1917

99london

Thrust (Omikron, 1999).
1917.

Issued as a B-side of “Thursday’s Child,” “1917″ (Russian Revolution? Duchamp’s Fountain? the first jazz records?) was an elaboration of “Thrust,” a synth piece Bowie and Reeves Gabrels wrote to score a demon battle in the Omikron game. Reincarnating the string/brass/Mellotron line of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” as a synthesizer loop that’s flavored in spots by Gabrels’ guitar, Bowie mumble-sings a guide vocal while being piped through various means of distortion. (He seems to be singing “I’m a man” for much of it: was this whole thing some cracked tribute to Jimmy Page?) Mark Plati’s bass and a keyboard line do most of the harmonic lifting; Gabrels shows up midway through for a boiling tea-kettle impression.

As throwaways go, “1917″ has hooks and brevity in its corner, if its punch is sapped by the onion-skin-thick beats that Sterling Campbell’s (or Mike Levesque’s) drums do what they can to bolster. While including it on ‘Hours’ could have helped lessen the record’s world-weariness, “1917″ was best suited as the happy obscurity it still is.

Recorded ca. January 1999, London/Paris; April-May 1999, Seaview Studio, Bermuda, with overdubs at Looking Glass Studios and Chung King Studios, NYC. Released 20 September 1999 on the “Thursday’s Child” 2-CD single (Virgin 7243 8 96266 0 5) and later included on the 2004 reissue of ‘Hours.’

Top: “Tom,” “Turning Point Starts Here,” London 1999.

27 Responses to 1917

  1. Diamond Duke says:

    Well…not much to say about this one! It’s certainly energetic, but on the whole rather slight. I totally agree, it was certainly better left as a B-side. To sum up…not terrible, but not great, either.

    P.S. I’m less than 100% convinced regarding the whole “Jimmy Page tribute” angle. Perhaps the riff was Gabrels’ and it just so happened to resemble Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir

  2. s.t. says:

    I think it would have made for a much better instrumental track than Brilliant Adventure. Though, it’s not quite brief enough in my opinion. There’s a fake-out ending midway through, and then it starts over again. Better to keep it short and sweet. Repetition seems to have been a crutch for Bowie around this time.

    Aside from the (well argued and likely valid) reference of Kashmir, I hear a (less valid) reference of the old Depeche Mode instrumental Nothing to Fear.

  3. Maj says:

    Well I have the Hours re-issue but couldn’t recall this one before clicking on the link. Well it’s not bad is it. what else can I say…

  4. Roman says:

    Parts of Tonight, NLMD and the TM albums were downright awful. And that’s fine. Everyone makes mistakes and at least it inspires the listener to have a reaction. But this is boring. And Bowie has no right to be boring.

  5. Ian Fryer says:

    I have to say I really enjoyed 1917, and was really looking forward to Hours on the strength of it. Full of piss and vinegar, this fun little instrumental made the plodding album that followed all the more disappointing.

    • s.t. says:

      Agreed, but didn’t this song’s A-side make you worry a bit about the coming album? Bowie’s seeming shift at the time from techno-industrial to adult contemporary schmaltz simply devastated me. If it weren’t for Thursdays Child being lead single and opening track, I may have noticed the better parts of Hours a good deal earlier.

      • Ian Fryer says:

        Well, it did a bit, but the lead single from The Next Day is no worldbeater compared to the album as a whole. It’s nice that a few of us like 1917, at least.

      • s.t. says:

        That’s true. I often dislike songs when I hear them as lead singles, but then come to really appreciate them in the context of the album. Radiohead’s There There, Antony’s Another World, Bjork’s Crystalline, and Bowie’s Where are We Now (as well as Stars) are some examples.

        And it’s true that Thursdays Child only represents about a quarter of Hours’ sound. So I guess in that respect 1917 could have served as a hopeful antidote to its A-side. Not that there’s much from this time that sounds like 1917, but perhaps the loose spikiness of Pretty Things and Something in the Air share its attitude.

  6. Mike F says:

    Why did Bowie release this dreck? Surely the B side could be put to better use with a 2. Contamination piece.

  7. Momus says:

    1. My comments usually have ten points because I have ten things to say.

    2. This time I have nothing to say.

    3. My collaborator Jeff Dildo has actually written the bulk of this comment for me. Thanks, Jeff.

    4. I am actually making some interesting points in this comment, but you can’t hear them.

    8. I’m not very reliable as a commenter. Sometimes I’m bloody awful… and sometimes I’m incredible.

    6. I would like to dedicate this comment to the year 1956. Several important things happened that year, but I’m not going to elaborate.

    7. I’m a man. I spell “M.A.N.” man.

    5. Oh hell, I got 8 and 5 mixed up.

    9. I plan to work this comment up into a decent statement a bit later. Or maybe I’ll just put it out as is.

    10. Anonymous ‘he commente lik a litul gerl ha ha all mixd up and baddy-spelt’ so I’m one up on him there.

  8. Ididtheziggy says:

    First time for me hearing this. I’m good now.

  9. Bruised Passivity says:

    Surprised to learn that this was released as a B side, especially for a song like Thursday’s Child. I would best describe it as a passionless, forgettable piece of music best kept in the video game world. It’s a shame because I usually enjoy his instrumental pieces.

    • Bruised Passivity says:

      Getting a little personal in this comment don’t you think? But for arguments sake, I chose the term passionless because I get the impression David’s writing from his head here and not from his guts. He has a tendency towards cleverness that sometimes works for him but sometimes comes across as derived.

  10. CosmicJive says:

    I guess I’m one of the few people who likes this song. Sure it’s no masterpiece. but it’s not that bad. It’s funny how the b-sides of Thursday’s Child like this one, No-One Calls and We Shall Go To Town give a glimpse of a more minimalist and perhaps experimental version of what the album could have been.

    • s.t. says:

      Go on and say it…”better version of what the album could have been!” Those two B-sides are better than most of Hours combined.

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        In my opinion, “We All Go Through”, another b-side, is the best thing that came out of the whole Hours era.

        I kind of like 1917, even though its pretty trivial.

      • s.t. says:

        Agreed. Most of the B-sides were pretty damn good. Strange that they would took the backseat to something like What’s Really Happening.

      • CosmicJive says:

        I think if you compile an alternative album with the b-sides and single mixes like the Beck mix of Seven, Marius de Vries Mix of Survive and the Plati Mix of Something In the Air it would already improve a lot.

      • V Delay says:

        As Mr Jive suggests, the ‘alt-hours’ has a lot going for it. Different songs, different sequencing. Here’s the current incarnation chez pod:

        1. Brilliant Adventure
        2. Thursday’s Child
        3. Something in the Air (American Psycho version)
        4. Survive
        5. We all go through

        6. Nobody Calls
        Seven
        8. New Angels of Promise
        9. We shall go to town
        10. 1917

        Part art-rock, part pop-art. Lovely. Can anyone recommend their fave remixes of any of the above? Nothing too remix-y!

      • s.t. says:

        This is my current version:

        1. Brilliant Adventure
        2. Survive (Marius de Vries Mix)
        3. We All Go Through
        4. The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell
        5.New Angels of Promise
        6. We Shall Go to Town
        7. 1917
        8. Seven (Beck Mix #1)
        9. Something in the Air (American Psycho Mix)
        10. No One Calls
        11. Planet of Dreams
        12. If I’m Dreaming My Life

    • Eder R. M. says:

      I really, really, really like the B-sides from …hours too :)

  11. Eder R. M. says:

    I freaking love this track!

    No, it is not best for it to be left for obscurity, Mr. blog writter, just because you do not like it. I realize this is your blog, your opinions, but please stop making big statements with so much personal judgement attached to them.

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