A new box set from David Bowie celebrates his revered Berlin period.
By Eric Renner Brown in Entertainment Weekly
n 1976, David Bowie decamped to Berlin, kicked his drug habit, and created some of the most revolutionary music of his life. Below, highlights from A New Career in a New Town: 1977-1982, a recently released collection of music and archival materials celebrating his masterful output from this period.
UNEARTHED MATERIALS CAST HIS LEGACY IN A NEW LIGHT
Today, we celebrate Bowie for his creative shapeshifting. Yet a book of photos and documents included with this set shows just how confusing Bowie's pivot from his Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke personas to a more conservative look was to some at the time. A puzzled review from the era notes, "As his appearance gets straighter, the music gets weirder." Even his label resisted categorizing Bowie: "There's old wave. There's new wave. And there's David Bowie," reads an RCA ad for "Heroes."
The best song of Bowie's Berlin era has a certain universality to it, emphasized here with the reissue of an EP containing German- and French- language versions of the track. Even if you don't understand the words, they still pulse with the bracing emotion of the original -- and will make listening for the hundredth time feel like the first.
AN EPIC LIVE ALBUM IS EXPANDED (AGAIN)
Though Bowie live albums now abound, Stage, which captured his 1978 tour, was only the second such LP he'd released (after 1974's woefully received David Live). In 2005, the album was rereleased with numerous tracks added; here, it's been extended yet again, with fiery versions of "The Jean Genie" and "Suffragette City."
A HOLIDAY HIT FINALLY FINDS A PROPER HOME
Recorded in 1977 but not released until 1982, Bowie and Bing Crosby's famed duet, "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy," is a Christmas classic. In recent years, however, the full recording hasn't been widely available: Digital platforms like Spotify have only a truncated version from a Now Christmas compilation. Just in time for the holiday season, it's presented in its entirety -- including Bowie and Crosby's quaint dialogue -- on Re:Call 3, the set's collection of rarities.
AN UNDERRATED LP GETS A REVELATORY UPDATE
Lodger, the third volume in the Berlin trilogy, never achieved the vaunted status of "Heroes" and Low. Thanks to a new mix from longtime Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti, however, it deserves a critical reevaluation. "David and I weren't too pleased with the mixing," Visconti writes in the liner notes for his revision of the album, citing time constraints and studio complications. "Here is Lodger as we intended it to be heard."
A FAN FAVORITE GROWS BY THE MINUTE
Bowie's 1977 masterpiece Low is practically flawless, but the second track, "Breaking Glass," clocks in at just under two minutes. Re:Call 3 exhumes the Australian-single version of the tune, which thankfully extends the lurching groove for a full minute.
'The X Files' and 'The Man in the High Castle' Exec Producer Frank Spotnitz
By Frank Spotnitz as told to Shirley Li in Entertainment Weekly
ood luck trying to find The Night Stalker. Based on a novel by Jeff Rice, The Night Stalker was written by the late, legendary Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone, I Am Legend) and produced by TV giant Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows, The Winds of War).
It broke records when it was broadcast on ABC back in 1972, drawing a jaw-dropping 54 share -- and scaring the pants off a generation of viewers, including my then-11-year-old self.
Its success was so enormous that it immediately spawned a sequel, The Night Strangler, and a short-lived TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker. But neither of those was as powerful as the massive cultural earthquake that was the original Night Stalker.
A sort of contemporary noir, it concerned Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin, in a towering performance), a down-and-out reporter in Las Vegas who stumbles upon the story of his career when a string of exsanguinated murder victims leads to only one possible conclusion: The killer is a real-life vampire, Janos Skorzeny, who came to these shores from the Old World decades ago and has been claiming victims ever since.
The only way to repel Skorzeny is with a cross, and the only way to kill him is with a stake through the heart. Spoiler alert: Kolchak is forced to perform the fatal deed, and for his bravery, the city fathers run him out of town, preferring to bury the truth rather than face it. In the last of his many voice-overs, Kolchak challenges us to convince ourselves "it couldn't happen here." I couldn't, and neither could a whole generation of TV viewers.
In a TV landscape populated mostly by cops, doctors and lawyers, The Night Stalker was unlike anything else. It featured an irascible, flawed hero who challenged authority and championed the truth, charming and bribing whomever it took to get it. Its ending was haunting, not happy, and most of all it was scary as hell.
In the 1990s, The X-Files was famously influenced by The Night Stalker, to the point that we named a recurring character after Matheson (a senator who aided Agent Mulder in the first two seasons) and wrote McGavin himself into the series as Arthur Dales, who first uncovered the FBI's X-Files decades before Mulder and Scully.
But today the Night Stalker DVD is out of print, and you won't find it on iTunes, Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. (Even back in 2005, when I attempted a Night Stalker remake, some network execs had either never seen the original or didn't remember that it featured monsters -- and, to my incredulity, insisted my version feature none.)
The fate of The Night Stalker may give pause to those of us who seek to make television not for the overnights, but for the ages. If a work as towering as The Night Stalker can fall into obscurity, what fate awaits today's television giants?
It's an injustice that screams to be rectified and doubtless will be. Besides, something as powerful as The Night Stalker could never really die. Its narrative DNA wrapped itself deeply into the imagination of a generation of storytellers, who in turn will influence the next generation, and they the next. The Night Stalker lives.
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