“I Pray, Olé” closes the quartet of official Berlin-era outtakes (see “Some Are,” “All Saints,” “Abdulmajid“). As with most of these tracks, it’s hard to determine how much of “Olé” really is the work of its alleged era. I venture that little of it is. Mixed and released in the late Tin Machine years, its lyric is very Machine-esque at times (“it’s a god eat god world“) while some of the guitar overdubs harbinger Reeves Gabrels—it’s quite possible that Gabrels did them, though the guitar wailing towards the fadeout seems more Adrian Belew. The robotic drumming doesn’t seem like Dennis Davis at all, though perhaps it’s a Davis run-through drum track as consumed by the sins of 1980s production.
Nicholas Pegg speculated that “Olé” was cut from Lodger because of its melodic similarity to “Look Back in Anger,” and there’s something to that idea—the guitar counter-melody in the verses is close to the backing chorus (“waiting so long”) of “Anger.” Also (and that’s if “Olé” actually came out of the Lodger sessions) the song seems half-finished, with the various overdubs working hard to obscure the thinness of the material. Still, the opening verse has a fine, even somber vocal melody and there’s a catchy pair of chorus tags (the title and “can you make it THROUGH“). “Olé” could’ve been tucked onto one of Bowie’s ’90s records and few would have been the wiser.
Recorded ca. 1978-1979, overdubs and mixing in 1991 in Montreux. Only released on the Ryko CD edition of Lodger, currently out of print.
Top: Hazel Motes receives visitors, Wise Blood, John Huston, 1979.