I Pray, Olé

I Pray, Olé.

“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.

25 Responses to I Pray, Olé

  1. Like many of the later bonus tracks on the Rykodisc series (which is my set of choice, only because I began with it), “I Pray, Olé” isn’t much different than Lodger’s other tracks, which is to say it isn’t really worth much. It is not a “hidden gem.”

    Speaking of “Look Back in Anger,” I was kind of expecting your take on it before you completed the outtakes list.

    [Yes, this is my first post. I read the whole blog like a binge after in a long spell of Bowie starvation. Most excellent insights, and the pictures place the music in their team perfectly.]

  2. col1234 says:

    Richard–welcome. “Anger” (and “Boys Keep Swinging”) were slated to come next, but i’m still jet-lagged and need time to write ’em, so this one got bumped ahead in line.

  3. Remco says:

    Welcome back, hope you enjoyed your holiday.
    Since it’s an outtake of an album I don’t have on CD I never really paid much attention to this song. Now I know why. I agree with your verdict, some nice ideas but it’s a far cry from an actual finished song.

  4. timspeaker says:

    I do have a strong attachment to Ole. It’s quite good, and might have been better on the album than say African Night Flight, imo.

    Great stuff as usual. Glad to have you back. Can’t wait for the conclusion of Lodger.

    • David L says:

      I agree, it’s a decent, fun track to listen to. To my ears, the vocals sound very much like they are from the Lodger sessions, though the drums sound more like Hunt Sales than Dennis Davis.

      Wish it was available on itunes.

  5. Jeremy Earl says:

    Hope your fantastic voyage was a great one. This track is indeed insubstantial but interesting at least. This is the outtake from this era in which the overdub joins can be obviously heard. It must have just been a sketch. Still, I’m glad that we got to hear it – better than a lousy remix like the ones we got on Low and Heroes. Obviously, other than possible alternate takes, there must not be much left in the can from the Lodger sessions.

  6. diamond dog says:

    Its hardly essential listening but any outtake no matter how sketchy is better than nothing. I would have liked it to have been raw without overdubs etc but hats off to ryko for offering this. We can only speculate as to what is in the vaults and as Bowie has never offered any material again I personally treasure their reissues and at the time I loved replacing old releases with them,though time has been less than charitable to them.

  7. Jeremy Earl says:

    The Ryko re-releases were pretty good at the time and most of them stand up today. It was exciting times for Bowie fans with even some tracks that hadn’t been bootlegged coming out. Personally I feel that subsequent Bowie re-releases have been remastered harshly and don’t sound as good as the Ryko ones. There’s just too much compression these days. Clarity isn’t everything especially at the expense of warmth. Mind you I mostly buy vinyl and therefore avoid CD sounds on the whole (but i have hundreds of CDS!)

  8. diamond dog says:

    The latest reissues are all packaging and very flawed…look at ziggy anniversary edition …awful left and right mixed up , count ins mixing very loud and nothing new in the way of extras. At least ryko did vinyl. Cd being better sounding is a falsehood and a music industry lie. Vinyl ripped to cd sounds better than the official releases. I’ve dug out my old vinyl in the last few years and have to say even on a modest system the orig vinyl just has far more depth and warmth ,it is stunning in some cases. Ryko did a great job with some material though most people had not been able to buy the orig rca cd’s as they were withdrawn years before. The rca cd’s are pretty good and as close to the vinyl there is in digital form. I commend ryko’s effort though more info in the booklets would have cleared the mystery of where some of the additional tracks came from.

    • col1234 says:

      with you on vinyl, dd—around “Station” I switched from CDs (that’s around when most of my old Rykos went up to—i had the berlin stuff mainly on cassette) to vinyl and it’s really been more enjoyable to listen to, esp. in headphones.

      • Jeremy Earl says:

        Yeah, vinyl still has a sound quality way beyond both CDs and MP3’s Around my parts I’m seeing younger and younger people buying vinyl at my favourite record store. It ain’t going to die. Recently I finally bought the 40th anniversary vinyl edition of the Space Oddity LP and it sounds superb.

  9. diamond dog says:

    Cd was meant to be a replacement for tape cassettes !! I feel sorry for kids today with mp3 which is great for portabilty but simply awful sound. The moRe re issues we have the more the sound moves away from the original intention. I bought the massive set for station to station and I’m glad they included a copy of the rca cd as the remix version is ok but I always return to the vinyl , the set has the vinyl but I’ve not played it. The box is nice but is there no outtakes from the sessions ?

  10. Brendan O'Lear says:

    Not sure that I share the vinyl love. I think back to my first copy of MWSTW. It was the cartoon cover with a red Mercury label – only 99p! – and the vinyl was little more than flexidisc strength. That didn’t sound good at all. Neither did all those records sound so great after they had been passed around and shared amongst friends.
    “I Pray Ole” really is a puzzle. I have no idea when that was recorded; it doesn’t seem to fit anywhere that I recognise. The only thing that sounds close is the version of “Look back in anger” that follows; is that just the production/mix?

    • col1234 says:

      having listened to the ’88 remake of “anger” a few times, I’m pretty confident the “Ole” drummer is Erdal Kizilcay, who’s on the revised “anger”—very similar in feel, sound. (it’s certainly not Davis–maybe it’s Sales.) i have a feeling “Ole” was something put together in fragments over a long period of time….

      vinyl is all about how you preserve it. none of my parents’ records survived the ’70s. but stuff i bought in 1990 and nerdily preserved still sounds wonderful today.

  11. Jeremy Earl says:

    I think that you are on the money regarding Ole. And yes, it is about how you look after vinyl, and what’s wrong with that?

  12. Brendan O'Lear says:

    Erdal Kizilcay – that’s a good call. I was thinking that he might be playing bass here. I’m glad you agree it’s not Davis. I wonder which bits – if any – come from Lodger. (By the way, the Pegg theory about it being too similar to ‘anger’ doesn’t make sense to me. There was a lot of fanfare about ‘move on’ recalling ‘all the young dudes’ as well as ‘boys keep swinging’ and ‘fantastic voyage’ sharing the same chords.)
    I think the quality of vinyl varied quite a bit. I remember my copy of STS was a thick, heavy disc that made you think you were putting something substantial on your turntable, it demanded respect, whereas MWSTW was so flimsy that I could barely get it back into its sleeve. I was thinking more of dd’s point that he felt sorry for youngsters nowadays. For young people, a big part of pop music is sharing it with others and the quality of mp3s is much better than a piece of vinyl that has been passed around scratched accordingly. (Painful memories of the big scratch in “Heroes”.)

    • Pinstripe Hourglass says:

      There are new joys that come with MP3s. Sharing is a big part, obviously – not only on the less legal side of things online, but also just plugging your iPod into someone’s dock and showing them what you’re into. There’s a real joy in that.

      Or (and I’m getting a little nostalgic here) sharing your music with a crush, listening to one earphone while she listens to the other. Ah, memories… (didn’t actually happen very often, to be honest, but I remember each time it did)

  13. Pinstripe Hourglass says:

    Look at these old farts with their vinyl. Get with the future, hippies!

    It’s quite an odd song, isn’t it? The vocal and guitar sound straight from Lodger to me but the rhythm section feels very ’90s.

  14. diamond dog says:

    I used to think cd was the dogs bollocks until I put my old vinyl away and did not give it a thought till one day a couple of yeras ago I moved house and set up my deck in my loft. I banged on the who’s quadrophenia and boy was I shocked …the vinyl was stunning with such depth. I think the main problem today is bad transfer to cd. And if your remastering take a leaf from the doors material they sound stunning.
    I pray ole has def been finished of in the 90,s its a pity ryko did not offer any more info? Did anyone ask at the time?

  15. andrew bogner says:

    The sonic quality of this track is incongruent with anything off of ‘lodger’. Remember: the tracks were brought back to New York City to mix with visconti and bowie (belew was also there to complete overdubs),however, they were relegated to ‘studio d’. The ‘d’ signifies the quality of the studio which was booked at the last minute and is a direct result of the lack of quality of audio of this album. If a Iive drummer played on this track, then the sounds were retriggered using drum samples, imo. Also, there’s a descending guitar riff near the end that sounds suspiciously like the solo in iggys’ china girl. Though phil palmer and bowie were credited for guitar duties on china girl, I believe this is bowie playing guitar on this track and the china solo.
    The erdal kizilcay theory is also quite plausible …

  16. Ryan S says:

    The revisionist production on this track reminds me of what happened to the Velvet Underground songs on VU and Another View.

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