Fall in Love With Me

April 14, 2011

Fall in Love With Me.

During a lull in the Lust for Life sessions, the players swapped roles for a laugh. Ricky Gardiner sat behind the drum kit, Hunt Sales took his brother’s bass and Tony Sales played guitar. They jammed for a while, fell into a shambling groove. Carlos Alomar came in on lead guitar, while Bowie, on organ, played yet another variation of his “Laughing Gnome”/”Speed of Life” descending riff. Iggy Pop went into the booth and free-associated a lyric. Edited down to six minutes and change, the jam became the album closer.

Sure, “Fall in Love With Me” falls in the minor rock & roll tradition of padding out an LP with an extended studio jam or mashing a few half-written songs into a closer medley. It’s a throwaway performance, but the record would be weaker without its welcoming groove, its sense of earned ease. Pop’s lyric is alternately goofy (“a table made of wood,” sung blankly as if it’s an odd thing to find), cutting (“you’re younger than you look”) and touching (“when you’re tumbling down, you just look finer”). It’s addressed to the same girl as in “China Girl” or “Baby” or “Sixteen” or “Tiny Girls,” it’s always the same girl, for Iggy—young, pure, yet somehow broken. What’s missing here is the obsessiveness; “Fall in Love” is an open-ended seduction.*

And for an album filler “Fall in Love” was influential enough. Bowie, noting how Pop could improv a vocal on the mike, how the musicians could shake out a song seemingly on a whim, rethought how to make a record. He would go beyond the experiments of Low: no more demos, no more neatly written-out lyrics, no more arrangements. During the summer of 1977, in Hansa Studios, Bowie went out on the wire.

Some unions end in recrimination and slander, others just wither. The great creative partnership of Pop and Bowie ends here, as well as it could have, with a vamp cooked up over a long afternoon in West Berlin. It’s loose talk over beers, tall tales, gibes, idle confessions, shot glass epiphanies. Then someone looks at the clock, a few excuses and goodbyes are exchanged, and the party breaks up.

Recorded 4-20 June 1977, Hansa, Berlin.

* Julian Casablancas owes his career to this and a few other Pop vocals on Lust.

Top: Ulrich Joho, “Rummelmädchen, Berlin, 1977.”


Lust for Life

April 12, 2011

Lust For Life (Pop, 1977).
Lust For Life (Pop, live, 1977).
Lust for Life (Pop, live, 1991).
Lust for Life (Bowie, live, 1996).

So let us start with one average, stupid, representative case: Johnny Yen, the other half, errand boy from the death trauma…His immortality depends on the mortality of others—the same is true of all addicts.

William S. Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded, 1962.

A boy slid off the white bar stool and held out the hand: “Hello, I’m Johnny Yen, a friend of, well, just about anybody.”

Burroughs, The Soft Machine, 1961.

During their days in France and Berlin, Bowie and Pop would watch American television shows on the Armed Forces Network, especially “Starsky and Hutch.” The station ident of the AFN at the time was a radio conning tower (like the old RKO logo) giving off a staccato signal: BEEP-beep-beep, BEEP-BEEP-be-BEEP. One night, watching TV with Pop in his apartment, Bowie took his son Duncan’s ukulele and played the AFN riff on it. The two started building up a song. “Call this one ‘Lust for Life’,” Bowie said.

Pop and Bowie transferred the riff from guitar to drums. Pop had started out as a drummer and he still worked out songs as a form of percussion. So the studio version of “Lust for Life” starts with a 1:10, 30-bar intro, the riff first pounded out on Hunt Sales’ open-tuned toms, soon shadowed by Tony Sales’ bassline. (This is the riff in its primal form—Pop sings most of the second verse over it.)

Sales’ drum riff distills a dozen influences, from the AFN ident to the bassline of “You Can’t Hurry Love” to the swinging, cymbal-rich sound of the jazz drummer Shelly Manne. A beat religion in 4/4, it converts the remaining players: Carlos Alomar and Ricky Gardiner appear, consider counter-melodies or launching a lead solo line (0:05, 0:30), but then, as if pulled into the drums’ orbit, they fall subservient and echo the riff, as does Bowie’s piano. The spell breaks only when Pop brings in Johnny Yen.

Pop improvised much of “Lust for Life”‘s lyric at the mike, though he was pillaging William Burroughs novels for random imagery (flesh machines, hypnotizing chickens). So the song opens with Johnny Yen, the ambisexual gigolo of the Nova trilogy, doing stripteases and getting wrecked on booze and coke (even the classic line “of course I’ve had in the ear before” calls back to Burroughs, as Yen once gets a scalpel shoved in his ear by his sadistic doctor).*

“Lust for Life” is one of the funniest things Pop ever did, bloody with life, filled with Pop non sequiturs that are better than many writers’ entire catalogs (“I’m worth a million in prizes!” and he sings “gimmick called love” like “gimp called love”). Yet there’s a desperation just under the surface, with Pop identifying with Burroughs’ gigolo, realizing he’s become a cartoon, a fool for the world to sport with, and hoping that this record will finally get him off the minstrel circuit. “No more beatin’ my brains,” he mutters in the second verse. “No more sleepin’ on the sidewalk.” Even the title is wordplay—it’ s a homage to Pop’s endless appetites for drugs and self-destruction as well as the over-the-top Vincente Minnelli film about Vincent Van Gogh, another tortured artist who didn’t sell (and who also had in the ear before).

Control addicts prowled the streets trying to influence waiters, lavatory attendants, clochards and were to be seen on every corner of the city hypnotizing chickens.

Burroughs, The Ticket That Exploded.

If “Lust for Life” has a visual analogue, it’s Andrew Kent’s photograph used for the LP cover: a beaming, slightly mad-looking Iggy shot in a dressing room during the March ’77 UK tour. It’s the face of a man ready to harangue the world while he charms it, of a confidence man in sight of a score.

Some of what happened was RCA’s blundering. After Elvis Presley died in August ’77, RCA mass-released all the Elvis product they had in the catalog, and the newly-released Lust for Life became hard to find in record stores. It hit #28 in the UK, but once its first printing sold out, few more were issued. The record, the most commercial thing Pop had ever done, just died. And Pop, faced with success at last, bailed. According to Paul Trynka’s bio, Pop locked himself in the Schlosshotel Gerhus with a “small mountain of cocaine,” staring at the record. He decided he hated the cover photo, that he hated “The Passenger,” that it was all crap. He grew estranged from Bowie. A subsequent tour to promote the album started strongly, then fell apart. Pop fired the Sales brothers. He ended his RCA contract by issuing TV Eye Live, essentially a bootleg of a few ’77 shows. By late 1978, Pop was at the start of the board again, trying yet another comeback.

“Lust for Life,” which along with “The Passenger” was Pop’s post-Stooges masterpiece, had too much life in its bones to stay underground. In the mid-’90s, an edited version of the track used in Trainspotting finally gave the song an audience. It was released as a single and sounded fresher than some of the Britpop then on the charts. A decade later came the farcical climax: “Lust for Life” was chopped down to the opening Sales drum riff and Pop’s line about Johnny Yen for a series of Royal Caribbean TV commercials. It’s appalling, of course (its inappropriateness rivaled only by Chef-Boy-R-Dee’s use of “Hot Stuff”)—a wild junkie gluttony rant used to sell family cruise vacations. But the riff remained compelling, trapped in the TV spots like a feral animal in a cage, while lines from Iggy Pop and William Burroughs still echo through thousands of TV sets like the half-remembered language from a twisted dream.

Recorded 4-20 June 1977, Hansa, Berlin. Performed live by Pop in 1977 and 1991. Bowie, drawn back to the song after Trainspotting came out, performed it occasionally during his 1996 summer festival tours (the link above is from the Loreley Festival, 22 June 1996; Bowie’s set was aired on German television).

* Pop also used a sentence from Naked Lunch (“No one talks, no one reads, no one walks”) for the chorus of “Tonight.”

Top: “Still the Oldie,” “Horserace Experts,” Ripon, Yorkshire, 1977.


Success

April 7, 2011

Success.

Iggy Pop’s declaration of temporary independence, “Success” was nearly rewritten from scratch once Pop got into the studio. He rejected much of Bowie’s proposed arrangement, including the initial vocal melody, which, in Pop’s words, was “some damn crooning thing” (some of it remains in the lead guitar lines). Instead Pop reduced the song: three chords*; no verses, just a series of 8-bar refrains and two 4-bar guitar solos; a half-chanted vocal line built on four beats (‘here comes suc-cess,” “in the last ditch”) with a six-beat line on the move to the F# chord (“here comes my Chi-nese rug”).

Much of “Success” was owed to improvisation. Pop’s metallic-sounding vocal is due to a whim of Hansa engineer Edu Meyer, who plugged Pop’s mike into a Music Man guitar amp, while the infectious, boisterous backing vocals by the Sales brothers were done in one take, with the brothers singing lyrics basically on first sight, having had no rehearsals.

The Sales’ begin as a cheering section, hollering Pop’s lines back to him, then grow progressively unhinged and eventually try to take over the song. In the third refrain, Iggy drops out for two lines but the Sales keep on going, and later they whisper a line ahead of time, as if prompting Pop on stage (“let’s blast off!”). In its last refrains “Success” becomes a goofy duel between Pop and the Sales’, with Pop seemingly trying to get them to crack up (“I’m crazy!” “I’m gonna hop like a frog!” “I’m-gonna-go-out-on-the-street-and-do-anything-I-want!”), and it ends with the Sales’ chanting Iggy’s mutter back to him: “OH SHIT!”

In the early ’70s, Randy Newman had made his “Lonely at the Top” (a song he had intended for Sinatra) a centerpiece of his live act. The joke was that Newman, a cult act at best, was singing wearily about all the money he’s made, all the women he’s gone through. Pop’s “Success” on one level is a similar joke, Pop poking fun at his own rehabilitation, mocking the prospect of future riches.

But while the song is a loopy good-natured prosperity gospel, it’s not that much of spoof. Pop had really just bought a Chinese rug for his Berlin apartment; he thought he was finally going to be a rock star, that he would finally reach the level of comfort in which Bowie existed (though his finances during this period were sometimes catastrophic, Bowie always kept up appearances). So knowing what was to come—the commercial failure of Lust For Life, the chaos of Pop’s subsequent tour, his continued misfortunes in the late ’70s and early ’80s—“Success,” with its gonzo exuberance, now sounds a bit tragic.

As for Bowie, he might have been sidelined for “Success,” but he was watchful as ever: “Success,” with its sense of propulsion, the distortion and build of the vocals, and the guitar riffs that buttress the vocals, is arguably an ancestor to “Heroes,” recorded two months later.

Recorded 4-20 June 1977, Hansa, Berlin. Released as a single in October 1977  c/w “The Passenger” (RCA PB 9160; didn’t chart). It’s never been performed live, as far as I could find, though you’d think this would have been an ideal stage number.

* Much of the song is just B major to E major, with F# cropping up for one line. But I think the opening is D-G-D.

Top: Phillipe Auriac, “Iggy Pop, Paris, 1977.”


Neighborhood Threat

April 4, 2011

Neighborhood Threat (Pop, 1977).
Neighborhood Threat (Bowie, 1984).

From tragedy to farce. Bowie’s version of “Tonight” is dismal, but there was at least a commercial logic to remaking it: Bowie’s cover could have been a hit, in theory. Bowie’s remake of “Neighborhood Threat,” however, is just baffling. Even by Iggy Pop’s standards, the original “Neighborhood Threat” is a bit of ridiculous street posturing—it’s basically a Blue Oyster Cult song with much dumber lyrics and worse playing. It’s salvaged in part by the dagger-thrusts of the verses’ vocal melody, though it goes a bit dull in the choruses, which end with a shrug.

Bowie’s remake likely was an act of charity. Tonight‘s producer Hugh Padham recalled that during the album sessions Bowie would reminisce about how he had “rescued” Iggy, and the excess of Pop co-compositions on Tonight (five in all) suggest that Bowie was all but sending money to Pop via Western Union. Tonight, dire as it was, was a platinum #1 record, and Paul Trynka estimated it made $100,000 or more in royalties right off the bat, a good chunk of which would be owed to Pop.

Still, Bowie could’ve covered something more appropriate than “Neighborhood Threat,” which he inflated into a wretched spectacle. Gated drums pushed so high in the mix they sound like cannon fire, backing singers who seem to have been recruited from Les Miserables auditions, cliched guitar work by the beleaguered Carlos Alomar, a synthesizer arrangement (likely by Arif Martin) that Laura Branigan would have considered too over the top. Bowie seems torn between singing it straight (and failing) and camping it up (and failing). Arguably one of the worst recordings that he made in his life.

Recorded 4-20 June 1977, Hansa, Berlin; on Lust For Life. Bowie’s remake was recorded ca. May-June 1984, Le Studio, Morin Heights, Canada.

Top: Dennis Hopper and Nicholas Ray in The American Friend, Wim Wenders, 1977.


Tonight

April 1, 2011

Tonight (Pop and Bowie, live, 1977).
Tonight (Pop, 1977).
Tonight (Bowie with Tina Turner, 1984).
Tonight (Tina Turner with Bowie, live, 1985).

This is a song about my girlfriend who’s dead! (audience cheers)

Iggy Pop, Detroit, 25 March 1977.

This entry and the next will require some time-skipping, as the songs are both Lust For Life tracks and cover versions on Bowie’s Tonight (1984), a minor record in a meager decade for him. If anything demonstrates the decline in Bowie’s judgment and taste in the mid-1980s, it’s his reworking of “Tonight,” where he turned a junkie lament into a light reggae cocktail-lounge duet with Tina Turner.

Iggy Pop’s “Tonight” seems to have come out of a stray line in “Turn Blue,” though where the latter was a rambling stream of extravagant consciousness, “Tonight” is a set of simple, common words, a eulogy in a diminished language. In the 16-bar prelude, Iggy comes home, finds his girlfriend dead, falls to his knees and cries out a song. “Tonight,” developed on stage as a climactic number during the Idiot tour, was a performance piece with a taste of the ridiculous—Pop’s opening dramatics, Bowie and the Sales brothers’ wailing wall of backing vocals. But it wasn’t camp, either: in the Detroit ’77 performance, as Pop sings the opening, Hunt or Tony Sales is caught up in the story and yells out “hey!” as if he can’t quite believe what’s happening.

The chorus, which builds from E flat to A flat via the relative minor (Cm), has the loveliest melody on Lust For Life: a repeated phrase and then a four-bar, slowly descending vocal line (“no one moves/no one talks…”) that ends on a B-flat (the last “night”). The lyric begins in shock, becomes an ode to death. There’s even the hint of a dark joke: Pop sings that he’ll love the girl to the end, which is right now, so “Tonight,” perversely, is a breakup song too.

Bowie’s primary roles on Lust For Life were as keyboardist (proud of his work on Pop’s tour, Bowie played all the piano/synthesizers himself, and there’s some charmingly shaky synth work here) and backing singer, often appearing as a distantly-mixed, octave-higher echo of Pop’s baritone. On songs like “Some Weird Sin” and “The Passenger” and here, Bowie shadowed Pop’s voice, keeping his bad dreams company, sometimes sounding like a battered conscience. On “Tonight” he (and the Sales brothers) sing the second verse along with Pop, but at a vast distance away from him, offering no consolation, just witnessing.

Bowie remade “Tonight” seven years later. He cut out the prelude and bled the song of all its nuance and desperation. The symbolism is ridiculous: Bowie, cleaned up at the height of Thatcher and Reagan, remade a song about dead junkies by quietly disposing of the body and turning the song into a dessicated reggae come-on, suitable to be piped over the PA system at a Club Med resort.

Bowie’s Tonight is essentially Pin Ups II: a record rushed out to capitalize on an uptick in Bowie’s stock, and it’s filled with uninspired cover songs (three Iggy Pop songs, Chuck Jackson’s “I Keep Forgettin'” and the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” along with a handful of new originals).

He named the record after his reworking of “Tonight,” but even at the time, interviewed by Charles Shaar Murray, Bowie all but admitted that his remake was a travesty, a concession to common tastes. Calling the original “Tonight” “such an idiosyncratic thing of Jimmy’s that it seemed not part of my vocabulary,” Bowie said he had decided to “change[ ] the whole sentiment around,” he said, adding that he’d managed to preserve a “barren feeling” in his new version.

Bowie said he ditched the dead girl in the opening because he had wanted Tina Turner to sing it with him, and suggested to Murray that Turner might have balked on singing the full lyric (which was a bit insulting to Turner, who was of built of sterner stuff: she had just covered Paul Brady’s“Steel Claw”, which has lines like “sometimes I’m contemplating suicide” and opens with a “rich bitch lying by the swimming pool”).

Worse, the new “Tonight” manages to make Tina Turner superfluous. In the Pop original, Bowie and the Sales brothers flit in and out of the song like ghosts, howling over Pop’s baritone. But Bowie sings the remake with a soft, easy croon, leaving Turner no natural entry point, so she just winds up singing over him.

The rest of the remake is just dross. The original Pop recording is fervid and tense, the band holding it together seemingly by luck and sheer force of will, with Ricky Gardiner’s guitar runs appearing like small moments of grace. In the Bowie version, Gardiner’s guitar solo is replaced by a marimba reverie, a wretched brass section, known as the “Borneo Horns,” do what they can to worsen things and even Carlos Alomar, the sole holdover from the original record besides Bowie, is a whisper of his former self.

Around the time Pop and Bowie recorded the original “Tonight,” the Kinks put out a record called “Juke Box Music.” It seems like the last Kinks song, where Ray Davies dismisses his life’s work in a few minutes. A girl sits alone listening to pop records, ignoring the boors that hit on her in a bar, and Davies calls her out as a dreamer and fool. “It’s only music,” he says incredulously, over and over again. It’s only there to dance to. The words mean nothing. It’s not real. Introducing the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test, Davies said of the song’s subject that “people like me write a lot of lyrics, and she believes it.” Sure, the scenario called back to some of Davies’ earlier dreamers, like the girl in “Oklahoma U.S.A” or the old man in “Waterloo Sunset,” but in “Juke Box Music” there’s no sympathy given to the dreamer: she’s just a figure of ridicule, as are the songs that give her her only comfort in life. The song is as bitter as it’s compelling, and heralds the Kinks’ move into boorish hard rock.

Bowie’s remake of “Tonight” has a similar combination of exhaustion and cynicism, but unlike “Juke Box Music,” it’s also flaccid. Bowie baldly had repeated the “China Girl” formula of shining up an old, weird Iggy song and trying to make it a pop hit, but “Tonight” didn’t crack the Top 40: it arguably killed off Bowie’s commercial resurgence in the US and didn’t do him any favors in the UK. (In the summer of “When Doves Cry” or Turner’s far sharper “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” it sounded old and lame.) Bowie once had played regularly for stakes. With “Tonight” he tried to scrape out a cheap score, and he failed.

Debuted ca. 1 March 1977, recorded 4-20 June 1977,  Hansa, Berlin; on Lust For Life. Bowie’s remake was recorded ca. May-June 1984, Le Studio, Morin Heights, Canada. Issued as a single in November 1984 c/w “Tumble and Twirl” (EMI EA 187, #53 US, UK, though a #1 hit in Poland). Bowie sang it with Turner on 23 March 1985, in Birmingham, UK (a performance later included on Turner’s Live In Europe).

Top: Jean Penders, “East End, London, 1977.”


Some Weird Sin

March 29, 2011

Some Weird Sin (Pop and Bowie, live, 1977).
Some Weird Sin (Pop, 1977).
Some Weird Sin (Pop, live, 1981).

Lust For Life opens with odes to gluttony and lust and later covers sloth, pride and anger, so “Some Weird Sin,” sequenced in the middle of the LP’s first side, comes as something of a theme statement.

Debuted during the Idiot tour of spring 1977, “Sin”‘s studio incarnation is a frantic, murky recording, with the players determined to outrace each other. A shift to double time before the first verse lets Pop burn through a 12-bar verse in 15 seconds, while Ricky Gardiner’s barbed little solo seems only as long as Hunt Sales’ cowbell fill at the end of the first chorus. Sales pounds away throughout, then suddenly abdicates in the outro, letting the track expire in a smear of cymbal crashes.

“Sin” is something of an inadvertent duet: Bowie’s backing vocal, which shadows a few of Pop’s phrases in the verses (like “stuck on a pin”), doubles him in the choruses and slowly becomes the dominant voice, to the point where the last descending “some weird sin” is essentially only Bowie’s voice, at least an octave higher than Pop’s basso, with the latter buried in the mix. The dueling vocals parallel the song’s chord structure, which often moves back and forth between A minor and G major (the “some weird sin” at the end of the chorus is sung over a G-Am-G7 progression).

Pop’s lyric is an outsider’s credo (“I never got my license to live,” “when things get too straight, I can’t bear it“): though there’s some longing for a more stable life, it’s dispersed when Pop realizes that happiness comes from exploring a new degradation. The guitars back him up.

Debuted ca. 1 March 1977 (the recording linked above is from Detroit, 25 March). Recorded ca. 4-20 June 1977, Hansa, Berlin. Pop performed it live in 1981, and apparently has never played it since.

Top: Francis Bacon in the Claude Bernard Gallery, London, 1977.


Turn Blue

March 24, 2011

Turn Blue (Pop and Bowie, live, 1977).
Turn Blue (Pop, 1977).

On paper, The Idiot and Lust For Life seem almost identical—both produced and performed by Bowie and Iggy Pop, with nearly all songs co-compositions. Yet Lust For Life is far more Pop’s record, with Bowie seemingly relegated to a supporting role (as during the spring 1977 Idiot tour, where Bowie just played keyboards and sang backup).

If Bowie seems a lesser presence on Lust for Life, it’s not for want of effort. The album sessions were a creative war between Bowie and Pop, with Bowie losing more of the battles. Bowie had written much of the music beforehand and had demoed it on cassettes, but Pop, coming off a triumphant tour and far more confident than he had been during The Idiot sessions, had grown irritated by Bowie’s control-freak tendencies—Bowie had kept the master tapes of The Idiot, and had pushed RCA to issue Low two months before it (so critics assumed Pop’s record was responding to Low, and not (as it was in truth) the other way around).

So making Lust For Life, Pop often rejected Bowie’s original arrangements and vocal melodies (see “Success”), instead pushing the band to put together something from scratch. Pop also had allies in the studio this time, as Bowie’s regular right-hand-man Carlos Alomar was matched by the second coming of the Stooges for a rhythm section: the brothers Hunt and Tony Sales.

The band (along with the lead guitarist Ricky Gardiner, who had come up with the riff for “The Passenger” during a springtime walk in the countryside) was hardened during the manic cross-Atlantic Idiot tour (29 shows in six weeks). Iggy’s set consisted of Stooges classics, a handful of songs from the album he was allegedly promoting (“Sister Midnight,” “China Girl” and “Funtime”) and three new, unrecorded numbers. At the two Rainbow Theatre shows in London, the punk vanguard paid homage to a godfather—milling backstage were Johnny Rotten, Brian James of the Damned, Howard Devoto (who gave Pop a copy of the Buzzcocks’ Spiral Scratch, saying “I have all of your records, now you have all of mine”), the Adverts, Billy Idol and Johnny Thunders, who worried that Bowie was making Pop “go cabaret.”

Pop hadn’t been on stage since October 1974, and the tour was his first-ever billing as a solo artist. He had something to prove, had a crack band and so kept a brutal pace, with the detox work Bowie and Pop had done in 1976 going by the board (“the drug use was unbelievable and I knew it was killing me,” Bowie said in 1993). After a brief recuperation in Los Angeles, Pop returned to Berlin, rented an apartment in the Tempelhof-Schöneberg district and in June 1977* made Lust for Life at Hansa Tonstudio 3.

“Turn Blue,” regularly played during the Idiot tour, is the oldest song on the record, a remnant from Pop and Bowie’s first disastrous attempt to record together in Los Angeles in May 1975. Originally called “Moving On” (co-written with Bowie’s old friend Geoff MacCormack**), it was revived for the 1977 tour, with the lyric greatly reworked by Pop and the LA-based artist Walter Lacey.

The rambling lyric is essentially Iggy Pop free-styling at the mic, with Bowie coming in afterward with vocal overdubs to sweeten things out and add structure to the song. (That said, Pop’s not improvising the lyric in the studio, as he had sung “Turn Blue” much the same way on stage months before). Over a seven-minute vamp, Pop rants, murmurs, squeaks, cries, gives comic asides (“Jesus? This is Iggy”); he gets snagged on lines and beats himself against them (“I shot myself down!” “They’re stepping on our hearts!” “BLACK!! STRONG!!” “Don’t forget me!”). It ends with the singer either shooting himself or shooting up: maybe it’s both.

Lust For Life is in part Pop channeling Jim Morrison—“The Passenger” was inspired by a Morrison poem, and “Fall In Love With Me” seems to be summoning his ghost—and there’s a taste of Morrison’s unhinged cod-poetic ramblings in “Turn Blue,” though Iggy’s weird, belligerent, pure Id of a vocal, the goofy intensity of his performance, makes what could have been a tortuous album-filler track into a piece of deranged performance art. When Bowie comes in on harmonies, the track even seems like a dark parody of the extended soul ballads from the Young Americans sessions.

Debuted ca. 1 March 1977 (the first extant live recording is from the Rainbow show of 7 March, while the recording linked above is from Detroit, 25 March). Recorded ca. 4-20 June 1977, Hansa, Berlin.

* Most early Bowie chronologies place the Lust For Life sessions in either April or May 1977. But Paul Trynka turned up records by Eduard Meyer at Hansa noting that some of the Lust sessions occurred on 8-12 and 14 June 1977. Most musicians involved recall that the album was cut in one go, in about 10 days, so a logical surmise is that Lust for Life was recorded ca. 4-20 June 1977.

** MacCormack, then known as “Warren Peace,” was Bowie’s closest friend, traveling companion and occasional collaborator (“Rock and Roll With Me”) from 1973 to 1976. MacCormack dropped out of the picture around the time of Low and little more was heard of him publicly (Pop said the split was because MacCormack “had become more Hollywood than was great for [MacCormack and Bowie's] relationship,” though they seem to have patched up at some point in the ’80s). As for Lacey, the only other reference I could find of him was performing a spoken-word piece in 1982 called “Meatpack Man.”

Top: Simon Baddeley, “Street Party for the Silver Jubilee,” Edgbaston, Birmingham, 7 June 1977.


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