From the Stacks

From The Stacks: David Bowie, ‘Golden Years’

Here’s an RCA cash-in compilation of Bowie favorites…or are they?

The Dame came to fame on RCA. He released several records (but only one album) prior to joining the label of Elvis and John Denver, but it’s during the RCA years that he released “Changes,” Ziggy Stardust, “Heroes,” on and on. But all good things come to an end, and in 1983 Bowie jumped ship and released his first album on EMI, Let’s Dance.

That record was a phenomenon, selling nearly 11 million copies. You just know that the folks at RCA were kicking themselves for letting that pony out of the barn. I imagine some executive screaming, “License a new photo for the cover and stick a few songs on each side. What songs? I don’t care, just do it!”

The result is one of the more eclectic compilations in the Bowie catalog. While the bulk of the tracks were released as singles–“Fashion,” “Golden Years,” “Look Back In Anger,” “Scary Monsters,” “Ashes To Ashes”–calling this a “greatest hits” package would be wrong. Only the title track broke the top 10 in the United States, and “Wild Is the Wind” wasn’t even released as a single from its original album, 1976’s Station to Station. Rather, the song hit the 45 racks in 1981 when RCA released the Changestwobowie compilation.

But frankly Bowie wasn’t ever much of a singles artist, particularly during his RCA years. Even classics like “Changes” didn’t crack the top 40 here in the States, so there was really no need for RCA to rush out a greatest hits. Besides, they had already compiled all of Bowie’s “hits” on the Changesonebowie and Changestwobowie sets.

And so Golden Years‘ track listing is fleshed out with the deep cuts “Red Sails,” “Joe the Lion,” and “I Can’t Explain,” none of which would have been terribly accessible to Let’s Dance era bandwagoners. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when a “China Girl” fan got his or her first taste of Heroes’ “Joe the Lion:”

Prices on this one are a little silly right now, given that Golden Years doesn’t contain any rare tracks. You can expect to pay around 20 bucks, but when the Bowie bubble eventually bursts I suspect that this one will slip back down into the 5-10 dollar range. Happy hunting.

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