Shadow Man

Shadow Man (studio demo, 1971).
Shadow Man (Toy, 2000).

“Shadow Man” was demoed in an early session for a Hunky Dory sequel LP. As Bowie had yet to develop the Ziggy Stardust concept, the new record began as a random collection of songs, including some Arnold Corns leftovers, remakes of “Holy Holy” and “The Supermen,” Biff Rose, Chuck Berry and Jacques Brel covers, and a couple new pieces (which include “It’s Gonna Rain Again” and “Only One Paper Left,” tracks the bootleggers still haven’t unearthed).

Bowie soon shelved the Neil Young-influenced “Shadow Man” once the Ziggy concept took hold and never attempted a full studio version. While its messiah-superhero title figure seems like a rough draft of the Ziggy character, “Shadow Man” comes off a bit stale, hobbled by the dreary earnestness of its lyric and its plodding tempo.

Recorded on 14 September 1971 and never released. In 2000, Bowie cut a grandiose revision of “Shadow Man” for his aborted Toy LP and later issued it as a B-side of  the 2002 singles “Slow Burn” and “Everyone Says ‘Hi’.”

Top: Doisneau, “Les Jambes du Métro, Paris, 1971.”

9 Responses to Shadow Man

  1. Brian says:

    Hello Chris! I was looking for the lyrics to Karma Man and Shadow Man when I came across this blog by chance. Your insight into that song is invaluable, as well as this one! Thanks for all the work on these posts.

  2. audiophd says:

    The ‘Toy’ version of this one seems quite apropos today.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I love the Toy version of this song. I think it’s an absolute lost gem. I’ve been playing it a lot these past few days.

  4. RamonaAstone says:

    “But the Shadow Man is really you” – a call back to Freecloud? The song in general has a definite Buddhist sentiment. I love the Toy version, it’s the closest thing Bowie’s made that could be performed at the Royal Albert Hall. Gorgeous.

  5. Why is the song credited to Garry Bonner, David Bowie and Alan Gordon on many lyric sites?

    • col1234 says:

      i have no idea but the song is credited to bowie on the CD single, so i’d take that as being accurate

    • Matthew says:

      Sometimes the internet is like that game whispers!
      Some sites list Bowie as the co-writer of “she’d rather be with me” which is a Bonner/Gordon song.

  6. Waki says:

    I think the link below is rather spot on regarding the song meaning –in which I hear nothing Buddhist at all, and I am an old Buddhist. And more than the song, this link brings some lights into the intricate underworld of Bowie, and of you and me, and why we are together…

  7. fantailfan says:

    Preparing for the secular yahrzeit tomorrow, I put together a playlist called “David Bowie’s Toys” which include the originals (if available), the rough mix torrent, and any final version released, including “Slow Burn” and “Afraid.” It’s not quite finished, I’m waiting for the B-sides from the Heathen CD singles for “Baby Loves That Way,” “Conversation Piece” and “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving.”

    Anyway, Bowie’s vocals on the Toy rough mix and Nothing Has Changed of “Shadow Man” sound like Elvis Costello in the early 1980s as much as anything. I’ve never seen any connection between the two, either in style or influence, aside from both being English.

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