My Weirdest Record: Hey Everyone! Let’s All Interview David Bowie!
I have quite a few interview albums, but this one is pretty unique.
First, a backstory on interview LPs. You have to understand that 99% of these were never meant to be released to the public. Instead, they were given out to radio stations, that were then encouraged to play them as if they were live interviews or pre-taped segments. They were frequently called “programming aids” although a more apt title would have been “blatant commercials.”
The audience was never supposed to be the wiser to the fact that these interviews were actually pre-recorded months earlier, and that the band itself had never come anywhere near the radio station in question. I have interview LPs with The Psychedelic Furs, The Dream Academy, Polyrock and countless others that are like this, all featuring a generic, nameless “DJ” offering up a series of softball questions designed to make the subjects as interesting as possible.
There was always one problem with these LPs though; to the astute radio listener, they were obviously fake. They never used any of the bumpers or promos from the actual radio station, and the mysterious, nameless “DJ” was obviously not from that station. They were like informercials, obviously fake and staged to all but the most naive.
I can only imagine that this David Bowie interview LP, and others like it, was a supposed solution to that problem. The only voice you hear on this LP is David Bowie’s. There are no questions, no intros, no “we’ll be right back after this” messages. Instead, as instructed on the sleeve of the LP, all that was supposed to be dubbed in by the radio station, creating the illusion that they were actually interviewing Bowie for real, and not relying on a series of pre-recorded canned answers.
It was a process that probably took a lot of time to pull off well. The DJs would have to record their own questions (that fit into Bowie’s pre-set answers), and then both the questions and answers would have to be recorded together onto a tape or reel-to-reel that could then be played in the station, probably with some musical interludes thrown in for good measure. That’s a lot of effort for something that probably 90% of your audience wouldn’t care about, something that was, at best, an unpaid commercial. The appeal of the pre-made interview programs was most likely the fact that a DJ or station producer could just play them with minimal effort, so I doubt that many interview discs like these were ever actually used.
This particular interview LP was released in 1980, and if you couldn’t already tell from the cover, was used to promote Bowie’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), an album that proved to be the first step into Bowie’s American mainstream success in the 80s with hits like “Fashion” and “Ashes To Ashes.” One of the most interesting things about this “interview,” in my opinion, is that by reading the proposed “questions” you can really see what talking points Bowie’s managers and PR team wanted the media to focus on. Topics like drug use, Bowie’s sexuality, Ziggy Stardust, basically anything interesting that Bowie probably wouldn’t want to talk about, are avoided completely. Instead we are given a track-by-track commentary of the album by Bowie (which is pretty intriguing), a bit about his latest “character” (the clown) and some general bits on singing and performing.
When I first got this LP, I was planning on creating my own “interview” using the disc, crafting some silly and dumb questions for Bowie to answer, much like Weird Al’s AL TV interview spoofs. However, Bowie’s answers are so streamlined, so prepped and prepared, that I don’t think that’s possible. His answers are still worth listening to though! So click here to download the album and hear Bowie answer questions that were never asked, given by a person who never existed.
Woah, that sounded really deep.