Issued as a B-side of “Thursday’s Child,” “1917” (Russian Revolution? Duchamp’s Fountain? the first jazz records?) was an elaboration of “Thrust,” a synth piece Bowie and Reeves Gabrels wrote to score a demon battle in the Omikron game. Reincarnating the string/brass/Mellotron line of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” as a synthesizer loop that’s flavored in spots by Gabrels’ guitar, Bowie mumble-sings a guide vocal while being piped through various means of distortion. (He seems to be singing “I’m a man” for much of it: was this whole thing some cracked tribute to Jimmy Page?) Mark Plati’s bass and a keyboard line do most of the harmonic lifting; Gabrels shows up midway through for a boiling tea-kettle impression.
As throwaways go, “1917” has hooks and brevity in its corner, if its punch is sapped by the onion-skin-thick beats that Sterling Campbell’s (or Mike Levesque’s) drums do what they can to bolster. While including it on ‘Hours’ could have helped lessen the record’s world-weariness, “1917” was best suited as the happy obscurity it still is.
Recorded ca. January 1999, London/Paris; April-May 1999, Seaview Studio, Bermuda, with overdubs at Looking Glass Studios and Chung King Studios, NYC. Released 20 September 1999 on the “Thursday’s Child” 2-CD single (Virgin 7243 8 96266 0 5) and later included on the 2004 reissue of ‘Hours.’
Top: “Tom,” “Turning Point Starts Here,” London 1999.