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The David Bowie 'No Quad Releases' Mystery

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steelydave

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This comes up here from time to time - I think most recently @JonUrban 's post in the CBS mastered CD-4 titles for the WEA Group thread - in a late 1974 issue of Billboard, an RCA employee called Larry Schnapf said that they expected to release a David Bowie CD-4 (and one by John Denver) in January 1975 - presumably it would've been Diamond Dogs, which was released in 1974, and not Young Americans, which didn't come out until March, 1975.

1608860061156.png


Now we know this never came to pass, which is obviously a shame - and maybe even moreso that Young Americans didn't get the quad treatment, because it was recorded at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia, which did all the PIR (O'Jays, Harold Melvin, MFSB, etc.) quad mixes, which are some of the best the quad format has to offer. It's always been kind of a mystery as to why RCA wouldn't release quad mixes of one of their most promient rock acts, especially since almost every other big name from the label had one (or more) quad releases.

While looking for something else tonight, I came across an interview with Ken Glancy, the president of RCA Records, and a number of other top RCA execs in the July 31st, 1976 issue (pg. 26) of Billboard magazine. The interview covers a range of topics including quad, and it comes at an interesting time because it was right at the tail end of RCA's quad output - I think in 1976 they only put out one rock title (Jefferson Starship's Spitfire) and maybe a dozen other titles between easy listening and classical. It's a pretty candid interview, an Glancy mentions Bowie specifically with regards to RCA's failings in quad:

1608862143169.png


So there you go, there was no Bowie in quad, because he "takes an artistic stand against 4-channel." Kind of ironic, given how firmly he embraced surround in the DVD-A/SACD era.

Glancy is also equally candid about RCA's quad past and future later in the article - 'Shepard' is Thomas Z. Shepard, who was a co-director of CBS Masterworks (and a big proponent of quad in general) who left CBS in 1974 to head RCA's Red Seal classical label. I don't think it's any coincidence that the number of Red Seal quad releases went way up the same year he joined the company.

1608862802472.png
 

J. PUPSTER

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This comes up here from time to time - I think most recently @JonUrban 's post in the CBS mastered CD-4 titles for the WEA Group thread - in a late 1974 issue of Billboard, an RCA employee called Larry Schnapf said that they expected to release a David Bowie CD-4 (and one by John Denver) in January 1975 - presumably it would've been Diamond Dogs, which was released in 1974, and not Young Americans, which didn't come out until March, 1975.

View attachment 60758

Now we know this never came to pass, which is obviously a shame - and maybe even moreso that Young Americans didn't get the quad treatment, because it was recorded at Sigma Sound in Philadelphia, which did all the PIR (O'Jays, Harold Melvin, MFSB, etc.) quad mixes, which are some of the best the quad format has to offer. It's always been kind of a mystery as to why RCA wouldn't release quad mixes of one of their most promient rock acts, especially since almost every other big name from the label had one (or more) quad releases.

While looking for something else tonight, I came across an interview with Ken Glancy, the president of RCA Records, and a number of other top RCA execs in the July 31st, 1976 issue (pg. 26) of Billboard magazine. The interview covers a range of topics including quad, and it comes at an interesting time because it was right at the tail end of RCA's quad output - I think in 1976 they only put out one rock title (Jefferson Starship's Spitfire) and maybe a dozen other titles between easy listening and classical. It's a pretty candid interview, an Glancy mentions Bowie specifically with regards to RCA's failings in quad:

View attachment 60760

So there you go, there was no Bowie in quad, because he "takes an artistic stand against 4-channel." Kind of ironic, given how firmly he embraced surround in the DVD-A/SACD era.

Glancy is also equally candid about RCA's quad past and future later in the article - 'Shepard' is Thomas Z. Shepard, who was a co-director of CBS Masterworks (and a big proponent of quad in general) who left CBS in 1974 to head RCA's Red Seal classical label. I don't think it's any coincidence that the number of Red Seal quad releases went way up the same year he joined the company.

View attachment 60761
I'm thinking with what Bowie did later in surround, perhaps it was more about the format technologies of the time and their respective market acceptance, rather than Quad for its artistic aspect, regardless of what Glancy stated for the reason. Sometimes positions are taken as cover or spin; but just speculation by me. Obliviously that stand by Bowie changed.

 

kfbkfb

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So far, I haven't found the reference (might be in some of the lesser known 1970s-80s HiFi/audio related consumer magazines), but I also read that David Bowie was quite opposed to making Quad mixes of his albums (on second thought, the Billboard article might be it, I remember something about him being emotional about the Quad album issue).


Kirk Bayne
 

4-earredwonder

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LIKE MYSELF, YOU WOULD'VE THUNK THAT BOWIE WOULD'VE AT LEAST EMBRACED DISCRETE QUAD OPEN REEL AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE PROBLEMATIC DECODERS INCLUDING EXTREME PROPER SET UP OF TURNTABLE/TONE ARM/CARTRIDGE ALIGNMENT AND EVEN THOMAS Z. SHEPHARD'S STATEMENT REGARDING SINGLE INVENTORY QUADRADISCS: "If you care a lot about your stereo customers~90% of the business~you don't want to shaft them on stereo quality by going single inventory" acknowledging that there were problems, even then, with the quality control of QUADRADISCS...and that indeed ONE SIZE DIDN'T FIT ALL!

But now that we have the proper hardware and software tools to do exquisite surround reissues, hopefully Tony Visconti will start remixing Bowie's exquisite back catalogue for a new generation of David FANATICS!
 
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4-earredwonder

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I'm thinking with what Bowie did later in surround, perhaps it was more about the format technologies of the time and their respective market acceptance, rather than Quad for its artistic aspect, regardless of what Glancy stated for the reason. Sometimes positions are taken as cover or spin; but just speculation by me. Obliviously that stand by Bowie changed.

GREAT news about a possible 5.1 remix of BLACKSTAR. Listening to that album, the dense layers would be a prime requisite for SURROUND! As always, fingers [and toes] CROSSED!
 

halbroome

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GREAT news about a possible 5.1 remix of BLACKSTAR. Listening to that album, the dense layers would be a prime requisite for SURROUND! As always, fingers [and toes] CROSSED!
The article was from three years ago -- the weirdly worded first sentence might have meant "in May" or "it may." Something is missing, either way. That long ago, I'm not hopeful, sigh, but it would be wonderful. Better not wait for a ten-year anniversary, none of us is getting younger :( .
 

gvl_guy

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One artist that also shocked me, who didn't have quads, was Linda Ronstadt. She was a huge Warner artist right around the time one quads were coming out. She had so many albums! I always wondered why none of hers were released in quad. Although, David Bowie's music could probably be more adventurous in quad than Linda's.
 

GOS

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I'm thinking with what Bowie did later in surround, perhaps it was more about the format technologies of the time and their respective market acceptance, rather than Quad for its artistic aspect, regardless of what Glancy stated for the reason. Sometimes positions are taken as cover or spin; but just speculation by me. Obliviously that stand by Bowie changed.

Ugh, that article is from 2017. Likely no 5.1 mix as it said it might come in "may".
 

kfbkfb

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One of the few classical CD-4 discs I have: Nonesuch HQ-1284

I didn't hear it decoded until late 1992 when I got a Technics SH-400.

It's a music front channels, ambience back channels type recording. Having listened to it in stereo several times (speakers and headphones), the CD-4 folddown (that combines the music and ambience in this case) didn't sound too odd. Perhaps Mr. Shepard wasn't concerned about the CD-4 disc quality but was concerned about what the stereo listener of a single inventory CD-4 disc would hear due to the quad->stereo folddown (in his words, the stereo quality). Maybe the music/ambience relative volume levels would be fine for quad listening but the ambience would overpower the music in stereo (quad folddown) listening.


Kirk Bayne
 

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I'm thinking with what Bowie did later in surround, perhaps it was more about the format technologies of the time and their respective market acceptance, rather than Quad for its artistic aspect, regardless of what Glancy stated for the reason. Sometimes positions are taken as cover or spin; but just speculation by me. Obliviously that stand by Bowie changed.

If Visconti ever gets around to releasing a 5.1 mix of Blackstar, I hope he considers doing The Next Day (I understand he mentioned the possibility of of remixing Blackstar about 3 years ago, but Visconti along with David's estate might be waiting for the 'right time' do it).
 
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fizzywiggs41

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I have some information about quad records pending in the 70's from Bowie.

This is verbatim from Billboard magazine September 28 , 1974 page 20.

" At New York City's Electric Lady Studios , David Bowie was in recently to mix 4-
channel and stereo for a live double set co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti
and engineered by Eddie Kramer ."


So a good guess as to what quad album they would have prepared for a subsequent release
would be "David Live" . It was engineered by Eddie Kramer according to my DVDA (liner notes)
I could be wrong but I don't know of any other live double of Bowie's at that time in the 70'
that was prior to September 24th 1974.
 
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