Is There Life After Marriage?*

Is There Life After Marriage?*

I came very close to not doing an entry for this one, but seeing as I’m behind on the remaining Scary Monsters entries and after listening to it again, I felt “Is There Life After Marriage?” merited some sort of notice: a separate but qualified entry. Hence the asterisk.

Because “Is There Life After Marriage” has already been covered here—it’s an instrumental from the early Scary Monsters sessions that was meant to be a version of Cream’s “I Feel Free,” a song that Bowie played during the first Spiders tour and had intended to cover for years: he finally did so on Black Tie White Noise. The intended Scary Monsters cover went no further than this backing track (possibly because “Kingdom Come” made it superfluous), in which Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis and George Murray do their thing: Alomar demonstrates yet again that he’s one of the best rhythm players of his generation, Murray is a rock of melodic steadiness and Davis seems ready to cut loose at a half-second’s notice.

To make things more confusing, there are two “Marriage”s: a track title reportedly documented during the Scary Monsters sessions (as per Pegg) which no one has heard outside the Bowie circle (and which may well be a working title of another Monsters track, as “Cameras in Brooklyn” was for “Up the Hill Backwards”), and this version, the bootlegged “I Feel Free” backing track. The title could be a reference to the just-divorced Bowie, but it’s also possible that he took the phrase from Margaret Drabble’s The Middle Ground (1980), where it’s a graffito scrawled on the wall of an Oxford Street bridal shop.

Recorded February 1980, the Power Station, New York. Unreleased.

Top: Kevin O’Sullivan, “New York,” May 1980.

8 Responses to Is There Life After Marriage?*

  1. Jeremy Earl says:

    Such an oddity. Wonder what, if it exists, the real ‘Is there life after marriage’ sounds like?

  2. col1234 says:

    fittingly, this entry has been a bit chaotic. The version that was originally published was an earlier draft. Now updated.

  3. Brendan O'Lear says:

    It’s worth including, if only because it is the only real example – at least that I can think of – of just the ‘backing band’. Since Scary Monsters marks the end of the road for the classic Bowie rhythm section so perhaps it’s worth paying tribute. It’s easy to forget just how original the set up was, a very white English rock singer backed by a very American and black rhythm section, with various additional musicians thrown in to add colour.

    Too many highlights but here are just a few of my personal favourites:
    5. George Murray on Yassassin (the song’s not that great but Murray seems to be in his own little world -probably ignoring Eno’s instructions.)
    4. Dennis Davis’s opening thud on Speed of Life
    3. Carlos Alomar on pretty much anything, but every time I listen to Fame it feels like I discover another incredible fill buried deep in the mix.
    2. George Murray on the Nassau live thing. He just can’t stop himself being melodic and funky, Stay is great but his Waiting for the Man is special.
    1. Dennis Davis setting Sound and Vision on its way; it’s brutally simple, but I can’t think of a better intro to any song I’ve ever heard.

    • Jeremy Earl says:

      Good point! Good to also remember how versatile they were, going from the rock/funk of STS to the electro rhythms of Low to the aggressive arrangements of Heroes to the avant-pop and world music of Lodger to the amalgam that is Scary Monsters. Simply phenomenal these guys in every way. Carlos, what a dude, he did more than just play rhythm brilliantly, he was conduit of synergy. There was something magical about him and Bowie knew it. Davis and Murray have their own special place in Bowie lore and they should be buried next to each other.

      Too many highlights really for me to choose – i love it all and they were brilliant.

  4. diamond dog says:

    Its a fairly dull outtake , pity something more interesting was not leaked in the unheard dept but it is worth a listen. One can only be thankful we did not get I feel free on this album. Davis ,Alomar and Murray are I think the best backing band an old mod queen could ex glam merchant could wish for , they’re role is never aknowledged. They brought a massive amount of pure r’n’b sense to the table and he should bring em back.

  5. Carl H says:

    I actually like the Astronettes version of this song better than DB’s, even though I think that one ends disappointing while this doesn’t- I think Ava Cherry has such a great presence in her singing, and almost seems a bit dangerous. Especially when she’s speaking of her “gold shower”. Damn, she could’ve been a big star.

    Anyway, both versions are good!

  6. The fast part at 1:05 is from Starman!

  7. Vinnie says:

    Pure grooves, pure grooves. I’d love to hear more Bowie instrumentals from the period.

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