A genre experiment of sorts, “Tiny Girls” seems to have been Bowie’s attempt to merge the vocal line of a chanson (in particular Jacques Brel’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas”) to the 6/8 rhythm of a standard ’50s doo-wop song, while encircling the song’s verses with two-chorus saxophone solos that Bowie played himself.
Bowie’s somber, melodic saxophone on “Tiny Girls” is one of his longest solo sax performances on record, and one of his finest, though it lacks the weary resolution of Bowie’s closing sax line on “Changes.” Bowie, over the years, has been generally dismissive of his technique, once saying he only played “composer’s guitar” and “composer’s piano,” and Bowie generally would get a session pro to redo performances he felt were under par (as was the case with other Idiot tracks like “Dum Dum Boys.”) Still, Bowie’s hummable sax line, laced with long-held notes (the first 12-bar solo chorus is repeated note-for-note in the second until the final bars, where Bowie soars up as if to announce Pop’s entrance) fits “Tiny Girls”‘ meager, pathetic sentiments, where some “professional” sax intro would have been jarring.
Pop’s lyric is blunt even by his standards (and true to life, as Iggy once had a 14-year-old girlfriend)—his girl’s giving him trouble, and all he wants is some younger, less jaded girl without “tricks” or a past, or a personality. But when he gets her, she’s just as greedy and clinging and poisoned by life, and so Pop’s likely on to the next, younger model. Funny how the circle is a wheel, as Gene Clark once sang.
Recorded July-August 1976, at either/both Château d’Hérouville, France, and Musicland, Munich. Another generally forgotten Idiot track, never performed live by either of its composers.
Top: Serge Gainsbourg directs Joe Dallesandro during the filming of Je t’aime… moi non plus, 1976.