Thursday, January 14, 2016

Bowie, with George Murray on Bass



As it turns out, our friend Irv Murray's brother George Murray played bass for Bowie during the late 70s, early 80s, the period considered by many to be Bowie's artistic peak, with records like Station to Station, Low (featuring the ultra-groovy "Sound and Vision"), Heroes, Lodger, and Scary Monsters. After this run of great records Bowie broke up the band, so George quit the music biz, moved to LA, got a regular job, and settled down. Music is a crazy business, so I get that.

The musician and writer Tom Semioli has a great feature up online called Know Your Bass Player. Here's what he says about George.
Many fans, including this writer, regard Station to Station as David Bowie’s finest 37:50. With guitarists Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar, E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan, drummer Dennis Davis, and bassist George Murray as the core band– the Thin White Duke intermingled soul, hard rock, avant-garde and dance into a work of aural art hitherto unheard in the amazing year that was 1976. Murray’s piercing, treble tone which he miraculously coaxed out of a Fender Precision coupled with his unadorned funk grooves fueled Bowie during his trailblazing Berlin period which yielded such classics as “Golden Years,” “Heroes,” “Fashion,” and “Ashes to Ashes,” among others. On subsequent Bowie albums George emerged as a formidable foil for Robert Fripp and Adrian Belew and also shined on Iggy Pop’s best album The Idiot, and Talking Head Jerry Harrison’s underrated The Red and Black. After Bowie dispatched this band, Murray disappeared. I recently asked Mr. Slick of George Murray’s whereabouts – Earl had no clue! My search continues . . . .

5 comments:

  1. Ah yes - the appeal of Mr. Murray is undeniable. He was melodic and funky and could play lock step alongside the human metronome Dennis Davis. I did some searching and found this:

    https://www.talkbass.com/threads/george-murray-gear.529488/

    jmartorella says:

    "I used to teach English at a college in Los Angeles and he [Murray] was was a student of mine in about 1996-7. I had no idea he was a musician, but I am a drummer and we got talking about music. He somewhat matter of factly and reluctantly revealed that he was David Bowie's bassist, had just ended a tour and wanted to get his degree so that he could get out of the music industry. I don't know what he is doing now, but he was an especially nice guy, a very good student and seemed quite burned out on the music industry. "

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  2. Wow! Thanks so much for sharing this story. I can vouch that George's brother Irv is also a super nice guy, and smart.

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  3. No Problem. I credit Mr. Murray's playing for alerting me to the possibility that one can play melodically without being a showboat and without compromising the groove. Not a month goes by that I don't recommend Murray's playing on the Stage album as a masterclass in taste, execution, groove. (Check out his work on Soul Love. It propels what is already a great song into something stellar. His playing, along with that of the recently passed Dennis Davis, proves that once can in fact develop a strong, unique musical identity that works well across all types of music. I'm pretty sure that's why they both wound up in Bowie's band.

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    1. Minor Correction - Home URL is https://stewartavekid.wordpress.com

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  4. George works as an administrator for the Alhambra School District in Alhambra California.

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