Blog 15: Set Ending Stalwarts

Having started in March 2017, we had amassed a setlist of 20 songs by the middle of that year. Back in those days, our rehearsals were pretty demanding compared to how they are now in that we would be working on 3 or 4 new songs at any one time in order to equip ourselves with sufficient material for a gig. Encores initially were to be feared as with only 20 songs, we usually ended up playing some songs twice. Nowadays and with just over 40 songs that we can draw on if we need to, we can afford to be more relaxed in introducing new songs but as we are never ones to let the grass grow under our feet, we are continually working on new songs which we hope to include in our set shortly. (At the moment, in lockdown, as we can’t rehearse, the work to learn new songs is still going on individually).

So back to the early days. In her pre-band days, Jane had performed a number of Bowie songs as a solo artist. Five Years was an early one we worked on as a full band arrangement but as we approached our first full gig in August 2017, we were a little unsure whether we would have enough time to get the full 20 songs under our belts. One of Jane’s other solo Bowie songs was Let’s Dance which she played as a greatly stripped down acoustic version but it was a complete song and as such, it was like manna from heaven! Without a moment’s thought, it was in the setlist (often opening our second half) and remained so for quite some time.

Here is a photo that proves Jane did indeed play guitar on stage :

 

Having done who knows many rehearsals, a suggestion was made (Andrew will swear by him, as he has all the good ideas!) to try our hand at playing the recorded version – no mean feat given the quality of the band assembled for the recorded version which included both Nile Rodgers and the late, great, Stevie Ray Vaughan. How on earth were we supposed to replicate this? As is always the case, the guitar players decide who is doing what and we each focus on our individual parts, Andrew and Mel on the cluster of funk chords that signify the song, Allan and Phil on drums and bass and of course, Jane, on vocals. The addition of Alex on sax has taken us to another level altogether and in many ways and given the enormity of Let’s Dance, it was probably only a matter of time before it became a full band arrangement. It will undoubtedly remain a permanent fixture in our sets.

In the summer of 2019, we decided to play the entire Ziggy album from start to finish with this performance taking place at The Lion in Basford last October. On looking through the album’s running order we found ourselves playing a number of songs from this classic album already so to learn the rest didn’t feel like too tall an order. One song from the Ziggy Stardust album that we rehearsed and gigged very early on was Starman. The track was recorded in February 1972 and released as a single in April of that year (Suffragette City was the B side – this song took a break from our setlist for a while but frequent requests brought about its return). The basic premise of Starman is that Ziggy Stardust (the Starman’s earthly messenger) is bringing a message of hope to Earth, with the story of the song being told from the perspective of one of the youths who hear his message. Starman is one of those songs we really enjoy playing as it contrasts the dynamics of acoustic and electric guitars. Interestingly and given the unending popularity of the song, it was not one of Bowie’s preferred songs and wasn’t even a regular feature on the tour that accompanied the album. By all accounts, Bowie had stopped performing the song live by the end of 1972 but bought it back into his live shows in 1990 with it becoming a standard thereafter.

A slow burner on the popularity front, Starman was only intended to be released as a single originally but Bowie’s record label insisted it be included on the album. It had reached the Top 10 in the UK charts by June thanks to the popularity it garnered as a result of touring and TV appearances and today it remains one of Bowie’s most iconic and enduring tracks which serves as a rousing finale to our set.

It was also one of the songs we recorded at ROFL way back in January 2018, when we needed some promo material. We’ve come a long way since then (and we’ve aged!) but it’s still a good fun little video to share: https://youtu.be/aT2kv4N24wA