David Live was David Bowie’s first official live album, originally released by RCA Records (RCA APL20771) in 1974. The album was recorded at the 3,119-seater Tower Theatre in Philadelphia during the initial leg of David’s US tour of the Diamond Dogs Show. The venue was chosen because of its natural acoustic properties, being used since the early 1970s for recording live albums by many bands. The David Live album caught David in transition from the glam-rock era of his career to the “plastic soul” of Young Americans.

Sleeve notes on the original vinyl issue incorrectly stated that the recording was “…culled from performances on the 14th & 15th July 1974”, when in fact the album was made up from no less than six performances recorded between and including the 8th and 13th of July. A matinee performance was scheduled for the 13th but was later cancelled, although the evening one went ahead.



The Tower Theatre concerts gave rise to a backstage revolt by David's touring band. Having been informed at short notice that these shows would be professionally recorded for an official album release, and that David's management, Mainman, intended to pay the band members only the standard union fee required for a live performance (a mere $150), the band - lead by Herbie Flowers - confronted Bowie an hour before the first show and refused to take the stage unless they received the standard recording rate of $5,000 fee per member. Though Bowie acceded to their demands, several members of the band (including Mike Garson and Herbie Flowers) have since remarked that the tension of this confrontation was audible in the somewhat stilted performances found on the live album.
Earl Slick: "They didn't even tell us ahead of time that they were recording the shows. Back in the day, if you were recording, there were two microphones on everything: one would go to the venue's sound, and one would go to the mobile recording truck. At sound check, I didn't think anything of it, but Herbie picked up on it right away. Tony Defries was one of the biggest fucking shysters on the planet, and I had gotten a letter pushed under my hotel door offering me $300 basically to give my rights over. Not long after that, Herbie is on the phone with everyone saying 'This is bullshit, we're not gonna' do this.' Then Herbie got us all together and said, basically, that we shouldn't do any shows unless they came up with something reasonable. Eventually, they negotiated a figure and we went on, but not before things had got ugly - very ugly. On top of that, we still didn't get paid. In the end, we had to sue David, and that was when we were still on the road with him.
Also, RCA’s demands for a quick release of the vinyl meant that post-production of the recording was compromised, which affected the final sound.

The shows were recorded on location by the RCA mobile unit. Tony Visconti was originally hired to oversee engineering and recording on site, but his journey from New York to Philadelphia was unfortunately delayed when his car broke down. As a result, enigineer Keith Harwood supervised the recording. But Visconti’s instructions went ignored, resulting in the improper placement of stage microphones and causing many of the musical instruments (namely drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, saxophones, oboe, flute) and vocals to be incorrectly isolated. Also, the recording of the vocals of the two backing singers and dancers (Warren Peace and Gui Andrisano) were flawed due to the constant movement of their microphones as they danced on stage. Added to this, entire sections of some of the musicians’ recorded tracks had been accidentally wiped, namely Mike Garson’s piano during ‘Aladdin Sane’!

Post-production took place during the last week in July 1974 at Electric Lady Studios in New York, once David had finished the first leg of the tour. Here David, together with producer Tony Visconti, and mixing engineer Edwin H. Kramer mixed and edited the 16-track masters. During these sessions, it was decided that some of Warren’s and Gui’s backing vocals had to be re-recorded, along with Mike Garson’s missing piano track and some of the horns, all of which were over-dubbed onto the original recordings in one day. Eddie Kramer then proceeded to engineer the mixes the following day. Again, post-production sessions were rushed because David’s manager, Tony Defries, wanted to secure a deal with RCA to ensure the album would be released in time for the 2nd leg of the tour in September. 

Tony Visconti: "David just took it upon himself to record the show for posterity, and then liked what he heard and decided to mix it into his first live album. David and I went to Electric Lady studios, just to listen to what was on the multi-tracks. Resident engineer Eddie Kramer intercepted us: 'I'm the only one who knows how to operate the complicated console in the studio'. Since the console and the studio were alien to me, I felt Kramer should play an active role. Kramer's habit of throwing his head back as he 'played' the mixing console like a concert pianist was a little overdone.



The sound quality on the master tapes was terrible and there wasn't much I could do in those days given the limitations of the equipment. We loved the spirits of the concerts, the performances were lively and the vibe was right. But there were some technical problems, which were no reflection on the engineer, Keith Harwood. Anything can happen during a live recording and it usually does. There is no luxury of a take two. The drums were sounding good, but the bass was very thin-sounding. The percussionist's microphones had picked up everyone else's instruments and the backing singers and horn players were often sporadically off microphone due to excitement, I guess. But David's vocals sounded wonderful, which was reason enough to make this project work. It was obvious that some things needed fixing. There was too much instrument spillage on their mix and their blend could have been better (they were "locked" on one audio track, so re-balancing was impossible). Geoffrey and Gui sang their original parts in a few hours, but we used as much of the original vocals as possible. Some of the horn parts were also re-recorded because of technical difficulties. I have been asked if David's voice had been over-dubbed in some cases, because it didn't match up with bootlegs of the Tower shows. We did not fix David's lead vocals, so those bootlegs must be from alternative nights. David Live is David - live!"

If you listen to the [original] recording, you'll hear that it's very brittle and lacks depth. For the twelve musicians or so that Bowie had on stage, it sounds very puny. It was one of the quickest and shoddiest albums I've ever done and I'm not proud of it at all."


In July 2004, Backstage Auctions Inc. hosted a sale of items from engineer Eddie Kramer's personal collection. Amongst these items were 1/4 inch un-mastered tapes and mastered test pressings for both the David Live album and the 'Knock On Wood' single.

Pictured below are four boxes, each containing a 7inch reel of 1/4 inch 7.5ips demo tape for the planned live album, one tape per side of vinyl, in Eddie Kramer's own handwriting. These tapes were sold together at the auction for $1,071.77:

This is a label dated 20th August 1974 that accompanied acetates and a test pressing of the album, indicating the title was to be Wham Bam! Thank You Mam! These items sold together for $1,035.19:


Tony Visconti: "This is the very same original David Live album, the mixes are the same, un-mastered on the tape and mastered on the acetate. David goes through several titles of a new album before one sticks and this title probably lasted for 3 days. I don't even remember it. For instance Young Americans was called The Gouster and that was written all over my tape boxes when I left Philly."


Here are the labels from two one-sided 10 inch acetates for the proposed September 1974 release of the single Knock On Wood. These two acetates sold together for $1,980.00:





David Live was eventually released on the 29th October 1974 (RCA APL20771). Because of the restraints of running time on vinyl, no less than four live songs were omitted. These songs were ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Panic In Detroit’, ‘Time’ and David's cover of the Ohio Players 1968 song ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’, performed only at the Tower shows. The Hunger City sound effects (a 10 minute pre-recorded musique concrète sequence of urban city noises blended with strange electronic sounds played from tape at the start of each show before '1984') was omitted. Also 'Future Legend', originally played from tape during the show before the start of 'Diamond Dogs' was also omitted, together with David's band introduction at the very end of the show.

‘Panic In Detroit’ was the first of these outtakes to appear, when it was used as the B-side to the 1974 ‘Knock On Wood’ single.

Then in 1990, Ryko/EMI released David Live and included ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ and ‘Time’ as bonus tracks.

Finally in 2005, Tony Visconti was drafted in to completely remix and remaster the original tapes of David Live applying a new stereo mix and a 5.1 surround sound mix. All of the outtakes were reinstated and the album’s track listing was placed back to its original and correct running order that it was performed in, providing for the first time in 31 years a complete Diamond Dogs show. The remaster of David Live was released both on CD and DVD-Audio by EMI.

Tony Visconti: "I never liked the sound of David Live and was really gratified to get the chance to remix it in 2004 for a surround sound re-release. In all fairness to Eddie Kramer, the show wasn't recorded well and tools didn't exist in 1974 to fix some of the badly-recorded tracks - there were big problems. In 2004, engineer Mario McNulty and I microscopically scanned through the sound files and corrected every abrupt change of volume and sound that the recording engineer made back in 1974. the new sonic quality makes it sound as if it was recorded today. Whatever my feeling was at the time about David Live, it entered the UK charts at No.2 and remained in the charts for twelve weeks.

As the original vinyl release of David Live had time constraints, the entire show was never heard. The subsequent release on CD during the 1990s added three bonus tracks, 'Band Intro', 'Here Today, Gone Tomorrow' and 'Time'. We have found two more, 'Panic In Detroit' and 'Space Oddity'. Now the entire concert is presented here for the first time. At the request of many fans, we have restored the running order to the sequence of the actual show.

You might notice a different vocal quality in David's vocal on 'Space Oddity'. This was because it was sung into a telephone whilst he was sitting in a chair, suspended over the audience on a cherry picker. It is slightly distorted but modern technology has helped to make it sound clearer.

I always thought the original stereo mix could have been better. Although this new version was designed as a surround sound mix, (available on the DVDA release), we have included a new stereo mix derived from the surround sound mix. I think it is fuller and brighter than the original and that took some tricks with modern technology. This recording could be the next best thing to actually being there."


The 2005 issue of David Live is a significant improvement on all previous issues of the album, thanks to the labours of it's producer Tony Visconti. The sound has been restored and David's vocals are incredibly strong. The album feels much more 'live' than previous issues. A good example of the improved quality of the recording is 'Sweet Thing' where, for the first time, one hear the echo on David's opening vocals. People in the UK or Europe never had the chance to see this tour, so it's all in your head (helped by the unforgettable images one has from the BBC documentary Cracked Actor). The album sounded strange when it first came out and still sounds that way today with Bowie classics given unorthodox and radical musical treatments. It all adds to the strangeness of this album with classical instruments working majestically alongside the electrifying guitar work of Earl Slick. The best thing about the remaster is the inclusion of 'Space Oddity'. For many Bowie fans and collectors this will be the best 1974 recording of the song they now own (it's even better than the bootleg version from Los Angeles 1974). It's the eeriest live version of the song you'll ever hear and quite stunning. It is arguably the best official live album in the David Bowie catalogue, superior in many ways to Stage as a live album. The sheer tension and energy of the performance is really quite extraordinary. It is harsh and unforgiving throughout. For anyone seeking genuine Bowie magic you'll find it in abundance on this live album. David Live has consistently been under-appreciated but this new edition is an absolute treat, capturing Bowie at a singular and unique moment in his development as a singer and artist. 











Pro-shot Tower Theatre Footage :

At least one of David's Diamond Dogs shows at the Tower Theatre was professionally videoed by Mainman. This rare multi-angle footage supervised by John Dove, circulates amongst some collectors but isn't widely available. Here are two screen captures (with time-code) that have been released from the video:

Some of the footage was screened at the V&A's 'David Bowie Is...' exhibition. The exhibitors consulted with the David Bowie Archive to obtain it. Here is a brief 15 second snippet of the film:

'David Live' Press/TV & Radio Promos :

This 7" flexi-single disc (Lyntone LYN2929) was issued in September 1974 by RCA/Mainman free with every copy of the UK's Record Popswap Mirror magazine. It featured samples from eight classic Bowie singles to help promote his back-catalogue with RCA, the new release of his latest single 'Knock On Wood', and the then soon-to-be-released David Live album:

For evaluation purposes only, you can listen to this flexi-single here:


 A promotional TV commercial was made by Mainman in November 1974 to promote the David Live album. It featured David filmed in a studio miming to selected live snippets taken from the album. Two versions of the promo TV ad were cut:


30 second Mainman promo ad for David Live:


60 second Mainman promo ad for David Live:


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