Jump They Say

Jump They Say.
Jump They Say (video).
Jump They Say (Arsenio Hall Show, 1993).
Jump They Say (Rock Mix).
Jump They Say (Leftfield Remix)
Jump They Say (Dub Oddity).
Jump They Say (Brothers in Rhythm 12″ mix).
Jump They Say (Club Hart Earth mix).
Jump They Say (live, 1995).
Jump They Say (live, 1996).

On the morning of 16 January 1985, during a snowstorm that had left the Cane Hill Hospital in Coulsdon understaffed, a patient left the asylum grounds. He went across the road, into the Coulsdon South train station, and walked to the end of the platform. When the express train, which had run late, appeared in the distance, he jumped down onto the track. He lay his head upon the rail and turned his face away from the train, which killed him a few seconds later. He was Terry Burns, David Bowie’s half-brother.

As with many suicides, the final act wasn’t a surprise. Burns had laid on the same track the month before but had pulled away from the rail at the last minute. He had thrown himself out of a window in Cane Hill in 1982. These are just the documented attempts.

Most of us are fortunate in that our family tragedies don’t become the sport of tabloids. The Sun attacked Bowie for his alleged mistreatment of Burns, calling him out for ignoring his brother and for not attending the funeral (which he didn’t attend because he thought he would make it a press circus). The papers gave a platform to an aggrieved aunt to lambaste him. The following year Peter and Leni Gillman’s biography, Alias David Bowie, was published, with the aunt as one of its key sources and which offered as a central premise that the Bowie family was riddled with insanity and that Bowie’s tortured relationship with his mentally ill half-brother, and his fear of going mad, inspired many of his songs. Except for a note included with the flowers he sent to Burns’ funeral (paraphrasing a line from Blade Runner), Bowie kept silent.

Certainly Terry Burns had been essential to Bowie’s development; there’s little question as to that. Burns, Bowie’s elder by ten years, had helped turn David Jones into “David Bowie,” having introduced his younger half-brother to everything from Tibetan Buddhism to jazz. And the period in which Bowie and Burns had last had regular contact, the Haddon Hall days of 1970-1971 (when Burns would sometimes stay with the Bowies on weekends) coincided with Bowie’s quantum leap in songwriting—he would introduce himself to guests as “Terry’s brother” and then go off to write “Quicksand” and “Life on Mars?”

There was Cane Hill on the cover of The Man Who Sold The World, and there were the songs: “All the Madmen,” “After All,” “Five Years,“* “The Man Who Sold the World,“The Bewlay Brothers.” Songs about doubles and brothers and shadows, about lost children, madness and isolation. But songs about “Terry” the imago, not Terry the troubled man who would take his own life at age 47. Bowie had made a doppelganger of Terry, had used it for his own ends, as a vessel into which he could channel his fears, a muse he could eventually discard. In 1993, promoting his new album, Bowie said he’d really never known his half-brother, who in his youth would disappear for years and then turn up at the house in Bromley seemingly just to upset his mother. “I think I unconsciously exaggerated his importance. I invented this hero-worship to discharge my guilt and failure, and to set myself free from my own hang-ups.

“Jump They Say,” released eight years after Burns’ death, was “semi-based on my impression of my stepbrother,” Bowie told the NME. But “Jump” was no eulogy (how could it have been, as Bowie had already written “Bewlay Brothers”?), and there was little sentimental or maudlin about it. It was a somber, desolate song, built on a steady mid-tempo rhythm track and which only erupted into brief spasms of cold anger—even the usually buoyant Lester Bowie sounds aggrieved in his solo. Oddly enough, it was a hit: Bowie’s last-ever UK Top 10 single.

The starting point for “Jump” may have been Bowie toying with his old piece “What in the World” with which “Jump” shares a similar shifting two-chord structure, rhythmic base and even lyrical signifiers: a girl with grey eyes in “World” gives birth to the shaking man with a nation in his eyes in “Jump.”

And there’s a taste of Low‘s spiritual deadness in “Jump.” It’s even a far colder song than “What in the World,” which lies on the manic end of Low‘s emotional spectrum. “Jump” feels like it’s going nowhere, a song locked in a box, from the constant two-chord (C/B-flat) shift underlying the verses and bridges** to the looped percussion tracks (a left-mixed synthesized hi-hat and right-mixed tambourine 16ths, which play almost entirely through the track—the hi-hat drops out during Lester Bowie’s solo, while the tambourine gets down-mixed) to the bassline, which until the chorus just alternates between holding on the root note (the C bars) and playing a livelier two-note pattern (the Bb bars).

Bowie’s vocal, which keeps to the range of a fifth except for the soaring bridge, is also locked in this stasis, with Bowie arranging phrases so that “he has” falls at the same place, rhythmically, in each line (Bowie eventually alters this pattern—while he at first does the same with “they say,” using that line to end phrases in the first verse, he starts dragging it across bars in the second verse: “they/say he has/no fear they…“). This strict rhythmic pattern fits the coldness of the lyric, in which the “Terry” figure is observed as though by a scientist in a lab—“Terry” has no inner life, he’s just made up of a series of observation reports. Look at him climb! the researcher notes, with the slightest trace of life in his voice, watching as the man hauls himself up a spire like some sad parody of King Kong. And what’s the chorus but a crowd calling for him to jump? The researcher closes the file. I’d say he should watch his arse, he mutters, as he leaves the room and turns off the light.

Breaking through the song’s permafrost are a few brief interruptions—distorted, “underwater”-sounding trumpets that crop up in the intro and get a brief moment to solo; Lester’s wild spray of notes (in the Outside tour, this section was battled over by Reeves Gabrels and Mike Garson); Bowie’s pained-sounding saxophone responses to the crowd calling “jump!,” a melody that Bowie finally put to words in the last chorus. It’s a message of hope and faith (“got to BELIEVE somebody!“) though Bowie and his backing singers only emphasize the last syllable (“LEAVE!”)

While the single went nowhere in America, “Jump” was a hit in the UK, its performance likely boosted by a strong promotional push, the hype around it being Bowie’s first “real” new single in half a decade and by its video, directed by Mark Romanek. The latter was Bowie’s best effort since “Ashes to Ashes,” with which it shared a sense of rummaging through discarded Bowie selves: in “Jump” the stewardesses from Kubrick’s 2001 share the stage with the fallen man of Lodger and the tortured Thomas Jerome Newton of Man Who Fell to Earth.

As for the man who walked into the Coulsdon South station that morning? No one knows him; no one will ever be privy to was in his mind, on that or on any other morning. He remains a secret to us, likely even to his brother. “Jump” doesn’t bring us any closer to him, it answers nothing, it explains nothing, it mourns him only in passing, indirectly, as if in a scientific paper’s abstract; the song’s falling man easily could have been someone Bowie had just read about in a newspaper. “Jump” lets us overhear a man talk to his brother’s shadow, which had always been just as much a reflection of himself.

Recorded ca. summer/fall 1992, Mountain Studios, Montreux and/or Power Station, NYC. Released as a single (Arista 74321 139424, c/w “Pallas Athena,” #9 UK) in March 1993. Performed live in 1995-1996, one of two songs from BTWN that Bowie revived. Again, there were a heap of remixes (see here for the lot). The UK 12″ single included the Hard Hands, Leftfield and Dub Oddity mixes (the latter, also by Leftfield, an instrumental that’s basically a new song, is on the 2-CD BTWN reissue); the Rock Mix (orig. on the Savage CD single, “Rock Mix” = more banal guitar) and the Brothers in Rhythm 12″ mix are also on that reissue. “Jump” was also released in 1994 as a poorly-received CD-ROM in which users could remix BTWN songs, re-edit the “Jump” video and listen to Bowie gas on.

* “I thought of my brother and wrote “Five Years,” Bowie, Rolling Stone interview, 1976.

** Much of the song alternates between B-flat and C major, the chords shifting every other bar. While the ear keeps trying to guess which way the song will go, the pattern seems that it’s never going to break, so there’s a suspension of movement, fitting the uncertainty of the track. Finally, the chorus progression (Dm7-F-Gm7-C5) offers a vague resolution, establishing the song in C Mixolydian mode. (Though you could make a case that the song’s been in F major the whole time, with the dueling Bb and C chords the IV and V chords of F. Or that it’s in standard C major, with Bowie borrowing Bb from the key of F major (as a substitute IV chord—it’s the sort of thing John Lennon loved to do), and portending a key change to F that never happens.)

Epilogue: There was another Bowie half-sibling, one who is often forgotten: his half-sister Annette, born in 1943 (she was his father Haywood’s daughter). Her story ends far happier. As Bowie wrote in the introduction to his wife’s autobiography: “When I was seven or thereabouts, my half-sister, Annette, left England for good. She had fallen in love with an Egyptian and was to travel to his village to marry him. She would write. My father may have received news but if so those letters were not shared. I never heard another thing from or about her…[when] Annette had arrived in Egypt, she had converted to Islam, which had meant undergoing a name change. Being the first Western Christian girl to ever visit let alone live in her husband’s village, the most appropriate name for her was obvious.

If you care to listen I will tell you that I, David Robert Jones, a Protestant Caucasian boy from South London in jolly old England, have a wife and a sister, both called Iman.”

Top: Messrs. Blonde, White and Pink, Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino, 1992; “Jump” single; still from the “Jump” video, Romanek, 1993.

82 Responses to Jump They Say

  1. BenJ says:

    I had never associated this song with the unsettling vision of Mr Blond staring down at me, but in retrospect it seems right. 🙂

  2. humanizingthevacuum says:

    One of my favorite Bowie singles ever, and when it leaked to college radio in the spring of ’93 I got excited about the idea of new product.

    • Vanus says:

      ‘New product’? Yuck.

      • Roman says:

        That’s a bit precious, Vanus.

        The moment Ulysses was printed, Macbeth was performed, and Low pressed, they all became ‘product’. And if they hadn’t you would never have read, seen or heard them.

        God save ‘product’.

      • Vanus says:

        It’s a semantic issue, surely. ‘Music’, ‘play’, ‘novel’: all perfectly serviceable synonyms, with the added benefit of being both more precise and less tainted with the stink of consumer capitalism.

      • humanizingthevacuum says:

        Intentionally chosen. I’ve no trouble calling the post-Tonight albums “product.”

      • Vanus says:

        Well that’s perfectly reasonable if you so think (I’d probably agree, though would include Tonight and am not sure Heathen was out for the dollar), but you stated you were excited. It’s hard to muster enthusiasm for product as opposed to music.

      • humanizingthevacuum says:

        Oh I don’t know. I got excited about the pair of Kenneth Cole shoes I bought last night!

      • Vanus says:

        Yes (well, no), but was there any anticipation on your part that those shoes might recapture the crazed, narcissistic glory of station to station or the joyful solipsism of sound & vision? If so, I stand corrected.

    • Stolen Guitar says:

      That’s what’s wrong with the world today…product. Check your Bill Hicks re: marketing people. ‘StationToStation’ is art, as is ‘BTWN’ but of a lesser order. Never, ever product and, by the way, neither are your shoes ‘product’. They are merely shoes. I’m sure we have things in common, especially Bowie, but really, this kind of talk is dangerous.

      • humanizingthevacuum says:

        Nah — context matters. A few of us are avid chart watchers. A few of us say “product” to demystify texts. For me calling STS “art” doesn’t illuminate the album.

  3. Vanus says:

    It’s a poor song, but, as with much of BTWN, it does at least sound like Bowie, which isn’t a bad thing after the preceding wilderness years. Or rather, it sounds like Bowie trying to recapture something he stopped chasing around 1984.

  4. I think it’s a fantastic song, and it’s the one that first got me interested in Bowie. I had never noted the similarities to What In The World, but I hear them now that I listen for them. Great writeup!

  5. Vanus says:

    One of my favourite things about this site is having my somewhat cliched version of DB’s career challenged by comments like that of Loren above. My feelings are the standard ones of loving Bowie’s long seventies, especially the unmatched latter half (my only slight deviation from the received wisdom being that Lodger is great) and that everything since has been a long, drawn out epilogue, with senility setting in around the mid-eighties and the last couple of decades showing the odd, evanescent moments of the old lucidity.

    Tin Machine onward are like Bowie’s desperate (and I mean that in the best of ways) attempts to remember who he is/was. Given how readily his gift came to him in the seventies, Heathen et al. are more impressive feats, if not such impressive music.

    Getting into Bowie via Jump They Say is amazing to me, but it’s interesting that it’s worked that way for some. Is there something cultural in this? I’m English and in my mid-thirties, so Bowie’s kind of always been there, part of the cultural landscape. There was no real getting in to him, he was just this bloke who everybody of my generation knew, and often for his turn on The Snowman, the Ziggy outfits, the Ashes to Ashes video or some such, as opposed to the music. Half of all Englishman will happily attempt a Bowie impersonation after their third pint, irrespective of whether they can name a single one of his songs.

    • Yeah, I think it must be a cultural thing. I’m in my mid-thirties as well, but I grew up in conservative small-town America, and while of course I’d heard of Bowie growing up, it was mostly in the context of the guy from Labyrinth and Let’s Dance and whatnot. He certainly didn’t permeate the pop culture landscape the way he must have in England, and I’d heard little or nothing of his 70s work.

      By the time BWTN came out, I was in college and was really into a phase of discovering new (well, mostly old) music. I heard Jump They Say played on the local “modern rock” station, really liked it, bought the album, and went from there.

      Nowadays, like most people, I like the 70s stuff best, and I think BTWN is a fairly mediocre album with a few bright spots and a lot of dated-sounding production, but at the time it was a revelation to me, so I’ll always appreciate it for that.

      (Incidentally, I agree with you on Lodger; it’s got some great tracks on it but I also think it’s a bit overrated. I much prefer Low, Heroes and Scary Monsters.)

  6. Vanus says:

    This relies on Bowie’s cultural ubiquity for English audiences for a fair few of it’s laughs:

  7. Vanus says:

    Of course, Ricky Gervais had form as a Bowie impersonator (it’s not a bad song):

  8. david says:

    Great post, I was really hoping you would do this song (and video) justice, and you did with all the right nods.

    This was the moment of his resurrection for me, with everything that accompanies integral Bowie-dark,existential content, dissonant sound and razor sharp imagery at the fore again.

    Also a triumph that having pushed this ahead for single release over something like Lucy Can’t Dance, his album went on to dethrone Bowie poseurs-Suede, from the number 1 position a week later. I was very happy about that.

    • Vanus says:

      Suede’s debut, whatever it’s debt to Bowie (and Roxy Music & The Smiths), is a fine album, made all the finer by the musical desert Britain had become after a few years of Madchester & shoegazing. Along with New Wave by The Auteurs (Luke Haines being another artist heavily indebted to Bowie), it was one of the more significant English releases in 93.

      • Patrick says:

        I’ll agree with you there on Suede. I’ve got some of their albums on tape and mean to re visit them some time. The 90s were not a good decade for pop music IMO but that might have something to do with (but I doubt it somehow) being in my 30s at the time and gradually not being bothered if I missed Top of the Pops, which would have been unthinkable earlier. Of course now people have music and video on tap with the internet/Youtube , it was so scarce in the “olde days” from the free to air channels in the UK , We got what we could get. Whatever the quality of new music today youngsters today don’t know how lucky they are…..

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        I’m with you on that one Vanus. I L-O-V-E New Wave by the Auteurs (Bailed Out, Don’t Trust the Stars, Home Againet al. are all great songs, and could Idiot Brother be about Noel and Liam?)
        I did, however,enjoy Madchester and some of shoegazing too, (particularly Ride and Moose.)
        I personally think Britain became more of a musical desert with the advent of Coldplay and Travis, surely two of the most BORING bands to hit the big time since U2.

      • david says:

        Because of all the fawning by the indie press, I was sniffy about Suede up until Dogmanstar, which I love. The Asphalt World and Still Life are masterworks, and two of the best Bowie songs, Bowie never actually wrote himself. I went and bought all of there albums after that.
        I actually think some Bretts solo stuff is rather wonderful too,

      • Vanus says:

        Spider, Idiot Brother, which I adore, being about the Gallaghers hadn’t occurred to me but now seems so obvious. Knowing Haines it’s probably something more esoteric, but I’m happy to believe it’s about Liam & Noel, with Liam being the eejit (Noel, for all his faults, the fact that his music has never once lived up to any of his purported influences and the pointless cover of Heroes, is a pretty handy raconteur. Liam, on the other hand, is a fucking ape).

  9. David B says:

    Great entry, one of the best.

  10. Kev78 says:

    ‘Jump They Say’ was my way into the world of David Bowie as a 14 year old, after seeing the video on the long gone UK Chart Show I rushed out to buy the single and have been a fan ever since. I don’t know how the rest of you will reflect on this song and BTWN but it was my first Bowie album and so I have a soft spot for it, although I would say ‘Jump’ is the only vital song.
    To coincide with the album in the UK, BBC Radio 1 ran a six hour radio biography on Bowie which introduced me to another world The Stooges, Lou, Krautrock, 1984, Kabuki, Rock n Roll, Jazz, Eno, Dali Films to name a few. I lost the tapes I made years ago but there were so many memorable quotes, the idea of Diamond Dogs being ‘Fagins gang gone apeshit’ being a favourite. John Lennon on DB another. It really is worth tracking down if you can find it.
    As there are a lot of older fans on here, was this the first time Bowie really opened up about his past?. There was a lot of this at the time such as the Q magazine with the ‘cheeky’ Ziggy cover (http://magazine-covers.lucywho.com/q-magazine-united-kingdom-may-1993-magazine-cover-t2798528.html) where he said during the NLMD period he was at a loss and never even chose his own clothes and Arena (http://www.crazyaboutmagazines.com/ourshop/prod_409147-Arena-magazine-MayJune-1993-David-Bowie-cover.html) I guess a lot of you grew up with a mysterious, ‘otherly’ Bowie but for me he was an eloquent, funny and very human chap who taught me a lot.
    However as I’m sure is true for a lot of you I felt the mystery and otherness in the early music and it really was a life changer. Being from a small town in the North of England being a Bowie fan made you feel different and want to seek broader horizons, I really don’t think my life would have turned out the same without the music in my life. Thanks David.
    ‘Jump ‘was my way into this world and I love it till this day (you can keep the countless remixes on the 2 CD singles though – my first ones),at the time it seemed to fit it with his peak stuff well and it still belongs on any Best Of. Sorry if this was a long and self-indulgent post but I’ve really enjoyed hearing how you all got into Bowie and all you other comments.

  11. Patrick says:

    Well this as said ws the first real single from DB for ages. In the UK, those of us who were too poor to have MTV , had to wait for the Chart Show on ITV, an one hour all video no presenter, chart and new releases prog on Sat mornings.
    When JTS came on, as with most DB releases by this time , there are two questions that I would crudely ask myself, without knowing.
    What is the “look” that DB will adopt?
    Will the music be as good as his 70s stuff or worse than his 80s stuff?

    The answer was this corporate paranoiac madman in a sharp suit. Perhaps hinting at the Bowie Bonds release . Major Tom had retired and joined the boardroom perhaps, but he had fallen to Earth with a thud. But DB still “had it” for the video, snarling , gurning and strutting in slo mo. He wasn’t going to be slipping into a Ziggy jump suit but he still had the swagger. Whatever the personal motivations, which I and many would know nothing of at the time it also seemed to be a challenge to a younger generation, who look upon this guy in the video ” You want mad? I can still do mad” .
    The musical reception for me was mixed. This was not great but expectations were at a low but it was not as bad as it could have been. I would have said at the time it was promising, it looked like he might just be getting his mojo back, , moving on from the “Best since Scary monsters? albatross, even though the album sadly didn’t deliver. You realised as things were never going to be the same. How could they?
    The video really helps to drive the track as said, as it sort of goes nowhere in particular.

    You can spot Simon Pegg’s (Scottie in the rebooted Start Trek) dad at around 3.00 (just joking I think but it reminds me of an aged version of him)
    But the clincher on the video was the gorgeous pouting lady at the front of the row with the telescopes. I really wanted to take her home with me.

    • Kev78 says:

      It seems we both have fond chart show memories.

      • Patrick says:

        Yeah, I had two VHS VCRs rigged up at the time so I used to make compilations of stuff, including some of The Chart Show. Still got the tapes and very gradually transferring to disk but not indexed well so I couldn’t find anything easily. but I did have Jump they Say somewhere. Of course the VHS quality copy of a copy of a analogue broadcast gets pretty low quality and there is usually a better copy on YouTube already of most stuff.

  12. gcreptile says:

    Just like there is the ‘best Bowie album since Scary Monsters’ there should be a ‘best Bowie song since Absolute Beginners’ contest. I think that ‘Jump’ is a contender, though I prefer ‘Strangers when we meet’. Bowie sounds like he has something to say here, probably because the topic of his brother connected him more to the real world than the ‘Ebony and Ivory’ clichés of Black Tie, White Noise, or the ‘Superstar does social criticism’ of Never Let Me Down and Tin Machine. The video supports the song well. The ‘yuppie goes to die’ style closed Bowie’s corporate 80s.
    But again, the Black Tie, White Noise single (and the bankrupcy of his record company) aborted Bowie’s commercial comeback. A UK top ten single, UK Nr.1 album could have led to more.

  13. Maj says:

    Love this song. One of Bowie’s best singles and one of my favourite songs of his. Ditto the video. Though I always wondered if you’d really need three men to hold and carry Bowie…I mean, that man is a stick, his height average, surely two men would be enough? 😉

    Chris, you did a great job on this entry. A great read. And…the epilogue made me all “awww”. I think I’d read about Iman, the sister before, but since forgot. Nice to see it in context with the sad Terry story.

  14. humanizingthevacuum says:

    For those of us who discovered Bowie in the early nineties, we were 18 or 19, flush with the treasures of the Rykodisc reissues. IF you remember the state of American college radio in early ’93, then “Jump They Say” sounds more radical: replacing guitar solos with trumpets and his plaintive sax, the steady Rodgers rhythm part, Bowie’s controlled agony. There was nothing like it. That’s why I’m fond of it — a terrific introduction for an amateur Bowie sleuth, wiping the slate clean of Tin Machine and mullets.

  15. Joe the Lion says:

    I liked Hunky Dory when I was little (a toddler, even) but I became a true fan, irreversibly and heavily, in 1990 when I saw Ashes to Ashes on MTV and then borrowed ChangesBowie from my mum. (Vanus, you’re right that those of a certain age grew up with a general awareness of Bowie, but seeing that video at that time in my life changed everything for me.)

    Jump They Say was the first new release from the time I became a fan I genuinely liked – I didn’t have to convince myself I could hear something I-don’t-know-what in there. I also really appreciated the heightened profile it gave Bowie, especially because he appeared on MTV presenting his own videos. For the first time, I realised he was funny. That was a shock, having read Alias David Bowie and lived through his Tin Machine persona.

    Anyway, sorry if I’ve repeated myself from previous posts but this song brings it all back to me.

  16. Jasper says:

    Great song and a great video, and great write up, thanks.
    I agree that it’s the best video to come since Ashes to Ashes.
    I guess it was just a question of time before Suede should be mentioned here. When I first heard them all I could hear was someone trying be Bowie, and was really annoyed, but friends thankfully kept playing them and I got hooked, I still think the first 3 albums and the b-side collection are super albums, they gave some good concerts too.

  17. Jasper says:

    I just re-watched the video and suddenly it hit me, the scene of Bowie on the car is a recreation of Evelyn McHale’s suicide in 1947, she jumped from the Empire State Building and landed on a car, a United Nations limousine. The image taken by Robert Wiles, it is striking, often called The most beautiful suicide. It is easy to google.

    • Patrick says:

      Striking indeed. What a tragedy. I never knew of her. Watching the video whenever a crowd gathers around a fallen man in a busy City street I am often reminded of the scene in Dali/Bunel’s Un Chien Andalou.
      And by co incidence (?) DB was born in 1947.

      • Patrick says:

        Just to add, as my memory is a bit faulty, in the Bunuel film, it’s a women who gets knocked over by a car in the street, the rather pathetic looking man just sort of falls off his bike in the street.

    • Eduardo says:

      Thanks for the info. It is a perfect quote of that photo, certainly.

  18. I really like the Rock version of this track. Any idea who plays guitar on that mix?

  19. Mike F says:

    I’m amazed at Bowie’s emotional constipation. Eight years to process his brother’s death. Decades to get to grips with his dad’s death via “Everyone Says Hi.” What’s next? A single in 2039 called “I Miss You Rover” – an ode to his boyhood Golden Retriever?

    I remember seeing this video and thinking, “Bowie’s back!” Little did I realize the video was false advertising for this album. Nevertheless, this is a return to form. Not quite Bowie A list material but a solid B to B+. The whole thing works: Bowie finally sounds passionate, the arrangement is interesting, even Bowie’s sax adds to it rather than distracting. I think Visconti producing it could have lifted it into the A class but at least Niles did a solid job and resisted plastering Yamaha drum machine preset “Funky Groove 09” all over it.

    • Patrick says:

      While DB may have alluded to personal stuff like Terry in songs, he rarely touched on family stuff in interviews.
      But got to remember he just got married into a ready made family with Duncan and Iman’s own daughter from a previous marriage. Maybe he felt emotionally secure enough to discuss it a little but it’s remarkable despite all the millions of words written, and interviews, how intensely private he has kept himself all these years and how rarely if ever we see him off guard , If ever. Even the jokey cheeky chappie interviewee of the 90s was I think a kind of defence , he’d rather keep a running joke going than open out in any exposed way.
      You can see the polite but reserved controlled interviews of the 70s as he bats off questions about his mother for example. The Yentob Cracked Actor interviews have him on edge and “under the influence” but distracted by trivial detail (a fly in his milk). A technique he used to deflect over probing questions at other times when it suited him.

  20. Steve Mallarmy says:

    Wasn’t the video of this song supposed to be a homage to Chris Marker’s film La Jetee?

  21. Vanus says:

    Nice to see I’m not alone in thinking the first two Suede albums something of a landmark. If anything, they look all the more impressive in light of the Britpop bilge that soon followed and, as Sky-Possessing Spider notes, the horror of Coldplay lift-muzak.

    I think what they did with the Bowie influence was more interesting than most in that their most successful channeling wasn’t of the glam stuff, not the plastic soul, nor the Berlin era, but Wild Is The Wind. It’s perhaps my favourite Bowie vocal but the song has always frustrated me in that Bowie seems to have considered it his last word on the overwrought ballad and never sought to repeat the astonishing feat. Anderson & Butler looked to have seen a gap in the market and really do a decent job of perfecting that less explored and less influential aspect of Bowie’s work. The Next Life, The Two of Us, Breakdown, Still Life, To The Birds all give WITW a run for it’s money.

    Suede also gave those of us who missed the original impact of Bowie a chance to have our own slightly androgynous, bisexual yet not, coitus-on-stage-imitating slice of silliness & Butler, for a moment, could have held his own against Mick Ronson. They also seemed happy to be a pop band, which British indie seemed to consider a dirty word up to that point.

    The annual tedium of The Brits was enlivened no end by this (check out the nonplussed audience at the end):

    • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

      Yeah, that was pretty funny. Any idea who the bemused announcer was at the end who said “that was a perfectly good microphone I would have thought”?
      One of the funniest moments at the Brit Awards happened in about 97 -I think- when Michael Jackson, pretty sickeningly got up on stage as some kind of self-proclaimed saviour of the world with a cast of 1000s of children. Thankfully Jarvis Cocker stuck a pin in the overblown pomposity of the whole performance by jumping up onstage uninvited and wiggling his arse at Wacko Jacko.
      Naturally he was arrested for his trouble.

      • Vanus says:

        The execrable Richard O’Brien, creator of The Rocky Horror Picture Show (in which he models his character’s look on Roxy-era Eno) and later presenter of The Crystal Maze. His comment was a throwback to the sort of Dave Lee Travis-style TOTP presenters who had no idea what Bowie was up to when he appeared.
        I commented above on your insightful Idiot Brother observation.

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        Thanks for that Vanus (re: Richard O’Brien). I just saw your comment re: Idiot Brother (I live in Australia, so we’re probably on this thing at very different times), and you’re no doubt right. Knowing Luke Haines the song is probably about something more esoteric altogether.
        The other thing is, “New Wave” was released in ’93, when Oasis may or may not have already released their first single “Supersonic”, but were certainly not that well known yet. It’s just an association I’ve always made in my own mind, as the lyrics seem to fit them so perfectly. And yes, Liam is a moron.

  22. Vanus says:

    To clarify, my point about Suede being unashamed of their pop credentials put me in mind, at the time, of the earlier Bowie and his similar ear for the popular angle (in the best sense of that notion and as opposed to populist a la the eighties pap). After Tin Machine, in particular, it was nice to be reminded that Bowie hadn’t always been an earnest rocker, with all the tedium that implies. No matter how much he or his band rocked, Bowie has always been, for me, the antidote to the Led Zeppelins of this world. As were Suede amidst the grunge-era. Franz Ferdinand did it again a decade later.

    • Maj says:

      I discovered FF thanks to Bowie. Grateful. Good band with very strong discography (the first album is a bit overrated and the subsequent ones underrated but really, all of the albums are great). Looking forward to their next album, which I hope should happen soon.

  23. Tin Man says:

    i thought the video was quite OK, the song too much deep into this early 90’s trip & too much impersonal & interchangeable; this technological musical illness. So, where was the Bowie of the 70’s innovative, surprising & surpassing other pop figures who were both mainstream artists? do you better understand the reasons why i was so fan of the tin machine days, perhaps no great compositions but what a fucking sound they had… tin machine was kind of traditional music with incursion into avant garde territories (i can’t read),the world of improvisation (Betty Wrong, Heaven… ). Here is no more that kind of feeling, it’s just vulgar music which features an extraordinary singer & we’re not far from the 84-87 era; all that is danceable but don’t move me. I much more feel what Music should be when listening to the hard bop thing (Shorter, Davis, Blakey, Monk…), Fripp (with or without Eno), bands like Pere Ubu, the No Wave “movement” (following Ornette & James Blood Ulmer… ), the English post-punk trip from Magazine, PIL, Killing Joke, bands like Henry Cow, the Ever Great Robert Wyatt, Joy Division…

  24. Mike says:

    BTWN does absolutely nothing for me. I prefer TMII to this dated, confused nonsense…

  25. Claws-on says:

    Not a huge fan of Black Tie overall but I think this a great song. I was interested to hear the Arsino Hall live version, it has a real Young Americans feel towards the end especially when DB’s “somebody”s echo the vocals of Somebody Up There Likes Me.

  26. tin man says:

    According to Gilles Deleuze: If a person has hair, this hair can move through many stages: the hairstyle of a young girl is not the same as that of a married woman, it is not the same as that of a widow: there is a whole hairstyle code. A person, insofar as she styles her hair, typically presents herself as an interceptor in relation to flows of hair that exceed her and exceed her case and these flows of hair are themselves coded according to very different codes: widow code, young girl code, married woman code, etc. This is ultimately the essential problem of coding and of the territorialization which is always coding flows with it, as a fundamental means of operation: marking persons (because persons are situated at the interception and at the cutting off [coupure] of flows, they exist at the points where flows are cut off [coupure]). (…) Need, scarcity, famine, a society can code these, what it cannot code, is when this thing appears, when it says to itself: what is up with these guys? So, in a first phase, the repressive apparatus puts itself into motion, if we can’t code it, we will try to annihilate it. In a second phase, we try to find new axioms which allow it to be recoded for better or worse.
    A social body is well defined as follows: there is perpetual trickery, flows flow over from one pole to another, and they are perpetually coded, and there are flows that escape from the codes and then there is the social effort to recuperate all that, to axiomatize all this, to manipulate the code a little, so as to make room for flows that are also dangerous: all of a sudden, there are young people who do not respond to the code: they insist on having a flow of hair which was not expected, what shall we do now? We try to recode it, we will add an axiom, we will try to recuperate [it] but then [if] there is something within it that continues not to let itself be coded, what then? In other words, this is the fundamental action of a society: to code the flows and to treat as an enemy anyone who presents himself, in relation to society, as an uncodable flow, because, once again, it challenges [met en question] the entire earth, the whole body of this society.

    So the Question is : Where is Tin Major Duke Tom A Lad Insane Generalist Stardust?

    • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

      Tucked up in bed with the wife and kid, watching Edward Scissorhands and riding out Hurricane Sandy last I heard…

  27. Vanus says:

    Lads and Lasses, waste ten minutes of your precious life divining the Bowie song titles:

  28. Diamond Duke says:

    Quite possibly my favorite track from Black Tie White Noise. In many ways, Jump They Say is rather emblematic of the style of BTWN, which falls somewhere between the “artier” late-’70’s Berlin/Eno triptych and the ’80s Niles Rodgers R&B groove – “Low meets Let’s Dance,” if you will. The problem with most of the album, however, is precisely the fact that it seems to be neither fish nor fowl, slotting somewhere in this grey-ish art-funk twilight zone and not fully achieving any real satisfactory hybrid between the styles – even if the results are admittedly interesting and worth at least a couple listens. But Jump They Say is definitely the exception, and it’s certainly a keeper. I love the original album version, with its wonderfully anarchic trumpet solo from Lester punctuated with those “Watch out!”‘s. But I also dig the Rock Mix and those terrific live versions with Reeves Gabrels on guitar. Maybe it’s the additional testosterone factor involved, but the rocker in me definitely approves.

    Speaking of Suede…I’m also a really big fan of Brett & Co., although I didn’t get into them until much, much later. I have to say that Manic Street Preachers, Radiohead and Suede were definitely my three favorite British groups of the ’90s. Oasis had some good songs, but were a bit loutishly one-dimensional, and I have yet to check out anything from Blur and Pulp (although Scott Walker’s involvement as a one-time producer for the latter definitely intrigues me).

    As far as that “antidote to grunge” thing goes regarding Britpop…I will always be a fan of Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Pearl Jam, Screaming Trees, Nirvana, Mudhoney, etc. In fact, Chris Cornell is probably my favorite rock songwriter of the ’90s. Granted, those guys weren’t really much to look at (no matter how many frocks Kurt Cobain tried on he was no match for Bowie – or Nicky Wire and Brian Molko for that matter…) but that’s not the factor that draws me to them. My musical tastes always tend to be a weird mixture of the “arty” and the “rocky.” I like the stuff that’s melodic, strange and stylish, but I need to be pummeled over the head with some serious punk/metal riffage once in a while, too! It’s all about maintaining balance, o my brothers…

    • Diamond Duke says:

      Speaking of Soundgarden, King Animal drops November 12, 2012, and I’m going to be right there at Best Buy when it opens on that day! If half that record is as good as first single Been Away Too Long, it’ll be well worth the money (and the 16-year wait). Cornell is God! (Well, not exactly a deity of Bowie or Jimmy Page’s status, but still…)

  29. Diamond Duke says:

    Further thoughts on Jump They Say and the influence of Terry Burns…

    It seems to me that half-brother Terry seems to be a mythical, archetypal figure in David’s life. He seems to represent the ideal of leaping into the unknown, beyond the mundane everyday world that most of us are familiar with. Terry’s love of the Beat writers and jazz definitely had an influence on David’s thinking, and were a major factor in his sense of romanticism. However, the downside of that is also represented in things like the fall of Ziggy Stardust. Leaping into the unknown could definitely result in creative reward, but it may also be courting madness and death. In the early ’80s, Bowie was quite keen to present a new image of himself as someone who had survived and lived through his period of repeatedly leaping into the unknown time and time again – and possessed the battle scars to prove it – but who had matured into someone more responsible and sensible. However, by the time the ’90s rolled in, it looked as if Bowie’s efforts at becoming a more responsible and sensible corporate citizen had resulted in stillborn fruit, and he was once again looking to make, shall we say, a more controlled and balanced attempt to access the more wilder, questing side of his muse – first in the context of a group scenario with Tin Machine (he once stated that the group served as his “valuefinder”), and then with his later ’90s solo work. (Outside is perhaps the most successful in that sense.) And by the time of the 2000’s, with Heathen and Reality, he had finally achieved a balanced maturity, and any prior sense of dichotomy between questing rebel and model citizen had dissipated and no longer existed.

    Even though Jump They Say (and arguably The Bewlay Brothers) takes as its inspiration the life and death of his brother Terry, it definitely plays more as a kind of internal (and somewhat non-linear) dialogue within Bowie’s head concerning the merits of staying with the crowd and playing it safe on the one hand, and making a leap of faith and jumping into unknown (and possibly very risky) territory on the other.

    • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

      David’s songs about his brother have always been rather shadowy, obscure, and difficult to interpret. Take “The Bewlay Brothers’ for instance – a song universally acknowledged to be about Terry.
      Yet in all the reams of dark and disturbing imagery presented, there is very little direct reference to his brother beyond the line about him laying upon the rocks. The title of that song must be significant to David though, as he did publish his songs under the moniker. And Bowie has hardly been helpful in untangling this mysterious song over the years, referring to it dismissively as “Star Trek in a leather jacket” and more recently as a “palimpsest”.
      Similarly, were it not for David admitting that “Jump They Say” is about Terry, there is very little in the lyric to suggest this is actually so. Coming as Mike F noted, a full eight years after Terry’s tragic suicide on a train track, the song more or less tells the story of a crowd watching a man climbing the side of a building. While the crowd eggs him on to jump, the narrator simply warns him not to listen to their entreaties and “watch his ass” instead. Good song and video though, and certainly one of the album’s highlights.

  30. Diamond Duke says:

    Why are all of my comments ahead of Vanus’ “Some of them are a bit shit” when they were made after 4:01 PM. 😀

  31. I want to go on record as saying that closing solo is Bowie’s finest-ever moment as a saxophone player. I don’t think he’s ever sounded so legitimately anguished on any instrument (save the vocals on a song like “Heroes”, obviously), and it makes for an interesting contrast with the cold, eerily detached tone of the lyrics. I think it was someone here who commented that the guitarwork on an album like Diamond Dogs expressed all the inner turmoil he was holding back with his vocals, and I’d say that’s definitely the case here as well.

    • humanizingthevacuum says:

      It’s definitely top two or three. I don’t know if it’s been mentioned yet but in early promotional interviews, particularly one given to Rolling Stone in December ’92 or Jan ’93 in advance of the album, he hyped this as his Saxophone Album.

  32. Momus says:

    Coke crumbles. Grandiosity. Portents. Self as presidential candidate. Bared teeth, a little too perfect. Sharp suit and sax. My brother lies upon the rocks. Beware the savage jaw. A drowning man with no eyes at all. Sub-Dylan, sub-Revelations. Cold War. Gun-metal blue. The corridor sequence from Orson Welles’ The Trial. His monster since Scary Best. Not covered by Lulu.

  33. Not yet covered by Lulu…

  34. Stolen Guitar says:

    humanizingthevacuum, What context? How are you demystifying? What are you demystifying? Charts merely quantify; you’re going to have to use your wits if you’re seeking illumination.

    • humanizingthevacuum says:

      All pop by nature is product; it’s consumed, fungible. You have a problem with calling the Bowie albums we love “product” and I don’t. Pop and art are not mutually exclusive. Besides, we’re dealing with a guy who more than anyone else in British culture in the seventies collapsed the divide between high- and middlebrow. He stole ideas from high culture and combined them in novel ways with rock and roll — and the results were meant to sell. You’re right about the charts and, by extension, pop: charts and “pop” merely quantify.

      • Stolen Guitar says:

        Ah, we could go on and on and…It’s late for me but I’ll return to your argument another day. I’ll merely say for now that the word ‘product’ is the problem, not ‘pop’. I won’t insult your intelligence by asking if you’ve read Adorno, Benjamin and Debord but I would suggest that you go back and re-read.

        ‘Pop’ IS ‘Art’ and so the question of mutual exclusion is neither applicable nor relevant. Art only becomes product if we allow it to; if we accept that it is reducible,disposable and replaceable. ‘StationToStation’ is none of the aforesaid.


  35. jopasso says:

    A clear top-5 in my “post Scary Monsters” ranking.
    Paradoxically, one of his greatest songs in one of his poorest albums

  36. Brendan O'Lear says:

    For me, this is a song more than good enough to have made it on to any of the RCA albums.
    Interesting to read the observation regarding the similarity to “What in the World”. I’d always thought of WITW as emerging from a play on Golden Years. One of the things I really like about this song is its use of backing vocals. In his early RCA years, the backing vocals were great, but from Young Americans onwards he doesn’t seem to have bothered.

    • jopasso says:

      Well, he noticed that, and billed the Simms Bros. 😉

      Seriously speaking, that’s a good point.
      From 76 on, I miss the astounding backing vocals he used to record.
      Andy’s chest, Drive-in saturday, Win… and many more

      • Brendan O'Lear says:

        Andy’s Chest is a great call. I think he really makes on effort on Transformer; my own favourite is Satellite of Love- the backing vocals, not the song. The departure of Geoff MacCormack – great on Golden Years – seems to mark the end. From then on he seems to delegate to Visconti and – with the exceptions, as they’re such great songs, of Sound & Vision and “Heroes” – it never quite works.

      • heathen72 says:

        I am quite fond of the reverse ATYD oohing and aahing on Move On.

    • col1234 says:

      i think once Ronson left (Ronno sings on a lot of tracks) and then Geoff MacCormack (after S to S), Bowie lacked a regular go-to guy for backing vocals and had to do them himself

  37. heathen72 says:

    Great, great song.
    Love the backwards sax. Is it just me, or is it very similar to one of Reeves’s riffs from Shopping for Girls?

  38. I have to be honest, I have never been fond of Jump They Say as a song, but knowing its background makes me appreciate it more and also perhaps explain why I never cared for it.
    I can speak from personal experience on both sides of suicide and depression, and I think the only thing that could possibly make being the family member of a suicide more painful is that, while you’re asking what you could have done differently to stop it (probably nothing), other insensitive, stupid people are saying the same thing. The only thing that can make the guilt of attempting suicide worse (after getting past the pure sense of hopeless pain that caused the attempt in the first place) is the insensitive, stupid people who tell you how ashamed you should be for being so selfish. People’s lack of basic compassion around mental illness is shameful, and the press should feel ashamed by their treatment of a family’s gried.

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