began with “Space Oddity” in 1969 on CHANGESONEBOWIE and concluded with “Shake It” from Let’s Dance in 1983.
Over the following 21 years I became somewhat of an obsessive Bowie fan collecting thousands of items, both legal and illegal (bootlegs) as my collection swollen with Bowie goodness. However it was that day, Tuesday December 29th 1992 when it all really began in the collecting sense. I still have the three tapes stashed away in a box at home. There is every chance that all three will follow me into the grave later in life when I pass away.
These Bowie albums may just be three simple second hand cassette tapes to most people, yet, to me they are a constant reminder of a grand turning point in my life. And not every 15 year old is as lucky as I am to find such a brilliant escape from the mundane reality of life in suburban Australia.
There’s old wave, there’s new wave……and then, there’s David Bowie!
CHANGESONEBOWIE: Originally released May 20 1976, this compilation reached number 2 in the UK charts. In 2003 it was ranked number 425 in Rolling Stone Magazines 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The first 1,000 copies pressed on vinyl in the UK carried the sax version of “John, I’m Only Dancing” that was recorded during the Aladdin Sane sessions of 1973.
Scary Monsters (and super creeps): Originally released September 12 1980 and considered by many critics as Bowie’s truly last great LP, Scary Monsters reached the number 1 chart position in the UK and stayed in the charts for another 22 weeks. In the year 2000, Q magazine ranked Scary Monsters at number 30 of their greatest British albums of all time.
Let’s Dance: Originally released April 14 1983 this album reached the number 1 chart position in the UK and countless other countries as it became Bowie’s first foray into the mainstream. As part of a deal with EMI Music, worth $20 million at the time, Bowie toured the album in stadium’s all over the world. It is considered my many critics to be the beginning of the end for Bowie as a musical force.