A&E Network’s Live By Request isn’t so much a show as an occasional special. As the name implies, artists perform in front of a live audience and fans phone in requests. Since the show debuted with Tony Bennett on Valentines day in 1996 the show has featured a wide variety of artists including k.d. lang, Elton John, B.B. King, James Taylor, Santana, Blondie and many others. 

David Bowie’s episode was shot in New York and first aired on June 15, 2002. The show doesn’t have the flash of Bowie’s early work. Recorded the same year as the Heathens album and tour, this is more of an intimate show. It features a relaxed David Bowie as a mature David Bowie, rather than one of his many personas. 

It features songs from every Bowie era up to that date including, in order, “Fame”, “Changes”, “China Girl”, “Slow Burn”, “Starman”, “Let’s Dance”, “Slip Away”, “Ziggy Stardust”, “Heroes”, “5:15 The Angels Have Gone”, “Sound and Vision”, “Ashes to Ashes” and “I’m Afraid of Americans”.

Desmond Dekker (1941-2006) was a pioneer of ska, rocksteady and reggae music or at the very least was one of the individuals responsible for bringing Jamaican music to international audiences. The Israelites (1968) was one of the earliest Raggae/Ska songs to hit the charts. His early success paved the way for artists like Bob Marley.

His song “007 Shanty Town” was featured in the 1972 film “The Harder They Come” and Dekker became an icon of “Rude Boy” culture, taking it from the slums of Jamaica to the UK where his work gave rise to bands like the 2 tone/ska revival and bands like the Specials and the Beat (English Beat if you’re American).

Unfortunately, there isn’t much footage of Dekker performing as a young man (at least not full shows). This concert was recorded at the Dingwalls in London on February 24, 2002. Dekker died of a heart attack on May 25, 2006 at the age of 64.

Among people who were alive and paying attention in the 1980s, there is perhaps no album that is better known, first track to last, than the Violent Femmes self titled debut. 

The band is also a great example of how things used to "go viral" - very, very slowly. In August of 1981, the Pretenders were playing the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Pretenders guitarist James Honeyman-Scott (who died of a cocaine induced heart attack the following year) found the Femmes busking on a street corner near the theatre. Chrissie Hynde invited the band to do a quick set after the opening band and from there the band went on to their first record contract and initial success. Even that, however, did not happen over night. Their first album was well received and audiences began growing but the album and the band continued to build slowly in popularity for several years. In 1986, the single "Blister in the Sun" became the most requested song of the year at Los Angeles alternative station KROQ.

The band has gone on to record 8 albums interspersed with break ups, feuds and lawsuits within the band, changes in personnel and reunions. The Violent Femmes had hits into the early 90s and remained a great live act, but never seemed to fully recapture the stripped down country-gospel-punk infused garage rock sound of their early years.

This footage, taken from the "No, Let's Start Over" DVD release captures the band at the height of their glory playing at the The Lyceum in London in October of 1984. The set list includes "It's Gonna Rain", "Prove My Love", "Country Death Song", "Spiritual", "Confessions", "Faith", "Gimme the Car", "Black Girls", "Add it Up", "Blister in the Sun" and "Kiss Off".

January 28, 1982

Context: This show was recorded at something of a cultural turning point. Earlier in the same month the Commodore 64 home computer had been released, MTV had only been on the air for a few months and Ronald Reagan had been in office for just over a year. In the UK, Margaret Thatcher had been in office for about two years and unemployment hit a post-war high in the same month this show was recorded.

Musically, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was dominating the charts. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Toto, Toni Basil, Journey and Men at Work were also up there. It was a big year in film for sci-fi and horror with the release of Blade Runner, Tron, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Poltergeist and the Thing. It was also the year of Fast Times at Ridgemont High and First Blood. The stage was also set for 80s television with the premieres of Family Ties, Cheers, Knight Rider, Fame and Cagney and Lacey.

For the Clash, January of 1982 was also a turning point. This show, recorded in Tokyo, was part of a 30 day, 25 show tour of Asia and Australia that was set between the recording and release of Combat Rock. It was that album that finally made the Clash breakthrough artists in the United States but it was also the beginning of the end.

The Combat Rock sessions had been contentious and stressful. Immediately following this tour the Clash’s original drummer Topper Headon was kicked out of the band because of his heroin addiction.

"In the jazz days the saxophonist would be addicted to heroin, like Charlie Parker. The nature of the instrument means it's much better to be floating over the music, doing your thing, but it doesn't suit drumming, which is like nailing a nail into the floor. It's a precise thing. The beats have to be there and when Topper got addicted, he couldn't play anymore. It doesn't work with drums,” said Joe Strummer according to Rolling Stone.

However, the departure of Headon didn’t really make things right with the band again. They would only manage to produce one more album, Cut the Crap in 1985 (which barely made it out of the studio), before finally splitting for good.

Here are the Clash, at the tail end of the ‘good old days’ or the start of the ‘bad old days’ performing “London Calling”, “Safe European Home”, “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”, “Brand New Cadillac”, “Charlie Don’t Surf”, “Clampdown”, “This is Radio Clash”, “Armagideon Time”, “Jimmy Jazz”, “Tommy Gun”, “Fujiyama Mama”, “Police on My Back” and “White Riot”.

I am a huge music fan. It is one of the things that has defined me throughout life. My time exploring and discovering new music to love spans, roughly, the years 1983 to 2014. It is not that my love of finding new music is at an end. But, at the age of 44, after six years as the editor of NxEW.ca, I semi-retired from writing about it. At this stage in my life young people, the primary drivers of the music industry, shouldn't care what I think about new music anymore.

But what I can talk about with some authority is not-so-new music. Over the years I've been a witness to a lot of great music and have learned a great deal about the music that I am too young to remember.

So Music Tardis will, primarily through video (sometimes audio only) an exploration of the music of the past. This will include, but not be limited to, concerts, television appearances, interviews and documentary and will cover music from just about any era.

For some, this will be a re-living of their glory days. For others it will be brand new and a chance to discover things for the first time. New-to-me is, after all, just as good as new.

So .. allons-y