November 8, 2011
As many familiar with this blog already know, I have written extensively about the reissue campaign for David Bowie’s 1976 album Station to Station (David Bowie’s Station to Station to be reissued in fancy 9-disc package; U.S. release date announced for Bowie’s Station to Station reissue; Advance copies for Bowie’s Station to Station features DVD-A). As I continue to receive many hits on my blog because of this coverage, I feel I must share the news (good or bad remains to be seen), that Bowie is considering leaving EMI Records, according to the “Financial Times” (Read more, but you will need to register for access).
Bowie’s office responded to inquiries with “no comment.” Meanwhile, an email to EMI Records in Los Angeles has not received a response. I will up-date this post as soon as I receive one. Up-date: my contact there could not comment, but she passed me queries up to corporate for a possible response.
One of the possible implications of Bowie’s decision to not sign a new contract with EMI could result in a whole new reissue campaign by another label he does wind up signing with. According to the article, Bowie is in talks with Universal or Sony Music. If he signs a new contract with Sony, that could provide new hope for those who missed out on the vinyl versions of his later-period albums, the especially great Heathen and Reality, the rights for which currently reside in the hands of Sony Records. But that is hopeful speculation on my part, since I would love to own those on vinyl.
More likely than anything, probably in late 2012, or maybe not until 2014, we will see reissues of his more famous albums from the seventies and eighties, which EMI has owned the rights to for some time. The last comprehensive Bowie catalog reissue happened in 1999, and that did little to repair flaws in mastering that has pervaded Bowie’s catalog ever since Rykodisc first reissued his albums in the early nineties. In recent years, every once in a while, EMI would reissue an occasional early Bowie album with a bonus disc featuring rare tracks from the respective periods, and even got into the reissuing of vinyl records only a few years ago. EMI seemed to just be getting around to covering the watershed Berlin-period Bowie, when this news arrived. Though there were never any firm, substantive plans to reissue albums like Low and “Heroes,” it seemed the logical step after last year’s Station to Station package.
The question remains how will any future re-issues be treated? It took awhile in the nineties for the Bowie catalog to re-appear on CD via the now defunct Rykodisc, which re-mastered all the pre-1983 albums with additional artwork, exclusive bonus tracks and even vinyl counterparts (though digitally sourced). RCA Records had lost its rights to the Bowie catalog in the mid-eighties, just as it began releasing a short run of analogue-sourced CDs, manufactured in both Japan and West Germany, that almost instantly became collectible and still go for good money on the collector’s market, even in today’s CD-tired era. Bowie has released albums on independent labels in the past, which all eventually wound up under EMI’s control, so the possibility remains he might go the indie route as well (see the Victory Records-released Tin Machine II album and the subsequent solo album, Black Tie White Noise on Savage Records). He could even go self-released, as the “Financial Times” article indicates. That move has proved lucrative for another former EMI act: Radiohead. Of course, Bowie’s an aged rock star, who quietly stopped recording about five years ago, so his audience is not going to equate Radiohead’s, but then he could gain the control he likes. This could wind up disappointing fans, however, as he proved quite tight-fisted with studio outtakes during the Ryko campaign.
Until January, when Bowie’s EMI contract expires, it’s wait and see. But this article today indeed hints that maybe fans will never see anything as luscious as that 9-disc Station to Station set, which included three vinyl records, from EMI. I’ll leave you with a cool video that would have been nice to see on a hypothetical DVD of the hypothetical “Heroes” reissue– something that has never been released on DVD, but is available via YouTube, a “video” of sorts for the instrumental “Sense of Doubt”: