Bleed Like a Craze, Dad

93stockholm

Bleed Like a Craze, Dad.

Bowie had been a dedicated self-recycler from his earliest days, although he used to take more pains about his sleight of hand (burying the likes of “I Am a Lazer” and “Tired of My Life” so that their descendents on Scary Monsters seemed like fresh songs). By 1993, Bowie was opening the lab door, letting you watch him stitch a fresh piece together.

“Bleed Like a Craze, Dad” feels like a set of rough mixes that Bowie’s considering using for some other song, but his trial-and-error process of creation winds up being the actual track. There’s the self-sampling: the bassline from “Sister Midnight,” already reused on “Red Money,” while Mike Garson’s flown-in piano gives tastes of his work on “Lady Grinning Soul” (a little dancing phrase on high keys in the intro suggests the latter, but it gets diverted and broken down by the guitar kicking in). Then there’s the cohesion in real time of the song itself—take how Bowie sews together the chorus, first the guitar/keyboard vamp anchored on the “Sister Midnight” bass, then introducing the “shine, shine, shine” hook (very Tears for Fears) and then, finally at 1:50, singing the title line. The assembled chorus doesn’t arrive for another thirty seconds.

The lyric seems owed to a similar picking-up-sticks method, with Bowie using cut-up to fill his three brief and rapped verses with a run of words, occasionally wedded by similar vowel or consonant sounds (astral/kestrel, footnote/footstone, parlous/parlours, Shirley/Charley), down to the title phrase itself, a pun on the Kray Brothers.

The Krays (and “friends of the Krays I had known,” as Bowie wrote) were part of Bowie’s memory jog while writing Buddha of Suburbia. Twin gangster brothers who ran West End nightclubs in the Sixties as part of their racketeering, the Krays were as much part of Swinging London as Mary Quant (even being photographed by David Bailey for his Box of Pin Ups). Their connections with the London entertainment world meant that many musicians came into their orbit at one time or another (“very dangerous people those Kray twins,” as Ray Davies recalled in “London Song”) and their thuggish glamour fit the times—what’s Get Carter but “a Kray Brother visits Newcastle”? Criminality had a fashionable allure for the smart London set, and decades later, as Morrissey noted, the Krays remained a celebrity crush for some. On “Bleed,” the Krays are used as part of a London Mod biography told in a few scattered fragments, the Bewlay Brothers on the town (“how they drank from the jazz,” “seek for a leather journey,” “living on a movie”).

There are some subtle touches of keyboards and organ (and a guitar arpeggio that cycles throughout the track), the bassline is good enough to have been used in three Bowie tracks, and Garson, while vanishing for long stretches, manages to parry his way into a backing track that seemed inhospitable for him—he makes a lark of it, opening with a parody of a Debussy prelude and jabbing out a few scattered notes while the sludgy guitars kick in. The question is Erdal Kizilcay, who’s charged with playing the Robert Fripp/Reeves Gabrels sonic-disruptor role here but instead mainly offers tasteful guitar licks suitable for a Richard Marx record. Kizilcay was a player who lacked irony, and his presence here (perversely, intentionally?) generates some tension—he’s another piece that doesn’t quite cohere in the mix, contributing to the track’s sense of turbulence.

Recorded ca. June-July 1993 at Mountain Studios, Montreux.

Top: Joacim Osterstam, “The Stockholm Archipelago, 1993.”

18 Responses to Bleed Like a Craze, Dad

  1. Ian McDuffie says:

    I always felt like the vocal was a slight recycle-nod to “Shining Star (Makin’ My Love),” or at the least an attempt to do it right. At least there’s no Mickey Rourke rap on this one.

    That sounds sassy, but I do enjoy this one. Even if Kzilcay’s backwards riffs sound like something out of a montage from the movie Hackers.

  2. Diamond Duke says:

    Ian McDuffie,
    Keen observation regarding the similarity between this and Shining Star! I must admit that never occurred to me before, but now that you mention it there is sort of a kinship. (And Shining Star was one of my “guilty pleasures” from Never Let Me Down – and I suppose that entire album is sort of a “guilty pleasure” for me – only being “let down” – hardy-har-har! – by its forced attempt at lyrical topicality.)

    Actually, in my humble (or not) opinion, this is one of the better tracks from The Buddha Of Suburbia. It’s got a real sassy dance/funk groove to it, Bowie’s vocal harkens back to the Ziggy era (rather than his Scott Walker baritone), and Mike Garson’s playing is always a pleasure to hear. It doesn’t quite overcome the rather “incidental” or “soundtrack” quality that much of the album has, not really sounding like there’s much at stake. But it’s not bad, all the same.

    BTW,
    A couple of weeks ago, I had a very vivid dream. In it, I bought David Bowie’s comeback disc. Yes, you read that right! It was a 5-song EP bearing the title of OAR! “What?! OAR!, you say?!” Yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I have absolutely no clue whatsoever how my subconscious mind managed to spew up that particular hairball of a title. And even weirder than the title was the cover image. There was a sort of comic-book illustration of Bowie’s disembodied head in the far left corner, tilted upward with a rowing oar extending from it. And then, in fairly non-descript white lettering, DAVID BOWIE – OAR!.

    Hmmmmmmmmmm…
    A number of possible explanations for this:

    1) I recently bought Soundgarden’s comeback disc, King Animal, and have been seriously enjoying the hell out of it. The very last track on the album is a slow, heavy number called Rowing, with the chorus “Don’t know where I’m going, I just keep on rowing / I just keep on pulling, gotta row”. In one of its later verses, there’s also the line “Living is cheating if you’re not pulling oars.”

    2) I just watched the movie Don’t Look Now (1973) on DVD recently (directed by none other than Nicolas Roeg of The Man Who Fell To Earth fame). The story, of course, is set in Venice, where as you know, people tend to get around by rowing and pulling oars!

    3) I’m also a fan of The Exorcist (1973) as well as its sequels and prequels. In the third movie in the series (1990), directed by original author William Peter Blatty from his 1983 novel Legion, there are a series of mysterious ritual serial killings. The first victim was decapitated and then crucified on a pair of rowing oars. (To quote Shaggy of Scooby Doo fame, “ZOIKS!!!”)

    Oh…and the music from this completely non-existent comeback EP? Well, from what I can remember in my dream, it was a bit on the melancholy, moody side – closer to ‘…hours’ or Heathen than Reality, I’d say… :D

    I hope this little theoretical dissection of the workings of my dreamworld hasn’t left you either bored or, alternatively, thoroughly creeped out! Anyway, in my not-so-humble opinion, I think this particular Bowie “comeback” probably beats the pants off any number of others people have come up with (ha, ha, ha…)

    • Momus says:

      Well, I enjoyed this! OAR is going straight into my Museum of Imaginary Bowie Comebacks.

    • J.D. says:

      Factor In : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oar_(album)
      File Under : Oblivion, Kings Of

      • Diamond Duke says:

        Oh yeah! I must have been aware of that at one point and then forgotten about it again! :D (Probably when I first heard Robert Plant’s cover of Moby Grape’s Skip’s Song and then looked up a few things about them…)

        The subsconscious is pretty freaky sometimes, isn’t it? The way it collates all this information floating around in one’s mind and then spews it out in some strange, altered form? One thing somehow links up with another thing and it is all somehow interconnected, because in some grand cosmic sense, all is somehow one. (Or something like that…) ;)

    • postpunkmonk says:

      Diamond Duke – I’d say your subconscious is pretty spot on!

  3. Jeff Mangum says:

    Tears for Fears did a great cover of Ashes to Ashes you know.

  4. david says:

    Love this track-almost a sister composition to African Night Flight too I feel, with its breakneck paced art rap, I remember there was an alternative truncated version used in the series, when Karim discovers his Father is having an affair with Eva, after discovering her vigorously bouncing up and down on his old man.

  5. Maj says:

    Great write-up (I knew nothing about the Krays for instance), another Buddha song which works best as background noise but doesn’t offend when you actually listen to it. Though I can rarely make out the lyrics – good you shed some light on them, Chris.

  6. Pierre says:

    Just saw a french show where he Bowie tells Françoise Hardy that his favorite album is The Buddha of Suburbia, that’s a show part of the Reality tour promotion tour.

    • Momus says:

      “Um, I have a special penchant for an album called The Buddha of Suburbia. Er, I put a lot of work into… with Erdil Kizilcay, who was my co-musi… it was just the two of us made the album. And I put such a lot of work into that, and I really felt it was the beginning of my feeling able and competent as a songwriter, after a very bad general break in terms of my songs and writing, and also in coming back with that album, I felt “Now I know what I’m supposed to be doing”. For me personally… Maybe it isn’t everybody’s favourite album, but for me it has a very important raison d’etre.”

      Bowie speaking to Françoise Hardy on Trafic Musique, 2003.09.04

  7. Anonymous says:

    I always suspected the title of this one was an anagram, or maybe even a cryptic crossword clue… but have still never worked it out! Now there’s a challenge for everyone…

  8. Patrick says:

    Another one that starts up but doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s background/filler stuff. I thought immediately of an obscure song called “shame , shame, shame” but finding it on YT there doesn’t seem to be any obvious connection.
    Here’s bit of personal trivia, Until my late 20s I lived on a Council estate in Hackney, (London) just off Evering road where Jack (the Hat)
    McVitie was murdered by the Krays. A residential road with lot of very big Victorian houses. A lot of mythologising still goes on of people who were basically thugs and psychopaths and yes, murderers in suits. eg Morrisesy has had his infatuation with them. sending a wreath to Reggie Kray’s funeral.

    • Gnomemansland says:

      No I think you are right about the connection to “shame , shame, shame” – “shame on you if you can’t dance too”. I recall the similarity between that song and Fame was discussed a while back. Bowie knew the song (it wasn’t that obscure at the time) and this is I suspect a nod to it and Fame

    • David L says:

      Yeah I think this song gives another indication of Bowie’s apparent fascination with such lurid topics, a fascination that would fully flower on outside, that lovely “murder as art” album. Of course the early nineties was an era of blockbuster serial killer movies and stories, from silence of the lambs and Jeffery dahmer to seven, so bowie is just reflecting the culture. Wonder if Bowie feels differently about all this now.

  9. Basit says:

    I Liked his album and all the tracks it was very interesting and different from other tracks.

  10. Andy says:

    The vocal on this reminds always reminds me disconcertingly of an Ian Brown solo effort.

  11. Rufus Oculus says:

    The title always reminds of that early Richard Lester film It’s Trad, Dad.

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