From the Stacks

From The Stacks: David Bowie, Ziggy Stardust Picture Disc

Back in 1984, RCA found themselves in a unique situation. This was David Bowie’s label throughout the ’70s, but 1980’s Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) marked the end of his RCA era. In 1983, the Dame inked a $17.5 million dollar contract with EMI and then proceeded to release Let’s Dance, his best selling album ever. For RCA, it must have been like watching an ex-spouse roll around in a big Scrooge McDuck pile of money while they ate TV dinners in their studio apartment.

Bowie retained rights to his back catalog until 1989, when he licensed that catalog to Rykodisc. From ’83 to ’89 RCA remained the label for the 13 studio albums beginning with Space Oddity and ending with Scary Monsters, not to mention the two live albums, two classical outings, and compilations that appeared on RCA.  And so, like Motown did when Michael Jackson defected to Epic and became a global superstar, RCA went to work figuring out how to cash in on their ex-spouse’s newfound fame by re-releasing those records in new ways. (Bowie’s first record label, Deram, did the same.)

The compilation albums RCA released during those years are only of interest to completists, but 1984’s set of five picture discs are essential for any Bowie-obsessed collector. Musically you’re not getting anything here you don’t already have, but come on–picture discs! The series included Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Pin-Ups, and Diamond Dogs. Each was numbered (via an inserted card) and was packaged in a cutout sleeve so that all of that picture disc glory could shine through.

In 2008, bootleg knockoffs of the picture discs were released. These are easy to identify, as the RCA logo doesn’t appear on the counterfeits.

Two years after his death, the Bowie market still hasn’t stabilized. Recent online sales of this one range from 25 to 100 dollars. I suspect $75 is probably a reasonable number for the Ziggy disc you see here. Happy hunting.

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