I’m Deranged


I’m Deranged.
I’m Deranged (alternate mix, unreleased).
I’m Deranged (edit, Lost Highway soundtrack.)
I’m Deranged (alternate edit, Lost Highway).
I’m Deranged (rehearsal, 1995).
I’m Deranged (first live performance, 1995).
I’m Deranged (“jungle” version, live, 1997).

But if those walls could talk! [The inmates’] whole process and how they instinctively jumped from symbol to symbol in their narratives and things. One man is called the Angel Man—and in fact he turns up in one of the songs in the end—he believed he was an angel and said [German Angel Man voice], “I was exactly who I was up until the 5th of February, 1948, and then I became an angel…it was just after lunch.” And from that point, he believed that his old person disappeared and his angel took over him. He was totally reborn at that moment.

Bowie, interview with Moon Zappa, Ray Gun, 1995.

Another casualty of Outside‘s sequencing was “I’m Deranged,” the sixteenth of nineteen tracks and which, to the exhausted ear, seemed a lengthy retread of earlier songs: it had another cracked Mike Garson piano solo, another set of Brian Eno’s Nerve Net-vintage synth and drum loops, yet another Bowie salmagundi of a lyric with shadows of violence and (overtly here) insanity.

Inspired by his and Eno’s trip to the Gugging Psychiatric Clinic in 1994 (from which Bowie took the image of the “Angel Man,” see above), Bowie chopped up a provisional lyric via his Verbasizer computer program, then crafted a run of lines that followed eddies of thought and made shotgun marriages of vowel sounds (“be real” becomes “before we reel”; “blonde” quickly summons “beyond”). The lyric’s perspective isn’t that of a madman as much as someone with romantic hopes of growing mad, with an undercurrent of masochism (“I’d start to believe…if I were to bleed,” Bowie sings, gently extending his long Es) and a few phrases suggesting that Bowie had been reading John Rechy again (“cruise me baby,” “the fist of love”).

He later assigned “I’m Deranged” to his Artist/Minotaur figure (see “Wishful Beginnings”) but the conceit was wearing thin by this point, and any attempt to shoehorn “Deranged” into the “Nathan Adler” storyline would devote far more time than its author ever did. Its allegiances are with two other tracks on the record—the title song, for which “Deranged” seems a counterpart, inspired by the same Gugging visit and suggesting sensory derangement and “outsider” art; and “No Control,” with which “Deranged” shares a lyrical and textural mood.

Built over a repeated four-chord progression in F minor,* “Deranged” seems mainly Eno’s work, though one ancestor was Bowie and Nile Rodgers’ “Real Cool World” (there’s also an echo of “Billie Jean” in its opening four-note synth hook), and there’s a tinniness at times to the mix: take the anemic drum machine fill at 3:31, beats seemingly generated by a Sega Genesis. Garson’s two piano interludes also lack surprise; it’s as if Eno had triggered a sampler to play “Off-Kilter Garson Solo in F Minor” at various cue marks. There apparently were some brutal revisions: Reeves Gabrels said he worked for days on “serious orchestrated guitar stuff” for “Deranged” that was eventually scrapped, while Carlos Alomar recalled a three-part harmony track that also got the axe.

Its best element is Bowie’s vocal: while there’s a somber precision to his opening lines, in the second verse, Bowie defaces his melody, weighing and sounding each word as if he can’t recall how it’s pronounced, getting mired in each syllable, building up to the last repeats of “I’m deraaaanged,” where he bloats and strangles the latter word.

The track’s harmonic stasis and ominous mood better suited the sequence David Lynch used it for on Lost Highway—scoring a driver’s-eye shot of a sped-up stream of highway center lines, a loop of ceaseless, violent motion. “Deranged” also improved in concert, once the song was prised loose from its album mix and given fresh, bloody life by the Outside and Earthling tour bands.

Recorded ca. January-February 1995, Hit Factory, NYC. A remixed and edited (2:37) version appeared on the Lost Highway OST, released 18 February 1997 (a longer edit was used for the end credits).

* The progression seems to be i-II7-v-III-i (Fm-G7-Cm-A flat-Fm), with the major chords staggering the progress of F minor to its dominant, C minor, and back home again.

Top: Ted Barron, “Epiphany,” Brooklyn, 1995.

32 Responses to I’m Deranged

  1. Scott Branca (the pataphysical Me) says:

    Great Tune…, Fantastic Voyage, Amazing Voice!!!!!!!
    i’m total fan!!!!!!

  2. My favorite song after “Strangers When We Meet.”

  3. CosmicJive says:

    Another great song. Always prefered the original mix tot the 97 Plati/Jungle mix although that one also has it’s charm. The 95 live version is also great, Peter Schwartz did an excellent job with the (string) arrangements on that tour.

    Wasn’t the bassline of ‘Deranged’ lifted from a song by the Young Gods? Maybe it wasn’t them but I do remember someone once played me a song by some ‘obscure band’ that had the exact same bassline.

    BTW isnt that alternate/unreleased mix the exact same as the rehearsal mix? I think the same applies to the previous 3 posts.

    • col1234 says:

      good question on the Young Gods—am going to bring them up in the next entry.

      I really don’t know what in hell these alleged “unreleased” mixes are, but have included them entirely for the sake of (mistaken?) completeness—i think you’re right that it’s just the Outside rehearsals boot, but I thought there were some differences.

  4. gcreptile says:

    To continue a story I told before, my mother didn’t like the Bowie of ‘Outside’. She once said that she didn’t like the album at all, but she really liked this song, the only exception. I agree that it’s one of the better tracks, it’s in the top 5 with the three singles and the title track. Maybe ‘Outside’ would have worked better as a panorama of Outsider art/artists.

  5. Patrick says:

    It’s moody soundtrack music, I don’t even remember seeing the entire film but it worked very well for the credits which I do remember. I’ve always thought there could be awards for the best opening credit sequence in film. There’s obviously also a more traditionally orchestrated fuller sound here.

  6. Scarymonster says:

    Out of context and sounding vibrant, urgent and doom-laden, I remember laughing aloud during my own near-epiphany on recognising the track during Lost Highway’s opening credits.

    Although I’d ‘accepted’ it on the album, extracted from its natural habitat, thanks to David Lynch, I came to appreciate the track on its own terms. A true hidden gem (I think I become innured to the album’s cruel charms after the first 40 minutes) and now one of my favourites, along with those pop moments, We Prick You and the glorious Oxford Town.

    I am looking forward to reading THAT review!

  7. Joe The Lion says:

    Yep, this is perhaps my favourite song from 1.Outside.

    I recall Eno being less than enthusiastic about it in A Year Will Swollen Appendices, but I can’t find the bit I’m looking for. Anyway, I don’t agree with him if I am recollecting his opinion correctly.

  8. The Path says:

    There’s also a splendidly funereal version by the German band Get Well Soon…

  9. Maj says:

    I love this song. I love the juxtaposition of whatever’s happening in the track with the melody Bowie is singing and how he is singing it. And the lyrics that do jump at me create certain images…all bleakness and romance. Yep, I like me some of that.

    The further we go in the album the more I realise I either love the songs or don’t listen to them – with the exception of Voyeur which got completely buried in the album for 10 years without me noticing.

  10. Momus says:

    There’s something that just works about I’m Deranged; the galloping propulsive beat, the chords sucking you onwards, the vocal melody providing just enough of the unexpected, the balance between randomness and structure well-judged. It’s particularly great in the Lynch title sequence, giving the onrush of the dark road a really edgy drama.

    I want to say something about Lynch and Bowie’s shared belief in the unconscious, and in improvisation. They’re both from a generation marked very strongly by the Surrealists, and particularly by Bunuel (Bowie of course played Un Chien Andalou before his 1976 concerts, and refers to the film visually in later videos), but also by Dali and Ernst, Hans Richter and Kurt Schwitters. These are artists who also say “I’m deranged”, but to those less convinced by the power of the unconscious they might be saying “I’m making it up as I go along” or “I’m putting random things together and hoping they add up to more than the sum of their parts”.

    I actually don’t share that Bowie-Lynch belief in the inherent interestingness of the unconscious, or Bowie’s interest in Kerouac’s stream-of-consciousness prose for that matter. So although I *like* I’m Deranged on one level, I also see it as another missed opportunity to say something coherent. There are many Bowie songs that do say something coherent; just at random, let’s pick Drive-In Saturday, which has a really interesting scenario about a future in which sex has been forgotten and people have to watch old films to learn about it. That scenario actually makes the snatches of dialogue (“Gee, it’s hot!”) and random images (“where once raised a sea that raged no more”) more than mere broken potshards. They become poignant, just as a lot of, say, Twin Peaks does. The narrative structure makes the random imagery compelling and meaningful.

    I think what I’m trying to say is that I don’t believe the Verbasizer has an unconscious, and that I slightly rebel, as a listener, at being asked to lend it my own. “Funny how secrets travel, I’d start to believe if I were to bleed, Thin skies…” Yeah, yeah, yeah, any old imagery, vague stuff about torture, fundamentalism, imperialism, elemental stuff about the sky and fire and water, whatever. It’s not that it doesn’t work when you hear the whole thing. It’s just that it gives an impression of being hollow and a bit hyped-up.

    • stuartgardner says:

      Interesting thoughts.
      Am I correct in thinking. however, that unlike some of his dada, surrealist and beat ancestors, Bowie has always felt free to consciously edit the random products of his experiments with free association, stream of consciousness, cut-up writing and the Verbasizer program? Or has he ever committed himself to using such a result verbatim on the faith of it having “inherent” interest?
      I’m asking sincerely, as I don’t know, but I’d be much surprised to learn that he had ever truly denied himself permission to rewrite.

      • Momus says:

        Well, in Tin Machine he forbade himself rewrites, which is perhaps why Tin Machine has been somewhat written out of history!

    • stuartgardner says:

      Momus, for some reason I find no “reply” button in your reply to me, so I’m using this spot to thank you for that info on Tin Machine. I hadn’t known that.

      • col1234 says:

        I think I went into the “no rewrites rule” a bit on some TM entry—have no idea which one

      • stuartgardner says:

        Chris, you very likely did. I’ve not read those yet.
        When I first discovered this blog I told myself I’d read it through from start to finish and resist the urge to skip around.

    • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

      Momus, you neglected to mention my all-time favorite Surrealist, Giorgio De Chirico. It’s evident when watching the video for Loving The Alien that Bowie is a fan too.

  11. s.t. says:

    I like this one, and yes, hearing as the intro to Lost Highway really helped me to notice it, but am I the only one who starts getting a Sting/Police vibe from Bowie’s vox starting at 2:22? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but at that point the song stops being ultra cool and starts being a pleasant, but less remarkable song.

  12. Jeremy says:

    Great song from a fantastic album. These posts are really reminding me of what a splendid work Outside is – now if only I could find my CD copy!

  13. Diamond Duke says:

    The very first time I ever heard this song was when I first saw David Lynch’s Lost Highway, so for me I’m Deranged will always be the Lost Highway Theme! 😀 Quite honestly, it’s a really cool song, propulsive and queasily mysterious, with a great vocal performance from Bowie and the mighty Mike Garson once again providing his uniquely colorful ornamentation.

    (And I’m laughing my head off at one of the YouTube comments: “This song makes me want to put a mysterious videotape on someone’s porch”whatismynamebrotha)

  14. Sky-Possessing Spider says:

    On a completely different tangent altogether, I went to see Iggy and the Stooges last night and I have to say the Ig is as great as ever. A month shy of his 66th birthday, and he still has the physique of a Greyhound that swallowed a length of high-tensile cable, and the energy of a firecracker strapped to a spinning top.
    It was 36c (about 98F) in Melbourne last night, with high humidity, and the hall was packed to the rafters with a sweat-soaked crowd who were absolutely going nuts. But for an hour and a half, Iggy worked the room with the boundless manic energy of a man half his age.
    He did his old trick of inviting the audience up onstage, and along with about 40 or 50 other people, and to the horror of the security goons who were literally shoveling people offstage, I scrambled over the barricade and was gyrating about five feet away from Iggy. Sorry to hijack this thread to report this, but it was an incredible night.

  15. Alex says:

    The really excellent thing about the version on the Lost Highway soundtrack is how it starts on Bowie’s solo vocal, right after the end of Reznor’s “Driver Down.” The song becomes this profound response to the chaos of the previous track. Empty and about secrets in the saddest, direst sense possible.

  16. David L says:

    Excellent track, one of the 2-3 best on the album, and maybe the best in capturing what seems to be the album’s intention. I think it would have been a better album closer than Strangers When We Meet. Although that’s a good song, it feels like a happy ending tacked on to a horror movie. I’m Deranged fits in perfectly with the Outside theme/vibe and would have ended the proceedings with a mysterious, vibrant touch.

    • Maj says:

      I wouldn’t call Strangers a happy ending. More like what comes after exorcism. Its placement on the album kind of reminds me of the placement of The Morning Fog on Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love. Now, the side 2 of Hounds is an actual conceptual album and Strangers is nowhere near as joyous as Fog (totally different themes and stories after all) but for that reason I don’t mind having Strangers at the end of the album, even if it’s pretty different to the rest of it.

      However I can’t disagree that I’m Deranged wouldn’t make a good closing track to Outside, it definitely would. 🙂

      • David L says:

        Agreed. I didn’t mean that “Strangers” was a happy ending, I meant that putting at the end of “Outside” was analogous to a happy ending tacked on to a horror movie. Like say if at the end of Se7en there wasn’t anything in the box, and they caught John Doe and he went to prison. Grim but an “up” ending, so to speak.

        But anyway, one more thing about “I’m Deranged” — I’m guessing Bowie is the only human being alive who could get away with singing “IIII’MMM DERAAANGED” in an unhinged voice and not incite hysterical laughter … And he did it on two songs!

      • s.t. says:

        True David L, he’s also the only person who could sing a lyric like “You Belong in Rock n Roll” in a way that keeps me from hitting the skip button. That’s a stupefying talent.

      • Patrick says:

        Mostly songs with “Rock and Roll” in the title are suspect appeals to sentiment , I’m not a fan of the track you mention but Bowie was one of the few to pull it off convincingly as a euphemism for intimacy with “Rock and Roll with Me ” on Diamond Dogs.

      • David L says:

        More proof of his bulletproof, eternal cool.

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