I’m still trying to wrap my mind around a world without David Bowie. The innovator, the legend, the icon — a man who belongs on a short list of the most important artists of the late-20th century — passed away from cancer last night at the age of 69. Amidst the many obituaries and tributes that are surely to come pouring out over the coming days and weeks, I thought I’d pass along 90 minutes of bootleg Bowie recorded at the Las Colinas Studios on April 27, 1983.
Let’s set the stage: David Bowie had just released his album Let’s Dance, which contained the first of his songs to hit number 1 in both the U.S. and U.K. The record featured a young guitarist from Oak Cliff named Stevie Ray Vaughan. Vaughan would release his debut album, Texas Flood, with his band Double Trouble later that year. The record would launch his own legendary career. But in April 1983, Vaughan was just a young, relatively unknown guitar virtuoso who tore up the Montreux Jazz Festival the previous year.
The partnership between David Bowie and Stevie Ray Vaughan would prove short lived. As this Guitar Player article from last year recounts, Vaughan and Bowie had a falling out over a deal Bowie’s management struck with the blues player’s band. Vaughan was supposed to play on Bowie’s Let’s Dance tour, but when Texas Flood dropped, he was split between playing with Bowie or promoting his new album. Bowie’s managment offered a compromise. Double Trouble could open a select number of U.S. tour dates. But then, after the tour started, they reneged on the deal.
Vaughan found himself facing down a difficult decision. If he went out on tour with Bowie, he would have to put off promoting Double Trouble’s album for a year. But then what young guitar player walks away from touring David Bowie?
In the end, Vaughan’s manager, Chesley Millikin, made the decision for him. He took Stevie’s gear off Bowie’s tour bus, and the legend left without him. The move turned out to be in Vaughan’s best interest. Texas Flood broke Vaughan’s career, and as Guitar Player puts it, “It certainly didn’t hurt his reputation that he’d told a star like David Bowie to take a hike.”
So there’s a little local anecdote that offers a fitting excuse to spend this day of musical mourning listening to 90 minutes of material recorded before the break-up, when two of the world’s great musical talents came together in Las Colinas to prepare for a tour that wasn’t meant to be.