Telling Lies


Telling Lies (debut performance, Nagoya, Japan, 1996).
Telling Lies (live, Loreley Festival, 1996).
Telling Lies (live, Phoenix Festival, 1996).
Telling Lies.
Telling Lies (Adam F. mix).
Telling Lies (A Guy Called Gerald “Paradox” mix).
Telling Lies (50th Birthday concert, 1997).
Telling Lies (NPA Canal, 1997).
Telling Lies (live, 1997).

He had dreaded the idea of touring but now found he’d acquired a taste for it again. Four months after the Outside shows ended, Bowie was back at it, playing a string of Asian dates and European festivals during the summer of 1996. He’d fleshed out his new songs, he’d gotten a kick from the warring audiences that he and Nine Inch Nails had summoned. And he’d fallen in love with the core of his touring band: Gail Ann Dorsey and Zachary Alford, Reeves Gabrels and Mike Garson.

So when Bowie played the Budokan in June 1996, he’d winnowed the band down to this quartet (“this is the band that it probably should have been when we started,” Bowie told Ray Gun. “This is the best band I’ve had the pleasure to work with since the Spiders.”) Gone were the keyboardist Peter Schwartz, the singer George Simms and, most of all, Carlos Alomar. Alomar later told interviewers that he’d been unhappy for much of the Outside tour, that the new songs weren’t working for him and that Bowie was inaccessible. A cornerstone of Bowie’s music since 1974, Alomar now felt superfluous and lonely: even the friends he’d made on the road during the tours of the Seventies and Eighties were mostly gone. “It’s really upsetting to come into town and your friends have died of AIDS or they’re no longer there, or it’s been so long since the last time that they still think it’s Tin Machine so they don’t even show up,” he told David Buckley. “It became a question of, when will I have a chance to leave?”

With Alomar gone, it fell upon Gabrels to play all of the guitar parts, which led to ever more flamboyant, effects-heavy performances. The set-lists were punchier in the Festivals tour: Bowie debuted his version of “Lust for Life” and went back to glam with “Aladdin Sane,” “All the Young Dudes” and “White Light/White Heat.” Having to compensate for losing Alomar’s rhythm playing also let Bowie indulge in a new interest: jungle-inspired percussion loops. Having already experimented with jungle-esque beats on Outside tracks like “I’m Deranged” and “We Prick You,” Bowie and Gabrels, working with the producer Mark Plati, spent a few weeks before the tour crafting samples of beats, synth patterns and guitar lines for use on stage.


What’s great about him in that he’s constantly looking for new input. There’s all this stuff going on around us, and it’s so easy to just shut it out because it’s too much. Instead, he just wades right in, like an old lady at a basement sale. Instead of going through racks of clothes, he’s going through racks of ideas, pulling out what interests him.

Reeves Gabrels, on Bowie, 1997.

Whenever Earthling is disparaged, it’s often due to Bowie’s incursion into drum ‘n’ bass: “Bowie’s jungle safari.” “Grandad playing at break-beats,” etc. Why did this particular vampirism earn ridicule while Bowie’s earlier absorptions of funk, Krautrock,  etc. were acceptable? Sure, some of it was age. Bowie was nearing 50, and to some he looked like a man in flagrant denial of that fact: dying his hair copper (to let fans see him better on stage during daylight shows, he said) and growing a satyr’s goatee, flailing around on stage in Alexander McQueen frock coats.

For the writer Mat Snow, in an interview in Buckley’s bio, Bowie’s embracing of jungle seemed “like a fairly cold decision…Earthling felt slightly like an arranged marriage.” It was a fair point: moving into jungle was something you expected Bowie to do in 1996—it was a hip, relatively underground genre that still had gotten attention in the press. It seemed tailor-cut for Bowie’s use. And Bowie’s statements about jungle tended towards the hyperbolic; they had the overheated flavor of the press release. Jungle was “the great cry of the twentieth century…it had this incredible pulse in the bottom like a heartbeat and this kind of chattering dialogue going on over the top…I thought this is an incredibly pertinent music to our times.

Bowie said that drum ‘n’ bass (which he allegedly first heard in London in late 1992) was the most exciting thing he’d heard since reggae. Which was an odd comparison: Bowie had rarely mentioned reggae before, had seemed little in tune with it, and his few attempts at reggae in the mid-Eighties had resulted in some of the worst recordings of his life. (Arguably his best reggae track is “Ashes to Ashes.”) He’d always been a dilettante, a proud one, but he’d been a consistent one. Buddhism, mime, Krautrock, science fiction, soul, Scott Walker, chanson, the Velvet Underground, etc.: these were all long-established channels of influence, ones that Bowie could return to whenever he was running dry. By comparison, his immersion in drum ‘n’ bass seemed synthetic—a new grafting onto an old tree trunk.

Another factor in the reaction to Earthling was how jungle was treated by the music press (again, I offer an American perspective here). There seemed to be a press consensus that pop music moved in easily-definable cycles, usually coming in four- or five-year increments, so by the mid-Nineties it was time for a fresh spin. Grunge was dead, Britpop was going nowhere in the US, so the apparent pact was to make “electronica” the Next Big Thing. Hence lots of features and hype on Roni Size and the Chemical Brothers, ca. 1996, which didn’t translate much into radio play or record sales.

So Bowie’s dabbling with drum ‘n’ bass came as the original underground scene was drying up and smack-dab in the middle of the press overkill: it was a mid-air collision that left Earthling tainted as a sad bandwagon-chaser of a record. It ‘s an unfair criticism, one that ignores how fun and sharp much of the record is (and how much of Earthling really is about Bowie’s reconnection with Britain). And it’s not that he intended being a fervent acolyte of jungle. It would just be a new table-setting. As Bowie said in 1997, “I’m not a purist. Nothing I do is hardcore in any genre.”

lies lies lies yeah

Someone must have been telling lies about Joseph K., for without having done anything wrong he was arrested one morning.

Kafka, The Trial.*

Before Earthling, before the summer festival tour, there was “Telling Lies.” It was a laboratory experiment: Bowie wrote most of it in Switzerland in the spring of 1996, intending to play with the song in the studio and build it out on stage. Bowie called “Telling Lies” “my first formal approach to juxtaposition between jungle and aggressive rock, and using a melodic line as a kind of easing the situation…it became an exercise piece, it kind of mutated throughout the tour.

Before the tour resumed, Bowie assembled his band in New York in mid-May 1996 to rehearse and to do some recording (including samples for the upcoming live shows), including cutting a basic version of “Telling Lies.” The band played it throughout the tour, generally the version that wound up on Earthling,** while Bowie farmed out a mix of “Telling Lies” to a few DJs and producers for prospective mixes.

So like “I’m Afraid of Americans,” “Telling Lies” lacks a definitive version. Instead it has four faces: a drum-happy mix by Bowie and Plati, originally called the “Feelgood Mix,” which was the first version of “Lies” to be released (free on the Internet, a decade before In Rainbows–we’ll get into Bowie’s pioneer work with downloading in a later entry); a Guy Called Gerald’s “Paradox” mix (dub and ambient brewed in a kettle, with Bowie’s vocal twisted into odd shapes); Adam F.’s buoyant, airy take, with a better chorus/verse join than the LP track. For the album, Bowie went with a “heavier” rock mix: “I thought it was the most successful of the juxtapositions,” he said. “It’s not so dance oriented. it has a very dark atmosphere to it.


As a song, “Telling Lies” suffered from being a guinea pig. A vague shamble between A minor and E major, its structure consisted of two intriguing verses affixed to bludgeoning, overlong choruses. Bowie’s vocal melody was a stitchwork of some obvious steals: the verses had the rhythm and melodic flavor of Leonard Cohen’s “The Future,” and, more subtly, Eno’s “Fat Lady of Limbourg,” while the chorus even had a pinch of the Beach Boys’ “I Guess I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” (cf. “sometimes I feel very sad” in the latter to “feels like something’s gonna happen this year“). And there’s a heavy-handedness to the “rock” choruses, with Bowie discarding the intricate dialogue of heavy bass/clattering, pilled-up treble of the best jungle tracks in favor of a sludgier bottom end.

Much as how the percussion loops were barely-altered versions of those on “We Prick You,” most of its lyric seemed like Outside rejects. But if baffling and clunky on record, lines like “gasping for my resurrection” and “come straggling in your tattered remnants” came alive on tour, with Bowie playing a Satanic figure in his performance, coming across as an aging imp of the perverse. As a transition piece, “Lies” worked well, getting the band into the frame of mind for what would become Earthling. When they got off the road, Bowie hustled to take a “sonic photograph” of them in the studio before they lost their tour-hardened sound.

Recorded ca. March-April 1996, Mountain Studios, Montreux; ca. mid-May 1996, August 1996, Looking Glass Studios, New York. Released, in Mark Plati’s “Feelgood Mix,” as a download on 11 September 1996 and as a 12″ single (RCA/BMG 74321397412) in November 1996. A Guy Called Gerald’s “Paradox Mix” and the “Adam F mix” also were issued as downloads in September. The album mix is, unsurprisingly, on Earthling.

* One thought on where the title line may have come from; likely a wrong guess. For those interested in the minutiae of translation, I recommend this piece on the perils of translating Kafka (the opening line of Der Prozess should more accurately read “slandered” instead of “telling lies,” which gives a more bureaucratic, legal flavor to the clause).

** The main differences between the 1996 live performances and the LP version was a different opening line for the second verse (the very Outside-sounding “see me bowing to torture’s pain“) and Bowie occasionally singing “starting fires!” in the chorus, an obvious nod to the Prodigy (at Loreley, Bowie made the sign of the horns in tribute).

RIP: Trevor Bolder.

Top: Christian de Prost, “Belgique, Leuven,” 1996; lies, lies, lies.

49 Responses to Telling Lies

  1. Alex Reed says:

    Am I misremembering, or is this the one where he farmed out the lyrics of a second verse to a fan contest?

    • col1234 says:

      no, that’s on the next album.

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah you’re thinking of an hours track in 99

      “What’s really happening”

    • Anonymous says:

      Actually, he did release tracks of Telling Lies so fans could do their own mix. There was a contest, but I don’t remember what came of it. I believe this was around the start of

  2. humanizingthevacuum says:

    No. That one happened on “…hours.”

    “Telling Lies” still sounds like a demo, i.e. Bowie’s original guitar and keyboard parts. There isn’t much Gabrels on it to my ears.

  3. Mike says:

    Earthling is Bowie being, for once, late to the party. Sad.

  4. Maj says:

    Telling Lies was a single? Okay then… I think it’s one of my less favourite songs on the album. Once I get over the tellllllling liieeeees bit, the song’s quite interesting (and the “something’s gonna happen” bit is a great piece of melody – thanks for the Beach Boys link, Chris!). I do like its heaviness but at the same time the song does have some jarring bits and pieces which stop me from listening to it very often.
    Good to know it’s one of the oldest songs on the album though. Cool trivia. 🙂

  5. Ididtheziggy says:

    RIP Trevor Bolder indeed. Alladin Sane is his shining Bowie moment (song and album), especially when Garson is going off. Bolder does a yeoman’s job of keeping everything on track.

  6. Mr Tagomi says:

    I like this one. First time I heard it was at the end of a Bowie interview with Alan Yentob for BBC,


  7. Sky-Possessing Spider says:

    It’s always really annoyed me that this great album was derided, sneered at, and ultimately overlooked completely, solely on the grounds of ageism. ”Grandad playing at break beats indeed”.
    So it’s not okay then for old guys, like Bowie, to make young men’s music. But it’s okay for young guys,like Oasis, to make old men’s music with their re-heated Beatles tunes.

  8. s.t. says:

    I always wanted this song to be my favorite of the Earthling bunch, but it never really happened. It’s got a palpably dark atmosphere and dramatic tension to it and some nice lyrical moments (I love the “Shadow falls in shrinking smiles” verse), but it feels not quite finished. The arrangement seems especially lacking. This was David et al.’s first proper foray into d’n’b beats, so maybe that’s why it’s not as interesting in its sounds as Little Wonder. That stop-start of the drum pattern every time he chants “Telling Lies” is just unbearably repetitive, it brings attention to just how skeletal the whole song is. Still, it really did sound great live.

    I’m a little surprised that there’s no back story about leftover lyrics from the Outside days. There seems to be some thematic connection, particularly the premillennial tension in lines like “feels like something’s gonna happen this year.”

    • s.t. says:

      Oh, I guess I missed the comments that “most of its lyric seemed like Outside rejects.” Carry on.

  9. Pierce says:

    Terrific write up as always and interesting, but FOR ME it’s Bowie trying way too hard around this period/tour/album. Give me the swagger and the not-trying-at-all of Tonight back.

    • Steve Mallarmy says:

      Crazy talk!

      • humanizingthevacuum says:

        If Chris has proven anything, it’s that Bowie, unlike most rock musicians, needs to try. He has no talent for coasting.

      • Pierce says:

        Maybe so, but this period of Bowie is not to my tastes. An exceptional read all the same.

  10. Steve Mallarmy says:

    This is one of the weaker Earthling tracks, along with Americans and Law, but the album in general stands up pretty well and for me could indeed be the elusive “best since Scary Monsters”.

    With the distance of a decade and a half arguments about jumping on bandwagons aren’t really relevant any more. In any case even in his prime Bowie was jumping on bandwagons and making something different of them. The Philly sound wasn’t some underground thing Bowie discovered, you could say he jumped on a bandwagon but on the other hand Young Americans doesn’t sound like any other Philly album – it’s a bit too off-kilter for that.

    In the same way Earthling doesn’t really resemble other drum’n’bass albums and Bowie ended up doing his own thing with it. There’s an interesting mix of new sonics, rock and a very Bowie-esque wistfulness and regret on songs like The Last Thing You Should ever do or Dead Man Walking.

    Let’s also not forget this is the last glimpse we get of experimental Bowie. After this he pretty much lapses into a rock classicism, up to and including The Next Day.

    • michael says:

      Good point about classicism. The music gets whiter, much less R&B (in the old school sense) after Earthling. While I like The Next Day very much, it could have done with a bit of Garson and a lot of Alomar. If you combined the best of Outside and Earthling you really would get the best since etc etc, but no one would agree on it and it’s the excess, the partial successes and the risks that don’t quite come off that make Bowie so much fun.

    • s.t. says:

      There’s a sense of serenity in Bowie’s voice throughout the songs of Earthling that makes the album stand out from the rest of his work. I may have had my reservations about the old guy trying to be current, but seeing him at this time he was the opposite of desperate; he seemed like he was on the top of the world, just having a grand old time. It makes Earthling quite a lark to listen to, and makes Hours all the more depressing for me…

  11. david says:

    The Adam F version has always been my favorite rendition of this-its achingly beautiful and languid, with some killer lines, and it wasn’t until recently that my wife hearing it for the first time, told me that the intro sounded like Kate Bush’s ‘Wow’. She is absolutely on the money.Listen.

    • Maj says:

      Yep, on the money. Good catch!

      But I can’t say that the whole version is superior to the album one, the beat (the high drums….whatever you call it) ruins it for me. It sure is different though! 🙂

    • I agree , the first time i heard it i was like Bowie is sampling Kate , and it sounds like WOW all the way through the remix

  12. Mother says:

    Interesting comments on Eno’s “Fat Lady of Limbourg,” and the Beach Boys’ “I Guess I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times”. Will listen to the differently now.

  13. Alex says:

    Agreed that the Adam F version is superior.

  14. Momus says:

    1. For me, this song fits a general Earthling template: interesting verse, boring chorus. As in Little Wonder, there’s an intriguingly British, whimsical, Edwardian feel to the nimble verses (“crowns and kings and feet” here recalls Lewis Carroll’s “shoes and ships and sealing-wax, of cabbages and kings”), but it’s soon steamrollered by bludgeoning choruses.

    2. Drum’n’bass as I experienced it in the mid-90s was records by white English bedroom producers in their late 20s and early 30s, people like Luke Vibert (Plug, Wagon Christ), Tom Jenkinson (Squarepusher) and Richard D. James (Aphex Twin). I think of it as an extension of jazz music; it’s mostly instrumental, and the effect at the time of a record like Plug’s Drum’n’Bass for Papa was of a refreshing textural strangeness. It was music you could play instead of taking drugs; it made everything pleasantly skewed.

    3. Bowie’s use of drum’n’bass takes its cue from more mainstream acts like Chemical Brothers and Prodigy. Seen in that context, it’s less bandwagonesque. Also, Bowie had never played the “authenticity” card; quite the reverse.

    4. If you used recording studios in the mid-90s, there was always a moment when you told the engineer to try the drumloop in the Akai sampler at double speed. It took about ten seconds to do. The effect was “instant drum’n’bass”. For about five minutes you thought it enhanced your song, making it edgy and urban and “now”. Then you decided (correctly) to dial it back down to the original speed.

    5. The Earthling album is interesting because it’s the last record in which Bowie attempts a hipster or scenester persona. It’s the culminating point of his “middle youth”. His interest in things like drum’n’bass, the YBA art movement, the internet and, um, derivatives trading marked him as someone who “kept up with what’s going down”. His subsequent records (and lifestyle) abandon this. As Steve says, “after this he pretty much lapses into a rock classicism”.

    6. To attempt an ultra-simplification, when Bowie is being hip he’s interested in the world of blacks. When he’s not being hip he’s interested in the world of children. Blacks and children obviously have something in common: a certain distance from the adult world of soul-destroying responsibility. Post-Earthling Bowie comes full circle: songs about Uncle Floyd meet up with the old songs about Uncle Arthur.

    7. What does it mean to be hip? It means to be “hip to” something or someone, to be aware. It means to lock onto or buy into the glamour of a subculture you aren’t necessarily a part of, and to mediate it to people who are even less a part of it than you are. To expand the simplification in 7, it isn’t just blacks hipster-Bowie mimics and mediates, but also queers, dudes, sci-fi characters, studs, murderers, messiahs, rockers. He’s never quite claiming to be any of these things authentically: Ziggy is a Brechtian device to own and disown hip rockstardom at the same time, because in the Brechtian theatre you embody and comment on a character simultaneously.

    8. How you feel about having hip subcultures mediated to you by David Bowie depends on where you are in relation to them yourself. I certainly knew nothing about Warhol’s Factory in 1972, so the Mainman organisation was a very acceptable way to have it explained to naive 12 year-old me. But in 1996 I didn’t need Bowie to mediate drum’n’bass or the YBA scene or the internet to me. The internet itself was now doing what Bowie had once done, seemingly singlehandedly: indexing all the cool things in the world for us, making it possible to be hip to just about anything.

    9. I was personally more disturbed by Bowie’s embrace, post-Earthling, of rock classicism — his renunciation of his hip-mediator role, and of experimentation itself — than I was by the slightly awkward and misjudged opportunism of his use of drum’n’bass. I didn’t want to think of him — or myself — as “conservative”. I was scared of the idea that at a certain age you stop being interested in what’s hip.

    10. I’m now older than Bowie was when he recorded Earthling, and I can see exactly why people stop being interested in what’s hip. Hipness is just the avant-garde of mainstream cultural taste, the cutting-edge of consumerism. Do you really want to look back at your life and say “I was into what everyone else was, but a few fleeting summers earlier”?

    • Steve Mallarmy says:

      Interesting points. The rock classicism Bowie lapses back into post-Earthling has its personal roots, but also reflects something happening in the wider culture. I’m listening to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky and it’s undeniably infectious, but there’s something dispiriting in the fact that it could pretty much have been released in 1979. It’s as if the avowed masterpiece of the actual 1979 hadn’t been Off The Wall, or Lodger, or Unknown Pleasures, or The Pleasure Principle, but a couple of forty-year-olds’ meticulous recreation of the big band sounds of Glenn Miller.
      Even more dispiriting is the fact that the reviews I’ve read of the new Daft Punk opus are perfectly aware of its retro qualities but are not dissing it on the strength of that, as they might have done just a few years ago. In fact they’re praising it for that. I think there’s a real change here. The postmodernism of the 90s – exemplified let’s say by a band like Stereolab – is quite different in that it was mixing and matching different retro sounds – library music, motorik, morricone etc – into something different. But Get Lucky is not that. It is a slavish simulacrum of a disco track. We’ve entered a new phase of postmodernism where we’ve exhausted the genres, then exhausted the combining of the genres, and now have nowhere left to go but back to the genres themselves.

      • Gnomemansland says:

        Now is the time to go back (and reverse we must) not to things that were perfect the first time round – like Chic but rather to things that were only ever half baked or poorly realised like the Battered Ornaments.

      • s.t. says:

        Agree on your take on Daft Punk’s new album. This new trend of full-on recreation might have to do with the lack of places to go, but I find that there’s always going to be interesting ways to mix and mash various sounds. I think a big reason why this is so appealing now is that internet-fed nostalgia is a huge part of our lives. When I was a child, Star Wars was the world to me. When I was a teenager, it was quite alright to say that it was a fun but very silly movie franchise. Now, the (original) films are revered as if they were by Abbas Kiarostami, mainly because today people treat their nostalgia for childhood gimmickry as something sacred. Random Access Memories is the sound of two guys getting on in years, trying to enshrine their own nostalgia for 70’s and 80’s commercial culture.

    • “Blacks and children obviously have something in common: a certain distance from the adult world of soul-destroying responsibility.”

      Um… if this is implying what I think it’s implying, I’m really not okay with it.

      • col1234 says:

        I noticed this as well and was a bit troubled by it. I’ll let Momus expand upon this, but I’m assuming he’s using the perspective of 60s British hipster Bowie, and how someone like DB, who grew up in the time of Mailer’s “The White Negro” and the Kerouac novels, could regard black culture in this broad-brush manner.

      • Maj says:

        The same here but earlier today I saw this quote from Iggy from 1980 and he perhaps put it best.
        (Iggy is the 3rd entry.)

        I suppose that’s what Momus meant?

      • Anonymous says:

        Yeah, I took it as an idealization of black culture, which may have subtle racist implications for the hipster dabblers, but not for Momus!

      • s.t. says:

        The above Anonymous comment was me sneaking a post at work…

      • Momus says:

        It was clumsily and fleetingly expressed, and I deliberately compressed the idea to make it sound outrageous and wrong. But I think I meant something like this: why do those of us who often have issues with things like “US foreign policy” or even “modernity” itself (the “dialectic of enlightenment”) NOT have issues with charming categories of people who seem mere hostages of these toxic projects? And actually that question answers itself.

        David Bowie’s work — while avoiding outright gestures towards liberation politics — is underwritten by a deep suspicion towards mainstream society; processes like fame, fashion, socialisation and conformity are compared to fascism, and outgroups seem to be the only vestige of hope for humanity. Of course this is called “romanticism”. Does it stereotype, in the style of Mailer’s essay The White Negro? Yes, it does. Does it contain an inverted racism? Absolutely, but it’s the kind of racism that says to itself “I want to play sax in Little Richard’s band” or “I want to date Ava Cherry and marry Iman”. To idealise is also to stereotype.

  15. gcreptile says:

    Well, Earthling happened precisely when I became interested in music. It’s much more present for me than Outside. And I still remember very well the moment I heard Telling Lies for the first time: I was in a hospital because of an appendicitis and listened to the radio. And I remember that the DJ pointed out that it’s the first single exclusively released on the internet (and for major artists, it was).
    And that reminds me of another “hip” thing Bowie did at the time: “Bowie bonds”. You see, Bowie really tried to inhale these times, the spirit of market-friendly New Labour, the internet, jungle. It was more than just a stage persona, it was a conscious life-altering decision.
    Whenever I forget how old Bowie is, I remind myself that he turned 50 when he released Earthling. He had quite a bit of press at the time. And his revival, at least in Germany, became stronger with Earthling than with Outside.
    I think I still like Earthling more than Outside, it’s punchier, more to the point, focused. Unfortunately, Telling Lies is not. In fact, I thought that it was a drag on the album for a long time. Only recently have I warmed up to it. It seems to describe the uneasy feeling of being in the center of speculation rather well. Every second of time is an ordeal. Still, ‘skeletal’ describes it well.
    I still think very fondly of jungle and drum’n’bass. It was the music of ‘my time’. I, for one, didn’t have the impression that Bowie was desperate, or that it was a forced marriage. Anyway, there’s more to talk about in the context of the other songs.

  16. Patrick says:

    Earthing was is the only official studio solo album where he has his back to the viewer. Significant or not, I have no idea.
    But he of course is later to obscure his younger face on TND.

    • Steve Mallarmy says:

      I think Tin Machine II is the only Bowie album cover on which he doesn’t actually appear…

      • Patrick says:

        He wasn’t on the original Buddha of S UK release cover (a cheap looking cut up job) but that, nor Tin Machine were officially solo albums.

    • gcreptile says:

      That reminds me of Miles Davis, playing with the back to the audience, consciously or subconsciously symbolizing that he was going to push onward, no matter what his fans thought.

      • Patrick says:

        As mentioned, this was a nod (or more) back to the UK. There’s something blatant about the Union Jack jacket, designed by the late Alexander McQueen, a nod to the shores he left, even to Geri Halliwell’s dress at the Brit Awards she wore in Feb 97, the same month Earthling was released.
        Mind you, wasn’t DB a mod back in the 60s?

      • s.t. says:

        I think Tricky often played with his back to the audience around this time. Maybe they were trying to make it a thing?

      • gcreptile says:

        Yes, it’s certainly a nod to the UK, as opposed to the rather american Outside. Though I wonder why the jacket is, how do I say this, in bad condition. There remains a certain hostility.

      • gcreptile says:

        And well, Miles Davis, during his most controversial period (1972-1975), was also making jungle/drum’n’bass music, but the world wasn’t ready yet.

  17. Remco says:

    I kinda like this one. I never cared much for drum ‘n’ bass or jungle, which may be part of why this album doesn’t quite work for me, but I don’t mind it much here. The song has a nice dramatic feel to it, not a masterpiece, just a nice pop song with some really good bits.

  18. Diamond Duke says:

    As I’ve made clear from my comments in the past, I regard Earthling as one of Bowie’s more “time-stamped” records, the sound of what was once cutting-edge in the mid-’90s not quite resonating into the present. But please, don’t get me wrong: I really do like Earthling a great deal! It’s got a wonderfully frazzled and fizzy energy and even an odd sort of “spontaneity” of sorts (a trait I generally do not necessarily associate with electronically constructed music).

    And Telling Lies is actually one of my favorite tracks from Earthling, in fact my second fave after Dead Man Walking. In many ways it truly is a logical outgrowth of much of what Bowie did on Outside (We Prick You, for example). It’s got this dramatic, fevered and very sinister atmosphere to it that’s actually quite chilling. (That drawn-out and distorted “Tellllllling liieeeees” actually does make the hair on the back of my neck stand up.) I actually really like the use of the “Ooh! Aah!” chant in the Adam F. Mix, as well as the accompanying clattering percussive sounds which make it feel like some strange work-gang chant. Overall, however, I prefer the atmosphere of the album version.

    Lyrically, it would seem we’re back in the realm of would-be supermen and “leper messiahs” again (in the Ziggy Stardust and Metallica sense). The viewpoint is seemingly one of a charlatan and fraud, a powerful force that is ultimately parasitic, if not Satanic. The character in the song is perfectly happy to prey on the desperation and short-sighted rage of its would-be devotees. Bowie has often spoke of his lyric-writing as giving form, shape and personality to something that would otherwise be abstract. Here’s a quote: “I guess it’s just this Greco-Roman notion of turning something nebulous into a personification that you can recognize, like a deity. You know, back then, they would transform a set of emotions into a god. I just convert ideas into people. It’s just easier to handle them that way.” If this is the case, then I would guess that the Satanic manifestation that narrates Telling Lies is one of these ideas.

    (BTW, some of the more weirder supernatural manifestations in Bowie’s friend David Lynch’s films – for instance Robert Blake’s Mystery Man in Lost Highway, as well as many of the figures which turn up in Twin Peaks – would seem to be these kinds of abstractions given shape and form.)

    • Diamond Duke says:

      See also Peter Hammill’s Gog / Magog (In Bromine Chambers) for a very similiar character study. (The missing link between the Stones’ Sympathy For The Devil and Telling Lies, if you will! :D)

  19. Diamond Duke says:

    Oh, BTW, very sad to hear about Trevor Bolder! One of the unsung greats of rock bass playing, the anchor for the Spiders From Mars. You don’t often hear him spoken of in the same breath as John Paul Jones, John Entwistle, Chris Squire or Geddy Lee, but in my estimation he certainly doesn’t rank that far behind! He will be missed… 😦

  20. Phil Obbard says:

    Does anyone else hear the nascent riff for “Telling Lies” in the live versions of “Moonage Daydream” that DB was doing from late 1995 onwards? It’s always jumped out at me…

    • marta says:

      I hear the first 40 seconds or so of Telling Lies as the initial verses of Supermen. Anyone else hears that too?

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