03 December, 2017

I read Atlas Shrugged (and now you don’t have to)

I read Atlas Shrugged because it has had a significant influence on political thought in the 60 years since its publication, and I wanted to have an informed opinion on it. I’ll declare that I have little time or respect for the politics of those who cite Ayn Rand as an influence but for all I knew, it might just have been a good story that was hijacked or misinterpreted.

It’s not.

First, the good parts:
In its own way, Atlas Shrugged is an early feminist novel. The lead character is a woman who runs a highly successful national company, yet the fact she is a woman in such a position is hardly ever mentioned. Furthermore, she’s not ashamed of her sexuality or of using it to get what she wants. This was challenging stuff in the 1950s.

Also, the fact that Rand exalts the creators and producers above the mere paper-pushers is refreshing. It’s unfortunate that it quickly crosses the line between admiration and fetish.

The important thing to know about Atlas Shrugged is that it is not fiction, it’s fantasy. There is an important distinction. Regular fiction still takes place in the world as we know it, where the laws of physics, economics and human nature still apply. Atlas Shrugged does not take place in this world.

In order for her premise to make sense, Rand has created a world populated only by geniuses and idiots. Yet somehow, the idiots have managed to enslave the geniuses. Meanwhile, the geniuses all magically turn out to be of the same worldview and can easily find each other to have sex together. Importantly though, they can only enjoy the sex if they know for certain that their partner is doing it only for their own pleasure. Rand had a weird sub/dom thing going on.

And it is boring as batshit.

The book could be one third as long and still say everything it wants to say. The other 600 pages are padded out with interminable soliloquies that bash the reader over the head with Rand’s philosophy, and that’s not even counting the notorious Galt speech. It’s been suggested that this is how Rand chose to tell the story. I can only believe this if people are saying she made a conscious decision to write badly.

It could be considered innovative to present a socio-economic manifesto in the form of a novel – for that is essentially what Atlas Shrugged is – but the problem is that the author gets to write the counter argument as well. Rand is either in love with her characters or despises them, and it shows in the dialogue she gives them. She stops just barely short of labelling them “good guy” and “bad guy.” While some of the lead characters make it to a second dimension, the antagonists’ dialogue makes even a 60s-era Batman villain sound deep by comparison.

Take this line for example:
Scientists know better than to believe in reason.
To put such a statement in the mouth of a character who is supposed to be one of the nation’s top scientists, without any hint of irony or satire proves either,
a)    this novel takes place in some Bizarro World where ‘science’ and ‘reason’ mean whatever the author wants them to mean, or
b)    Rand doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
Take your pick.

I have tried not to psychoanalyse the author, partly because many others already have, and partly because it’s tangential to the quality of the book. Still, it’s unavoidable in discussing the book as a whole. It’s clear that Rand does not believe her version of social Darwinism to be amoral. The piece of good left in her, Darth Vader-like, is that she recognises morality as a real thing which is to be aspired to and admired. So she attempts to flip the definition of morality – charity is evil; selfishness is a virtue; wealth is a measure of virtue.

She also addresses the problem mentioned earlier about fantasy versus fiction, stating on the about-the-author page:
I trust that no one will tell me that men such as I write about don’t exist. That this book has been written – and published – is my proof that they do.
Seriously? Tolkien could have used to same logic to argue that hobbits are real.
If this is the standard of proof considered acceptable by her acolytes, it explains a lot.

At best, Atlas Shrugged is simply the longest and most boring straw man argument in history. At worst, it may have caused the global financial crisis of the late 00s.

Don’t believe me? Consider this: Alan Greenspan was chairman of the US Federal Reserve for nearly 20 years and he exerted a huge influence on financial systems in the late 20th century. He was also a Rand groupie who read the first drafts of Atlas Shrugged, and a champion of the laissez faire capitalism the book promotes. When asked what went wrong, he had to admit that he had never considered that people would behave so irrationally – which brings us back to the laws of human nature. I would like to ask if he has ever met people. Better still, I would like to put to him the question that John Galt puts to the country in his radio speech:
“You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all that which you held to be good. Why then do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you?” 

While fetishising industry and commerce, the speech also contains a passage that inadvertently contradicts Rand and her fans’ love affair with the rugged individual:
“When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product…”
In other words, you didn’t build that.

I am not going to give Atlas Shrugged a one-star review, not because it deserves better but because every 1-star and 5-star review will understandably be assumed to have a political motive. The only way anyone could possibly regard this book as good writing is to be predisposed to Rand’s philosophy. Even if I were sympathetic to her worldview, I would be embarrassed that this is the best argument ever put for it. Having approached the book with an open mind, I can objectively advise that whatever commentaries you may have read tell you as much as you need to know.

Whatever damage has been done by those whose confirmation bias led them to believe that Atlas Shrugged has any basis in reality, Rand is correct in this one exchange on page 327:
“But, good God! The feeblest imbecile should be able to see the glaring contradictions in every one of your statements.”  “Let us put it this way, Dr. Stadler: the man who doesn’t see that, deserves to believe all my statements.”
Indeed they do!

30 November, 2017

30 unpopular opinions

Last month, I hopped on board a Twitter bandwagon. For every ‘like’ the first post gets, you’re supposed to post an unpopular opinion you hold. My tweet got 29 likes, and here’s what I said:

  1. Milk in tea is a crime against humanity.
  2. Kevin Rudd was a good prime minister while he lasted.
  3. Liam Gallagher's only talent is his ego.
  4. India pale ale has become really overrated.
  5. I don't get reddit.
  6. Brioche buns can get in the bin.
  7. I will never understand why intelligent people are interested in football.
  8. Hillary Clinton was a mediocre candidate who ran a bad campaign. Not saying she wasn't treated unfairly.
  9. Fosters > VB.
  10. Hiwatt > Marshall.
  11. People should probably consider adoption before IVF.
  12. I like grey, drippy days more than hot sunny days.
  13. I don't get Dan Nolan.
  14. I liked Ricky Gervais better when he was funny.
  15. I adore Douglas Adams, but he certainly did make a little go a long way.
  16. Next Generation > Original series.
  17. People should be able to take their teddy bears anywhere they like without being judged.
  18. The Final Cut is a bloody good album.
  19. There's really nothing wrong with picking your nose.
  20. I don't like the brash sound of brand new acoustic guitar strings. Silk wound sound the sweetest.
  21. Beetroot is not a food.
  22. Seinfeld is not and was never funny.
  23. Punk was crap. And that was the point.
  24. I have no problem with the southern cross as a national symbol. It needs to be reclaimed from racists and bogans.
  25. Spike is Elvis Costello's best album.
  26. Covers bands suck. In what other pursuit can you steal someone's act and be applauded for it?
  27. Attack of the Clones is pretty good.
  28. Spotify sucks.
  29. A lot of people who fancy themselves well-informed and broad minded have no idea of or interest in life beyond the tram lines.

  30. And one bonus opinion:
  31. If you want to support quality media, turn your ad-blockers off and click the ads on articles you like. It costs nothing and might just save your favourite paper.

13 August, 2017

On uniting the right

Something that needs to be remembered about the nazi rally in Charlottesville this weekend is that it was promoted under the banner of “unite the right.”

We have spent the whole of the 21st century being told, mostly by those on the right, that Muslims are expected to renounce terrorism (as if they don’t) if they are to be considered members of society, and that leftists (whatever the hell that even means) must reject Stalinism if they are to be heard.

I only hold people to the standards they expect of others.

If you identify as conservative, or right wing, or a Trump supporter – and I know there are good people who do – I get that you’re not on the side of the Charlottesville fascists.

BUT THEY ARE ON YOUR SIDE. And I humbly and respectfully suggest you seriously need to reflect on that.

Embed from Getty Images
If these are not your people, you need to say so.

I am not going to play a game of defining those I disagree with by the worst possible examples. No good can come from that. But for the whole of this century, the right has justified illegal and unnecessary wars by reminding us that all evil needs to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

So what are you going to do?

You can no longer say that these are just a rowdy, unrepresentative minority who don’t reflect your views. They’re out there saying they do. You thought Trump would go away if you ignored him. Now he’s president and these crowds are angry because they don’t think he’s being crazy and dictatorial enough.

I call upon conservatives and the right to make this the moment that really does unite the right - AGAINST fascism.

I know you shouldn’t have to. Muslims shouldn’t have to say they’re not terrorists either, but that’s the world you have created, so how about it?

I know there’s good in you. At least, I hope there is.

28 May, 2017

The Latham Diaries

I had always intended to read Barking Mark’s parliamentary diaries ever since they were first published. It wasn’t until my reading habits improved that I eventually got around to it.

At the time they came out, I actually had a lot of sympathy with Latham. I felt he had been treated unfairly, especially with the Labor Party referring disparagingly to “the Latham experiment” after he had tried to modernise the party. It wasn’t until he signed up with Channel 9 to act as a serial pest during the 2010 election that I lost all respect for him. Almost everything that has happened since has just been an embarrassment. Even so, I still wanted to read what he had to say before he went completely insane.

Much of his criticisms of the party, which go back well before his leadership, are entirely valid and remain so even now. His frustrations with machine politics are quite understandable and in some ways, ahead of their time. So too are his annoyances with a media more interested in trivia than policy.

However, the seeds of his later derangement are visible. He has much to say on the need for the Labor Party to separate itself from socially conservative unions who no longer have the numbers to swing elections. A fair point, but he also writes of his preference for the company of the knockabout Aussie larrikin – an overly blokey type of character represented by the kind of unions he was trying to break away from. Also, in choosing to out himself as the unnamed MP who told a female journalist at a drinks function that he was “going home to masturbate,” he reveals that he might not understand the distinction between being a larrikin and being a dickhead. Elsewhere, he rejects the notion that his attitude to women is a problem, and then refers to Michelle Grattan as ugly in the very next paragraph.

I couldn’t help but wonder what the Latham of 2005 would make of the Latham of 2017. Although the diaries reveal an ability to justify contradictory points of view, I still think the author of this book would be disgusted in a bloke who took Murdoch’s dollar to talk about recipes on a news channel (Broccolini, Mark? What self-respecting knockabout Aussie larrikin has even heard of broccolini?) and makes videos of himself wandering the streets of western Sydney looking for non-English speakers to humiliate. He has become one of the leading purveyors of the “downwards envy” he rightly criticised throughout his diaries.

The biggest message of the book should be what a toll party politics and being an MP takes on a doting family man. Unfortunately, his description of Bob Hawke on page 158 becomes an even more apt summation of Barking Mark himself: “A tub-thumper who degenerated into a clown.”

26 February, 2017

He won, get over it

I have to admit, there are a lot of people who just need to get over the fact that Donald Trump won the election.

At the top of the list is the president himself.

Following close behind are the majority of his administration.

In third place are all his supporters.

I thought I’d seen some sore winners in the second Bush administration, but at the very least they got on with the job, however badly.

Stop complaining about people whose duty it is to hold you to account. Working the ref’ is for losers!

Stop saying “we’re gonna…” The time for that is over. You don’t get to “tick off” promises by saying you “will.” Tell us what you are actually doing. Tell us what you have achieved.

You have the executive, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Any impediments to your agenda are entirely your own fault.

Stop the pathetic whining and START DOING YOUR DAMN JOB!

17 February, 2017

What if Obama had done that‽ - Episode 3

Good evening everyone, it's Friday night again and it's time again to play the world's most beloved game show. Period!

This week we have:

You know the rules by now:
Simply choose the one that would have had Ann Coulter screaming TREASON! the loudest if Obama had done it. 

This week's prize is your own personal replica Situation Room mounted on a Presidential selfie stick.

10 February, 2017

What if Obama had done that‽ - Episode 2

Good evening everyone, it's Friday night again and it's time again to play the world's fastest growing game show, 

This week we have:

As you know, the rules are very simple:
Just pick the one that would have had Fox News and their viewers frothing at the mouth the most if Obama had done it. There is a trick to this one!

Choose correctly and you will move on to the bonus round:


Make it through both rounds, and you will win a commemorative bust of Col. Henry Blake. (Who I hear is doing fantastic work, by the way. Everyone says so.)

03 February, 2017

Good evening everyone, it's Friday night and it's time once again to play the world's fastest growing game show, 

This week we have:
Forgetting to mention Jews on Holocaust Remembrance Day
Using the National Prayer Breakfast to talk about his TV ratings

Remember the rules are very simple:
Just pick the one that would have had the most conservatives screaming for impeachment and/or revolution if Obama had done it, for your chance to win a year's health insurance!

02 February, 2017

The heartlessness of the deal – An explainer for my American friends

45 is right. It’s a dumb deal.
Just not for the reason he thinks.

You see, since about 2001, successive Australian governments have been trying to shirk our international responsibilities regarding refugees by trying to palm them off onto various countries including Nauru, East Timor, Malaysia, Nauru again, Papua New Guinea and most recently, the United States.

Why? Mainly because the Murdoch media on behalf of the Liberal party* (or it might be the other way around – it’s hard to tell) has trained enough of its readers to be scared of brown people. Is this starting to sound familiar?
*Remember the conservative party in Australia call themselves the Liberals. Yes, it's weird.

So, with the exception of a brief blip during the Rudd government, three different governments and five different prime ministers (including Kevin Rudd’s brief second attempt) have spent the 21st century trying to outdo each other on border security by being as cruel as they possibly can to some of the most desperate and vulnerable people in the world.

Just in case you might be thinking the US and Australia have similar problems regarding illegal immigration, a couple of other points of perspective:
1: Seeking asylum is NOT illegal.
2: Australia is, as the anthem says, girt by sea. We don’t need some stupid wall. We’ve got a MOAT! We’ve got the best moat in the world. Trust me, you wouldn’t believe the size of our moat. You can’t even see the other side. It’s amazing. Everyone says so. You’d never want to try crossing our moat.

And yet, people still try. You’d have to be serious, wouldn’t you?
As that well known bleeding heart PJ O’Rourke once said,
“...the thing is when somebody gets on an exploding boat to come over here, they're willing to do that to get to Australia, you're missing out on some really good Australians if you don't let that person in.”
But we won’t, because that would require leadership, so we go looking for any other country with a Pacific coast to send them to.

And if that was 45’s reason for hanging up on Malcolm Turnbull, he’d have been right to do so. But that would mean having the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

Instead, according to reports that could only have come from those in the room, he accused Turnbull of seeking to export the next Boston bombers.

Seriously, Donald? The Boston bombers?
You do realise, don’t you, that the Boston bombers were from Russia? That’s R-U-S-S-I-A! You know, the place you’ve got a big ol’ embarrassing man-crush on?

And despite Australia being in such a pathetic position on this issue, is this how friends treat one another? Is this what we followed you into five wars since 1945 for? Is this why we’re your eyes and ears in the southern hemisphere? Is this how you intend to gain respect?
You’re determined to learn the hard way, aren’t you?

08 January, 2017

The Best of the Best-Ofs: David Bowie

This post has been a long time in the making with a lot of research to get it just right. The project started around the release of The Next Day. Time and life got away from me, and my next chance for an appropriate time was when Nothing Has Changed came out. Again, life got in the way of me completing the project and I had hoped Blackstar would provide the spur to get it finished. After what happened two days later, there was no way I was going to look like I was capitalising on that news.

It did give me more time to listen to and compare all the collections though so now, more than three years after the idea, on his 70th birthday, here is my guide to one of the most compiled artists ever…

This could seriously rank as one of the best Best-of albums ever. Although by now it features only a brief period of his career, it still stands as an excellent introduction to Bowie and great standalone album in its own right. It features the first album release of John, I’m Only Dancing.

The 40th Anniversary remaster shows a fair but not unreasonable amount of volume maximisation. Still one of the greatest album covers ever.

For: The original*, iconic cover, first album release of John, I’m Only Dancing
Against: Short, covers only a fraction of Bowie’s career.

Changes from CHANGESONEBOWIE, initial CD release
Changes from CHANGESONEBOWIE 40th anniversary edition

Bowie had delivered his final album to RCA the year before and was waiting for his contract with his ex-manager to expire when they released this sequel. Aesthetically, it matches ChangesOne in a tasteful way. The track selection is altogether more curious.

Although there had been plenty of changes to document since 1976, six out of the ten tracks date from before ChangesOne was released. They’re all worthy selections but these days it beggars belief that there could be a Bowie compilation that covers the 70s and doesn’t include ‘Heroes.’ The biggest attraction was that this was the first album release of John, I’m Only Dancing (Again). The versions of DJ, Fashion, and Ashes to Ashes are the single edits.

This album has never been included in any of the subsequent reissue campaigns. As such, it has never been remastered, so if you’re interested in the original 1970s masters, this collection is worth tracking down.

For: First album release of John, I’m Only Dancing (Again), unremastered
Against: Hard to find, virtually ignores the Berlin period.

Sidebar 1
REMASTERING: What even is it?
Mastering is the process of preparing the final mix of a recording for release by adjusting equalisation and volume for the best possible playback. Of course, best possible playback is an extremely subjective description because mastering is an extremely subjective process.

When it comes to remastering, it ain’t what you do but the way that you do it.

If an album has been remastered, it doesn’t mean they did a substandard job the first time around (although sometimes it does). As the decades drag on, there will always be technology that can make a recording that was mastered as best as they could at the time sound even better. Whether it does or doesn’t will always be a matter of taste but there are a few things to be aware of.

Firstly, don’t be fooled when you hear a record has been digitally remastered. If it’s being released in any kind of digital format including CD, then by definition, it’s been digitally mastered.

Other variables include the source used for remastering. Is it the original multitracks, the original stereo mix, or something further down the chain? If the original source is digital, what resolution is it? Who is doing the remastering – someone connected with or sympathetic to the artist, or record company staff engineers?

The most controversial aspect of remastering is what has become known as the loudness war, best illustrated by this video:

Digital formats allow artificial evening out of the volume of a song which would be physically impossible on a format like vinyl, which is ultimately an acoustic form of reproduction. This is why some people insist that LPs have a more natural sound than digital formats. It’s not that CDs can’t sound the same as LPs, it’s just that they are often mastered differently.

Another name for this volume maximisation is ‘brickwalling’ for the way it makes the waveform look. Making every part of a sound as loud as every other part might make it cut through on the radio or in a crowded bar, but it can also contribute to listener fatigue and possibly hearing damage with prolonged exposure at excessive volume. Still, some people prefer it that way, and that’s okay if you’re into that kind of thing.

The upshot is that saying an album has been remastered doesn’t necessary mean it’s going to sound better, or worse, or noticeably different at all. If in doubt, believe your ears.

Ten years, and at least three different Bowie images on, and the time was right for CHANGESTHREEBOWIE. But that would have been obvious, wouldn’t it?

ChangesBowie essentially an update patch for the original to include the early 80s hits (although nothing post-1984) and ‘Heroes’, plus a new remix of Fame. The track-listing is loosely chronological.

To illustrate the changes over the years, they took the original cover and randomly slapped details of other album covers over it so it ends up looking like your year 9 school folder.

Fame 90 is a rather forgettable remix and very n-n-n-nineties. Some reissues have replaced it with the original version. The double vinyl version of the album also includes Starman, Life on Mars? and Sound and Vision.

For: Only album release of Fame 90.
Against: Terrible cover.

The Singles Collection - 1993
Being true to its title means The Singles Collection gets to avoid any disagreements over whether any of the selections count as either hits or Bowie’s best. Therefore, tracks such as Sorrow, Drive-In Saturday, TVC15 and Beauty and the Beast make their compilation debuts here.

It’s not a complete collection. The single version of The Prettiest Star is not included and several 80s and early 90s singles are ignored. However, it is the first album to include Alabama Song and Dancing in the Street, as well as being the first Bowie album to include Under Pressure, This is Not America, and Absolute Beginners.

The track sequencing is mostly chronological according to single release, which is why Life on Mars? pops up between Drive-In Saturday and Sorrow, while Wild Is the Wind comes after Under Pressure due to it being released as a single to support CHANGESTWOBOWIE. Of all the collections, this one features the full version of Ashes to Ashes rather than the single edit.

The US version of the album has a slightly different tracklisting to reflect the US singles. Notable additions include Oh! You Pretty Things, Be My Wife, Cat People (Putting Out Fire), Loving the Alien and the underrated Jump They Say.

For: Includes several non-album singles.
Against: Doesn’t include all non-album singles.
Changes from The Singles Collection

The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974 - 1997
It makes sense to divide Bowie’s career into certain phases for compiling and this first volume in a series does a pretty good job of showcasing what could arguably be called the Mick Ronson/Spiders from Mars years.

Having a full CD for the early 70s period allows them to add less obvious but high quality selections such as Aladdin Sane and The Man Who Sold the World, the latter having been introduced to the 90s generation by Nirvana’s cover.

For long-term fans who already have the obvious selections, there’s the rare saxophone version of John, I’m Only Dancing, the original single version of The Prettiest Star featuring Marc Bolan on guitar, the rare B-side Velvet Goldmine (which had recently become the title song of a movie), and Bowie’s own, unreleased version of All the Young Dudes.

The tracks are sequenced in the interests of album flow, and it’s the only compilation to include Suffragette City but not have it following Ziggy Stardust. The album seems very loosely divided between a rock half and a more mellow half.

For: Several non-album and rare tracks.
Against: Only covers part of Bowie’s career, obvs.
Changes from The Platinum Collection/The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974

The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979 - 1998
The second volume follows Bowie from Philly to Berlin yet despite this being one of his most creative periods, there’s something vaguely unsatisfying about this representation of it.

John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) is included, making it the easiest way to get the song today, plus a cover of Springsteen’s It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City, previously only available on Sound + Vision.

It does feel like there’s a bit of padding on this collection to fill out the CD. Knock On Wood, already included on The Singles Collection, could easily have been traded out for something from the Stage album, and it would have been nice to have one of the more accessible Berlin instrumentals like V2 Schneider or A New Career in a New Town.

For: Easiest way to get John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)
Against: Seems a bit padded.

The Best of David Bowie 1980/1987 - 2007
There are those, including many hardcore Bowie fans, who will argue that he didn’t do anything decent after Scary Monsters. This is of course a load of twaddle and those people need to get the batteries in their hearing aids replaced. Having said that, is it fair to say that Bowie had quality control issues during the 80s.

The best thing about this collection is that it includes all of Bowie’s film songs from the 80s including Cat People (Putting Out Fire), This is Not America, When the Wind Blows, Absolute Beginners and Underground.  It also includes Alabama Song and The Drowned Girl, the latter previously only available on the Baal EP.

Thematically, the album hangs together remarkably well with Loving the Alien following on from This Is Not America for example.

The initial release of 1980/1987 included a DVD of video clips of the songs.

For: Good rehabilitation of Bowie’s 80s work, features all the film songs.
Against: Has no follow-up

The Platinum Collection - 2005
Well-priced 3-disc collection of the above. Possibly the best introduction to Bowie. 

Sidebar 2
The missing piece
Until Nothing Has Changed, every Bowie compilation sold his career short in one way or another, but mostly by giving the impression that it ended in 1987. Even Best of Bowie makes only a token reference to his 90s output.

The Platinum Collection would be made complete if it added a fourth disc with a tracklist that went something like this:

Image by Harry W
1 – Under the God;  2 – Fame 90;  3 – Goodbye Mr. Ed;  4 – Real Cool World;  5 – Jump They Say (Rock Mix);  6 – Black Tie White Noise;  7 – The Buddha of Suburbia;  8 – The Heart’s Filthy Lesson;  9 – Hallo Spaceboy (PSB version);  10 – Little Wonder;  11 – Dead Man Walking;  12 – I’m Afraid of Americans;  13 – Thursday’s Child;  14 – Seven;  15 – Survive;  16 – Slow Burn;  17 – Everyone Says ‘Hi’;  18 – New Killer Star;  19 – Rebel Never Gets Old
(The Next Day and deserve to stand alone)

Best of Bowie - 2002
Released between 1974/1979 and 1980/1987, this 2-disc collection is notable for being the first to not ignore everything Bowie had done in the previous 15 years.

For reasons unknown the track listing is slightly different in every region it was released in. In general though, it’s a good, career-spanning collection that includes the best-known non-album singles, including the Pet Shop Boys version of Hallo Spaceboy.

While decent in its day, better compilations have been released since.

There was also a single-disc version released that contains only the radio songs and only acknowledges any post-1985 work in the form of Slow Burn, the most recent single at the time

The double DVD of the same title is the best Bowie video collection ever released.

For: Career-spanning in its day
Against: Made somewhat redundant by what came after
Changes from Best of Bowie

Sound+Vision - 1989/2003
Originally released as a luxury box set at the beginning of a reissues campaign when Bowie regained control of his back-catalogue, this collection was reissued in an expanded but more compact and affordable form in 2003, which is the version this review looks at.

It’s a great set for collectors since it includes many rarities (some of which have become less rare with subsequent releases) including the demo of Space Oddity, the cover of Chuck Berry’s Round and Round, London Bye Ta-Ta, the US single mix of Rebel Rebel, Helden (German version of ‘Heroes’) and the full version of Cat People (Putting Out Fire) among many others.

However, these treats are interspersed with the regular album or single versions of tracks that any collector would already have. As such, it’s a bit of a mish-mash, but well worth the current purchase price.

For: Many rarities, only compilation to include Tin Machine
Against: Padded out with tracks easily available elsewhere
Changes from Sound+Vision

iSelect - 2008
Originally compiled for a giveaway with a British Sunday newspaper, a combination of popular demand and Bowie’s fondness for the set led to a commercial release.

Chosen by Bowie himself, it’s a collection of personal favourites selected without regard for popularity. It’s currently the easiest way to get the Low era outtake Some Are, and was the first release of the MM remix of Time Will Crawl.

For: Bowie’s own personal best
Against: Light on hits and singles.

Nothing Has Changed. 3-disc edition - 2014
The 3-disc version deserves a separate review because it’s effectively a completely different album to the shorter options.

Firstly, regardless anything you read (including the remainder of this post), this is the only truly career-spanning Bowie compilation ever released. Anything that doesn’t go back any further than Space Oddity is ignoring the first five years of his career.

This one goes all the way back to Liza Jane, released in 1964 as Davie Jones and the King Bees. What’s more, it does it Benjamin Button style in reverse chronological order.

There’s plenty here to attract long-term fans. In addition to the original version of Sue (or In a Season of Crime), it includes the first official release of three tracks from the shelved Toy album, the MM remix of Time Will Crawl, subtle remixes of Wild is the Wind and Young Americans, and the aforementioned early tracks. While it’s often cheeky and presumptuous to include previously unreleased material on a best-of album, they all fit and flow perfectly.

With its mysterious title and (spoiler alert) answer in the inner artwork that ‘Everything has changed,’ this is easily the most complete, most artful, most BOWIE collection of them all. The only slight shortcoming is that the reverse track order could prove a bit challenging for the Bowie novice.

For: Truly career-spanning, plenty of rare tracks.
Against: Slightly eccentric track order (mind you, if slightly eccentric isn’t your thing, why are you even interested in David Bowie?)
Changes from Nothing Has Changed.

Nothing Has Changed. 1 & 2 disc editions - 2014
The 2-disc version of Nothing Has Changed follows a much more conventional path. The first disc is extremely similar to Best Of Bowie, dropping Suffragette City in favour of Moonage Daydream and also adding the previously unreleased stereo version of All the Young Dudes.

Disc 2 brings in Thursday’s Child, Everyone Says ‘Hi,’ and New Killer Star as well as the ‘Hello Steve Reich’ mix of Love is Lost (previously only available on the bonus disc reissue of The Next Day) and Where Are We Now? In keeping with the (forwards) chronological order, Sue (or In a Season of Crime) concludes the album.

The single disc edition mixes things up again. Rather than just being a culled version of the 2-disc set, this one follows no chronological order and in fact starts off with some 80s hits before going back to the 70s and then mixing the eras at will.

This is the only album release of the radio edit of Sue (or In a Season of Crime). This is not the shorter, re-recorded version released on .

For: Career-spanning, stereo version of All the Young Dudes, original version of Sue (or In a Season of Crime)
Against: Not much, really.

Legacy - 2016
Really? Who decided this was necessary?

It may be fully career-spanning, but there has only been one album released since the previous career-spanning collection, so this really smacks of cashing in. Some of the promotional material talked up the fact that it includes the single versions of the tracks where they exist. As if every other compilation hasn’t included the single edits? Queen Bitch please! And the single edit of ‘Heroes’ has always been a travesty which ruins the drama of the song.

Also, the cover recalls some of the cheap and nasty compilations of the late 70s and early 80s (see below). In fairness though, the images inside the booklet are far better and more appropriate than the front cover.

As far as the track selections go, this is almost a carbon copy of the 2-disc version of Nothing Has Changed. Love is Lost and Sue (or In a Season of Crime) are dropped in favour of Slow Burn, the single edit of Lazarus and I Can’t Give Everything Away. While the latter two are both worthy inclusions, there isn’t a serious Bowie fan on Earth who doesn’t already have them on and it does mean the collection ends on a bit of downer.

The tracks on disc 1 are identical to those on the first disc of the double version of Nothing Has Changed, except for the inclusion of a remix of Life on Mars? It is a beautiful mix, stripping out the drums and guitar leaving only the piano and orchestra, but again it seems like a cynical addition to make fans buy this largely redundant collection.

The single-disc version, like the single disc version of Nothing Has Changed, has a non-chronological track order but still includes the remix of Life on Mars? and the single edit of Lazarus, making it the choice for completists on a budget.

For: Career-spanning, lovely remix of Life on Mars?
Against: Basically a re-tread of Nothing Has Changed, rubbish cover.

If you had to choose one, choose…
Look, this is really hard. The 3-disc version of Nothing Has Changed is far and away the most complete collection but the reverse track order and inclusion of rarities may be off-putting to some newcomers. The Platinum Collection is an excellent, economical introduction but misses all the good work he did in the 90s and 00s.

If these mini box-sets seem a little too daunting, start with the 2-disc version of Nothing Has Changed. Or Legacy if you want. It’s much of a muchness really.

See also,

The World of David Bowie - 1970
* Well alright, this is arguably the ‘original’ Bowie compilation. As Bowie’s star continued to rise, Decca did their best to squeeze as much value as possible out of the relatively small amount of material he recorded for their Deram label. (see below)

If the oldest Bowie song you know is the widely released version of Space Oddity, then you’re in for a shock. Although most of these tracks were recorded in swinging London during the summer of love, the style they owe the most to is music hall.

While incomplete, this volume of Decca’s perennial ‘World of…’ series is notable because Bowie did choose the tracks. However, this shouldn’t be considered an endorsement since the album was going to be released with or without the artist’s input.

Images 1966–1967 - 1973
Double album collection or Deram recordings, including whole of his debut album, plus singles and B-sides. Reissued in 1976 with a Young Americans era cover photo.

Chameleon - 1979
Budget label collection which is interesting for its major focus on the Berlin period, including Breaking Glass, V2 Schneider and – praise be! – the full version of ‘Heroes.’

The Best of Bowie - 1980
Another budget label release. First collection brave enough to include Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide, as well as the live version of Breaking Glass and an edited version of Diamond Dogs.

Another Face - 1981
Decca recouping their investment in a slightly updated form. For a time, this was the best place to get The Laughing Gnome.

A Second Face - 1983
Follow-up to the above. More from the Deram years.


Golden Years - 1983
Curious exploitation collection focussing mainly on the mid-to-late 70s and for some reason, includes I Can’t Explain from Pinups rather than Sorrow.

Fame and Fashion - 1984
Yes, there are a lot of really obvious potential titles for Bowie compilations, aren’t there?
Yet another cheap exploitation collection, but gives a pretty decent overview of the 1969 to 1980 era.

The Deram Anthology - 1997
Currently the best place to get all the Deram tracks, including the whole of the debut album, singles and B-sides. Features the original version of Space Oddity, which is not the famous version everyone has heard.

Bowie at the Beeb - 2000
Collection of live-in-studio tracks recorded exclusively for the BBC. While clearly aimed at collectors and completists, it’s interesting for the fact that the recordings are owned by none of Bowie’s previous record companies. 

This means it’s the first compilation that includes early songs like In the Heat of the Morning, Karma Man, and a rocked-up version of Let Me Sleep Beside You alongside Spiders-era songs such as Queen Bitch, Moonage Daydream and Ziggy Stardust.

All Saints - 2001
What started out as a mix-tape for friends in 1993 was rearranged as a collection of instrumental works for commercial release in 2001. 

It draws mainly from Low and “Heroes” but also includes selections from The Buddha of Suburbia and a piece from Phillip Glass’s Low Symphony. The most accessible tracks are at the front of the record with the rest becoming an ambient chillout mix. 

While it’s a good idea to collect Bowie’s instrumental work, stripped of the context of their native albums, it risks becoming too much of a reasonably interesting thing. Good, but approach with caution.

Club Bowie - 2003
Collection of rare and (previously) unreleased club mixes. China Girl and the Club Bolly version of Let’s Dance are half decent. The rest are fairly generic if not unrecognisable. Inessential unless you’re the most passionate completist or a DJ (and are what you play).

The Collection - 2005
Curious budget collection that includes one non-single track from every Bowie album between 1969 and 1980 with the exception of Pinups

Worthwhile for anyone looking to explore beyond the hits but unsure where to start.

1966 - 2015
Decca wasn’t the only company Bowie was briefly signed to in the 60s that continued to wring the association dry. 

1966 is just the latest iteration of the half-dozen tracks recorded for Pye. They have been released multiple times under various titles, covers and labels. No one version is any better than the other.

See also: I Dig Everything - the Pye singles; Don’t Be Fooled by the Name; Early Bowie, et al.

Lazarus - 2016
It’s perhaps a bit of a ring-in to include this in a list of Bowie compilations, but it is a collection of some of his best loved songs, old and new, re-recorded and arranged with Bowie’s imprimatur.

This original cast recording of Bowie’s musical is given extra poignancy because it was made on 11 January, 2016 – the day after Bowie died.

Some of the arrangements are faithful to the originals while others, including The Man Who Sold the World, Changes, and Absolute Beginners are quite different. There are only brief moments when the performances become a little bit too Broadway.

A second disc contains Bowie’s own versions of the previously unreleased tracks featured in the musical.

I’m happy, hope you’re happy too.