Get Real

grandma

Get Real.

“Get Real” was an out-of-nowhere attempt to revisit Never Let Me Down, an album that Bowie had said he wanted to re-record one day. It’s as though Bowie was toying with previous incarnations of his “commercial” sound during his revisions of Outside in New York in early 1995. “Get Real” alternates a conversational verse/chorus, punctuated throughout by the double-tracked and stereo-panned title hook, with a moodier bridge that has a trace of New Order’s “True Faith” (“I walk the streets not expecting morning sun“).

While the beat and the guitars (it’s a Carlos Alomar-heavy track, especially the arpeggiated line mixed low in the right channel) call back to Bowie’s late unlamented Eighties, the acerbic, spare verse lyric and the chipper melancholy of the bridges suggest his turn-of-the-century albums. An odd, transitional piece that had nowhere to go on Outside, “Get Real” slipped out as a CD single bonus track later in 1995.

Recorded, most likely, at the the Hit Factory, NYC, January-February 1995. First released as a bonus track on the Japanese version of Outside, and on the UK CD single “Strangers When We Meet” (RCA/BMG 74321 32940 2). Also included on the 2004 reissue of Outside.

Top: Heli Lehtonen, “Grandpa and Grandma Working in the Field,” Sweden, 1995.

18 Responses to Get Real

  1. Mr Tagomi says:

    It doesn’t really feel like a finished song, Get Real. Just a little curio more than anything else.

    In its released form it could no more find a home on Earthling than on Outside.

    To me it feels like something about the song links it sonically to another isolated fragment from the mid-late 1990s – “Funhouse”.

    I haven’t a clue what the common characteristic is though.

  2. fluxkit says:

    It does sound like NLMD style, but “Get Real” actually flows much more smoothly than the tracks on that album. It also ends before it feels like it’s dragged on 90 seconds too far.
    I guess it’s somewhat funny to me because I was just listening to Outside today and thinking how “Thru These Architect’s Eyes” feels more like a Black Tie, White Noise track. But I like that about it.

  3. Maj says:

    I like this one a lot. Pretty much everything about it. Is it a masterpiece? No, but it’s pretty bloody good for a half-forgotten Bowie track. And the length of it is ideal.

  4. Patrick says:

    Pretty forgettable and as mentioned, sounds unfinished. No wonder it was left off the earlier releases.

  5. s.t. says:

    I think this could have fit reasonably well on The Buddha of Suburbia, which is full of pleasant ditties that would sound like throwaways on any other album. I only just heard this one a few months ago. It’s nice, but not memorable. And not even anthemic enough to bring Never Let Me Down to mind.

    Now, You Will Set the World On Fire is a different story…

  6. Diamond Duke says:

    First heard this one on the 2-disc Sony edition of Outside, tucked away rather inconveniently at the very end of the bonus disc along with Nothing To Be Desired. (And if one were to absolutely insist on playing that disc in its entirety, I would heartily recommend skipping to the end for those two tracks and then slogging through the remix grind of the remainder. That is, if such is your inclination!πŸ˜‰ At least the bonus disc for EMI’s 10th Anniversary Edition of Black Tie White Noise began with the non-album tracks Real Cool World and Lucy Can’t Dance…)

    It’s actually a really cool song, a pop throwaway to be sure, but a slightly skewed one. Sort of like if Bowie went to Berlin with Nile Rodgers to record at Hansa By The Wall, instead of Eno and Visconti! Some very interesting, thought-provoking lines here, such as “You can’t stop meaningful teenage cries / From deep behind fifty-year-old eyes,” continuing to show solidarity with the angst of youth as opposed to his more staid peer group. Although he undercuts this point slightly with the desperate sentiment of “What’s up? What happened when I wasn’t around? / Who did what? What went down?” (A deliberate bit of self-critique, perhaps?)

    BTW,
    Tomorrow’s the big day for me! I’m going to be at Best Buy right when they open the doors Tuesday morning and snatch up my copy of The Next Day (the Deluxe Edition with the 3 extra tracks, needless to say)! I don’t know about anyone else, but I simply love the ritual of actually physically going to a store and purchasing a music disc, unwrapping and peeling the cellophane and the title sticker over the top. Call me old-fashioned.πŸ˜€ You may (or may not) have noticed, but so far I’ve refrained from weighing in with my comments on the new album. That’s only because I’ve heard the whole thing only twice all the way through, and I believe I need to let the whole thing marinate a little bit before making comments or passing judgment. But so far, I really like most of what I hear. (Someone was kind enough to post the whole album in its entirety on YouTube. It ended up getting taken down eventually, of course, but I was lucky enough to catch myself a listen!)

    Recently, I also went to a local salon and had my hair cut and dyed a violet red in honor of this special occasion. So far I’ve had positive feedback on it, particularly from female friends! (It’s not exactly the Ziggy look. It’s something of a layered shag cut coming down to the shoulders with the bangs cut, and the shade is perhaps a bit more Diamond Dogs/Halloween Jack than Ziggy.) To be honest, it’s actually quite thrilling to think of myself as a David Bowie fan in the present tense, as opposed to being a fan of someone who’s already come and gone and had their day. I’m glad he’s still doing interesting work!πŸ™‚

  7. James says:

    I don’t think it was worth releasing, something that should have been left on the cutting floor.

    • Roman says:

      Well it got me to buy the Stranger’s single, when I owned the song already. I assume I wasn’t alone amongst Bowie fans in taking this action – and therefore I’m sure Bowie reckons it was worth releasing. πŸ˜‰

  8. Momus says:

    This is the first time I’ve heard this song, and I actually like it very much. The “scared to touch” section harks back to Bowie’s 1960s songwriting with its solitary, melancholy atmosphere — and even the way the bass “turns” through the chords. It reminds me of Conversation Piece, and therefore perhaps prefigures the Toy album.

  9. E. Hennessy says:

    I really love this little ditty, but for some reason this is the lyric that I hear in my head, over the verse: “I whistled for a cab, and when it came near/ The license plate said ‘FRESH’ and it had dice in the mirror/ Get Real….Get Real”

  10. This might sound weird, but Get Real reminds me of those mainstream rock hits in the Nineties that were usually by Bryan Adams or Sting. I know – what?!πŸ™‚ It just sounds so generic, yet it does give us a glimpse into what would have happened if Bowie hadn’t decided to challenge himself after Never Let Me Down. Hm, has anybody ever thought of that? What kind of music would Bowie do, if he decided to go the way of many rock icons who are releasing albums for the sake of it? I mean – say what you want about the quality of his later work, but he is still putting a lot of effort into it. Sure, his later albums may not always work (although Heathen, Reality and the latest are great), but he is at least not settling himself in what I would like to call Remember me phase that many bands and musicians finish their career with. Hm, am I making any sense?πŸ™‚

    • s.t. says:

      True, we fans can be a harsh bunch sometimes. So far, no album of jazz standards, no Christmas releases (the coked out duet with Bing is all we need), and thank God, no horrendous sequel album like “Ziggy Stardust vs. the Glass Spiders.” Even before this recent showing of a hungrier Bowie, he’s always made an effort, which really is something for an aging rock star.

  11. David L says:

    I quite like it too. I would have guessed that it came from the 80s or perhaps the Real Cool World session. But it’s simplicity and Bowie’s detached delivery also remind me of I Pray Ole. Nice little nugget!

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