On July 22, Virgin/EMI will release David Bowie: Live Santa Monica ’72 in Limited Edition CD and numbered 180-gram double vinyl LP packages and digitally. Previously unreleased, the October 20, 1972 concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was Bowie’s first live U.S. radio appearance, broadcasted by the now-defunct Los Angeles station KMET (“The Mighty Met,” 94.7 FM). The CD and double vinyl packages include photos taken at the show and a reprint of Robert Hilburn’s original Los Angeles Times concert review.
In 1972, David Bowie set out on his first U.S. tour. He’d recently introduced the world to his Ziggy Stardust persona with his album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and he had completed a hugely successful U.K. tour. Accompanying Bowie on tour were The Spiders From Mars: Mick Ronson – guitar, vocals; Trevor Bolder – bass; Mick “Woody” Woodmansey – drums; and Mike Garson – piano.
Hilburn captures the scene in the following excerpt from his concert review: “Bowie’s arrival on stage was accompanied by a marvelously designed slice of rock drama. The flashing strobe lights and strains of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ combined perfectly with the band’s futuristic space suits and Bowie’s own bisexual image to provide an aura of Clockwork Orange, not so much in the sense of violence as in an incredible sense of ‘nowness’ and the wave of the future. Future shock had arrived.”
The performance captured by David Bowie: Live Santa Monica ’72 is a standout for fans. In a 1981 poll, NME’s critics crowed, “(quite simply)… the performer’s, and one of rock’s, best ever bootlegs.”
David Bowie is also particularly fond of the concert recording, saying, “I can tell that I’m totally into being Ziggy by this stage of our touring. It’s no longer an act; I am him. This would be around the tenth American show for us and you can hear that we are all pretty high on ourselves. We trainwreck a couple of things, I miss some words and sometimes you wouldn’t know that pianist Mike Garson was onstage with us, but overall I really treasure this bootleg. Mick Ronson is at his blistering best.”
The setlist is compiled primarily from Bowie’s Hunky Dory and ‘Ziggy Stardust’ albums and features two covers, Jacques Brel’s “My Death” and the Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man,” alongside the awesome power of The Man Who Sold The World centerpiece “The Width Of A Circle” (this version is a ten-and-a-half-minute sonic assault) and an Aladdin Sane preview of “The Jean Genie.”
Hilburn’s Los Angeles Times concert review closes with these prescient words: “In his most intense and perhaps open portrayal of the evening, he assured the audience (in his ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide’ encore), ‘You’re not alone… gimme your hands.’ And the hands reached up for him. Bowie, there’s no doubt about it, is a major star, both in a commercial and, most importantly, an artistic sense.”