Cover artwork

David Live was issued with sleeve photography by Dagmar. The starkly lit photographs gave little indication of the scale and complexity of the Diamond Dogs Tour set, and each captured Bowie against a black background.

And that photo. On the cover. My God, it looks as if I’ve just stepped out of that grave.

That’s actually how I felt. That record should have been called ‘David Bowie is alive and well and living only in theory’.

The 2005 reissue of the album reversed the front and rear cover images, and had additional live shots of Bowie.

The release

David Live was released on 29 October 1974, shortly after Bowie began his Soul Tour in the US.

In the UK, it was initially priced at £3.78 to help its chart placing. The discounted price was retained for two months before it reverted to the standard price of £4.88 for a double album.

David Live peaked at number two in the UK, remaining on the charts for 12 weeks. It reached number five in Canada and number eight in the US.

It was not well received by critics. Rolling Stone magazine described it as “a thin, samey oneness… one dimensional, mixed into a flat canvas to highlight Bowie’s presence, and despite extended solos, the band does not establish an engaging identity… When ‘Changes’ is framed like a Watergate prophecy, you figure you’re hearing Bowie on the wrong night.”

In response to the critical pasting, the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger reportedly said: “”If I got the kind of reviews that he got for that album, I would honestly never record again. Never.”

David Live was recorded from many different shows, I merely mixed it. 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. I haven’t heard everything from that tour so I don’t know if better versions exist. However I personally recorded Stage and I like that album a lot more.
Tony Visconti
tonyvisconti.com

‘Knock On Wood’ was released as a single in the UK, and reached number 10 on the singles chart. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me’ was a single in the US, in response to Donovan’s recent cover version. In both instances the b-side was the live version of ‘Panic In Detroit’.

In the Netherlands, a nine-song version of David Live was issued in 1979 as Rock Concert. In 1982 it was reissued as David Bowie At The Tower Philadelphia.

Reissues, remixes, remasters

David Live was first released on compact disc in 1990 by Rykodisc/EMI, with to bonus songs added to the end of the album, along with Bowie’s introduction of the band members. The extra songs were a cover of the Ohio Players’ ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’, and ‘Time’.

A 2005 reissue by EMI/Virgin restored ‘Here Today, Gone Tomorrow’ and ‘Time’ to their correct places in the concert running order, and retained Bowie’s band intros. It contained two further bonus tracks: ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Panic In Detroit’, the latter having previously been a single b-side.

The 2005 version was fully remixed by Tony Visconti, who also created a surround sound version.

I never liked the sound of David Live and was really gratified to get a chance to remix it in 2004 for a Surround Sound rerelease. In all fairness to Eddie Kramer, the show was not 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.
Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan And The Brooklyn Boy

This version was remastered and included in the 2016 box set Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976), along with the original 1974 version. The new remaster was given a standalone release the following year on CD, vinyl, and as a digital download.