It’s No Game (Pts. 1 & 2)

It’s No Game (Part 2) (early vocal, rough mix).
It’s No Game (Part 2).
It’s No Game (Part 1).

There are an awful lot of mistakes on that album that I went with, rather than cut them out. One tries as much as possible to put oneself on the line artistically. But after the Dadaists, who pronounced that art is dead…Once you’ve said art is dead, it’s very hard to get more radical than that. Since 1924 art’s been dead, so what the hell can we do with it from there on? One tries to at least keep readdressing the thing…

David Bowie, promo disc for Scary Monsters, 1980.

Scary Monsters,* the last consensus “great” Bowie album, is Bowie and Tony Visconti bent on correcting the flaws of Lodger. Visconti wanted a better sound and mix, using the just-opened Power Station in New York for rhythm tracks and his own Good Earth Studios in London for vocals and overdubs. Bowie cut back on the vocal-booth improvisation and took time to actually write; once the backing tracks were down, Bowie spent two months working on top melodies and lyrics.

So Bowie and Visconti honed Scary Monsters to an edge: a joke song about Jamaica turned into an indictment of fashion; something called “People Are Turning to Gold” became the return of Major Tom and a career summary/epitaph. Regardless of what Bowie said about Scary Monsters being full of “mistakes,” the record was his most commercially-minded album since Young Americans. Chuck Hammer, recruited from Lou Reed’s band for guitar/synth overdubs, recalled an intense mood in the studio, with Visconti charting the record’s progress as though he was running a lunar survey. (Scary Monsters was “Bowie’s decision to take his work in rock & roll seriously,” Robert Fripp said at the time. “Anyone who goes to New York takes his work seriously—the city certainly has that effect.“)

It worked, mostly. Monsters restored Bowie’s fortunes in the UK, where he got a #1 and two other hit singles from it (it didn’t do much in the US, which had only taken to disco Bowie). Monsters has a more unified, more clarified sound: there’s an exuberant anger in its tight performances and a dedication to rhythm not seen since Station to Station. If a bit front-loaded (Side A >> Side B), it’s weathered the past thirty years as well as anything of its time has—Monsters still sounds like Bowie’s “modern” record. Unfairly or no, it became the watermark: everything Bowie’s made since has been measured against it.

Lodger was Bowie processing himself as an influence. Scary Monsters went further: it’s a rummaging through an overgrown estate. Three of its ten tracks recycle Bowie outtakes of the early ’70s, other songs call back to everything from “Heroes” to “Laughing Gnome” to “Rupert the Riley,” and course, the lead single is a sequel to “Space Oddity.” Even the LP sleeve is retrospective, with the return of “Berlin” Bowie’s various emblems—Low‘s Man Who Fell to Earth, the Roquairol tribute of “Heroes” and the mugging victim from Lodger (attached to Aladdin Sane’s body)—now smeared, shrunken and distorted. It’s a touring company disbanding. Even Bowie’s latest incarnation as a grim clown was a nod to the past, to Bowie’s time with Lindsay Kemp in the late ’60s (“The Mime Songs”), when, as he recalled, Bowie had “joined the circus.” But there are two clowns on the cover: the somber, dignified one who looks straight out at you and the disheveled one hiding behind, casting a shadow that fills half of the frame.

Monsters, intended to establish Bowie as an Eighties artist, seemed equally like a closing statement, sampling, mocking and mourning the Sixties and Seventies, with guests ranging from Pete Townshend to old hands like Roy Bittan and Robert Fripp to (relative) newcomers like Tom Verlaine. The record also marks a casting change, with Monsters being the last round for various supporting players. Fripp would never work with Bowie again; it’s the last time Bowie would ever record with his brilliant rhythm section, George Murray and Dennis Davis; it’s the last Visconti-produced Bowie album until Bush the Younger’s administration.

Versions of “It’s No Game” open and close Scary Monsters, and the two tracks in turn are framed by the stereo-miked sounds of Visconti’s Lyrec 24-track tape deck. The first sound heard on the record is Visconti rewinding the deck and pressing “play”; the last is the tape spooling out.

“Part 2,” confusingly, was the first version of “It’s No Game,” the only track completed during the Power Station sessions in February 1980. The song’s chronology recalled John Lennon’s “Revolution,” recorded first as a mid-tempo, acoustic guitar-based track (the White Album version) and then reconstituted a month later as a compressed, sped-up electric rocker for the single. Lennon, who Bowie saw often during the Monsters sessions, inspired the sound of “Game,” as Bowie later admitted—the shrieked, bellowed lines in “Pt. 1” was Bowie’s attempt at the righteous zeal of “Instant Karma,” the catharsis of Plastic Ono Band. It’s no coincidence that “Pt. 1” is sung by an Englishman and a Japanese woman.

“It’s No Game” is the latest development in Bowie’s taste for protest songs, an angrier “Fantastic Voyage,” a broader “Repetition.” A man is woken up by a noise in the street. He sits, flicking through TV channels, disgusted and bewildered by what he’s seeing—the latest set of brownshirts, protesters clubbed on the streets, old dictators, new presidents (he turns from a documentary on refugees to a dish-soap advertisement). The world is reduced to flickering images, silhouettes and shadow, but as awful as the world is, the singer’s still in exile from it. “I am barred from the event,” he starts screaming. “I really don’t understand the situation.” One verse ends with a line seemingly out of Noel Coward: “To be insulted by these fascists—it’s so degrading.

The two “It’s No Games” also are parodies of protest songs (Bowie can’t resist throwing in some wordplay either, with a pun on Eddie Cochran’s “Three Steps to Heaven”). “Game Pt. 2,” the elder of the pair, is a worn-out rant. As Bowie said in 1980: What happens when a protest or angry statement is thrown against the wall (like “camel shit,” apparently) so many times is that the speaker finds that he has no energy to give any impact anymore. It comes over in that very lilting, very melodic kind of superficial level [of “Part 2”]. The sentiment is exactly the same as in the first part but the ambiance has changed, with a gentle, almost nostalgic quality to it, rather than being an angry vehement statement.

“Game Pt. 2,” with its measured, restrained vocal, its precise guitars (Carlos Alomar playing three miniature riffs at various points in the verses) and steady rhythms, seems like a sanctioned protest, a nostalgic fit of controlled anger. Fittingly, the chorus and bridge rework Bowie’s “Tired of My Life,” a maudlin, self-pitying song dating back to Bowie’s teens; the singer’s wearied by life in the way only a barely-grown man would be. Bowie had cut a demo of it around the time of the Hunky Dory sessions with Mick Ronson on harmonies (it’s sadly in debt to Crosby, Stills & Nash), but had set it aside.

The reused pieces of “Tired of My Life” add to the lassitude of “Game Pt. 2,” the former’s wordless chorus melody taken up by the soaring backing vocals (Bowie and Visconti, with Visconti singing the higher notes). A key change to E major comes before Carlos Alomar’s solo (like “Look Back in Anger,” it’s a neat little rhythm guitar run, with as much empty space as notes), then a fall back to D major for the last verse. The track closes neatly and resoundingly, with nothing changed; the tape runs out, the record sticks in its groove, the disc turns off, another MP3 starts.

A world, or at least a side, away is the manic revision of “Game,” its cracked remix, the sinister clown to “Pt. 2″‘s somber one. “Game Pt. 1,” once the tape starts rolling, jump cuts to Dennis Davis waving a soccer ratchet over his head while he counts the band in. For the first time since Low, Visconti used the 910 Harmonizer in force (it’s even applied to the ratchet). The new ingredient is the Power Station, whose room ambiance, mikes and consoles would create the ’80s gated drum sound. If Visconti and Davis arguably pioneered that sound on Low, their work on Monsters seems a blueprint designed for common use.

The first voice on the track is the Japanese actress Michi Hirota (she’s on the cover of Sparks’ Kimono My House), snapping “Shirueto ya kagega!” (“silhouettes and shadows,” full translation here). Hirota originally was to coach Bowie in voicing the Japanese translation (by the professor Hisahi Miura). But as the translation was literal, it was hard for Hirota to make the lines fit the vocal melody—there were just too many syllables. The obstacle became an inspiration: Bowie asked Hirota to recite the lyric herself, but in an aggressive “masculine” manner, shouting and barking out the words.

The Japanese language has a sharply defined gender separation, with men and women (and older men/younger men, etc.) using different words, tenses and phrasings. If a woman was to speak the way Hirota does on “Game,” it would still be startling in today’s Japan; more than that, it just wouldn’t be done. For example, Hirota says “ore,” the pronoun for “I” which only an older Japanese man would use; she also uses more direct verb endings than a woman typically would. Her whole delivery is an aggressive, exaggerated masculine tone (it’s basically how a Japanese teenage boy would speak).

So Bowie intended Hirota to be the song’s secret revolutionary: I wanted to break down a particular type of sexist attitude about women. I thought the [idea of] the “Japanese girl” typifies it, where everyone pictures them as a geisha girl, very sweet, demure and non-thinking, when in fact that’s the absolute opposite of what women are like. They think an awful lot!, with quite as much strength as any man. I wanted to caricature that attitude by having a very forceful Japanese voice on it. So I had [Hirota] come out with a very samurai kind of thing.

Hirota’s first barrage of words triggers Bowie, whose voice seems blown out by rage, to a disturbing and eventually comic extent. Bowie’s voice strangles on the octave leaps and falls of “GAME!!” while he seems to tear his vocal chords with his long screams on “HEAVVVEN” or “SIT-u-a-SHUUUUUUN”. The “Tired of My Life” vocal harmonies, when they arrive, serve as an island of stability for the ear. Bowie’s performance is both acting out the “Western” equivalent to Hirota’s aggressive performance, and also mocking the high-octane rants of the punks. More sound, more fury, ending the same way.

Into all this barges Robert Fripp, asked by Bowie to imagine trying to outplay B.B. King in a guitar duel. Along with his stunning work on Another Green World, Scary Monsters is Fripp’s peak: he never quite sounded as good as this again, whether it was due to Visconti’s use of room mikes, Harmonizers and other tools, or Fripp’s frame of mind, or the material he had to work with. Fripp’s eight-bar solo in “Game,” fired by the key change after the “makes all the papers” line, is as simple as it’s craftily melodic: it suggests the track’s on the verge of moving somewhere unintended, until Davis’ thudding fills yoke it back. Fripp gets off another round in the coda (where the time shifts to 3/4),  spiraling and spiraling until Bowie howls at him to shut up.

“Put a bullet in my brain, and it makes all the papers.” It’s one of the oldest lines in the song, written for “Tired of My Life” at a time when Bowie was still living in Beckenham, walking the streets unnoticed, his name only his name. In “Pt 2” Bowie sings the line as a melancholy descending phrase; in “Pt. 1” Bowie (who’s double-tracked with himself) sneers the line out, biting on the “s” in “papers,” and a beat later Hirota spikes in with “shinbun wa kakitateru!!, lacerating her last vowels.

On December 8, 1980, Bowie was performing The Elephant Man at the Booth Theatre, 20 or so blocks away from the Dakota on 72nd Street where, arriving home around 11, John Lennon was shot three times. He died in the ambulance that came for him. His killer reportedly had attended an Elephant Man show a few days before. Bowie found his way to May Pang’s apartment and kept screaming “what the fuck is going on in this world!!” Then he sat and watched television coverage of the Lennon killing until dawn.

Many thanks to Stephen Ryan for his translation and various insights, as well as my favorite globetrotter Sarah.

Recorded February 1980 at the Power Station, NYC and (for Pt. 1) April 1980 at Good Earth Studios, London. On Scary Monsters. Bonus: an interesting (if muddy) fan remix of the two, “It’s No Game (Pt. 3).”

* Utter minutia: the album is sometimes referred to as Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) but it’s only identified as Scary Monsters on the LP spine and disc label (though “Super Creeps” is on the back cover).

Top: Steve Lubetkin, “Democratic National Convention,” New York, 1980; Monsters; Bowie as early incarnation of Shakes the Clown; onna-bugeisha; “Ys Boutique, Tokyo,” 1980 (Mafia-Hunt); Scary.

34 Responses to It’s No Game (Pts. 1 & 2)

  1. Jeremy Earl says:

    Brilliant! Great start to an obviously great album. When I first heard this album as a 13 year old I was blown away – it’s just what you need when you are that age. It still blows me away though. Best listened to on vinyl😉

    It’s no game. I love the fact that part of it comes from a song he wrote when he was a teenager. A much younger friend of mine told me that he was given a tape of Lets Dance on side A and Scary Monsters on side B. Having listened to Lets Dance and liking it, he couldn’t understand why someone who could sing so well was screaming on the other album. He loved it though, and so do I.

  2. mike says:

    I’ve given this a lot (read: years) of thought, and have finally come to a conclusion that was always, really, the obvious one: SM is Bowie’s best album. HD and STS were always in the running but finally they have been officially reduced to the role of the almost-but-not-quite honorable mention. They make lovely bridesmaids, dont they?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I started listening (& obsessing) about Bowie with the release of Heathen. /I literally saw this new record by that guy someone I was listening to at that time cited as inspiration & thought I’d give it a listen in the booth. well I liked that I heard. the rest, as they say, is history./ It took me a while to work my way up to Scary Monsters. Back then I had no computer & only owned a discman. I still remember the moment I started listening to this album for the first time. I was at school, it was a free period and I was alone in the classroom. It’s No Game Part 1 literally made me go WTF. Scary Monsters was by no means love on first listen but it slowly became my favourite Bowie album. I still have a soft spot for it, what do I know it might still be my favourite album of his. :o)
    As for It’s No Game. I like both versions but Part 1, with everything dialed up to maximum & with that Japanese woman, well that is just one of a kind, isn’t it. When I was an adolescent I’d sometimes come home and play that one at maximum volume, just because it gives one this great feeling of catharsis.
    And today, while all these riots keep happening across the UK & I’m reading this entry & listening to the song, it just adds a sort of new meaning to it all. Just shows you what a great, timeless record this turned out to be.
    P.S. I haven’t read about Bowie screaming “what the fuck is going on in this world!!” at May Pang’s.Or maybe I have but forgot, anyway, thanks for that snippet, it’s a poweful image.

  4. Maj says:

    I started listening (& obsessing) about Bowie with the release of Heathen. /I literally saw this new record by that guy someone I was listening to at that time cited as inspiration & thought I’d give it a listen in the booth. well I liked that I heard. the rest, as they say, is history./ It took me a while to work my way up to Scary Monsters. Back then I had no computer & only owned a discman. I still remember the moment I started listening to this album for the first time. I was at school, it was a free period and I was alone in the classroom. It’s No Game Part 1 literally made me go WTF. Scary Monsters was by no means love on first listen but it slowly became my favourite Bowie album. I still have a soft spot for it, what do I know it might still be my favourite album of his. :o)
    As for It’s No Game. I like both versions but Part 1, with everything dialed up to maximum & with that Japanese woman, well that is just one of a kind, isn’t it. When I was an adolescent I’d sometimes come home and play that one at maximum volume, just because it gives one this great feeling of catharsis.
    And today, while all these riots keep happening across the UK & I’m reading this entry & listening to the song, it just adds a sort of new meaning to it all. Just shows you what a great, timeless record this turned out to be.
    P.S. I haven’t read about Bowie screaming “what the fuck is going on in this world!!” at May Pang’s.Or maybe I have but forgot, anyway, thanks for that snippet, it’s a poweful image.

  5. Maj says:

    I’m sorry I tried logging in via Twitter but that didn’t work. Ignore the anonymous.😉

  6. David L says:

    Great start to a huge album. I love the long posts for the significant tracks, great job. The No. 1 track is still violent, startling, even today.

    I don’t know where I heard it, but my impression was that the lyric “to be insulted by these fascists” was Bowie lashing out at the people who had accused HIM of being a fascist due to Bowie’s allegedly Hitler-like poses in certain Station to Station era photographs …

    One question: why did he go to May Pang’s apartment? I understand she was Lennon’s ex-girlfriend, but … I feel like I’m missing something here. Was she also banging Bowie?

    • col1234 says:

      hey–as this thing was running ridiculously long, i cut out some backstory. But the story (mainly from the Trynka bio) is that DB and Pang had known each other since the Young Americans era (he met her when she was dating Lennon during the “lost weekend” away from Ono), and DB’s longtime assistant/quasi-manager/savior Coco Schwab basically told Pang to find DB and get him off the street once the news about Lennon broke.

      • Jeremy Earl says:

        Wasn’t it around this time that Visconti and Pang became romantically involved? Anyway, she was part of the circle and could be trusted.

  7. Remco says:

    I like the idea of ‘It’s No Game’ as a sort of half-parody meta protest song, it’s an interpretation that works really well and hadn’t occurred to me. In that regard the ‘fascist’ line seems like a necessary ingredient, since calling somebody a Nazi in a protest song has been almost compulsory since punk.

    Thanks for the Lennon connection, I had always figured the ‘put a bullet in my brain’ line was a reaction to Lennon’s murder but the truth is a lot more fascinating, and slightly disturbing.

  8. Gnomemansland says:

    Interesting how you highlight that this was a much more focussed attempt by Bowie and Visconti to make a commercial LP – a strategy that worked in the UK but failed in the US. In many senses the failure was all but inevitable just look at the sleeve art. Bowie always under estimated how the flirtation with camp which was so integral to his image in Europe worked against him in America or kept him from being truly mainstream. The commercial failure of Scary Monsters was then to lead to Bowie going clean cut (in terms of image and sound palette) for Lets Dance and a decade in the artistic wilderness but commercially (in the US) teh Lets Dance strategy was very successful and finally paid off those MainMan debts.

  9. Brendan O'Lear says:

    A great post fitting for a great song. But the album? As the post says, it’s a very ‘front-loaded’ album; all of the songs on side 1 were hits in the UK, except for this song, which was a single in Japan. I remember really liking the second version of It’s no Game but finding it a lot of effort to sit through the rest of side 2. I thought I may have been harsh so I played it again in anticipation of this.post and realized my judgement of thirty years ago has stood the test of time much better than side 2 of the album.

  10. swanstep says:

    Great introductory piece. I’ve always agreed with the ‘shame about Side 2’ sentiment about this album…. but boy that first side is good. Deep down I wonder what it really felt like to be Bowie in 1980, to see hoards of admirers (e.g., Numan, Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, Magazine, Human League) strip-mining every part of your back-catalogue and, in many cases, ingeniously expanding on what you’d done, effectively foreclosing that as way you might develop. The album feels pressured to me, as though Bowie needed to get as many good new ideas out as quickly as possible (and if Side 2 has to be rough well so be it) before the locusts of post-punk and new pop completely devour him. Anyhow, I’m really looking forward to the next few entries!

    Lastly, that grimacing ‘smoking clown’ image is new to me. An influence on Heath Ledger’s Joker perhaps?

  11. Jeremy Earl says:

    I don’t know what everyone is talking about – side two is great! Scream like a Baby and Teenage Wildlife are brilliant. Because You’re Young is probably the weakest track on the LP, but is still better than almost everything on Tonight and NLMED, and you have to be grateful for that!

  12. David L says:

    Gotta agree with the Side Two detractors … the songs on side 2 feel unfocused, with weak melodies and verses that meander like the fill-in stuff in Broadway musicals between the hits. Perhaps the songs are overthought, as the essay above intimates. There’s some good moments on side two but they are mostly lost in the muck.

    But yeah, that first side is more than worth the price of admission.

  13. diamond dog says:

    Its no game pt1 is a superb opener snarling ,angry and laying down in one of his most powerful screaming lyrics his hurt being an open wound. It does not take any imagination to see what’s going on in the lyric its vividly screamed at us. ”Japanese influence and his honour at stake”
    Part2 is mellow calm and resigned but still superb the world the same but our commentator older and wiser.
    Monster is as you said very front loaded but its easier to quickly tire of the hits the second side holds many treasures.
    The recycling on this album was only apparant to me with the advent of internet downloads though tired of my life I became aware of on a boot called alarm?
    Game remains for me the best protest he made far better than the half baked rants of tin machine far more in keeping and the eastern influence soon became big amongst early 80’s pop.
    Often copied never equalled.

  14. philT says:

    thanks for making me listen to this after all these years. i’d disregarded it entirely but it’s mostly pretty great.

  15. Portsmouth Bubblejet says:

    Great write-up! ‘Scary Monsters’ is an album that I’ll be intrigued to revisit as I’ve never understood the love for it – especially when compared to the much more inventive and criminally underrated ‘Lodger’. Perhaps the fact that each subsequent record has been optimistically labelled Bowie’s “best album since ‘Scary Monsters'” has made the disc seem better in retrospect than it actually is?

    The album has its strong points, of course – ‘It’s No Game’ has some of Bowie’s best vocals, Fripp’s guitar work is great throughout the album and the murky bass-heavy production sound can be curiously addictive. But without Eno’s hand on the tiller, Bowie already sounds confused and rudderless here,

    I agree too that ‘Scary Monsters’ also displays the drift back towards to chasing commercial acceptance that would become more evident in subsequent albums. ‘Ashes to Ashes’ is a mighty song, no doubt, but it’s also a very calculated one, from its revisiting of his first hit ‘Space Oddity’ to the co-opting of the then fashionable Steve Strange and sundry Blitz scene New Romantics for the video. Then again, I suppose you can hardly blame Bowie for wanting to court the mainstream once more – how would you feel if you’d recorded such a blistering set of albums from ‘Station to Station’ to ‘Lodger’ to minimal commercial success?

  16. swanstep says:

    Hmm, recalibrating, everyone here supporting Teenage Wildlife is right: it’s definitely some sort of gem. I’m suddenly hearing traces of LCD Soundsystem’s All I want and All my friends in it. (But maybe I’m crazy on that front: Drunk Girls sounds like Scary Monsters to me whereas most people seem to compare it to Boys keep swinging.)

    • Portsmouth Bubblejet says:

      Heh. ‘Drunk Girls’ really does sound like ‘Boys Keep Swinging’, but also like ‘White Light, White Heat’ (and ‘Loretta’ by The Nervous Eaters).

  17. Maj says:

    Member of the Teenage Wildlife fan club here.🙂
    As for side 2, I might be a wee bit weaker than side 1 but it’s still pretty ****ing amazing.😉

  18. Carl says:

    I don’t understand what people have against the second half of Scary Monsters? I really don’t… No idea at all.

    • Remco says:

      Kingdom Come and Because You’re Young are pretty disappointing (the former more so than the latter) but most of all the A-side is so fucking great that the B-side is bound to be at least a bit of a letdown.

  19. Continuing the “Three Steps to Heaven” and mining the past theme – “Queen Bitch”‘s opening riff is the same [can’t think of the term – ‘interval/sequence’] as the main chord progression in “Three Steps to Heaven”. This would tell me that he means “no more ‘Queen Bitch’ from Bowie, thank you. I’ve moved on.”

  20. col1234 says:

    Brief update on Japanese gender: Stephen rightly points out that it’s not *unheard of* for a Japanese woman to speak like Hirota does here, and use such pronouns like “ore.” For instance, in an all-female environment, such as a woman’s soccer team, you’re quite likely to hear Japanese women speaking like this.

    • Waki says:

      Ha ha ha, you got me😀 ! A woman’s soccer team is no typical all-female environment. I am quite sure the fact that women are joining that sorts of sport is also quite a revolutionary thing.
      And who knows, possibly the 2011 language Japanes habits you report could be indebted to It’s No Game, since the song was Number One in Japan back in 1980. It was meant to break rules. Hopefully it did so indeed? What the use of being Number One if you can’t affect social change, and you are Bowie?

  21. Granulated says:

    Has Damon Albarn ever admitted to ripping off (paying homage to !) It’s No Game Pt1,2 ?

  22. Anonymous says:

    Perhaps its just me, but I’m MIXED about Scary Monsters & Super Creeps. I’m not mixed about the LP—it is Bowie’s MeisterWerke and hit holds up brilliantly for being both a very melodonic, yet unlistenable song cycle.

    No, the problem I have with Scary Monsters is all Bowie’s posturing and sneering at the New Wave Artistes/Post Punk scene. Bowie was a 60’s Rocker and 70’s Glam Rocker who transitioned very well into Disco—he just didn’t make the jump to Punk (which killed off Glam) and Post Punk (which he never transitioned to).

    I still can’t figure out WHY he made the LP—what was he pissed off about? Being old & Irrelevant?!!! That happens to the best of us. Why did he do ‘Game’? For my ears, Game is as ‘IN YOUR FACE’ insult to John Lennon as Lennon’s “How do you Sleep” to Macca. A whimpy, emasculated and floundering Englishman being ridden rough shadden by an Aggressive Japanese Woman in the Style of Plastic Ono Band (1970)?!!! If I was Johnny-Boy, I woulda HIT THE ROOF at his ‘mate’ making fun of him like that. I also adore Ashes to Ashes (the video & the song—a song about lost “MAJ Tom’s a Junkie’?) Why all the 60s Parabells? To give the finger to the Punks (class of 77) who dispised AOR/Glam Rock? Or to give the finger to the Post-Punk New Wavers who ‘can’t write songs as good as us over-the-hill Hippy Types?!!! [FYI, I cried my little Eyes out when the Beatles broke up in 1970—now I’m glad they did. Say what you will about them—the Beatles never made a DISCO Alblum!!!].

  23. Mick says:

    Amazing song. Great album. Fantastic blog.
    I’m so glad I stumbled into this place after some wild link-jumping related to Family Guy’s inclusion of the full Dancing in the Street video with Bowie & Jagger..
    Many hours will be spent reading here now…

  24. humanizingthevacuum says:

    Let’s not sneeze at its U.S. success: #12, his highest chart position since Low in ’77. Certainly it didn’t compare to its lucky dovetailing with the New Romantic apogee in the U.K, but something went right in America. Whoever was around at the time: how well was this album promoted? To climb this high after waning commercial fortunes suggests that some of his American fans returned to the fold.

    • col1234 says:

      yeah, it was a ‘popular’ record in the way that say, Costello’s “Armed Forces” was or the Talking Heads’ early stuff—got plenty of airplay on FM and college radio and written up in Rolling Stone, etc. But this is just my very vague and poss. inaccurate impression. I was eight yrs old then, living in a very rural part of Virginia, and recall hearing “Ashes” and possibly “fashion” on the radio. again, could be remembering years later.

  25. […] Bowie scholars often say this line in 1980 protest song It’s No Game is a nod to rock legend Eddie Cochran’s Three Steps To Heaven by way of a little Bowie wordplay. But whether you’re making word games or branded apps, content is not free, and nor should it be. Consumers like the appeal of free apps, but the exchange needs to work both ways – whether that’s in terms of data (registering an email address, for example), or in terms of money through paying for ad-free content or other in-app upgrades. If the exchange works for both brand and customer then you’re in marketing heaven. “I’m afraid of Americans” Bowie was curious about America and the transatlantic relationship, flitting as he did between Europe and the US in search of specific creative juices. We should be fascinated with our transatlantic cousins too – the US big four (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) have pioneered everything from smartphones to online shopping to mobile advertising. The UK start-up culture isn’t devoid of creative juice, though – inspiration works both ways. […]

  26. […] Bowie scholars often say this line in 1980 protest song It’s No Game is a nod to rock legend Eddie Cochran’s Three Steps To Heaven by way of a little Bowie wordplay. But whether you’re making word games or branded apps, content is not free, and nor should it be. Consumers like the appeal of free apps, but the exchange needs to work both ways – whether that’s in terms of data (registering an email address, for example), or in terms of money through paying for ad-free content or other in-app upgrades. If the exchange works for both brand and customer then you’re in marketing heaven. […]

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