The Motel


The Motel (early mix, fragment).
The Motel.
The Motel (live, 1995).
The Motel (live, 1996).
The Motel (live, 1997).
The Motel (live, 2003).

Prologue: Eat This, Crows!

Consider two planets in the same system. One has been more favored by the sun, a rich world with a host of lesser satellites that wheel around it. The other is a smaller, less hospitable, furtive planet, which goes on long elliptical orbits, vanishing for years then appearing again in the sky without warning. Sometimes the two have been in sync, pulling on the other, eclipsing each other. But their dance is over. The larger world has stopped moving; it just hangs suspended now, having become a preservation of its better days. The lesser orb goes on its way.

In the next two months, Scott Walker will turn seventy and will release a new record, one which appears to be as weird and ominous as his other late works, while David Bowie is out of the game…

“Nite Flights”, November 2012.

He usually isn’t stuck for words. Well, he’s stuck for words these days. I don’t know where he is or what he’s doing. It’s odd, he was always around, there was always something cooking. I wish he’d make a record.

Scott Walker, on David Bowie, Mojo, December 2012.

He opened his laptop and read the morning’s collection of news about himself. Once he’d had an assistant sift through the papers and magazines and stuff thick packets of clippings into manila envelopes, delivered via courier. Now some custom-rigged alliance of Google News and other secretive algorithms did it all. It made for duller reading, he’d found. Drinking a cup of coffee, he read of a Tyrolean fashion show with an Aladdin Sane theme; of a boy, born in Elkhart, Indiana, whose parents had named him Thin White Duke (they were Dukes, her mother’s maiden name was White, but the child was ten pounds, six ounces). Another entry from the ridiculous blog. A long one this time: well, they tended towards the gaseous, didn’t they?

He finished reading, lingering over the last paragraphs, and let out a laugh with some violence in it. He fished into the pocket of a jacket draped over a nearby chair and found the flash drive. He danced it between his fingers. Another laugh, more ruminative, carrying a trace of his old smoker’s cough. “Oh, if only,” he said lightly. He thought of typing “No, Where Are We Now?” into the comment box.

Instead he dressed, put on his cap and coat, went outside, had a cab hailed. He was murmuring. Lifeless planet…Out of the game. Like you’re in the game. Looks like it’s going to be one of Mr. B’s odd days, the doorman considered.

I: This Is How You Disappear


I took what I was given
And I took what I had stole
But I took nobody with me,
Not a soul, not a soul.

Tennessee Williams, draft of “Blanket Roll Blues.”

The last time Bowie and Brian Eno had been in a studio together was in 1979, when they were listening to the Walker Brothers’ Nite Flights. Fifteen years later, Bowie and Eno finally made another record: in part a Scott Walker record, as it turned out.

The album, Leon, which would become Outside, had begun with paints and role-playing, with Eno assigning Bowie the part of a village storyteller. But as the sessions in Montreux went on, Bowie considered another role. He would create a Scott Walker album, an album that Walker, apparently lost to silence, would never make. The challenge was: where would Walker have gone after his then-last record, Climate of Hunter? Where would he be in 1994, after he’d been reduced to a set of speculations? He’s ill. All he does is sit in a pub in Vauxhall and watch ’em play darts. He’s done with music, he’s washed up. The Sunday People had even offered a reward for Walker sightings, as if he was a Yeti.

I just decided to stop for a while and concentrate on art, painting and drawing and things like that.

Walker, interview, 1995.

Both Bowie and Eno had wanted to produce Climate of Hunter; much to his label’s irritation, Walker had declined them both. Eno had tried again a few years later, offering his and Daniel Lanois’ services. There were a few preliminary sessions, but it didn’t work out—Walker allegedly later said of Lanois, “I didn’t get on with that guy,” and Walker collaborator Brian Gascoigne said “Eno hadn’t the faintest idea of what Scott was up to…[Scott] is happy to listen to suggestions…as long as nobody tries to insist on one that’s been sidestepped. And they, as hired producers, never understood that.” Now with Bowie’s scheme, Eno could produce a Walker record at last, and free of the burden of dealing with Walker.

Lodger had answered Nite Flights, as the latter had answered “Heroes,” but it had been a superficial response: a name-check, a song or two where Bowie had dug out his old “Scott” voice. Bowie and Eno didn’t take on “The Electrician,” which had stunned them: Eno once described the track as a future of music not taken. Bowie seemed obsessed with the song. Tackling “Nite Flights,” as he did in 1992, had been easy. “The Electrician” was more formidable. In the fifteen years since its release, he’d barely gotten its measure.


What was it about “The Electrician”? The only other song to rival it for Bowie was “I’m Waiting For the Man.” I once described “Man” as a song Bowie felt that he ought to have written; his recycling of its riff and rhythm in his own songs (everything from “Laughing Gnome” to “Heroes”) and his endless covering of “Waiting For the Man” on stage suggested that he was possessive of the song, that he had as much a claim to it as Lou Reed had.

“The Electrician” opens with massed atonal strings, a bass note tolling the downbeat and Walker’s groaning baritone; it shifts to a section where Walker and John Maus harmonize twistedly; it suddenly becomes a gorgeous flight of strings and Spanish guitar. Strings, bass and baritone return. There’s no help, no. A last shift of the strings and it ends. What’s striking about “The Electrician” is that these shifts have no dramatic impetus; they don’t feel scripted, they aren’t leading to or following each other. The song just resets itself each time it changes. A song about torture is now a love song is both is neither. The perspectives are fluid. The opening lines are set in the torture room, and on paper, they read like an Ink Spots song: Baby, it’s slow/when lights go low. The torture itself is erotic: the torturer jerks the handle, the victim’s body writhes.

In 1994, Bowie was writing about ritual murder and art crimes, mapping killers and lovers (were his Nathan Adler and Ramona A. Stone the torture/tortured pair, now stranded in some cybernetic gumshoe fantasy?). “The Electrician,” with its tropical extremes of mood, its indecipherable strains of romance and brutality, its sense of violation (the torturer is drilling through the spiritus sanctus, violating the spirit as much as the body) and resistance (whose dream is the strings and guitar idyll? the torturer or the person on the rack?), was at the root of the project. Bowie couldn’t claim “Electrician” as he’d tried with “Waiting for the Man”: he could only try to channel the song’s uncanny power into his own creations.

II: Rawhide and Bloody Bones


They do not know her here. That is,
I am free to invent her! sweet

Anne Carson, “Canicula di Anna.”

So if he was to make a ghost Scott Walker album, Bowie’s other reference besides “The Electrician” was Climate of Hunter. Outside was in part a corrective swerve away from Hunter. The latter, released soon before Bowie’s Tonight in 1984, is an odd duck: it sounds, as @discographies said, as if Walker hadn’t heard any contemporary music since the late Seventies. It’s cold and glossy, a “commercial” record by Walker’s standards, especially when compared to “The Electrician,” and it’s also a funeral for his past selves, an oblique way to prepare his audience for what would come next.

As Damon Krukowski and Lewis Williams noted, Hunter was rigidly sequenced. There are four songs on each side, mirrors of each other—each side was a move from “difficulty” to reassurance and goodbyes. So the openers, “Rawhide” and “Track Five,” begin with an isolated, odd sound (a panned, erratic cowbell and bass guitar harmonics, respectively) and remain bewildering—“Rawhide” is a Western “round ’em up” ballad with Cro-Magnon sheep herders. “Dealer” and “Track Six,” the knottiest tracks on the album, have Evan Parker’s saxophone (Parker recalled Walker, over a bottle of Chablis, asking for clouds of saxophones); “Track Three” and “Track Seven” were Walker’s idea of pop singles, with Peter Van Hooke’s hi-hat pushed up in the mix (just like his work on Nite Flights) and each with bloodless guitar solos by Ray Russell, who had to play “blind” in the studio, with no sense of the top melody.

And each side’s closer was a throwback: “Sleepwalkers Woman,” a gorgeous, string- somber ballad that opened like “Boy Child” and, as it went on, became a farewell, a man abandoning those who had known him in his beautiful youth. I am returned, he sang, but only to say farewell. Its Side 2 counterpart was “Blanket Roll Blues,” Walker’s last cover on record, a wisp of a song that Tennessee Williams wrote and Marlon Brando sang on The Fugitive Kind. A hobo’s song, a few lines hummed while a man breaks camp and heads off.

Hunter was a work of isolated individuals. Walker had written the songs alone, cooped up in a “workman’s cabin in Tunbridge Wells” during the summer of 1983, and he’d “kept his melodies a secret from his players,” often waiting until everyone had left the studio before cutting his vocals. There’s a cold, disjointed feel to the album: Mark Knopfler and Walker, the two performers of “Blanket Roll Blues,” are seemingly on different continents.

So Bowie would make Walker communal—he’d carve his songs out of the collisions of his players, playing live in a single room. Outside would be set in an imagined America, compared with Walker’s increasingly abstracted Europe (“I developed a European imagination, which probably doesn’t have anything to do with Europe at all,” Walker once said). And where Walker slaved over his lyrics, not recording until all of his lines were set (“I sit down and notate it all, the top line, rough idea of the bars. It’s an old fashioned way of working,” he said), Bowie had a computer program churn up a string of random text which he would pillage, calling out lines during group improvisations.

And as the Outside sessions went on, Bowie’s new “Walker” songs developed. The eerie moments of the Leon suites, like “We’ll Creep Together.”Wishful Beginnings,” with its keening ode to murder, set over drum and synth loops. The world’s-end sad sack lament “A Small Plot of Land.” And finally, his big roll of the dice: the song where he finally met “The Electrician.”

III: From a Motel 6


He arose laden with doubt as to how he should begin. He looked back at the bed where the grindstone lay. He looked out at the world, the most famous experimental prison of its time. Beyond the torture stakes he could see, nothing. Yet he could see.

Anne Carson, “On the King and His Courage.”

“The Motel” opens in the lobby. Murmured conversations, barely heard over a duo playing in a corner of the room. A garrulous pianist, a secretive bassist. The latter* plays a fretless bass, another callback to Climate of Hunter. Nearly a minute in, Bowie wanders over from the bar, begins singing as if in mid-sentence. For we’re living in the safety zoneliving from hour to hour down here. Everything’s provisional, wavering—chords oscillate between F and F-sharp, Bowie often shifts between singing A or B-flat notes. An interlude: synthesizer, Mike Garson’s querying piano, bass fills. Bowie continues: It’s a kind of living which recognizes…the death…of the odorless man…

Its title suited it. A motel, especially the David Lynch-esque one Bowie’s checked into here, can be a purgatorial place, a shabby limbo (or, more fitting for Bowie’s past, a bardo, a vestibule between reincarnations; see “Quicksand”). Then drums kick in, cementing the song in 4/4, and Bowie sharpens his tone: There is no hell. There is no shame. It’s a (deliberate?) mishearing, an echo, of Walker’s “there is no help,” in “Electrician.” Bowie conflates Walker’s line with something he’d recalled from his visit to Gugging Asylum: “THIS IS HELL,” scrawled on a wall in the murderer’s wing. There is no hell…like an old hell. The chorus expires with Bowie hitting his highest notes so far: “it’s LIGHTS UP BOYS.” He builds on his dual references: Lights up, boys: a body twisting in an electric chair; lights up, boys-–it’s not a bar’s closing time, but the morning, when the inmates are rousted from their beds.

(This line recalls another story, one Walker may have known, if not Bowie: that Michelangelo Antonioni’s first film was to be shot in an asylum. Inmates were brought in, Antonioni put them into formation, was surprised at how well they took his requests, then he turned on his lights for a take. The inmates recoiled and convulsed on the floor. (“I have never seen such expressions of total fear on the faces of any actors…they started screaming, twisting, and rolling themselves over the floor….they tried desperately to get away from the light, as if they were being attacked by some kind of prehistoric monster.“) Antonioni abandoned the film, but the poet Anne Carson used it as a starting point years later, her poem offering that the inmates were only feigning their reactions so that they could roll around and try to kiss each other, stealing a moment of mass intimacy.)

The entire sequence repeats. A new intro (Garson at his tackiest; he’s the hotel pianist from an old hell), a last verse where Bowie disdainfully rips up stage props, like he once did to the paper skyscrapers of his Diamond Dogs set (“we’re living in a SEA of SHAM“), another chorus. But now Bowie keeps surging, gaining strength, hitting a high E-flat as the song itself solidifies in E-flat major, while Reeves Gabrels slams in with distorted power chords. The lobby’s become a stage in an arena. We’re back at the close of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” a song that also had begun in obscurity and despair and which had climaxed in a Judy Garland moment. GIVE ME YOUR HANDS! RE-EXPLODING YOU!!! ‘COS YOU’RE WONDERFUL!! LIKE EVERYBODY DO!

And here “The Motel” faltered. Its lyric collapsed into gabble; its motion felt strained. It’s as if Bowie needed to have the song “pay off” in some way. This left “The Motel” in a curious state.  On Outside, “The Motel” is the blank at the center of the record. Sequenced between the battering “Hallo Spaceboy” and the jaunty “I Have Not Been to Oxford Town,” “The Motel” can seem like a seven-minute void. It seems actively hostile to the memory. I still don’t know what to make of it: sometimes I think it’s a latter-day flawed Bowie masterpiece, with a grisly beauty; other times, it can seem a failure, a self-sabotaged attempt to redo the “Electrician” that remains far in the original’s shadow.

Outside was done. And one day in early 1995, as he was mixing the record, Bowie read in a list of upcoming releases that Fontana was putting out a new Scott Walker album.

IV: Farmers in the City


Bowie: What do you think of his latest, Tilt?

The first half an hour was disappointing, because he does everything except what he’s best at…and the last 30 minutes are fabulous. It’s like Walker is saying: Okay, you’ve done your best and now you’re rewarded.

Bowie: I agree. I find it a sensational record, very brave too. I’ve got a lot of respect for his integrity. He’s true to himself, whereas other artists are traitors to themselves. He really works without compromising and there are very few artists like that…What you said about not doing what you’re best at. Well, it may sound arrogant but I don’t feel like adapting to wishes and expectations of the big audience anymore.

Bowie, interview by Humo, 1995.

I just want to connect with as many people as I can with it. I know it’s not easy but I’m always hoping.

Walker, interview for Tilt.

It became a farce: Bowie making his secret Scott Walker sequel while, unbeknownst to him, Walker was quietly making his own. And the Walker sequel lapped Bowie’s shadow one, coming out five months earlier! This caused a spot of apprehension, especially as Bowie was in the midst of negotiating a record deal. Eno wrote in his diary that the Walker record “could occupy much of the territory of Bowie’s” and feared what effect this could have on a record Eno was already worrying Bowie was compromising. “Bowie won’t release those things and, as time passes, more will get chipped away or submerged under later additions.

In April 1995, Bowie got an advance copy of Tilt. He phoned Eno and played him a track, said he was relieved: it sounded nothing like Outside. Crisis averted.

The best album that came out this year in terms of being an adventurous album was Scott Walker’s Tilt which of course died after about a week. It was bought by three people, me being one of them.

Bowie, Prodigy chat, 1995.

He was right: Tilt sounded nothing like Outside. What it had more affinities with was the now-buried and maimed Leon. Not musically but in both pieces’ hermeticism, their arrogant self-sufficiency, their strangeness. Hunter had been Walker’s conversation with his listeners: he’d challenged them and had dismissed them. Tilt offered no entry point: it simply begins and defies you to keep listening to it. The opener, “Farmer in the City,” allegedly had NME staff members yelling for the CD to be yanked while Marc Almond, upon hearing it, thought Scott had completely lost the plot. It was the most accessible track on the record.

If you’d made it through Walker keening, like the world’s loneliest auctioneer, “do I hear 21? 21? 21?”, then there came “The Cockfighter,” the true sequel to “The Electrician.” It was a piece of historical fascist erotica, with Walker connecting the trial of Adolf Eichmann to that of the allegedly adulterous Queen Caroline. Some of its lines could be said by a seducer, a torturer or a man conducting an autopsy: if you could turn on your side, move your touch to that hip…easy now, easy now. Walker first sings over what sounds like a rat gnawing through a wad of paper. The track is occasionally consumed in pummeling metallic sprays of noise. Later on there’s a horn that sounds like a horse being slaughtered. “Cockfighter” ends in another industrial noise-attack, dying off in a second as if someone had flipped a breaker as an act of mercy. And on the record went. The title song exhumed the Scott of Scott 3 and kicked him around a bit. “Rosary” found Scott alone on the far margins, muttering “and I gotta quit…and I gotta quit.

Tilt was ignored. No one knew what to make of it. Tilt was irreconcilably strange, the sound of a man pursuing what’s in his head, using musicians “who are extensions of yourself,” as Walker said. It was an actual millennial doom record, bled through with history and death: Eichmann on the scaffold; Pier Paolo Pasolini crushed under the wheels of his own car on a beach in Ostia. Walker quoted “Dry Bones,” Lauren Bacall in To Have or Have Not, Desi Arnaz’s “Babalu. He sang over the sound of the organ in the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster, strangled guitar and shaken bells. It was Bowie’s favorite album of the year; it was the record Outside pretended to be.

V: Lights Up, Boys

wire walker

What would make me happy is to be an artist living in a garret in a cold water flat somewhere, as long as I could afford art material.

Bowie, to John Dove, 1974 (as per Zanetta/Edwards’ Stardust).

He concedes there was a point in the mid-’80s when he thought about giving up music altogether to retire as a “garret-type art person with a loft in Soho. I fell foul of the marketplace…I suddenly felt, for the first time, inhibited about being creative…I was quite willing to opt into a life of crime and art. Or at least a life of art.”

Bowie interview, Vox, August/September 1995.

Throughout his professional life, Bowie has occasionally said that he wished he could chuck it all away. Become a real artist, live in a loft somewhere, not bother with record labels and tours and MTV. A few times he went through with it, sort of; his years with Iggy Pop in Berlin; his flirtations with the British art scene around the time he was recording Outside.

And in the Nineties, Bowie’s public effusions about Scott Walker’s integrity suggested that he was using Walker as a symbol, an embodiment of this sort of uncompromised artistic life. Bowie seemed to consider Walker as a boundary rider, off in the wilderness somewhere, using Walker’s sporadic progress reports to chart his own movements: he’s there, here’s where I’ll set up camp. He’d be the railroad that followed the first wave of settlers (the Hearst to Walker’s Swearengen, if you’ve seen Deadwood).

Bowie had always had a taste for musical eccentrics, those who’d gone further out on the branch, those who’d be fated only to be remembered by hipsters like himself: Ken Nordine, Biff Rose, the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. And Scott Walker, who he classed in this lot of Sixties oddballs, the great artist among them. Bowie treasured them, he treasured Walker, but despite whatever proclamations he made, Bowie needed a public. He worked in the public realm, he was its ambassador of the weird, and to indulge himself to make something like Tilt, to flay himself enough to really match “The Electrician,” now seemed beyond his powers, or his interests.

Sure, Bowie could have done what Eno and Reeves Gabrels had argued: put out the Leon sessions as one fearsome bundle. A CD of twenty-minute suites, full of gnomic dialogue, anxiety raps, shrieks, arcane beauties. His own Tilt. How would it have been received? With bafflement and irritation, condemned to quick obscurity, like Tilt was? Or with utter ridicule: Bowie’s folly? His own Life of Chris Gaines, to be used as a punchline by entertainment writers for their decade summaries in 1999?

This is just idle speculation, because the Outside that was released was a compromised record, in the best sense of the word. Some of its finest moments were its pop songs, its songs with catchy choruses and hooks, its songs seemingly intended for those Walker had left behind.

End Credits

Recorded ca. March-November 1994, Mountain Studios, Montreux, with poss. overdubs at the Hit Factory, NYC, January-February 1995. A live version from Amsterdam, 10 June 1997, was included on This story will conclude (?) with “Heat.”

Sources: Again, The Wire’s essay compilation No Regrets was of great help, in particular Damon Krukowski on Climate of Hunter, Brian Morton on Tilt and the 1995 interview with Walker conducted by Richard Cook. A dissertation on Outside by Nicholas P. Greco (2000) has a detailed analysis of “The Motel” at the close of its second chapter. Richie Unterberger’s Unknown Legends of Rock ‘n’ Roll is the source of the Gasciogne quotes. The Anne Carson quotes are from her marvelous Plainwater (1995). Thanks to Andy Zax for bouncing ideas (esp. on the nature of “The Electrician”), offering phrases and suggestions, and for scanning “The Electrician” sleeve.

* Very likely Yossi Fine, not Erdal Kizilcay. This decade-old post on the TW board by someone who’d met Fine claims that Fine played on some “track with a fretless bass” which he couldn’t remember, but which I’d venture is “Motel.” The bass is similar to “Small Plot of Land,” which Fine said he did play on.

Top to bottom: Walker playing “Rosary” on Later With Jools Holland, 1995; Bowie, The Walker Brothers Triptych, 1996; “The Electrician” single, 1978; “Track Three” single, 1984; lyrics (alleged) of “The Motel,” Outside; LP inner sleeve of Tilt, 1995; The Wire #135, 1995.

122 Responses to The Motel

  1. humanizingthevacuum says:

    “Track Three” is to my ears Scott Walker’s most terrifying track: a David Sylvian track refracted through Situationism or something.

  2. twinkle-twinkle says:


    A story about body mutilation and art may be of interest here.

    Bowie read a story in the 60’s underground press about and artist whose ‘art’ involved removing individual limbs one at a time; first a finger, then another, then the remaining hand etc.

    When Bowie’s fame kicked in as ‘Ziggy’ and the journalist who had told of this strange artist came to interview Bowie, he was immediately asked for an update – what had happened to the artist? Had he continued removing more limbs and was he still alive?

    The journalist, (Charles Shaar Murray?), said Bowie was very excited to hear what had happened to him, and then disappointed to find that the ‘artist’ never existed, it had all been a fabrication.

    I think this story adds another strand to the where and why’s of Bowie’s interests around the ‘Outside’ period. Of course, he had shown an interest in a real living ‘bleeding’ performance artist in ‘Joe the Lion.’

  3. Momus says:

    1. This blog gets more and more like a work of art, like an encyclopaedia transforming into a novel. I like it.

    2. Of all the comments under your entries that “might have come from Bowie himself”, Chris, I get the feeling that the one you take most seriously is the tetchy-toned “Mr Blogger” one about the omission of The Minotaur and The Artist from the Outside dramatis personae list. This irritable, ego-surfing, slightly anti-intellectual Bowie has become a character in your entries now, The Dame pushing ahead of Pushing Ahead of the Dame. This blog has characters the way Outside does.

    3. I find Bowie’s Scott Walker impersonations annoying and boring. I want to shout out: “David, you’re better than that! Really! Believe in yourself!” Nevertheless, I do believe in borrowing the personae of other artists in order to generate new material, and I’m happy to define “originality” as the margin of error between target and result. That’s part of postmodernism, and it’s partly invented by Bowie himself. Like Cage being the composer who removed composers, Bowie is the fixed persona who exploded fixed personae.

    4. While I don’t disagree that Walker figures here, I would like to propose a parallel world in which The Motel is a wannabe Joni Mitchell song. The fretless bass, the jazzy chords and arrangement, the sense of wandering freedom and sensual, arty elitism… It could be a track off Hejira or Mingus. And they have the same cheekbones, the same glacial hauteur, the same beauty.

    5. The other thing The Motel reminds me of is Signet Committee off Space Oddity. There are the same guitar sounds, the same “motiveless shifts” between sections. The “re-exploding you” bit is very similar to the “I want to believe” section in Signet Committee.

    6. I have no comment yet about The Next Day. I have to live with it for a while. But I wish it didn’t end with a bloody Scott pastiche. Come on, David, believe in yourself! Deceive with belief!

    • col1234 says:

      yes, “Cygnet Committee” is a great call. def. an ancestor.

      & just to restate the obvious: as Nick says, the Bowie in this entry is very much a fiction. For the record, I do not believe he reads this blog.

      • Diamond Duke says:

        But wouldn’t it be a gas if indeed sailor himself popped up and put in his own two cents here…? 😀

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Ye gods, if he did read this stuff his head would explode, or he’d never record again, lol.

        Poor man, suicide would probably be the only option. All these backseat drivers, me included. And yet, how could he resist a sneaky peek, lol?

        Hi db, we missed ya, glad you’re back!

    • heathen72 says:

      Bowie doing Scott. Is it Authenticity or Pretension? Who knows? With Bowie it is always thus.

      • Sky-Possessing-Spider says:

        I once borrowed a copy of TILT from my local library, curious about the constant comparisons to Outside. In the end I scrambled to eject it from my cd player. Unlistenable, irritating tripe.

    • s.t. says:

      Great call with the Cygnet Committee comparison. I’d never thought of it, but it makes sense.

      To me, the fretless bass recalls the music of Angelo Badalamenti for Twin Peaks, particularly “Fire Walk With Me,” which makes sense given Bowie’s involvement, and their shared themes.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Yes – I know exactly what you mean about the fretless bass, a la Joni Mitchell. And Cygnet Committee.

      It’s hard to believe Bowie would lack self belief, growing up as a teenager and seeing him look so effortlessly in command. But when you see old ’70’s footage now, you can see how insecure he could be at times. It makes it all the more startling that he fought through it and put himself in difficult places to achieve his goals.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Just a thought about the Walker-esque final track. As he has created an album which, musically, is a kind of mash-up of his own musical past, it would make sense to include a reference to Scott Walker.

      But perhaps there is also an altruistic reason. All the major reviews have mentioned Scott and Tilt. Was this in the press release? It may be a way of Bowie increasing sales for someone he admires greatly? If you like me – try this, kind of thing.

      The main image for this release is the black and white photo of Bowie in an evocative menage a trois with his younger, cool self, standing back to back with the late Wm S. Burroughs. His past is now so rich he doesn’t need to hang out with new fads and fancies, he can do it with himself. He’s become the ultimate cut-up.

      Do you have any thoughts on how this image represents the album or the position Bowie is in, or he is creating? The artifice of Bowie’s steely Burrough’s like stare, with hat and jacket, contrasts with the more ‘real’ street wear of the jeans. It’s rather like the spinning coin trick he’s pulling generally – heads, tails, ‘star’, ‘ordinary guy’.

      • Sky-Possessing-Spider says:

        I don’t know about you Twinkle, but I think the photo that you speak of would have made a far better album cover for “The Next Day” than the Heroes-with-a-post-it-note that he went with. A strong, stark and CURRENT black and white image that simultaneously references the Bowie of the past.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        I know what you mean, but I think it would need some work, maybe bleach out everything around Bowie, chair and photos to a stark white background. Or crop more tightly around head and photos.

        I have mentioned my other thought which now makes me warm more to the current cover, and that is that it’s a play on the lyrics, ‘We can be “heroes” just for ONE DAY’, then you FALL TO EARTH ‘THE NEXT DAY’.

        I may be gilding my pretentious lily here, but I notice that TND cover is the inverse of the original black and white ‘Station to Station’ cover. It has a thick white border with the image from ‘TMWFTE’ in the middle.

        The main magazine/paper reviews seem to be using the ‘MWFTE’ as a strap-line. Is this because of prompting in the press release from Bowie’s people? I must admit it has been used a lot in the past too.

        Anyway, just a thought. Time for work and real life again. Really enjoying this.

      • King of Oblivion says:

        Definitely possible. He was pretty explicit back in the 80s that he was covering so many Iggy songs partly to help Iggy through some lean times…

  4. Momus says:

    Paul Morley in The Sunday Telegraph, talking about his involvement in the V&A exhibition: “At no point was it ever made clear if Bowie himself had asked for me to contribute, or if it just seemed that way, because I wanted it to be true that Bowie had requested my involvement. It was never denied or confirmed that he was pleased or not pleased with the direction the show was taking or not taking, whether he sanctioned the exhibition title and the subsequent effect it had on the shape of the show, or even if he really cared.”

  5. heathen72 says:

    Bowie exists on the fringe – a bridge between the inside and the outside, if you will. He takes mainstream listeners, lured by his pop sensibilities and background, and drags them out of their comfort zone. By doing, so, he and artists like him expand the mainstream, and help artists who live beyond the boundary to push further out.

    In short, Bowie build the outposts on the frontiers that the outsider artists have conquered, and shows everyone that they’re actually a safe place to be. They make what had seemed unpalatable or too ‘far out’ not so alien.

    Artists need an audience. Some are happy for their audience to be other artists, and this is often the case with real outsiders. Others want a broader audience – they want to educate, entertain and edify them. Bowie is one of these, I think.

    Is it ‘self sabotage’ if he pushes deep on his own and then retreats to a ‘safer’ point? Perhaps to other artists, or critics, but not necessarily to the folk who are buying him albums.

    Do we really want him releasing 4′33″ of silence?

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Brilliantly put. There is definitely a strong pupil/teacher thing in Bowie. A thirst for knowledge, a desire to understand things, and then re-present them for others.

      (Iman said db was impatient for Lexi to get to an age where he could teach and show her things).

    • Mike F says:

      heathen72 said “Bowie exists on the fringe”

      They pulled in just behind the fringe … 🙂

  6. Diamond Duke says:

    Like I’ve said countless times before, Outside my very first proper introduction to David Bowie, Album Artist. And I was motivated to purchase it by my curiosity as to what album could possibly spawn the two very intriguingly weird – but very different – tracks I heard in the credits of Se7en and Lost Highway.

    However, while The Hearts Filthy Lesson and I’m Deranged may have been the very first songs that I’d heard from Outside, The Motel very quickly became my favorite song on the record, and without a doubt it’s one of my very favorite David Bowie songs ever! At the time of my first listening, I had absolutely no inkling whatsoever of who Scott Walker was, or the degree to which he was an influence on Bowie. So I just simply loved the song for its bleakly beautiful atmosphere, for Mike Garson’s beautiful piano work, and for Bowie’s fantastic vocal performance. I also loved the mournful, plaintive sound of Reeves Gabrels’ guitar in the song’s outro (wonderfully replicated by Earl Slick in the A Reality Tour performances of 2003-04. Or was that Gerry Leonard? I’ll have to watch the video again!). If anything – and I’m only saying this with the advantage of hindsight – it actually harkens back to the darker, more apocalyptic side of Bowie’s glam phase (Sweet Thing, Aladdin Sane or even Lady Grinning Soul), although the glam seems spliced with the more ambient Warszawa/Neukoln side of the Berlin experience. But when I eventually heard the Nite Flights tracks on the Walker Brothers’ Everything Under The Sun box set, I could certainly recognize the kinship. (And it was probably Nicholas Pegg’s observations on that kinship in The Complete David Bowie which piqued my curiosity enough for me to finally check out Walker’s work!)

    Actually, the first time I ever came across the name of Scott Walker was in a Radiohead biography. As they’ve stated many times before, Walker was a huge influence on them. In fact, they once humorously referred to their first hit Creep as “our Scott Walker song.” However, I think How To Disappear Completely from Kid A is Radiohead’s most “Walker-esque” song, its title evoking the very first line of Rawhide from Climate Of Hunter and with its eerily dissonant Penderecki string drone humming over the top, a la It’s Raining Today or The Electrician.

    BTW, I always thought that Walker’s original lyric for The Electrician (as shown in the animation sequence of 30 Century Man) actually was “There is no hell, no.” Granted, it certainly sounds like “help,” but that p sound might just be John Maus mishearing the line.

    As far as Heat from The Next Day is concerned…I don’t know exactly how much of a Walker influence there actually is. So far I’ve heard it once or twice, and superficially there is a definite similarity to The Electrician. But I can’t help wondering if people are only mentioning Walker because the orbits of our two “planets” have somehow miraculously converged again (with Bish Bosch only a couple months old at the moment)!

    • col1234 says:

      good point: I’d thought it was “hell” too, but there’s def. a “p” sound on the vocal. Maybe it was Maus’ fault as you said

      • CosmicJive says:

        The lyrics with the vinyl version of Nite Flights says “help”. remember I was surprised when I read that because I thought it was “hell” too..

    • King of Oblivion says:

      I first heard of Scott Walker in the context of Outside; Bowie was talking about him and so were fellow fans at the time. I had never heard him at the time. It was Outside and especially Motel that made me think, ‘wow, if this is the sort of thing that is inspired by this Walker guy, I have to hear him!’ Went and bought Tilt soon afterward, which left my jaw on the floor and it’s a rare musical experience extreme enough to do that to me. Been in love with that record ever since.

    • s.t. says:

      Aside from the Electrician-like intro of Heat, Bowie’s vocals definitely remind me of Drift-era Walker, particularly “Jesse.”

  7. Patrick says:

    Well having just listened to the album version of the Motel, I actually quite liked it.
    For my limited experience , I know he’s a “genius etc etc” but something about Scot Walker and his constant “intensity” and his vocaIs, I hate to say it but it all sort of irritates me. Maybe I will change my mind but I find it quite wearing mostly.

  8. s.t. says:

    Wonderful post! I’m surprised you think of The Motel as a botched masterpiece, though. As you said, Bowie’s compromises often end up helping his more outre compositions, and I think that the dramatic swell here is a much needed payoff. The chilling yet seductive atmosphere is established, but the peak into oblivion is, to the listener’s relief, indeed just a peak (like the album as a whole). It was certainly risky for this lugubrious mammoth to come so early in the album, but there are far worse decisions on Outside.

    The true culprits are those damn segues, I Am With Name, and Wishful Beginnings. Listening to the album with those excised (something I had to do for quite a while to tolerate Outside), I’ve found that the flow is quite nice, even with the Motel.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      God – ‘Wishful Beginnings’, one of my favourite bits on the album. And those cognac vocals on ‘Motel’.

      Live – I stood feet away from a pile of rags, part of many such bits of ‘debris’ decorating the ‘Outside’ stage. It was a low shoulder high stage. The band were already playing as the lights slowly came up, and then those vocals started. We looked to see from where he would enter.

      After a minute or so the bundle of rags moved. It was his paint splattered overalls, half undone, sleeves tied around his waist. He slowly rose up from the kneeling fetal position he’d been crouched singing in.

      What an entrance. How he was able to sing and not move, or attract notice, was just stunning.

      • s.t. says:

        Sounds like a great concert moment! I’ve only seen Bowie once, in 97 for his Earthling tour. It was great to see him in an intimate venue, dressed in plainclothes, but I do also wish I could have seen a more theatrical show to compliment that one.

        As a track on the LP, I think Wishful Beginnings is a powerful mood piece, but it’s also an overlong indulgence on an already overstuffed album. It would be more effective, I think, if it had faded out about halfway in. It would be stronger as a mood piece, and would make the overall running time less punishing.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Despite the wonders I’ve sadly missed, there have been many great gigs – the last tour was particularly stunning. The energy coming off him was amazing.

        I usually see him several times on a tour, but could only see one gig on ‘Reality’ – I did have the most peculiar feeling it would be the last time I would. It was a perfect gig, and the best version of ‘Suffragette City’ I’ve heard him do – it had the proper vrooom-vrooom intro. But I loved the balanced mix of old and new.

        Thanks to Tin Machine clearing the decks, the 90’s were great for intimate club gigs and meeting him. Standing a few away in a small recording studio, hearing him sing ‘Drive-in Saturday’ and other things, was a memory I will cherish.

        One last hurrah would be lovely, especially for newer fans, but I fear any London O2 Michael Jackson/Led Zep type gig(s) would be filled with corporate Johnny-come-lately’s.

    • Sky-Possessing-Spider says:

      Yes, I have to take exception with col123’s summation of the end of THE MOTEL faltering and collapsing into gabble. This is one of my 4 or 5 favourite songs on the album, fantastic to sing along to (when I’m on my own), and the way Bowiés voice cracks into an anguished yelp as he sings ‘make somebody blue’ sends shivers down my spine.

  9. fantailfan says:

    I have to say that, whenever I have tried to listen to Scott Walker, my instant response is to dislike it. A baritone voice, combined with overwrought string arrangements, are for me associated forever with Andy Williams, Thomas Woodward and Arnold Dorsey, Burt Bacharach and Neil Diamond. (Leonard Cohen falls into this category, too, but he has written some incredible songs, and can be forgiven the occasional Spector or synth deviation.) Nails on a blackboard.
    Whenever David Jones drops into a slow baritone, I immediately wonder, why is Bowie singing this way? It’s not his best style. Who is he trying to be? What effect is he looking for? Speed it up, bring the vocal up a third or half, bring in Ronson or Alomar or Kizilcay or Reeves or, even, Slick! Skip. Maybe it’s an English thing. Maybe that’s why the Walker Brothers were popular in England, and why they held Tom Jones and Engelbert Humerdinck in such high regard. [I may be wrong about vocal range here. Some of these singers may actually be tenors.]
    And it seems that every review I read of Scott Walker music is that it is such a waste. He’s doing this music, it’s not a tenth of what he could do, and throwing it out there for the cult to buy. He doesn’t really care. But how can someone (even Lou Reed) release an album under his name and just not care about it? I don’t get it. Lou might make us try to believe he put MMM out there because it was an F.U. to RCA, but he had it in him and had to get it out, and, unlike (say) Neil Young’s Time Fades Away, he hasn’t suppressed it. There are even audiophile versions, for goodness’ sake. Todd Rundgren may have gotten stranger over the years, but he has always kept trying.
    So, why should I listen to Scott Walker, if he doesn’t care about his music, if it’s done in a vocal range I dislike. Why does David Bowie hold him in such high regard? Please explain. If the answer is RRL (rewards repeat listens), I’ll scream.
    (Note: Andy Williams did vocals in a Bogey-Bacall movie, but he did not do Lauren Bacall’s vocals.)

    • s.t. says:

      You don’t have to listen to Scott, he’s not for everyone. But just because you don’t care for it doesn’t mean that the artist doesn’t care about his music. Scott cares very much about what he creates, he just doesn’t think in terms of a larger cultural impact. His albums are his personal works of art. He hopes some people will resonate with it, but his own expression is what motivates him.

    • wirestone says:

      I also would scarcely say that someone who averages an album every decade is “throwing it out there.” Walker’s modern music is painstakingly composed, both musically and lyrically. It is not rock or pop or even art-rock or art-pop. It’s best understood as a merger of dissonant modern classical with vestigial rock song forms. Scarcely Andy Williams.

      • fantailfan says:

        Please don’t take this the wrong way when I say that these are the kind of RRL answers I was hoping to forestall.
        Again, my question, restated. Why does David Bowie hold Scott Walker in such high regard? Why does Bowie go out of his way to trash popular icons of the day (Numan, Madonna) because he considers them shallow and derivative, but regard others’ work as touchstones with which to compare his own work and never, ever criticizes them?
        What is it _musically_ that draws Bowie’s attention to Scott Walker?

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        I’ve never known Bowie to ‘go out of his way’ to trash anyone. He usually tends to talk more about who and what excites him. I must have missed the specific comment(s) he made about Madonna, but the Gary Numan thing goes back to a TV programme recording around ’79/80.

        I think things were fine till someone in the production staff let slip that the idea was to have Bowie representing the decade ending, and Numan was to signal the future. I think most egos would get a bit miffed at that.

        Numan was spotted watching Bowie preparing to perform and, in an unfortunate fit of pique, it is appears Bowie, or his people, had Numan removed from the studio recording.

        I can understand Numan’s embarrassment and hurt, being a fan – a Bowie clone – but it’s Numan, rather like Mozza, who has tended to bad mouth Bowie ever since. Numan also managed to turn a later compliment from Bowie into a slight. Pop stars, eh?

        Bowie was always happy to hang out with his ‘children’, The Psychedelic Furs for example, so why things went wrong with Numan is strange. I think it was more anger at the TV production staff, but Numan copped for it.

        I also remember Eno saying he had heard talk of Numan, but had been a little disappointed when he heard his stuff, as he ‘had expected more’.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Just as we have not been able to shake off our admiration for Bowie, perhaps Scott was the person the young Bowie, in his heart, aspired to be, and he just can’t get over his youthful admiration for his personal – experimental Sinatra figure. Maybe that’s why Bowie worked on his vocals as he has, enriching them.

        Scott went very MOR in the 70’s. Bowie got more experimental. Scott went experimental when Bowie went mainstream.There does seem to be a mutual respect and competitive thing going on. It’s an interesting dance.

        Each wants what the other has. Bowie has a huge audience, Scott, as Kenneth Williams would say, is a ‘cult’.

        It’s a kind of Picasso vs Matisse tussle.

        And Bowie once said that a girlfriend of his preferred Scott’s (60’s) songs to his. (Hermione or Lulu?).

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Perhaps hearing Scott without the pre-programmed ‘proper ears on’ helps some people hear him more ‘clearly’; Andy Williams with a migraine.

        ”It’s ‘Art’.”

        ”No – it’s a urinal.”

        ”No, definitely ‘Art’!”

        “It a urinal with R. Mutt scribbled on it, but definitely a urinal!”

        I do appreciate Scott, I’m just saying he does sound like Andy Williams, and he does sound overly pretentious very often. Captain Beefheart, especially with ‘Trout Mask Replica’, got the same kind of adulation and reputation… except from his ex-band members who saw a very different side to him.

        Scott, Don Van Vliet, Bowie – all Capricorns. Pretentious, moi? Lol.

      • s.t. says:

        @fantailfan, I think the majority have given responses more along the lines of, “it’s not your cup of tea, but Bowie and others quite like Scott”. That’s not really RRL (although I could give that too). We were just trying to qualify what seemed to be worded as “This guy sucks. Please explain why someone like Bowie would go on and on about him.”

        He likes him because he likes him, and you don’t’ because you don’t. Tastes vary, and we all have our reasons why we feel some way. I’m not sure what kind of answer would put you at ease.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      I am a fan of The Walker Brothers and Scott’s glorious early solo work, but I struggle to gain much pleasure – and I mean that in it’s wider sense – in most of his later work.

      I think his voice sounds awful – thin and strained with little variation. To me it almost becomes comical – like the ‘J-a-z-z’ skits on ‘The Fast Show’ (UK comedy sketch show).

      Musically there are interesting bits, but sometimes I feel Scott has been put on a pedestal, the outsider’s outsider. His work sounds like it means ‘something’ and he seems to have a need to make it – even if he only listens to it once, allegedly – but we just don’t know quite what, or why it should all sound so vocally samey.

      Seeing Scott’s peculiar behaviour in the documentary ’30th Century Man’, I got the feeling there was a bit of showmanship going on, Scott playing the Scott of myth. You’re either a recluse, very private, or you’re not. Why appear in the documentary? Do a voice over, or be totally absent. Is this a – gulp – ‘compromise’?

      After reading about ‘The Electrician’, often in relation to Bowie, for several years, I have to confess to being mightily disappointed when I eventually heard it. And The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s version of Brel’s ‘Next’ makes Scott seem quaint.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        I would just like to reiterate – I do love Scott Walker and respect him as a serious artist. I just wonder how many people would be trying to listen to his last few albums with such care if he hadn’t done the earlier 60’s stuff. We see it as an interesting artistic arc.

        And that accusation could also be levelled at Bowie too. It’s just that Bowie’s is a more wobbly, often accessible arc, in which he generally appears to be trying to meet us half way.

    • fluxkit says:

      I agree with the general sentiment. I feel much the same way about experimental music and avant garde composition. I’ve listened. It’s been somewhat educational if not usually enjoyable. It is rewarding for me when artists of more “pop” sensibilities find inspiration in those dark reservoirs. I generally don’t have the patience to sift through it and find it more suited to brief encounters, like in a contemporary art installation setting. But, I would say that some things can affect me in different ways. I in no way like listening to Walker, but being exposed to it has stuck with me in some way. Sometimes we need artists who aren’t doing things for us to “like” so much. And as much as my first inclination was to squirm and go “yuck,” I’ve had that reaction with many “outsider” musicians and quickly forgotten about their efforts. I think Walker somehow does have an ability to resonate and I’m not even clear on why. But that probably adds to the intrigue.

  10. fantailfan says:

    Addendum: I forgot to mention that I am a (now low) baritone myself, if it is of any importance.

  11. timspeaker says:

    The Motel is most definitely—IMO—the undisputed centerpiece of Outside, and is the greatest song on the album.

    Chris, your insights are superb as usual. I do think you were a bit harsh on the climax of The Motel, though. For me the payoff is visceral, brutal, and complex rather than forced. Otherwise, thanks again for the finest DB writing ever composed.

    Here’s hoping DB keeps you writing into 2016 and beyond!

    • Mr Tagomi says:

      His voice sounds shot at the end, rendering the climax anticlimactic. I’m sure it was a deliberate choice of his to sing it that way, but I don’t think it worked. Besides that I think it’s a beautiful song.

    • Jason says:

      freaky reading this 3 years later.

  12. TG says:

    Damn. When you wrote that the next post was “epic” I had a feeling Walker was involved, which likely meant “The Motel” was coming. This feeling was enhanced by my finally watching “30 Century Man” this past weekend.

    Haven’t even read the post yet. Will wait for this weekend when I can really settle into it. Two Walker weekends in a row. Gotta love it.

  13. Steve Mallarmy says:

    I’m not sure it’s right to say Tilt was ignored, not in the UK anyway. It made the charts, for goodness sake! And was reviewed in all the broadsheets, was featured on Newsnight, Scott sang on the Jools Holland show etc… Scott once said the album recouped its costs and made money. All in all I don’t think an album as extreme as Tilt could have hoped for more publicity than it got. No doubt things were different in the US though…

    Have to agree with Momus on Heat – half of me likes it, but the other half can’t ignore the fact that it’s way too derivative even for magpie Bowie. On first listen I found “my father ran the prison” a satisfyingly creepy line, on second listen it sounded like something a Scott parodist might come up with. (And yet it’s still better than the banal plod-rocker You Set The World On Fire!)

    • Rebel Yell says:

      Love reading your blog, part of what I love about Bowie is his word combinations and figuring out what he’s saying. Mental masturbation (or wanking) as entertainment. “When we saw Mishima’s dog trapped between the rocks blocking the waterfall…the peacock in the snow” – Heat. LMFAO.

    • col1234 says:

      fair point on Tilt’s reception in the UK. Mine is certainly an American perspective: the record was just utterly nowhere (it seemed to me, living in NYC then) in 1995, even on oddball alternative radio stations.

  14. Great revisit to the posts of just a short few months back – Walker releasing new work whilst the Bowie we all know remains inactive. At the time I remember sighing but thinking “shame, but so be it”

    If we knew then… and so excellently portayed in your post Chris. Genuinely great writing there

    A couple of people have already expressed alarm at your opinion re: the climax of Motel and I have to say I agree with them. It just works.. it really does. And when I then saw it live (Exeter 95) I was convinced (and remain of the same opinion to this day) it was the greatest opening to a gig ever. I’m glad he revisited the song in later tours, but it lacked the same presence it had as an opener

    As for the sequencing on the album – you could probably keep a website going for years simply based on how best to choose and sequence the material for Outside. Personally I don’t have any problem with it’s original state. The fade of the Motel signifies the end of the extreme “newness” of Outside material.. “coming up next some, pop songs!”

    And Heat – someone like Bowie is far too aware to not be mindful of the sound and lyric being almost parodic – and yet he not only persisted with it, he closed the album with it. Even tho the preceding song sounded for all the world like an album closer. It’s as if he’s saying “yes it IS ver Walkerish – and?”.

    • Mr Tagomi says:

      My first thought with regard to the line “my father ran the prison” was that we’re supposed to hear “Heat” as some sort of continuation of “The Electrician” – i.e. that the father is also the torturer.

      But I haven’t got a good handle on the rest of the lyrics so this is just an idle thought.

      But it works for me.

  15. Hard Format says:

    Tilt would be my choice for album of the twentieth century, The Drift for the twenty first. (I hear Climate of Hunter very differently from you.) I make no claims for importance or influence thereby, it’s merely a personal choice from a cast of thousands.

    I’m one of those old school types who stopped listening to Bowie after Scary Monsters, but in the last year I’ve heard Heathen, Earthling and Outside a number of times. Each of them I find to be interesting projects, particularly impressive after their predecessors’ loss of inspiration. There’s a mirroring, of sorts, with Walker’s 70s years (I don’t buy into Penman’s lengthy indulgence in No Regrets). I’m less interested in classically assembled works than fragments, allusion, collage forms and negative space so I find Outside the most interesting of the trilogy by a country mile. I think it’s the closest Bowie has come to the original structures of Heroes and Low.

    I find discussions of influence and significance and the seemingly endless claims and counter-claims such subjects engender to be ultimately worthless. All too often they seem to trivialise or distract from the work itself. Of course art is produced within history and subject to the work of others, but more importantly shouldn’t it be considered on its own terms and within the context of what it seeks to achieve? I’ve read much of your website and have great respect for your writing, but I’m concerned that you apportion too much importance to Bowie’s relationship with Walker. The latter’s work may well have been a spur to his ambition, but I don’t think it was his goal – what were his goals and how successful was he? Please excuse me if I’m misreading you, as I fear I might be.


    • col1234 says:

      not at all. it’s very good criticism. Consider the two Walker/Bowie pieces to be extended riffs on a theme: “cover” versions of their careers, and certainly not meant to sum up their work in any definitive sense.

    • wirestone says:

      It seems clear that Bowie sees something in the approach of this mid-period Walker work (basically Nite Flights and some of Climate of Hunter) as a worthwhile sound world to explore — in say, the way that he would have appropriated the sound world of say, the Beatles or the Kinks. The weakness of the approach, perhaps, is that he seems to respect the Walker work so much — or see it as so singular — that he doesn’t necessarily write Bowie songs in that space as much as take the Walker mood and atmosphere whole and transpose it onto whatever project he’s doing. I frankly prefer “Sunday,” which is a little more of an abstracted view of Walker, then the more overt homages.

  16. michael says:

    The thing about influence in the Bowie context is that he’s unusually open and self-conscious about it, which means that influence becomes part of the ‘own terms’ in which we should consider his music. There is an interesting tension in him between wanting to pay self-conscious respect to his influences (Velvets, Stooges, Scott W etc) and trying to compete with and outdo them. This also quite early on extended to taking on and reworking his own earlier stuff, but that’s another issue. What’s interesting about Scott Walker is that Bowie’s fascination has lasted so long, from the 60s, and that he’s still partly in awe. The main difference between them it seems to me, and I like them both very much, is that Bowie always has a ‘rocker’ (for want of a better term) in him, alongside the arty, pushing the boundaries side, but Walker doesn’t at all. The best thing is that both of them are happy to disappear and re-emerge with music that is still challenging and thrilling at this late stage in their careers. Getting to grips with The Next Day and Bish Bosch is a treat and a parallel to the Tilt-Outside combination. And I’m still getting to grips with and finding new things in the latter pair.

    As for the Scott = Andy Williams suggestion, no no no. Scott came to distrust the seductive power of his voice, but used it to expose his audience to all kind of areas outside the mainstream (Brel, Bergman etc), even if he was heavy-handed at times, and try new things. Andy Williams sang some songs.

  17. Remco says:

    Oh dear, I don’t I’ve ever diasgreed this much with anything you’ve written before. To my ears ‘The Motel’ is the highlight of the album, hell, it’s the highlight of the decade.

    I know I’m repeating what others here have said but the climax is absolutely essential to the song and it works beautifully in my opinion. Without it, ‘The Motel’ would have been a different more tension filled beast, like ‘Heat’ perhaps. And perhaps that might not have been a bad thing but I’m a sucker for the grand finale and this is one of the grandest, the way Bowie’s voice shatters is just sublime.

    So there…. Other than that, wonderful post as always.

    • col1234 says:

      I’m getting some (well-argued) pushback on the Motel’s climax, so just let me clarify my problems with it. again, these are just personal reactions:

      1) DB’s voice. As Tagomi said, it sounds blown out, and not in a good way. I assume this was an aesthetic choice but it didn’t work for me. I prefer pretty much any live version of it.

      2) the build to it just seems forced; it’s not surprising, and it doesn’t have the release for me. In theory I think the end of “R&R Suicide” is ridiculous, but I can’t dislike it: it’s wonderfully, shamelessly moving. As Uncle Jr. once said on “The Sopranos,” about a would-be rival to Tony whose move failed: “he couldn’t sell it.” DB doesn’t sell it for me here.

      3) the lyric. I forgive DB for all sorts of lines, but “re-exploding you…me exploding everybody dooooo” just really grates.

      • For me it’s 3) and 3) alone, but good goddamn do I agree with you on that point. I’ll also add that Gabrels’ vomiting guitar does that section no favours.

        Incidentally, I’m enjoying how often Bowie’s become the antagonist in what is ostensibly his own story. I just have this image of you slaving away at a typewriter, occasionally glaring up and muttering curses at a giant Bowie poster you once used as motivation.

      • col1234 says:

        well, one ancestor to this blog is Nabokov’s “Pale Fire”

      • Remco says:

        Well all right, you might have a teenie bit of a point about the lyrics. I could never quite make out what he was singing here and I honestly never bothered because I was so overwhelmed by the way he sang it. My reaction to points 1 and 2 is exactly the opposite of yours.

        @Anthony Hansen. I completely disagree with you but I love the term ‘vomiting guitar’. I wish there was more vomiting guitar on Bowie’s records.

  18. A build is nothing without it’s resolution. I think what’s missing in your original article, Chris (and it’s superb writing!) is commentary on the final minute of the track. You focus so much of you attention on the build that you ignore the way that section of music collapses in on itself.

    Note how the cymbals sound when the drums pound to an end at 5:48. They nearly sound damaged, mixed high and rugged. The guitar peels off its own skin the background and we’re left with the only bit of morning sunlight in the track: That minute long fade out with the guitarist (Gabrels?) playing a repeating six-note melody that evokes the image of our protagonist walking away, grotesquely satisfied, from the scene of some unspeakable act: A killing? A rape?

    It’s this moment that requires such a ferocious build and climax. It’s this moment that requires some Bowie “hystronics,” as Visconti used to call them. Bowie here is pummeling his fictional victim like he’s pummeling our ears. And he does it with the most obtuse language, too. “Re-exploding you,” repeat violence against another, “like everybody do,” the psychopathic excuse.

    It’s a remarkable drama piece, very much the ugly offspring of “Sweet Thing” (which I’m surprised has only been mentioned once by the readers, its influence is so obvious to me) and “The Electrician.”

    But, this is – really – a minor debate between two sets of ears. Your research and poetry in this piece is fantastic. A rollicking and ribald read!

  19. Maj says:

    This is a great read and I’m only halfway through it but because I want to comment on the song before I go to bed, here I go:

    I never got the appeal of The Motel. It always was hard for me to pay attention throughout the whole thing. While listening to it tonight I identified where the song really kicks in for me: just before the 3-minute mark. It’s quite amazing from then till the end.

    Funny thing is…when the Motel stopped…Heat started playing in my head. Heat doesn’t fuck about, it’s strong and amazing right from the first few seconds. Just an observation.

    A decade since I first heard Outside and I still haven’t gotten into this song but maybe from now on I’ll *make* myself listen to it a few times…the reward in the second half might be worth it.

  20. BenJ says:

    For the sake of context I listened to “The Cockfighter” back to back with this. That its opening is reminiscent of what I heard during a mouse infestation last year, and then the industrial noise kicks in: no, Scott is not laying out the welcome mat here.

    It’s interesting to think about what Bowie would put on an avant garde noise record. Maybe if he’d been really desperate to finish off a record contract, like Lou Reed did with MMM, he would have ventured it. But ultimately I don’t think it would be as interesting to listen to as it is to think about. His ear for melody, both borrowed and improvised, is so much a part of him that doing without it would leave the record incomplete.

  21. fantailfan says:


    • fantailfan says:

      Now I know this had no influence on “The Motel,” but that guitar riff sinuating throughout sounds like Kevin Armstrong in Thomas Dolby’s “Mulu the Rain Forest.” from 1984.
      For good reason, I suppose.

  22. Here’s another one of those lurkers who made a choice to break out of his anonymity and who finally decided to comment on here. Why? Well, this blog is one of the best things on the internet.
    I have a weird relationship with The Motel. It is one of my favourite tracks on Outside and I appreciate its intent, however it pales once you compare it to Scott Walker’s work. It seems that Bowie’s fascination with Walker does not always translate into great songs. You can see that he is trying to do his Electrician, but the difference is that Bowie is holding himself back, i.e. he is acting like a fanboy in awe of his hero (just like in his version of Nite Flights). The Electrician works, because Walker goes for broke in that song, whereas Bowie rarely goes like that. That is not me criticizing Bowie, mind you. He just does thing in a different way.
    I know this one is more for the thread about his latest album, but I have to say that Heat is the best Walker pastiche he did and I think I know why. While I was listening to it, I wrote in my notes that it reminds me of a Scott Walker cover of a David Bowie tune from the Sixties (I kinda see it as a closer for Climate of Hunter) and that is why it works – David Bowie married his own aesthetics with Scott Walker’s. He didn’t just slavishly imitate it, he tried to find similarities with it, combine it with his own and it shows. Of course, that is only my opinion.

  23. Teenwildlife says:

    I think we may be over analysing Bowie’s songs.A sense of mystery,of not knowing too much,leaving them open to interpretation is essential to maximise enjoyment.

    IMO The Motel is just brilliant regardless of influences.

    • I agree so much with your comment…sometimes analysis opens up new horizons and possibilities, other times like in this case it takes away the mystery and the joy of pure listening…of course this blog is priceless and precious and I’ll forever thank you Chris for it, but yes, I do believe sometimes analysys is a dangerous place

  24. princeasbo says:

    What an engaging dialogue!

    As at least one other respondent here, I follow the (lazy?) critical line that, for whatever reasons, Scary Monsters represents the last of DB’s major works. Nonetheless, I am as grateful for Chris’ criticism of Bowie’s subsequent material as the thoughtful and reasoned opinion it inspires.

    Maybe the interweb’s not, perforce, all bad. (ceases gushing)

  25. gcreptile says:

    Back from holidays, late to the thread….
    Someone mentioned that ‘The Motel’ sounds David Lynch-ian, I agree. I think Twin Peaks as much an influence as Scott Walker here. I cannot really connect it to ‘The Electrician’, their structures are very different with the symphonic part in the middle of the Walker song and the climax of ‘The Motel’ at the very end. With ‘Heat’ I heard it from the very first second on.
    I’m a bit torn about the song in general. I said before that for me, ‘The Motel’ ends one album, and ‘Oxford Town’ begins another. ‘The Motel’ would have been a great closer. But as it sits in the middle of the album, and it is a very long song, I often start skipping tracks after this one. I don’t know, I think it’s about the structural weaknesses of ‘Outside’ for me, too many different intentions on one cd.
    But I have to thank this blog for finally getting me motivated to listen to Scott Walker. ‘The Electrician’ was a revelation. ‘Tilt’ is an absolute masterpiece, I don’t even know why people find it hard to listen to. Even ‘The Cockfighter’ or ‘Bouncer see Bouncer’ have wonderful melodic parts in the middle. The latter half of the album is almost commercial. ‘Climate of Hunter’ is a very nice concept album. Ok, the concept rules everything there, but it sounds catchy and intellectually stimulating to me. But I do have to admit that my appreciation for jazz music might have something to do with it. Now, ‘The Drift’ and ‘Bish Bosch’ – those are hard to listen to. ‘The Drift’ is not pop music, it’s a piece of art, it’s not meant to be enjoyed. ‘Bish Bosch’ is a step back in some regards, a step ahead on other regards…it will take months until I have a real opinion.
    Finally, I want to repeat the prediciton I made in the previosu thread: Bowie’s last recorded song will be a duet with Scott Walker.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Re the Bowie Scott Walker duet. How will they know or decide the moment? Do you think it’s been done and in the vaults?

      Maybe they have both recorded something separately. Perhaps they don’t know exactly what each has done, recording to a click track and they will be joined together after they are both gone. It could be a mess – it could be a beautiful thing. It would suit them both.

      Bowie, plaintively, “I could have been a j-uuuu-d-g-e… ”

      Scott, even more plaintively and out there, (obviously). ” Meaningful – meaningful – m-e-a-n-ing… FULL!”

      Industrial hum, rattle of chains, the buzz of flies around dead meat.

      Bowie, wearily and resigned,” But I never had… the Latin…”

      (For younger readers can I just whisper – Peter Cook).

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Then cut to a certain Bowie blog:

        Rancidsemen says –

        “Well, it’s not what I’d hoped for, if only Eno was still alive, I think he would have pulled it together”.

        Dancingontiptoe – “Walker and Bowie needed Tony Visconti to make it more ‘catchy’.

        Rancidsemen – “‘Catchy’!?! Visconti’s good at what he does, but he would have been totally the guy for this duet.”

        And so we re-enter where we all came in…

      • gcreptile says:

        I think that Bowie does not want to record after his 70th birthday, but yes, maybe they release it years after recording. Scott Walker’s last three albums were a trilogy, so something new might come up. I could imagine them doing cabaret. Something Brecht/Weill could have written. But I am ready to be completely shocked.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Have you actually read that somewhere, about Bowie not wanting to record after 70yrs? If he has, it may have been him anticipating a time when he can’t sing the way he wants to.

        I know he would like to write a novel – if he hasn’t already done so. And he makes art. I can see he might want to control the end of his musical career while he is able to make a strong finishing statement and follow with other interests of quality.

        And gcreptile – you’ve squeezed in between my mis-fired joke and my correction -d’oh!! Lol!

        P.S. That noise you just heard was my deluxe copy of TND landing in the hall – catch you later!

      • Patrick says:

        News just in: “The Stars are indeed out tonight as a long awaited follow up to his duet with Mick Jagger, “pop cameleon” David Bowie and former teeny idol crooner Scott Walker release an Industrial version of Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby, one more Time”.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Industrial version of ‘The Laughing Gnome’, surely? But who would be the Gnomad, and who the narrator? Is this too much existentialism for a Saturday morning?

        Oh – it’s post lunch already! And soon… it will be dark. Just dark.

      • Hm, I don’t think a duet would do, because I think they should record an entire album together.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Link to Peter Cook as ‘E. L. Wisty’ – a Bowie fave and a bit of a broken man.

        Yes, more than a duet, an album would be fascinating. Although what kind of comments it would get here doesn’t bear thinking about, lol.

        I was just spontaneously riffing – affectionately – on gcreptile ‘s original thoughts on a duet. Originally I had the thought that Scott would sing, “Nickey-nackey-noo…” which is a ‘Goon Show’ catchphrase – they influenced ‘Monty Python’. But I got distracted and I lost the thought.

        I didn’t know why the idea of Bowie singing, “I could have been a judge… but I never had the Latin”, popped into my head, although I know db was a huge fan of Pete and Dud (Dudley Moore. It’s rumoured he was asked to play piano on ‘Hunky Dory’).

        Later I realised ‘E.L.Wisty’ was very much a sad, lonely ‘broken man’, looking for someone to talk to – like we find on ‘Outside’. During promotion for ‘Outside’, one interviewer said Bowie and Eno were like a Pete and Dud double-act.

        This clip doesn’t show the full sad, hat and raincoat wearing character he would become.

      • You are correct – imagine the comments in here, but I am also imagining the great articles that album would inspire for this blog and I am kinda upset that it’s not gonna happen. Oh, well. 🙂 I think that the best way for them would be to do a Nite Flights type of album. What do I mean? One third should be Bowie, produced by Walker and another third would be Walker, produced by Bowie. What would be the final third then? Why, it would consist of their duets. I know – that album will remain in the realm of fantasy. 🙂
        Great link by the way, even though I have to admit I am not familiar with Peter Cook.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:


        Sadly there are a few things db has failed to achieve. A duet with Sinatra, although Frank did say he respected Bowie as an artist. I think db wanted Aretha Franklin to record ‘Can You Hear Me’ (as a duet?).

        I’m sure working with Scott in some capacity would be equally as special for him, but, maybe fantasy is better than reality sometimes. 😉

      • Anonymous says:

        I always hear “The Supermen” in EL Wisty’s voice, seems like exactly the lyric he would write

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Brilliant! 🙂

      • parsifalzero says:

      • This thread made me wonder – what is Bowie’s relationship with British pop culture? Has anybody ever commented upon that? Or is that one of those subjects that has nopt really been properly discussed?

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Yes, I think there is a Bowie link in ‘Brit Pop’.

        It’s interesting, but rather as there is 20th Century painting AND Picasso, almost two things running parallel, so there is British music and Bowie. (I’m simplifying here and not just because I am a fan).

        So, apart from Bowie influenced Suede, and Pulp a little later), who really were the first to kick start what quickly got labelled ‘Brit Pop’, a more laddish kind of vibe quickly took over.

        They and some of the people on this list made derogatory comments about Bowie, then later retracted them or admitted db was an influence.

        So Brit acts like Blur and Oasis always name checked ‘The Stone Roses’, ‘Happy Mondays’, ‘The Smiths’/Morrissey, ‘The Jam’/Paul Weller, ‘Elvis Costello’, ‘The Kinks’ and ‘Who’. The later two obviously influenced Bowie.

        Damon Albarn criticised ‘Outside’, but later duetted with db, and spoke of almost working on a musical with Ray Davies and db, while Bowie used to play Blurs ‘Song 2’ during sound-checks.

        Paul Weller has admitted acceptance of the fact he is not as good a songwriter as Bowie – even naming one of his twins after him. Costello wrote his classic album(s) while touring the U.S. and listening to ‘Low’/’Heroes’ on repeat.

        Ian Brown name-checked Bowie’s dance stuff – Shaun Ryder wished Bowie a Happy 50th on ‘that’ radio prog – Ray Davies and Pete Townsend have worked with Bowie – not forgetting Mozza.

        Noel Gallagher laughed that Bowie had never tried to sue him for stealing his tunes (famously reworking ‘Dudes’ – ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’?).

        So, I think the answer is – yes! An influence.

  26. twinkle-twinkle says:

    Ha-Ha-Ha!! That should obviously have read, ‘totally the wrong guy’, lol!

  27. James says:

    The 2nd part of the song left to be desired, sounds more like inspiration of the moment than a well crafted thought of song.

  28. Maj says:

    Bowie’s “chuck it all away” instincts remind me of Cicero. He would often write to his friend Atticus that he regrets he didn’t decide to be a philosopher/writer only. But it was obvious he was not able to just sit in the country and write. He was a politician, a lawyer, an orator. He needed for people to look up to him, to admire him. He wanted to be useful and to leave a legacy. It wasn’t just about the power but it would be foolish to ignore that part. In that respect rockstars and politicians do have a lot in common. Just look at Iggy – his life plans: either to become the president of the USA or to become a rockstar. Adoring crowds etc.

    Thankfully there’s a small chance anyone will cut Bowie’s hands off and display them on the internet. (Now, there’s an image for Outside.) Politicians have it harder. Rockstars only get shot.

    As for Walker. I quite liked the Farmer song. I have to get around to eventually listening to him properly but the comparisons with Bowie and their mutual love fest is putting me off a bit.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Sssh!! Don’t go saying things like ‘hands cut off’, ‘rock star’s and shot’!! Lol!

      Remember, if Chapman had failed to shoot Lennon, he had plans to wander up to Broadway, (where db was appearing as ‘The Elephant Man), and shoot Bowie instead.

      • Maj says:

        Oh I remember it very well. I’m that cold hearted.

        Seems to me though many people here would not have been sad if Bowie did die after the release of Scary Monsters so…

        (Excuse my dark humour.)

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        He-he-he! Yes, I know what you mean.

        And that black cap and sunglasses combo, together with recent press photos, makes him the most recognizable anonymous person on the planet. 🙂

  29. normanball1 says:

    The Electrician remains for me perhaps the most disturbing track of the pop era and clearly shows what the genre is capable of eliciting. The Drift’s ‘Jesse’ is the third-world’s revenge on the first-world’s predations, the two tails of a boomerang’s path.

  30. Wonderful piece as always.

    I finally found the original Bowie/Walker entry that was later edited out of my Book on The (Scott) Walker brothers.
    For what it’s worth, here it is :

    Appendices ; Chapter 04
    ‘To Love Somebody’

    David Bowie

    Since the early 1990s, David Bowie has been most vocal about his admiration for Scott’s work. He would cover ‘Nite Flights’ to stirring effect on his 1993 ‘Black Tie White Noise’ album and contribute a portrait of the Walkers for the reissue of their ‘Images’ album in 1997. In the long form video that accompanied the album, Bowie
    recalls learning to love Scott’s voice after hearing his albums again and again courtesy of a girl he once dated. (‘She never played any of mine,’ he quips in mock indignation.) He also states that the girl used to be a girlfriend of Scott. (Possibly Irene Dunford.) However, no mention can be found of Scott or the Walkers in any pre-1991 Bowie interview, although Eno and Bowie were impressed enough at the time by 1978’s ‘Nite Flights’ LP to approach Engel through
    his then record label, GTO offering to produce Scott’s next
    LP. This was mentioned in the March 17th, 1979 issue of Melody
    Maker, although no direct Bowie quotes were used.
    Eno eventually met Scott at the Hilton tearooms in 1981: ‘We talked too fast and
    too much,’ Eno would recall.
    An early art movie starring Bowie (with a very Scott Walker haircut)
    exists called ‘The Image’. Shot in ‘67, it is credited as a ‘Negus-
    Fancey production.’ Scott’s manager since the late 80s has been
    Charles Negus-Fancey.(The film company was run by his father). Around the time of ‘The Image’, Ken Pitt
    managed Bowie; a gentleman professional still rooted in the old
    school showbiz traditions of cabaret and music hall. Much of Scott’s 60s career was managed by men with similar roots to Pitt and it’s intriguing to wonder where Bowie would have ended up had he not had the sudden insight that led him to move on to the more ‘modern’ management of Tony Defries’ Mainman company. It’s perhaps testament o Scott’s 50s roots that he was not equipped with the vision to instigate such a progressive move himself.
    Bowie apparently attended the London production of the musical
    ‘Jacques Brel Is Alive And Well And Living In Paris’ at the end of the 60s, inspired by his appreciation of Scott’s Brel interpretations. This show in itself inspired Bowie to tackle similar superficially ‘Brelesque’
    themes – abortion, child murder, paedophilia – in his own
    songs during his Deram period.
    But all through the 60s, 70s and 80s, despite the occasional stylistic references; a Brel song here, an overly mannered vocal there, there’s little to suggest that Bowie was much of a Walker brothers fan. He does lapse into an improvised snatch of ‘No Regrets’ during an 1987 press conference, but that’s about it.
    Yet, his admiration is sincere. Backstage at an Ed Harcourt gig
    in 2005, I was talking to Mary Ann-Hobbs, the DJ who hosted
    Bowie’s 50th anniversary special on Radio 1. She told me that when Scott’s birthday message was played to Bowie, the effect was total.
    The segment would ultimately have to be edited for broadcast to
    eliminate the ‘dead air’ that resulted from Bowie’s reaction: ‘He was crying,’ Hobbs told me. On recovering, Bowie quipped, ‘I can see God in the window.’

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      I remember that. Even edited you could sense it was an emotional moment. Once recomposed, Bowie said, referring to Scott’s audio birthday message, “I want a copy of that.”

      Scott, whose birthday was the next day, said something to the effect that Bowie had – artistically (?) – freed many people and that he, Scott, would ‘toast him on the other side of midnight.’

    • col1234 says:

      Thanks for this! As I said in the other Walker post, if you’re interested in learning more about SW, I greatly recommend Anthony’s biography, “The Impossible Dream.”

  31. normanball1 says:

    I’m not sure Bowie has ever approached The Electrician for sheer unalloyed emotional effect.This song is a highwater mark. His latest, Heat is little more than a belated promotional advert. In the ensuing 30-odd years the prison torturer has been promoted to warden. However he was better in a hands-on position.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      I guess you would have to ask, which emotional effect? Scott is hugely effective with a particular emotion and mood, both lyrically and vocally. He’s one of those artists, like Joni Mitchell, whom Eno says tend to dig the same hole deeper, rather than move around and find new places to dig.

      Scott now seems to be aiming musically for what Francis Bacon did in painting. However, there are other equally valid painters – greater artists even – with a richer palette and wider range of subjects than Bacon. Equally, it would be crazy to dismiss a highly charged emotionally effective film on the grounds that the protagonists don’t die in a bloodbath at the end, or commit suicide, as in other films.

      Where does one stop for comparisons. How do we make art in a post-Holocaust world? Why write, sing or paint about 9/11 when the Holocaust and Killing Fields reeked more havoc? How can one moan about the trivia of the day when something like 9/11 happened? Some people stand wailing at a microphone on music they have worked ten years on – years in which millions have lived and died in real misery.

      Bowie has been inspired by many things. They are a jumping off points for his emotions and interests, and to a greater or lesser degree echoes and traces do show through. I think it is missing the point making too many finicky comparisons. It’s like judging white blues and jazz musicians with their original inspirations. They are two different things.

      Scott Walker has something in his voice which suits misery. Some of us who overdosed on Scott over many a long year still prefer the aching voice and evocative impressionistic lyrics married to an orchestra, to give balance, (like Leonard Cohen and his female backing singers).

      I like ‘The Electrician’, with it’s Low/Heroes inspired music and amazing lyrics, but his voice seems thinner than of old. But it’s the musicianship in the middle that still gets in the way for me, especially the drumming. It sounds like a demo to my ear.

      I don’t have a problem with what Scott is doing on his later albums per se, I was happy as a 13yr old to sit in semi-darkness listening to the Velvet Underground and Nico’s John Cale produced early solo albums. I think they, as well as Low/Heroes, showed Scott a direction to take. And there are bits of Scott’s later work which sound like the more esoteric end of contemporary classical music.

      There are clearly moments when Bowie wants to explore similar territory as Scott Walker (and if db has left obvious signposts to this effect, I’d consider he has his reasons and those should be explored. I think we should look at the mood and ideas Bowie is evoking and how it relates to his life and canon, rather than whether he has done it the way Scott would. Bowie’s rock’n’roll is never wholly like Little Richards’, or even the Stones, it’s his own.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Is art still possible?

    “How do we make art in a post-Holocaust world? Why write, sing or paint about 9/11 when the Holocaust and Killing Fields reeked more havoc?”

    • normanball1 says:

      Apologies. Thisreply was meant as a reply to twinkle-twinkle, above.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Many thanks for this, I promise I will read it.

      However, my heart sank when the worst painting of the 20th Century popped up. I could write a thesis on why this is an unsatisfactory piece of art. I weep to think of the forests chopped down for some people to write about Picasso and this painting in particular.

      Picasso painted with his cock. When he tried to be meaningful in a political sense to impress some of those around him he failed. It just wasn’t him.

      But I will read this, cheers!

      • General Welldone says:

        Can I just say that before I followed the link I hazarded a guess the ‘worst painting of the 20th century’ would be Guernica. Just so you know you’re not alone, friend.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Ah, bless ya, lol!!

        I’d accept ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ as possibly the most ‘important’ painting of the 20th Century, even although it is both overworked and unfinished.

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        A bit harsh on Pabs there I think Twinkle. Sure, like many a rock star since he may have used his fame and wealth to satisfy his libidinous urges. But there’s no doubting his political sincerity. After all, he did leave his beloved homeland of Spain and vowed never to return while General Franco drew breath. True to his word Picasso was to remain in exile, dying two years before the Fascist dictator.
        As coincidence would have it I have a print of Guernica which I bought at the Prado museum on a trip to Madrid.Bizarrely, this depiction of pillage and slaughter now hangs above our dining room table.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Now I feel all inhibited knowing you have it in your dining-room, lol. I was using, hopefully amusing, shorthand to sum up where I thought Picasso’s strengths lay.

        Although he was a proud Spaniard and no doubt felt genuine anger at the bombing of Guernica, it was his partner at the time who encouraged him to paint something reflecting the event.

        Ever the astute self-publicist, for me, he ‘cobbled’ a large but compositionally and emotionally unsatisfactory thing together. (I feel there is a big white hole in the middle that he didn’t quite know what to do with, and it all seems a bit too cartoonish in expression).

        Perhaps the fact you can decorate your dining-room with it proves it’s true lack of horror. His ‘Charnal House’ – post-Holocaust – is an even less satisfactory painting and not just because, if memory serves me correctly, it’s unfinished.

        If the 20th Century has a painter genius then Picasso is certainly in the running, but his main talent in my opinion was in depicting his libidinous urges. I could live without about 85% of his output, especially all the tedious pottery, but he certainly was quite a talent

        I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he was only 5′ 2″ and girls could not resist his stare, Pablo Picasso was never called an a**-h**e… not till now, lol.

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        Maybe it’s that very cartoonish-ness that I respond to, as it is my profession. Here’s a link to my website:
        Speaking of the SONG Pablo Picasso, I don’t know about you, but I much prefer the original by Johnathan Richman and The Modern Lovers. It has a kind of goofy, downbeat charm and simplicity, whereas Bowie has the poor guy swinging off the back porch and jumping off a big log for some unknown reason.
        Much more successful in my view is his version of the Pixies “Cactus” which he marks out as his own much like a tom cat, by intoning D-A-V-I-D in the background. But perhaps we should save this discussion for a few albums further down the track…

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Ha-ha-ha!! Thanks for the link. Nice work. When I saw Scurvy’s ‘swag-bag’ I laughed out loud remembering my recent post about Bowie looking like a cartoon thief, (thieving magpie?), in the stripy t-shirt and cap.

        If you’d replied saying as well as Pab’s ‘Guernica’, your dining room also had Max Beckmann’s ‘The Night’,+1919.jpg and ‘Bird Hell’ , Bacon’s ‘Three Figures at the base of a Crucifixion’ , and Goya’s ‘Saturn Devouring his Son’ , I’d have worried about you having guests round for meals… with fava beans and a nice chianti, lol.

        The following thoughts do have a ragged through line from the current album to earlier work via the Berlin Trilogy, but you may have to half close your eyes and squint to get it.

        Bowie said in ’79 that his favouite painter was Erich Heckel of the ‘Die Bruche’ group of artists – influenced ‘The Idiot’ cover – but I always thought German artist Max Beckmann would have been more up Bowie’s ‘Love-Me Ave’ (The kind of ‘street where the creatures meet’. The Doors ‘Love Street’ was his opening record choice when Bowie DJ’d for 2 hrs on BBC radio back in ’79 – and it’s being repeated this Easter! I remember him sounding a little tipsy).

        Anyway, I knew of someone who made it on to Kid Jenson’s UK (London?) radio show to listen to the whole of db’s, then about to be released, new album ‘Lodger’ – with Bowie present! Fans had to write in and say why they should be on the show and this particular person, if memory serves me well, had related Bowie’s music to the paintings of Francis Bacon. I believe the deadline had passed to send in your postcard, but something about this guys Bacon/Bowie connection still got him selected.

        So, Max Beckmann – who shared an interest in the triptych format with F. Bacon – was influenced by the Theosophy ideas of Madame Blavatsky, as was poet W.B.Yeats, who was also linked to ‘The Golden Dawn’. (Blavatsky controlled her own pasts through self-invention.Yeats was firmly located in early Theosophy, although he drew a distinction between mysticism and magic, sparing himself a full immersion in the Order of the Golden Dawn. Others did not keep these areas as rigorously apart, and Yeats alternated extremely specific magical beliefs with soothing reassurances that he was simply seeking ‘metaphors for poetry’).

        I hope you are keeping up and getting these references boys and girls. I should be in bed, but I’ve started, so I’ll finish.

        I find it peculiar I’ve never seen Bowie mention Max Beckmann, as Max, like Bowie, depicted himself dressed as many different characters, seeing life as a stage where tragi-comic events were acted out. (Look away now as I tell you – Beckmann ended his days in NYC, dying of a heart-attack on his way to the Met Museum aged… 66yrs). Below are some bits from Beckmann’s Wiki page.

        Max Beckmann is known for the self-portraits painted throughout his life, their number and intensity rivaled only by Rembrandt and Picasso. Well-read in philosophy and literature, he also contemplated mysticism and theosophy in search of the “Self”. As a true painter-thinker, he strove to find the hidden spiritual dimension in his subjects. (Beckmann’s 1948 “Letters to a Woman Painter” provides a statement of his approach to art.)

        Some of his imagery refers to the decadent glamor of the Weimar Republic’s cabaret culture, but from the 1930s on, his works often contain mythologized references to the brutalities of the Nazis. Beyond these immediate concerns, his subjects and symbols assume a larger meaning, voicing universal themes of terror, redemption, and the mysteries of eternity and fate.

        In 2003, Stephan Reimertz, Parisian novelist and art historian, published the biography of Max Beckmann. The biography reveals Beckmann’s contemplations on writers and philosophers such as Dostoyevsky, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Richard Wagner.

        I hope this makes some kind of sense, it rather tumbled out as one thought sparked another. Apologies for the length. With thoughts of Bowie and Berlin at the moment, and his use of the “Heroes” cover and talk of ‘Lodger’, I was reminded of these links. Phew! From cartoon’s to Nietzsche – who’d have ‘thunk’ it?

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Yeah – Jonathan Richman’s ‘Pablo Picasso’ is unbeatable. I was very disappointed with Bowie’s version, but eventually for me it became pleasantly likeable as a thing in itself. Now, db’s ‘Waterloo Sunset’ ?!? Peter Gabriel nailed that as a cover.

        I think that guitar on the cover for the ‘Reality’ tour, which Bowie plays during ‘Cactus’, may be one of Marc Bolan’s or a gift from him, hence the inclusion of a line from T-Rex ‘Get It On’.

        I think Bowie out-Pixie’s the Pixies on this one – not an easy thing to do.

      • s.t. says:

        I dunno, I found Bowie’s Byrne-isms on Pablo Picasso rather endearing, though I agree that the added parts are unnecessary, and of course that the original is better. His take on Cactus was more impressive, and that shout-out spelling is more significant than I originally realized, since it seems the Pixies had done theirs as an homage to “The Groover” by T.Rex. Was this Bowie’s skewed way of revisiting to those Bolan nods of yore?

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        Yes, that little list would certainly make for interesting dinner conversation. I’m surprised you didn’t also include Bosch’s depiction of Hell, complete with giant birds devouring people whole.
        Just a point on that Kid Jensen pre-Lodger fan listening party you mention: I’m not sure, but I believe a couple of photo’s from that event turned up in Chris Charlesworth’s 1981 book “David Bowie Profile”. The whole thing looks very informal, with everybody sitting cross-legged on a large futon. In one shot, Bowie, who is wearing the same outfit he wore on the “Boys Keep Swinging” shoot for the Kenny Everett video show, is studying a sheet of slides. Nearby, a rather gorgeous girl in leather pants, stilettos and primped blonde hair is smiling adoringly at him.
        Sometimes, as with your assessment of the meanings behind the new album cover art, I suspect your favorite Bowie photo may be “The Archer” as you like to draw a long bow. However, the similarities between Max Beckmann and a large number of Bowie’s interests/obsessions are undeniable. It’s almost surprising that Bowie doesn’t appear to have ever name-checked him.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Thanks. To be honest I was only intending the initial, hopefully, comic reply to you and the rest did seem to tumble out, as I think the writing shows.

        Thinking of ‘Outside’ and art etc, coupled with the new album, did bring up fragments of past thoughts. I was hoping others might be able to confirm my vague memory of Bowie mentioning Beckmann in an audio interview, just in passing, along with Die Bruche and Erich Heckel.

        It is inconceivable that db is unaware of Beckmann, the German ‘Picasso’. Beckmann painted himself as a Pierrot, circus ‘barker’, tuxedo-ed gentleman, etc, but at the end he stripped away all artifice to present himself without a mask.

        Masks appear again and again in his work. In a couple of works the female figures have a very particular kind of horizontal mask shape; in ‘The Actors’ triptych a woman is singing with a mask which makes her look not unlike Annie Lennox at the Mercury tribute concert. Next to her stands ‘the king’ in a blue suit with very ‘Ziggy’ looking red boots, it’s quite uncanny. (Yes, I know he was in green then, but I just noticed the boots today in a whole new way).

        Elsewhere in Beckmann’s work you find ‘kings’ and ‘queens’, and the odd, ‘beauty in a cage’ and ‘angels of promise’. Plenty of torture too. Beckmann also loved William Blake and H.Bosch.

        In the right hand panel of ‘Departure’, a blind man/bellhop is guided by a woman, a la db and Gale at the end of ‘Heathen’ on the ‘Reality’ tour. I know there are other precedents for such a theatrical device, but as I’ve rather crudely tried to show, I think Bowie draws things from many sources, making his own quirky connections, which are more emotional and impressionistic than clearly defined tidy, ‘this came from here and means this’ type of thing.

        I’ve started making a list of other stuff which I will try and put together more cogently at some point. Anyway, glad it made some kind of sense to you. Oh, yes – one of M.B.’s more evocative simpler paintings is of a (tactful) cactus by a window. Nice.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Great link – many thanks again. That was excellent!

      The ideas were fascinating. And I’ve just realised I forgot to double back when writing my original piece to add some *’s to c**k. Apologies for this. It’s true, men can’t multitask.

      The link you sent will give me many hours of thought. Cheers! 🙂

  33. The Pataphysical Me says:

    Great… great track !
    Such a fantastic voyage with such a wonderful person !!
    One of DB’s favourite track; also it’s one of mine.
    Great voice too… that‘s got that vintage Scott Walker’s vibes.
    Maybe, the 2003-2004 version with Slicky & Gerry is even better than the original one, than the way it was played live circa 95-97. (& God knows how much i’m a huge Reeves “le guitariste baveux de Tin Machine”fan).
    1 then, I must talk about the song “Heat” which sounds even more Scott Walker in his Climate of Hunter’s Era (the worst sales for Virgin records… said Scott in the 90’s).
    Heat’s got some kind of Ligeti’s touch & i’m a complete fan of Ligeti !!!

  34. normanball1 says:

    I’m glad to see such an eloquent championing up here of The Electrician, a song that has been very much on my mind for years.

  35. Davy says:

    This post got me somewhat sad… I love “The Motel”, is one of my fav tracks in Outside, and one of my fav Bowie songs overall.

  36. Ben Clayton says:

    Some thoughts on the above:

    – Guernica is a staggering work of art – if you haven’t seen it in the flesh, try. I dont see how any compassion human can fail to be moved by its searing insight.

    – Scott Walker is a complete genius.

    First 4 songs on Nite Flites
    Climate of Hunter
    The Drift
    Bish Bosch

    Try listening and absorbing this body of small-but-paradoxically -massive body of work. No, its not easy listening, but who cares about that? I don’t go to a library or bookshop for the large print westerns and romances.

    Put the hard yards in and it reaps countless returns on your investment. Well for me it does, leastways.

    – Bowie for me doesn’t come close to the artistry of Walker, but he’s still damn good. ‘The Next Day’ is a nice enough pop/rock record, with some great tunes on it, but only superficial profundity and repeat nourishment, if that makes any sense? I loved it at first, but now dont even need to hear it again. The songs are in my head, they cant really give me anything more. Scott Walker’s work is different though – it seems almost infinite. Bowie’s ‘Heat’ is a solid tip of the hat to Scott, but it doesn’t make much sense in the context of the album itself, which is like a pick’n’mix bag of Bowie’s past. I can’t get much purchase on how ‘Heat’ might sit alongside ‘Valentine’s Day’, for example. A whole album of ‘Heat’ stylee stuff though, well that might have been more interesting. Could be utterly rubbish too though, so hey.

    Anyone ever had ‘The Electrician’ played at their funeral?

  37. Patrick_DB says:

    Intro to “Strangers When We Meet” is basically identical to the “Nite Flights” intro.

  38. djonn says:

    This is the first time I’ve read this particular piece and I’m glad I found it! Tilt has been an album that has constantly and consistently intrigued since its release (I must have been one of the other three that bought it aside from yourself). Odd but I never made the connection that it was a contemporary of Outside (it took me years to get to Outside as at that point I was still in my “Ach, another Bowie record that’s probably like Never Let Me Down”.). But now I have a context between the two and in these later years Outside has become almost as intriguing as Tilt, though Tilt will always remain an inscrutable masterpiece to me. But thank you for framing these two and I love the two planets analogy.

  39. CurioSearcher says:

    Sorry, the link to the early version is gone, can you tell me if it is inclueded in the Leon Suites?

  40. Matt Rogers says:

    i’ve always been intrigued by the voices at the beggining of the song, i wonder what they’re saying…

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