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Sunday, 20 January 2013

David Bowie – Yassassin B/W Repetition 7 inch single (1979)

To celebrate the surprise release of the Where Are We Now? single on Bowie’s birthday, his first in ten years, I flicked through my singles and played a few of my favourite Bowie tunes. I stumbled upon this single, only released in Holland (the copy I have) and Turkey in July 1979. Yassassin is a song off my second favourite Bowie album, Lodger (1979). Yassassin is one of Bowie’s weirdest songs, somehow blending reggae (of sorts) and vague eastern flourishes; it’s a kind of new wave world music. An archetypal album track, it’s hardly single material and who knows how it went in Turkey, let alone Holland.

It is backed by Repetition, a topical song about domestic violence and working class despair. Normally I’m not a fan of topical songs, but Repetition has a warped abstract sound, a meta-lyric and a bass that that sounds like a trombone, all of which helps it transcend mere reportage.

I found this rare single in Melbourne at Greville Records in Prahran for $30. It was one of those great crate-digging days in which all kinds of fantastic finds fell into my vinyl - starved hands. It’s always a thrill to find old picture sleeve singles and this one features a photo from the DJ video, which was my first exposure to Bowie when it was shown on Simon Townsend’s Wonder World – what was Simon thinking! One curious thing though; the ultra useful Bowie site Illustrated DB Discography lists this single as being backed with Fantastic Voyage. The catalogue number is correct, so either I have an ultra rare miss-pressed single or the site is wrong - probably the latter.

Yassassin apparently means “long live” in Turkish, a sentiment I’d like to direct towards Bowie himself, who at 66 seems be entering a long overdue phase of recording albums for his own satisfaction, without any pressure to tour or have chart success. Bowie has nothing to prove and in this context he could produce some of the most interesting music of his career. Bring it on.

On his birthday - alive and brilliant. Photographed by Jimmy King 

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