Both Guns Are Out There*

Both Guns Are Out There.

This is as marginal and as obscure as we get: the song linked above may well not be by David Bowie at all, and if it is Bowie, it may well not be called “Both Guns Are Out There.”

The few known facts: sometime in 1975, Bowie and Keith Christmas, a British guitarist who had played on the Space Oddity record, cut some demos in Los Angeles. It was in the murky period before Bowie recorded Station To Station, around the same time that Bowie and Iggy Pop had worked on some songs, like an early version of “Turn Blue.” One of the Bowie/Christmas songs was allegedly titled “Both Guns Are Out There.”

Christmas later claimed that he’d heard one of his riffs from these sessions on Black Tie White Noise, but he didn’t specify which track (the consensus is that it was the title track) nor did he claim (as far as I know) that the riff was from “Both Guns Are Out There.” Now Bowie reusing a riff from 1975 on a song cut in 1992 wouldn’t be surprising in the least: Bowie is a legendary musical pack rat, with many of his compositions built out of shards of discarded songs.

A few years ago, the above track surfaced, purporting to come from some mid-Nineties Bowie recording session and allegedly titled “Both Guns Are Out There.” I very much doubt this track had anything to do with a song that Bowie and Christmas worked up in 1975. If the track is Bowie, and if its title is legit and not just a bootlegger’s fancy (the latter’s possible—it is the only lyric heard in the track), then I’d say Bowie just used a scrapped title from his files for a completely different work.

If this “Guns” is legitimate, it could be Bowie reworking some outtakes from Black Tie White Noise (particularly the trumpet loop, which doesn’t sound like Lester Bowie, however), perhaps for some proposed remix for a BTWN track or as an experimental piece considered for either Buddha of Suburbia or Outside. Or perhaps “Guns” is just a piece of flotsam that someone on the Internet decided to call a lost Bowie track.

Recorded ca. 1992? 1994? Who knows?

Top: Rowan Atkinson does an in-store promo at HMV, 1992.

23 Responses to Both Guns Are Out There*

  1. Maj says:

    The first paragraph of this write-up is quite genius. Hehe.

    Well I never heard of it but at least I don’t have to feel bad about that. 🙂

    It pretty much could be anyone…and if it IS Bowie then we didn’t miss much by it not resurfacing on a “proper” track…

  2. Remco says:

    The slide show was a hell of a lot more enjoyable than the music.

  3. gcreptile says:

    Wow, obscure. Maybe it’s an Outside outtake outtake.

  4. Mike F says:

    I would bet $10,000 that this was recorded in the 1980s since it definitely sounds like it uses digital sampling technology and MIDI. Yes, you could make something like this with tape loops in 1975 but it would be very involved.

    In short, I believe this is a fake.

    • Momus says:

      Yeah, I don’t hear anything Bowie-ish at all going on here. It’s sort of feeble and random. There are basically six tracks, unrelated to each other: an acid-ish bassline, a jazz trumpet, some random whistles, the “both guns are out there” sample, some very badly-played synth chords and a sort of kettle drone. No development whatsoever, no basis for any sort of song, and certainly no spark of… well, competency, let alone genius.

      Unless that’s Eno on Kettle Drone.

  5. Mike F says:

    I read the entry to quickly. Rereading the entry, I see the claim that it was recorded in 1992 or 1994. This is definitely plausible.

    So the question is its authenticity. I still say its a fake. Anyone could create this kind of loop in a couple of minutes. It requires no skill with today’s technology. I can’t see any reason to believe this piece of crap is a real Bowie track. I think a bootlegger created it as a selling point so he had an ultra-rare “Bowie” track to sell.

  6. King of Oblivion says:

    If it’s Bowie it’s nothing more than a throwaway snippet or experiment. Sounds more like Outside than BTWN to me though. If I had to bet I’d say ‘fake’.

  7. tin man (the Hunt Sales Memorialist) says:

    Strange song with an interesting kind of tension, genre collage& loops back in the 80’s. It’s the first time i hear it.

  8. david says:

    There’s a sample of I’m Deranged under the mix, as well as something else that eludes me now-possibly one of the remixes from Real Cool World. I’d say its a fake too.

  9. Brendan O'Lear says:

    It may or may not be DB, but I don’t hear much Keith Christmas in the there.

  10. Jeremy says:

    I dunno – I think that it is not a fake and that it does come from the BTWN sessions. The sound fits.

  11. Brendan O'Lear says:

    Just a point about the Keith Christmas thing. I thought he said he met up and jammed with Bowie in Hampstead, not LA. But that would have been quite difficult because Bowie was in LA, not Hampstead in 1975.

  12. ric says:

    is that Cherie Blair in the background of the Rowan Atkinson pic?

  13. hul says:

    There is no trumpet loop in that recording: this is Charlie Parker (alto saxophone) playing “A Night In Tunisia”, probably the same year DB was born (1947).
    For me, this track is a fake.
    A great “bravo” for Chris O’Leary: this blog is a goldmine!
    (Sorry for my bad english)

  14. tin man (the Hunt Sales Memorialist) says:

    Someone did it under Bowie’s trademark

  15. Sky-Possessing Spider says:

    “Both guns are out there’ with Keith Christmas is mentioned In an article about unreleased Bowie material in the October 2008 issue of Record Collecter. But whether this track is it is anybody’s guess.

  16. col1234 says:

    I think we have a solid consensus that this sucker is a fake. Whether it’s actually Parker sampled I’m not sure (it’s so poorly mixed it’s hard to tell) but it certainly seems like it’s someone playing “Tunisia.” So nice work hul and Patrick.

  17. Pierre says:

    I think the low voice used in the song is to make us believe that it comes from BTWN, it sounds like the voice used in Pallas Athena, but it’s not the same tone. Definitely a fake. There was another fake from BTWN, a synthesizer loop, I forgot the name, I have it somewhere, anyone remember ?

  18. stuartgardner says:

    I’ve no idea of my own of what this is, and I’m more than willing to accept the consensus here that it has no more to do with Bowie than Cheese and Onions does with The Beatles (and that actually fooled some folk who should have known better). That said, it’s definitely always best to err on the side of inclusion as long as the entry’s dubious nature is stressed.
    For that matter, listing known fakes would make a useful reference tool, at least telling readers that certain “omissions” weren’t oversights.
    Walt Lee and Bill Warren employed this approach in their three-volume Reference Guide to Fantastic Films in 1972. Each volume lists “exclusions,” films the researchers determined had no fantastic content, “to answer, in advance, questions as to whether or not some specific title was considered for inclusion.”
    I and others have often been reassured by it.

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