An old man totters out upon the balcony. He hears the crowd well before he sees them. When he reaches the railing, he looks down upon the masses pooled in the streets below. Lit by torches, kerosene lamps, cigarette lighters and glow-sticks, the crowd is a wide, soughing sea, extending outward in great rivers of people, well past the gutted skyscrapers, past the Church of Dogs, beyond the calamity tents and mechanoid farms, perhaps as far as the harbor. It’s a warm night and the air clings to the skin, but the man, who wears his last silk suit (which has frayed at the cuffs and which has gone threadbare in places) is too proud, and too dessicated, to break a sweat. He sees children, borne in their mothers arms, with their ears pierced by thick chrome bolts. Men wear superhero masks, women dress in drag. A ball, or no, actually a severed head, is tossed around.
The man is, perhaps, a British Marshal Pétain. Or some last remnant of some fallen order (he’s a parallel to the gumshoe Nathan Adler—it’s another dying 20th Century voice, here the refined, decayed hauteur once associated with Merchant-Ivory films and Noel Coward records), one who’s revered by those who seethe happily below him. He is their last grandparent, and he has his duties. His aide, who has a thin pewter rod that links his left earlobe with his left nostril, carries out the microphone stand. The man gathers breath from whatever pockets of it remain within him and speaks, his words echoing from the set of speakers, supported by hemp ropes, that are suspended over the crowd.
Friends….of the trust. You’ve been a breath-filled crowd tonight. A fine start. Cheers, bottles raised to him. A happy fistfight breaks out near the base of the building.
You’ve been positively…fly, boys. This condescension is a real hit—there are screams and hoots, bursts of applause, and the severed head is hurled into the air so high that the man wonders if it will hit one of the speakers. He forces a smile, leans into the microphone as if the wind is picking up.
We are surely on our way! Upon that superhighway of information. A slight dip in enthusiasm, some mutters. The man quickly recovers.
As far as I’m concerned, you are all number one packet sniffers! Screams, wails, guns fired, chains rattled, the head again sent aloft, as if its hurler hopes it to achieve orbit. And now, to bring it all home.
The man raises a hand, makes a slight bow, stiffly sweeps his arm across his chest, then swings it back upward, shakily setting a tempo. A cough, and he urges the song out of his lungs. It’s the last song in the world. We’ll creep together, you and I….under a bloodless chrome sky…
Or, if you’d like:
One of the more intriguing Leon fragments, “We’ll Creep Together” was part of the middle section of the “Leon Takes Us Outside” suite, directly following “I’d Rather Be Chrome.” There are two circulating versions: the “Leon Takes” version, which is prefaced by Bowie’s “packet sniffers” speech and which is built on a loop of keyboard chords, and a slower, “jazz” version that was part of the “I Am With Name” suite, with Bowie sounding as though he’s free-styling over Mike Garson’s manic piano improvisations.
Recorded May-November 1994, Mountain Studios, Montreux, with overdubs later in the year at Westside Studios, London (and possibly in New York, ca. January-March 1995). Two minutes of video footage of Bowie singing the “packet sniffer” version of “We’ll Creep Together” was released in September 1995 as part of Outside‘s “Electronic Press Kit.” (see above).
Top: Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) hosts Knowing Me, Knowing You in Paris, 1994.