Thursday’s Child

99peckham

Thursday’s Child.
Thursday’s Child (instrumental).
Thursday’s Child (Omikron “slower” version).
Thursday’s Child (video).
Thursday’s Child (“rock mix”).
Thursday’s Child (VH1 Storytellers, 1999).
Thursday’s Child (TOTP, 1999).
Thursday’s Child (Saturday Night Live, 1999).
Thursday’s Child (Wetten Daß, 1999).
Thursday’s Child (Nulle Parte Ailleurs, 1999).
Thursday’s Child (Francamente Me Ne Infischio, 1999).
Thursday’s Child (Quelli Che…il Calcio, 1999)
Thursday’s Child (Inte Bara Blix, 1999).
Thursday’s Child, (TVE, 1999).
Thursday’s Child (live, Paris, 1999).
Thursday’s Child (live, NYC, 1999).

One summer day some ten years ago, I was helping to paint a house. On the boombox was Best of Bowie: a long, chronological march from the beachhead of “Space Oddity,” with most songs met by indifference and occasional hums. The caressing synthesizers of “Thursday’s Child” began, and as Bowie started crooning, a fellow painter stopped mid-swipe and looked over at the CD player.

What happened to that guy?” he said.

We’d made it through “Dancing In the Street” with a few chuckles and “Under the God” without comment. But “Thursday’s Child,” on that hot afternoon, sounded awful: treacly, gaspy, wan; the limp expiration of a career. When heard as the close of a sequence that runs through “Rebel Rebel,” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Modern Love” and “The Hearts Filthy Lesson,” “Thursday’s Child” sounds like a man falling down in the street, a hasty end scene tacked onto an overlong Act V. “I’m done with the future: here’s a song for your grandmother.” Dies, borne off stage right.

Sure, any slow, fragile-sounding number could’ve gotten a raspberry that day from our collection of young and recently-young NYC snobs. It’s not as if “Thursday’s Child” is an ill-constructed or poorly-sung track: if anything, it’s one of the few Bowie compositions of the period sturdy enough to withstand being a cover, whether a trumpet solo or a busker’s guitar piece (solo electric guitar interpretation by Jake Reichbart here). Its verse melody, a dance of mild leaps and modest falls, suits a lyric crafted for common use. In the verses, an older man regrets the paths he’s taken; in the choruses, he dares to hope a new love can give his life meaning. It’s Bowie’s “September Song.”

But “Thursday’s Child” wasn’t hip; it didn’t offer any pretense that it was—it sat in a comfortable present tense and stewed on the past. It felt genteel and a bit shabby. After a few years of running across stages in his bottle imp incarnation, after his stabs at industrial and jungle, after all the interviews about Damien Hirst and body scarifications and Millennial doom and Internet-as-cultural-dynamite, Bowie suddenly turned up as the sad clown again. He’d dusted off his Buster Keaton suit and reclaimed the shadow bloodline of his “rock” one: the Bowie of “When I Live My Dream” and “As The World Falls Down,” the cabaret and mime Bowie, the “light entertainment” regional thespian, the bedsit saddo, the Mod who worshiped Judy Garland and Eartha Kitt (see below).

The singer of “Thursday’s Child” is another of the Pierrots he’d played since the Sixties: a perpetual loser at love, like the glum figure of his “Be My Wife” promo. Take the Mr. Pitiful tone of the opening verse—

All of my life I’ve tried so hard
doing the best with what I had:
nothing much happened all the same…

—with its most desperate emphases (“best,” “hope”) cued to gloomy B minor chords, while the verse’s circular structure strands the singer back where he started, on an augmented E major (“breaking my life in two”). You can take the song as a straight-faced lament, as a quietly over-the-top spoof of the same, or both (it is Bowie, after all).

And while the chorus offers a hope of release from the cycle, its alternation of F# majors (“falling”) and F# minors (“really got,” “my past”) suggest the hope’s rather thin. The repetitions of “throw me tomorrow” start to feel desperate; Bowie’s “everything’s falling into place!” is someone trying to hypnotize himself. It’s as if Bowie’s answering Joni Mitchell:

It’s got me hoping for the future
And worrying about the past

earthak

Ours was the most exciting show that had hit London since the war…I was glad that I was born in a part of the world that had been so well protected, but I was also ashamed of my protection. I carried guilt inside for being a privileged character when the rest of the world was being destroyed.

Eartha Kitt, Thursday’s Child, 1956.

This song, I might point out, is not actually about Eartha Kitt.

Bowie, 1999.

He’d taken the song’s title from Eartha Kitt, Bowie said upon introducing “Thursday’s Child” on VH1 Storytellers. Writing the song, he’d recalled the paperback cover of her first autobiography (“it just kind of bubbled up the other month”). It had been an erotic memory of his youth (that and D.H. Lawrence, he said).* Using Kitt as a starting point suited Hours’ theme of a middle-aged assessment of lost youth, a 50-year-old flipping through a box of mold-speckled records shipped from his childhood home (Ray Charles’ “Lucky Old Sun” —a man stuck in the middle of life and envying death—also gets a nod).

The title also plays with an old prediction rhyme—“Thursday’s child has far to go” (another variant is “Thursday’s child is merry and glad”)—that had come out of the ground somewhere in medieval England. The rhyme was a popular corruption of court astrology: Thursday was considered a day of great fortune as it was under the sway of Jupiter, kingpin of gods. The Book of Knowledge, by one Erra Pater (1745), notes a “child born on Thursday shall arrive to Great Honour and Dignity” (By contrast, David Robert Jones was born on a Wednesday “full of woe”).**

So the refrain of “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday born, I was Thursday’s Child” was Bowie spading up his old occult interests, presenting them in anodyne forms: the little boxes tucked away on a newspaper’s comics page: horoscopes, birth stones, fortunes, lucky numbers (see “Seven”). It’s the “secret histories” of the Sixties reduced to syndicated copy; it’s another diminishing of unearthly power into ordinary life.

It’s also a clever way to cloud the lyric. What to make of the chorus kicker: “only for you I don’t regret/that I was Thursday’s child“? It’s at odds with the picture the singer’s painted so far: that he’s someone for whom little’s worked out, someone who’s estranged from everyday life yet firmly stuck within it (“He’s a teethgrinding, I’ll-get-this-job-done guy,” Bowie said of the narrator). (It’s also possible that, as Nicholas Pegg noted, Bowie’s referencing the VU’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties“: “For Thursday’s child is Sunday’s clown.“) But a Thursday’s child would be a lucky child: someone with pull, some who had far to go: a Kitt, or a Bowie.

ekitt

Go back to Eartha Kitt for a moment. Born in South Carolina, she’d reinvented herself in the early Fifties as a nightclub goddess who’d seemingly flown in from the Continent; she played the seductress, the gold-digger with taste (“Santa Baby”) who captured men with her boxful of languages. She’d be cast in that role for the rest of her days: a life spent forever vamping. But what a role! As her biographer John L. Williams wrote of her performance of “Monotonous” in the film New Faces: Eartha is playing a character that’s almost unimaginable in reality [in 1954]: a black American woman who’s tasted all of the world’s delicacies and found them lacking…we wonder, who on earth is this woman? And how can she seem to be so indifferent to the laws and mores of her time? A question that could have been asked, with a gender change, about another performer in 1973.

So maybe the singer is someone like Kitt: not some teeth-grinding anonymous drone but a bright public figure, someone whose name everyone knows, someone to whom things seem have come easily. Doing the best with what I had becomes a modest boast; shuffling days and lonely nights are those of a stage life. Or maybe even the common life of an office drone is a stage life. Bowie had called himself “the Actor,” but in a way, we’re all actors.

tc

Composed in Bermuda in late 1998, “Thursday’s Child” appears to have been mainly Bowie’s work, written on acoustic guitar. It was earmarked as a potential single, with a prominent role for backing singers. The question of who those should be became a bit contentious once Bowie and Gabrels were back in New York.

After toying with having Mark Plati’s six-year-old daughter sing the “Inchworm”-inspired “Monday, Tuesday..” line (she turned Bowie down! “she said she’d rather sing with her friends than with grown-ups,” Plati told David Buckley), Bowie thought of contacting the trio TLC. In 1999, they were arguably the premier female R&B vocal group of the decade. But they were tottering. Rife with personality and financial squabbles and having taken five years to cut their follow-up LP, they were about to be dethroned by Destiny’s Child.

Using TLC sat poorly with Gabrels, who thought it stunk of Bowie’s “New Jack Swing” moves in 1992: “Thursday’s Child” could be another potential Al B. Sure! fiasco. Gabrels had positioned himself as the house purist: some faint analogue in the Bowie camp to Steve Albini. He’d met Bowie during the nadir of Never Let Me Down and he saw it as his charge to keep Bowie honest and weird, to stop him from embarrassing himself by chasing trends after their sell-by date. During the making of ‘Hours’ Gabrels came to feel that his time with Bowie was over (we’ll get into this more in next week’s entry); his veto of TLC would be his last strategic win.

His alternative proposal had a touch of self-interest: he recommended a Boston friend, Holly Palmer, who Bowie auditioned via speakerphone (“let’s hear it with more vibrato now”). You could argue that Palmer’s vocals were just as time-stamped as any TLC vocals would have been: the Liz Fraser-inspired vocalese, the coffee-shop ambiance (a slightly edgier Dido). But Bowie liked what he heard and Palmer joined his touring band in 1999-2001.**

Another question was how far to take the production. David Buckley argued that the song was “crying out for strings,” and the various synthesizer fill-ins for woodwinds, strings and brass can make the song seem stuck in an embryonic state. Had Bowie held “Thursday’s Child” back for what he was calling the “Visconti album,” slated for 2000, it likely would’ve had a much grander production. Perhaps what kept “Thursday’s Child” from being a monstrous hit was that it hedged its bets too much.

dbb

The last piece was Walter Stern’s video. “Bowie,” with little makeup to mask his plus-fifty face, and his partner prepare for bed. They brush their teeth, she takes out her contacts (verrry slooowly). There’s a naturalist feel to counter the tasteful Wiliams Sonoma bedroom set: you hear Bowie cough, mumble and half-sing over the recorded track (taken from Elvis Costello’s “I Wanna Be Loved” video), and the plash of water in the sink. He looks in the mirror, transfixed by his aged but still beautiful face; he’s a veteran Narcissist. A twist of the glass and he sees younger versions of himself and his partner.

The mirror pair have the easy, arrogant confidence of youth; they stare at the older couple with the cold pity of  what Bowie once called “the coming race.” They seem like beautiful wraiths. Bowie, seemingly infatuated with his younger self, does the Marx Brothers Duck Soup mirror game with him. The double plays along for a while, then stops, bored and disgusted with his older self. We passed upon the stair, Bowie had sung long ago, upon meeting another double. He’d been on his way up then, his life still mostly potential. This is the other end of the staircase: a man realizing that time has changed him, that the majority share of his life lies behind him now, that his younger self would’ve regarded the current him like some threadbare costume. Perhaps that was the right question to ask after all: What happened to that guy? He kisses his wife in his imagination, and so to bed.

Recorded ca. April-May 1999, Seaview Studio, Bermuda; overdubs at Chung King Studio and/or Looking Glass Studio, NYC. Released 20 September 1999 (Virgin 7243 8 96265 2 0, UK #16). BowieNet members voted on the single mix, though both the “Radio Edit” (their choice) and the “Rock Mix” (guitars trace over the synths; Bowie lead vocal sounds like it’s being routed through a metal tube in places; gargle-orgasm-drum fill break) were included on the UK/EC CD single; a “Hip Hop Mix” was never released. A longer (by ten seconds) version appeared in the Omikron: The Nomad Soul game: this version, titled the “Omikron Slower (sic) Version” was included on the 2004 reissue of ‘Hours,’ as was the Rock Mix. Performed live throughout Bowie’s promotional tour of 1999 and once in 2000, at his Roseland Ballroom concert on Bloomsday.

* Seeing that Thursday’s Child was also one of the Kitt LPs released in Britain in the Fifties, and that the title song’s lyric has some affinities to Bowie’s, it seems likely Bowie recalled the record as well.)

** The rhyme was tinkered with during the 19th Century, perhaps to bring it more in line with Christianity, with Friday now “full of woe” and Sunday getting some of Thursday’s former glory.

*** Dorsey, Palmer and Emm Gryner made the most handsome Bowie stage lineup since DB and Mick Ronson.

Top: Liz Johnson-Artur, “Peckham, 1999.”

90 Responses to Thursday’s Child

  1. humanizingthevacuum says:

    Excellent work. I can’t separate the experience of hearing “Thursday’s Child” on SNL from being in a room with a fella and this coming on and my stopping things to say, “God, he sounds AWFUL.”

  2. Galdo says:

    I never got what the heck ‘Thursday’s Child’ means, thanks for throwing a light upon it.

  3. Patrick says:

    Maybe it’s something in the production, arrangement or vocals (I’ve not checked out all the versions yet only the first link) that stops this from being a true late classic but I still think the melody of the verses stood out at the time among his otherwise forgettable work , as a hint that he still could cut it. Perhaps a bit too MOR in places for comfort but still the stand out track from Hours.

  4. James says:

    again as I stated before, the whole Hours album suffer from a lack of production. had it been on Heathen, the song would have sounded more airy , less contrived in a tight empty arrangement.

  5. StevenE says:

    My least favourite song from Hours – nothing in it connects with me and I find Bowie’s vocal somewhat simpering. I’m surprised to hear it was a single, because for me there’s just nothing there.

    (I do like Something In the Air, Survive and New Angels of Promise – and as an album I just find half of it fails to make much of an impression rather than being one of David’s actively awful efforts).

    This song reminds me a fair bit of Reality’s Days – which I love – in term of tone.

  6. postpunkmonk says:

    The sample/loop construction of this tune renders it inert to me. “Hours” hit me hard when it arrived, perhaps because it was not the sound of Bowie trying hard and failing. But heard 15 year later, it’s forced modesty and the absolutely d.o.a. production drift away like some gaseous phantom; bereft of solidity.

  7. crayontocrayon says:

    The first thing a listener would hear upon putting hours on is the keyboard intro to this song. Maybe we havent reached a point where cheap 90s production has the same charm as cheap 80s production but this is not the sound of a dawning new millenium.

    The floatiness of the sound does however add to a sense of swimming against the current that the lyric implies. It’s not my favourite track on hours and I don’t think its meant to be. There is a deliberate discomfort.

    Beautiful write up by the way.

  8. MC says:

    For me, Thursday’s Child was the Absolute Beginners of the 90’s – with its (for DB) treacly September Song sentiments put across via a strong, memorable melody, hampered by production. Where AB seemed to me (even in ’86) the epitome of 80’s gloss, TC was self-evidently thin stuff, a song stuck at the demo stage. It grew on me a lot faster than AB did (really, I never warmed to the latter until reading the entry in this blog!) This was mainly because of the ragged vulnerability of the vocal. In the end, I grew to find it incredibly moving. For me, its a highpoint of the period.

    While a Visconti production clearly would have improved Thursday’s Child a hundredfold, I think only something like enlisting TLC would have made it a hit at that time (particularly in the US). This was the period when the Boomer artists were being shuffled off into irrelevance, unless they could manage a guest appearance by some young upstart (eg. Santana and Buddy from Matchbox 20). I remember DB appearing that year on the MTV Awards – not to perform but to introduce Lauryn Hill, with the likes of Paul McCartney performing similar duties.

    Apropos of this, I remember Rob Sheffield praising TC in Rolling Stone, calling it “one damn song that can make you break down and cry” (echoing the feelings of many people I talked to). He then suggested that DB cut an album with Babyface, and that the potential was there for a 21st Century Young Americans. Ah, the path not taken…

  9. s.t. says:

    I’m going to come to this song via an indirect route: that is, through the work of Stephin Merritt. There are a few strange similarities to Bowie’s late 90’s work to consider here, and a nice point of contrast.

    The Magnetic Fields had been around since ‘91, but it was ‘99 where Merritt’s star really began to rise, with his magnum opus “69 Love Songs,” and then the 6ths album “Hyacinths and Thistles” (on which Momus provided vocals to a lovely intro song). Throughout his career, Merritt has selected from the more artificial strains of music history for his style: vaudeville, Broadway, girl group, synth pop, etc. Unlike Bowie and Morrissey, though, who are variety artificers of unexpurgated indulgence, Merritt revels in simple formula and in knowing restraint. His talent is to throw us massive clichés of pop music, let us smirk at his irreverent wit, and yet inject enough real pathos to make us feel the emotion behind the cliché.

    Despite the busy production, Bowie’s own penchant for simpler, more formulaic song structures started on Earthling. While it was a subtle shift, I’d say that a ukulele-led version of “The Last Thing You Should Do” could have easily made it as a throwaway track on 69 Love Songs. On Hours this simpler type of songwriting became more prominent, with conventional arrangements to match. Several of the songs’ titles sound like plausible Merritt ideas (Thursdays Child, Seven, If I’m Dreaming My Life, Survive, What’s Really Happening?). Even some lyrics could have been used in a Magnetic Fields or 6ths song: e.g., “You’re the great mistake I never made,” and “I’ve danced with you too long.”

    Now, these connections may be tenuous at best (unmerited at worst?), but entertaining them allows an important contrast between Merritt and late 90’s Bowie: namely, the clarity of intent behind their respective use of formula and cliché. Despite his reverence to the Great American Songbook, it’s clear that Merritt tries to revitalize tropes that he knows are ham-fisted and shopworn. What’s much less clear is what was going through Bowie’s head when he wrote a song like Thursdays Child. Is the arrangement simply meant to be pretty, or was it knowingly referencing M.O.R. schmatlz? Was the pseudo-girl group cooing a bit of cheek, or did he actually think that would add emotional heft (and TLC, really??)? Chris has postulated that the soured domestic theme of Hours is Bowie trying his hand at playing a normal person of his age, and I agree. But is it an exercise in sympathy or in snark? Was he subverting our notion of taste, or had he lost it? I can’t always tell.

    People here have made arguments in favor of a grand design for the album. How could Bowie not know what he’s doing this late in the game? Me, I agree with Momus’s recent assessment that it sounds rushed and jumbled. We know that Bowie released the album to make his label happy, and would have preferred an earlier or later release date. He was caught in the middle of a transition; the music reflects that. The songs he released a few years later on Heathen arguably reveal a defter execution of similar themes. His touches of humor and self-deprecation made that album’s simpler perspectives and economical style more relatable and affecting. Plus, his most recent work finds the cynical hipster back in full blossom, making it quite clear that age had not rendered him impotent as adventurous aesthete.

    But even the album being muddled doesn’t solve the riddle of Thursdays Child. Fifteen years on, I still don’t know the right way to read it. There’s evidence of a drowsy critical eye, yet couldn’t aspects of the song have been meant as satire? I mean, his very next project—glum reworkings of Bowie’s past pop failures—seems straight out of Merritt’s playbook. But the intentions remain ambiguous.

    Of course, I must admit that these frustrations add to the allure of the song, and the album’s knotty contradictions make for compelling listening with the right state of mind. Only for him I don’t regret those hours. Not to mention, while Merritt could be charged with continually doing the same old thing in slightly new drag, the Dame can always push ahead via a new sound or philosophy.

    After all, lucky old sun is in his sky. Astronomy will have to be re-revised.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      The Magnetic Fields, Nick Cave and Bowie, ‘Ya got good taste!’ Lol.

    • col1234 says:

      very nice. in another universe, DB sang on “69 Love Songs”

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        Speaking of 69 Love Songs, ”Fido Your Leash Is Too Long’ also employs the pun pan trick of sliding from scene to scene to avoid obscenity that Momus spoke of in the “We All Go Through” entry.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Hi s.t.,

      Just re-reading stuff before filing away and wanted to say your thoughts on db and TMF are tres interesting. I like them a lot.

      Cheers.

  10. SoooTrypticon says:

    It’s the near immediate presence of those cruddy synth horns that does this song in for me. And as someone mentioned above, the song is a bit similar to “Days,” which also suffers from a cluttered and artificial production, (with damnable synth sax this time!).

    The song is lovely, and the lyrics pretty good, finding Bowie in a “Conversation Piece” moment. It seems likely that a much more graceful demo version exists. I stand by my suspicion that a chunk of this album was originally going to be “unplugged.” Inspired by Bowie’s few acoustic sessions from the tale end of the Earthling tour.

    As the first track on the album, it almost kills all momentum. I would have much preferred the warbly piano drop start on the De Vries remix of “Survive.” There’s a good album in here somewhere.

  11. Cansorian says:

    This is easily Bowie’s least interesting album opener, which is fitting, as “hours” is his least interesting album. From the lyrics, to the music, to the production, to Gabrels being in full neuter mode, the whole affair is just aggressively bland. It’s his Teflon album; nothing sticks.

  12. Ramzi says:

    Thought I’d share a choice quote from a webchat in 1999 posted by Chris on twitter that ties in with the song:

    QueerByChoice: David, my parents insist you’re a bad influence on me. Are you willing to accept the blame? Do you feel guilty about this?

    David Bowie: I haven’t been a bad influence since the 70s… please thank your parents very much

  13. Tom says:

    Hey Chris – Nothing to do with the song, but my bus to work goes past that road in the Liz Johnson-Artur photo every day. Amazing!

  14. gcreptile says:

    I always liked the song very much. I think it succeeds as a piece of art. Yes, it’s tacky that BOWIE the artist is now pretending to be an end-of-middle-aged man looking back on his life in regret. But the video, the melancholy, the broken voice, I think it’s something that works. (I also like Where are we now? very much. I really like the late ballads.) Thanks for the origins of the title. I always assumed it was meant to be born too late, feeling out of time…

  15. Mr Tagomi says:

    A lovely song, for me, though hampered by the cheapo synth sounds. It really is crying out for a proper arrangement with a real string section etc.

    Although as astutely speculated by s.t. above, maybe it was a deliberate artistic choice not to do that.

    The other thing that bothers me about this song, and always has, is that the line “breaking my life in two” sounds like DB never took the trouble to come up with a proper end to that particular line of melody. If there was ever a line that ended with a shrug, it’s that one.

  16. Maj says:

    Nah, it’s a fine pop song. Though it somehow feels out of place on the album, let alone within the context of Bowie’s body of work. Yes, it’s all melancholy and regretful but it sounds light.
    It would probably gain some gravitas with a Visconti production, would be interested to hear what he would have done with it. Like this it’s very late 90’s pop.
    But I like it. Not so much as a Bowie Song but just as a pop song. I like a good pop song by anyone. And this one’s it.

    Good entry, Chris. And so many links…had no idea there were so many versions.

    As for the video…didn’t like it at first. I got it on an ummm intellectual level but wasn’t a fan. I think my relationship to it has softened over the years. Probably ageing.

  17. I just listened to that last live performance you linked, and I’ve gotta say it sounds a lot more nuanced than the album version. The ornate singing reminds me of Scary Monsters a bit–sort of a “Kingdom Come” vibe, for better or worse.

    I think this song could have been much better with different production. It’s actually a rather pretty melody.

  18. twinkle-twinkle says:

    I think one can read the lyric as Bowie claimed – it’s about an everyman who’s tried and failed. There are also the possible ironic double-meanings Chris has also suggested. Both work. I’ve tried to fit Bowie’s life to the lyric.

    In mid-life he finally meets his ‘soul mate’, (sorry, I really dislike that term but couldn’t think of another way of saying it), so his life is broken in two – before Iman and with Iman.

    I was thinking of the live ‘Station to Station’ tour version of ‘Jean Genie’, with the peculiar, ‘Mon, Tues, Wed…’ near the end. Something esoteric? Is Bowie here treating each day of the week as a period in the, ‘Seven Ages of Man’, as described by Wm Shakespeare? All the world’s a stage, etc.

    We know db wasn’t actually born on a Thursday, so day 4 (Thurs) would put him in the age of:

    4.The soldier: He is always working towards making a reputation for himself and gaining recognition, however short-lived it may be, even at the cost of his own life.

    Periodically in his life it would seem Bowie questioned why he was doing his work, what he was striving for, and was it worth it? Fame, money, adulation, all tended to leave him dissatisfied, hence, in his mind,’ Nothing much happened all the same’. He’d gotten so low and disillusioned with life at the apparent height of his 70’s success, that he expected to die and perhaps rather welcomed the thought of oblivion.

    Therefore, one might read the line, ‘Only for you I don’t regret, that I was Thurs child,’ as meaning – all that striving brought me no true happiness, but eventually it did bring me ‘you/Iman’, so I don’t regret the past, which I’m happy to let go, as long as I have a future with you. He used to wake up the oceans and walk on clouds, but now he is happy to walk away from it all to share his life fully with someone he loves.

    It’s not an exact science, but I guess Bowie would have been in stage 5 around the time of ‘hours…’

    5.The justice: In this stage he has acquired wisdom through the many experiences he has had in life. He has reached a stage where he has gained prosperity and social status. He becomes very attentive of his looks and begins to enjoy the finer things of life.

    Okay, it’s a thought, just a little thought. At least I managed to get through it without mentioning T.S. bloody Eliot, lol.

  19. Brendan O'Lear says:

    As a middle-aged child of Maundy Thursday I had high hopes for this one. It reminds me most of ‘This is Not America’ in that there are hints of his imperial greatness, but buried deep inside a microwaveable production.
    An occasionally recurring theme on this blog is the alternative Bowie that we might have seen had Love You Till Tuesday been a hit. For me, this a different alternative Bowie, the one we might have seen had his short-lived, pre-Hunky Dory whim of being a behind the scenes songwriter had met with any success. A highly skilled but ultimately bland craftsman.

  20. Mike F says:

    Think about the first time you dropped the needle on “Scary Monsters” and there was a Japanese woman screaming her head off. Totally off the wall but pure brilliance.

    This album opener has a woman singing like she’s trying to sell you organic produce. Pleasantly cooing, oohing, and aahing. A big waste of political capital for Reeves.

    There is a sturdy tune buried underneath the cheap production but the overall effect is “meh.”

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      Think about how many people felt when WAWN landed out of nowhere last year; a dirge, no tune, he sounds ill, can’t sing, is this what we waited ten years for? Sad, he needn’t have bothered. It sounded that way for a reason.

      I agree with Momus that ‘TC’ has a ‘Word on a Wing’ duality, but if this isn’t a hymn to Iman and how she made/makes him feel innocent and born again, then I’ll gargle a tube of blue, blue, cerulean (sic) blue oil paint. (One of my faves, along with crimson and black, yum).

      Bowie has said Al Green is the only place he and Iman’s musical tastes cross. It has been noted that Iman doesn’t appear to even know the lyrics to Bowe’s most famous songs.

      It would make sense that, while keeping the simplicity, (or crapness, whatever your opinion), of the albums production, Bowie would want to give this track a sound in keeping with Iman’s personal musical taste. Maybe TLC doing backing would have been a special cherry on top for the intended recipient.

      I’m not trying to convince anyone, I’m cool with anyone who doesn’t like the album, but I think an artist needs to be free to use as wide a palette as he feels he needs, (and the freedom to fail) – it doesn’t always have to be bells, whistles and experimentation. Johnny Cash’s version of ‘Hurt’ turned many, who wouldn’t have noticed his passing otherwise, on to his music. It probably confused a lot of his older fans too.

      Very interesting and touching posts.

      • s.t. says:

        That’s an intriguing take, definitely worth considering. It is true that Bowie’s last dabbling with smooth urban R&B styles was his wedding gift to Iman. If that was indeed the case for TC, I wish he would have went the whole hog and made the entire album more of a late 90’s sequel to BTWN, with a bold sound inspired by acts like R.Kelly and TLC. But, maybe he hedged those bets as Chris said, or maybe he was tired of bold sounds. Interesting to think of what may have been though…

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Thanks s.t. It’s been a busy few days, working through the night etc. so just catching up.

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        Speaking of Johnny Cash, I thought his version of Nick Cave’s
        ”The Mercy Seat” was excellent. Very moving.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Hi! Spider. Yeah – great version. What are the chances of ‘Kylie sings Johnny Cash’? lol. And which side of the line would that be on, lol?

  21. david says:

    It’s worth mentioning the musical geography that this song arrived in-the tepid mediocrity of bands like Travis, Clodplay and Macy Grey (of whom Bowie was taken with to extoll during interviews at the time) filled the airwaves. If 1.Outside had been the summation of pre-millenial tension, then the aural soundtrack Bowie accompanied himself with, edging towards century’s end was filled with brittle enui. For all it’s faults, TC was no less in the spirit of its time then.

    • SoooTrypticon says:

      I politely disagree with the Macy Gray comment. Her first album is actually quite exceptional. Fine songwriting, an eclectic swath of songs, and her unique delivery. I only wish “Hours” had been half as spirited as “On Life How It Is.”

      Sadly, if memory suits me, Macy’s second album came out only a few days after September 11th, effectively derailing her career.

      I think Bowie was right to take her on the Reality tour with him.

      • Maj says:

        I also disagree on Macy. Anything but bland. Her voice is unusual (definitely not everyone’s cuppa) and the subject matter of her songs (incl. the biggest radio hits like Still) are mental illness, domestic abuse and sex. Also music- and production-wise her songs aren’t all poppy and neat. Some proper weird-ass ruckuss on the albums if I remember correctly.

        I listened to Macy completely independently of Bowie (didn’t “discover” her bc. he was a fan) but once I learned how he took her on tour etc. I didn’t find it that weird, made sense.

        Been ages since I listened to her though, maybe I should dig out them albums…..

    • Ididtheziggy says:

      Also in the disagree camp. Macy is great. And I vividly remember her getting this white, middle aged crowd up and dancing at the Vancouver leg of the Reality tour. Like she said “David don’t play for no fuddy duddies”.

      • Stolen Guitar says:

        Me too. ‘On How Life Is’ was one of the best albums of the 90s and she was very different to most anything else within the mainstream. Saw her on the first tour, too, and she was terrific, with a tight band and a nicely shambolic style. Shame she’s more well known now for the funny voice and eccentric film roles(Training Day), for she’s definitely worth more than that. I can completely see why Bowie would’ve wanted to be ‘hip’ to her.

    • s.t. says:

      Actually, the musical climate of ’99 was far worse than Travis, Macy Gray and Coldplay: The Spice Girls were going strong, Eminem and Britney were on the rise, Matchbox 20 and the Goo Goo Dolls had replaced the grunge bands of yore, boy bands and rap-metal were everywhere. It was an era of sonic excesses and simple escapes.

      In fact, when “Yellow” debuted in 2000, I found it quite refreshing. At least there was a band with enough good taste to tap into the quiet, wussy sounds of “Bends”-era Radiohead.

      • humanizingthevacuum says:

        Actually, the Spice Girls’s string of great singles was about to end, and Britney’s just beginning.

      • s.t. says:

        Could be. It’s all an overly slick blur to me. I’m usually a fan of pop but this is my least favorite era.

      • Pete Me Then says:

        What’s wrong with Eminem? At least he had impertinence and scansion.

      • s.t. says:

        Broadly speaking, and regardless of genre, you had two options on the radio in the late 90s: “I will be what you want me to be as long as you love me/buy my album” and “I’m an antisocial prig, but it’s not my fault! Lend me your ears, and you’ll understand the meaning of pain!”

        Eminem’s got talent in terms of rapping, but he fit perfectly into option 2. The first group added to the feeling of crass, empty commercialism at the time, but the second one was even harder to take. A few songs, or maybe an album of closet-cleaning: okay. But if superstar musicians want extended sessions where they can expound on their woes, I’ll have to charge at an hourly rate.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Lol🙂

      • Post your address so Paul Westerberg, Elvis C, Joni Mitchell, and the Lennon estate can send checks. Let me know if you’re missing names.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        I think when it comes to the subject of affluent and successful ‘whinging’ musicians, it all comes down to context and artistry. And how good is their work?

      • Patrick says:

        Maybe it’s a generation/age thing and/or a geographic thing but from my point of view in the UK, the 90s did indeed feel the least interesting or quality decade for “popular” music. We had the often lazy “BritPop” marketing “Cool Britannia” but the less said about that the better. Even many of the critical highspots (eg Tricky , were patchy or too reliant on sampling/regurgitating others work for their melodies so the “best bits” weren’t even theirs. Cue Eminen et al.
        A few highlights for me such as P J Harvey who was only just beginning to get into her stride.

        The last 10 years or so at least have allowed a kind of pluralism to flourish, perhaps with the internet, but as others have suggested the Golden Age of Pop , and the album probably has passed us by.

      • s.t. says:

        Hey, I’ll take checks from anyone, but my fear of Nigerian princes keeps me from sharing my address.

        For me, the artists I dismissed above just don’t offer much beyond their sense of entitlement and their whining (Em’s technical skill notwithstanding). Someone could argue otherwise, and someone could also argue that Costello’s bitterness and misogyny ruin his cleverness and his moments of poignancy. I can see some validity to that second point of view, but ultimately Costello’s work provides me with plenty of reasons to endure his less likeable qualities, while Eminem and Limp Bizkit songs simply get me thinking about how rancid celebrity culture has become.

        …Of course taste and tolerance thresholds vary from person to person, so if someone truly feels that “Chocolate Starfish and the Hotdog Flavored Water” is Fred Durst’s “Armed Forces,” they’re welcome to that position. And I will be disagreeing from a safe distance.

      • s.t. says:

        I should also mention that once Britney and Xtina became more openly sleazy, I started to appreciate their stuff. And most of big radio songs of recent years have been enjoyable. Pop music is great when it’s either fun or sexy. I can’t stand hedge-betting hybrids of wholesome and whoresome, or that perfunctory faux-earnest lovey-doving. It all reeks of Swedish hit factories.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Lol. It is interesting where to draw the line and which side to keep to, and our lad has clearly crossed one or two he shouldn’t have.

        When I think of my younger days and the rise of Madonna, not something I do very often – if I did notice her before, ‘Like a Virgin’, it was just as more disco fodder. Some gay friends of mine saw her play Manchester/New Order’s ‘Hacienda’ club. They spent the evening heckling her with cries of,’Get off, you tart!’ They weren’t to know.

        By the time of ‘Material Girl’ I was starting to enjoy her, then she decided she wanted to be ‘an artist’. Sigh. What’s wrong with quality pop? Kylie has been championed by Nick Cave, Elvis Costello has sung Abba.

        Some things are just right. Coming from the other direction, some things are just plain wrong. Dylan and Xmas, for example.

  22. Bruised Passivity says:

    I have been anticipating this posting with unease since the hours… discussion began. Although I know I can rely on Chris’s analysis to be well considered and balanced, I wasn’t sure I was ready to potentially read some scathing criticisms on this particular song. (I do trust the commenters on here to be respectful but the anxiety has been there non the less). The reason for my apprehension stems from my exceptionally personal connection with this song (beyond the fact that I was born on a Thursday, lol) and my internal debate over whether or not to share my story. In the end I have decided to offer my one time over-share and explain just why this somewhat mediocre pop song means so much to me.

    The first time I head Thursday’s Child I was driving home late one night from the city. Highway 19’s rout twists through a tree lined mountain pass but since it was devoid of traffic I was relaxed.\that night I was listening to Bowie’s VH1 Storytellers performance for what was likely the twelfth time. At this time I was still very new to Bowie’s work and was finding his commentary useful in better understanding his work. Of course I had listened to TC before that night but I had never really heard it. That night, in the darkness his lyrics finally hit me for the first time. The lump in my through and sudden tears in my eyes made me pull my car off the road. He was describing my psychological and emotional state so precisely that I was overcome. (What I am about to write I have never shared in public before.) You see, I have struggled with the debilitating symptoms of PTSD and clinical depression since I was a child so, when I sustained a crippling back injury three years ago, I really didn’t cope well with having a new disability to overcome. As a result I experienced a massive break down that left me contemplating suicide.

    By the night I heard TC I had completed enough physical therapy that I was again able to drive and walk short distances (for which I was very, very grateful) but the dark grip of depression still had a strangle hold on me. I was seeing a new psychologist and had gained some new insights into my condition but I just hadn’t achieved that first emotional breakthrough that is so crucial to healing. Thursday’s Child turned out to be the key. That night, in the darkness, on the side of the road while listening to that song I achieved in a few minutes what I hadn’t been able to in hours of therapy; I was able to connect with the a part of myself that trauma had walled off 30 years before. I saw myself as I had been all those years ago, a scared little girl who was “innocent in your arms”. That trauma had “broken my life in two” but now “I was now lighting the darkness of my soul” by “seeing my past to let it go”. A first true wave of spiritual healing I had ever experienced washed over me that night and I have continued to heal everyday since. In all sincerity David helped save my life that night with a mediocre, production lacking, pop song. David, I will always be a fan. Throw me tomorrow, I’m ready.

    Another fantastic write up Chris.

  23. Momus says:

    1. “If there is any unit of cultural intelligence, it’s empathy. Empathy doesn’t have anything to do with cleverness, technical ability, cultural background or traditions or something like that. It does have to do with how much you understand the impression you make on other people around you. And how important that is to you.” Brian Eno, channelling Richard Rorty.

    2. I really like Thursday’s Child, and not just because I was born on a Thursday myself, and like to think I have “far to go”. I really like it because I like the pierrot side, the sad clown side, of Bowie. I’d take that thin, reedy voice over the thunder of a thousand Tin Machines. Yes, this is the fellow who wrote When I Live My Dream and Conversation Piece, but also the fellow who wrote Where Are We Now?

    3. Bowie’s pierrot songs work best in dark cinematic contexts: the When I Live My Dream sequence in Leos Carax’s Boy Meets Girl, for instance, or the brilliant Walter Stern video for this one. When I say “I like this song” I really mean I think the video is brilliant, one of Bowie’s darkest and best. Because it shows ageing speeded up, and stardom does that anyway; stars always look shockingly older than our mental images of them — they become barometric in a sense, predicting our own decay. This video shows ageing almost as clearly and frighteningly as the decomposition sequences in Peter Greenaway’s A Zed and Two Noughts.

    4. The song on its own is schmaltzy, but in the context of the video a really interesting series of contrasts get set up. This becomes slightly frightening existentialist schmaltz (and therefore “Lynchian”, blue-velvety), juxtaposing commercial pep (“Here’s David Bowie’s new single…”) with biological decay and sealing the deal with an uncomfortable, slightly disturbing intergenerational kiss.

    5. “With little makeup to mask his plus-fifty face” — yes, but here I think we get to the nub of things. Bowie, being Bowie, wears his real wrinkles as a mask. No-makeup is itself just another kind of makeup. When you’ve been in showbiz for almost fifty years — when you’re David Bowie — reality and artifice are the layers of an onion.

    6. It’s no accident that the overdubbed out-of-tune singing recalls the church scene in The Man Who Fell To Earth. Like that film, and like The Last Temptation of Christ, this video proposes that the ordinary and the extraordinary can change places. What could be more outlandish than that an extraterrestrial should become an ordinary alcoholic, or that a rock god should hit middle age, or that Christ should settle down, marry and have kids of his own? For a person who seems entirely fictional and fabricated, nothing could be odder than these ordinary facts.

    7. It’s as if Major Tom hadn’t waited to get into space to experience his alienation, but had stayed on Earth and just floated off into the comfortable alienation of suburbia. Mortgage, kids, sagging waistline, a car, and the kind of new-build you glimpse in Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas or Mike Mills’ Architecture of Reassurance. You don’t need to go to space to find alienation.

    8. I like the Merritt comparison, but the line “making the best of what I had” reminds me of the Pet Shop Boys’ Yesterday When I Was Mad: “Someone said it’s fabulous you’re still around today / You’ve both made such a little go a very long way”. That’s Chris and Neil, and Neil is quoting it as if to say “the cheek!” But Bowie might really be that humble; it makes a good companion line for “We used what we could / To get the things we want” from Something in the Air.

    9. And for that reason I think Thursday’s Child is more the powerful song; there’s no consoling sense of superiority here. I think of that line: “I don’t stand in my own light” from Word on a Wing. I really think David Bowie might be the only person who doesn’t have David Bowie as a big bright consolation. He’s too close. And I can understand how this song could affect Bruised Passivity the way it did.

    10. When Bowie did his Louis Vuitton commercial last year with its harpsichord version of I’d Rather Be High I made a harpsichord version of Thursday’s Child, rather enjoying the doubled vulnerability: the thin-sounding instrument and the self-doubting schmaltz. It’s here: youtu.be/TGrJm9W8SaA

    • michael says:

      I agree that the video is fantastic and does that rare thing of actually adding to the song’s power, stripping away some of the blandness of the arrangement and production. I also really like Thursday’s Child, especially now in the light of Where are we now and its video which have added further layers to the earlier song.

      The other point to make, echoing others above, is that the live versions of some of these songs (Thursday’s Child, Survive), where he’s stretching and toying with the melody lines, overcome the undercooked, often dissatisfying surface of hours. So, Momus’s great analog bowroque reworking of Thursday’s Child finds a melody that’s at odds with the original arrangement, but that’s kind of the point – back to the video. As so often with 1990s Bowie, underneath the range of different contemporaneity-reflecting surfaces, there’s all kinds of things going on.

    • Paula Sciuk says:

      unable to access your youtube link =(

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      I may as well continue the gushing schmaltz and say I too enjoyed your harpsichord reworking of TC. At the time I wished db had made the remix of IRBH a little more like the LV advert version. I also loved your cover version/imagined workings of db’s songs last year, excellent.

    • Mike F says:

      That’s a mashup of Bach harpsichord and acapella Bowie.

  24. @Isolar76 says:

    The backing vocals alone make this track unlistenable for me. It’s a plod! I remember hearing Where are we now? for the first time and immediately thinking of Thursday’s Child. But the intimacy of WAWN? and the simpler arrangement, lifts the song into a different league.

  25. StevenE says:

    OK the video is magnificent.

  26. col1234 says:

    Lots of wonderful comments here: momus, Twinkle, Bruised P, s.t. and so on. thanks.

    • Ididtheziggy says:

      And thank you for helping to bring this silly, little community together.

      • Kento says:

        The blog is wonderful on its own, but how many blogs have as literate of a comments section? It’s really a great accomplishment.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        How strange that the post for this album, which some feared could be contentious, has produced such warm interaction. I for one am feeling most peculiar, yet can’t quite say why.

        Oh well, I’ll sleep on it…

        G’night Chris, g’night SPSpider… g,night John-Boy, Mary Ellen… g’night momus, s.t…. g’night Jim-Bob…

        …g’night humaniz…hum-hu-humanizingthevac-c-c-c… No-no, must resist… must fight… this…

  27. Anonymous says:

    boring

  28. Paola says:

    Does anyone know whom the other three actors are that perform with Bowie in this video?

    • Paula Sciuk says:

      I have often wondered the same and have not had much luck in discovery. I believe the younger female’s name is Alesya and she is Ukrainian. Is the other Jennifer Connelly – post Labyrinth?

  29. Gnomemansland says:

    Beware the bullet point

  30. Pete Me Then says:

    Brilliant song, dull video. I don’t think DB pays much attention to videos, with the one exception of Ashes which he wrote himself.

    • Paula Sciuk says:

      I feel the video is a very intimate look into Bowie’s personal psyche. So very different from other work. The nuances in his facial gestures are remarkable in a mere few seconds – from wonder to acknowledgement in facing reality – quite deep, lovely and provocative.

    • twinkle-twinkle says:

      I kind of know what you mean, but then I think of the videos where db does seem to care. I think Bowie has a very specific concept when videos are meaningful to him, and what he comes up with does not always make for a snappy ‘sell, sell, sell’, result, which may also be the problem(?) with much of ‘hours…’ for many people. Too personal? Or too dry and unflinchingly tied to the concept, if that makes sense.

      As for what’s wrong with Eminem? A good rapper as far as inventive rhymes, but he looses my sympathy by giving Dido a temporary, but still way too long, sheen of credibility. And I just can’t stand the monotonous, often tuneless, repetitiveness of rap. I’m not a big fan of performance poetry either, which may explain it.

      Hey-ho!

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        Music is a lot like chocolate. Great when you remove the wrapper.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        I was about to ask for help on that gnomic quip Spider – I haven’t been to bed for nearly two days – then I up scrolled and read my post and your comment. I nearly sprayed a very pleasant Aussie Cabernet over my laptop, lol!!

        Being ‘cool’, what’s in, what’s out, what’s right – there are so many variables, yet we seem to know more or less when it is right or wrong, or when things have crossed the line – jumped the shark even.

        As a student we used to frequent a grotty dive, a corner of an old brick warehouse, damp walls etc. Nico and Joy division had played there a year or two before.

        We’d dance to Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag, Nag, Nag’, pre-hits Kid Creole, The New York Dolls, The Human League, Bowie/Roxy Music etc, and Grand Master Flash ‘The Message’. A peculiar mix, yet it seemed right at that moment.

        Nearly thirty years on I passed Kid Creole in the middle of a street crossing. He seemed not to have aged, wearing pancake makeup, sharp moustache and bright yellow suit, hat and spats. I think he may have been touring one of those 70’s shows.

        In the dull early morning the world seemed to be in black and white, while he was a technicolor ghost. The fact no one batted an eye made it all the more spooky. I guess he wasn’t cool anymore.

      • s.t. says:

        One thing that HTV and I probably agree on is that rock is not inherently better a genre than pop, R&B, or rap. A lot of rock fans tend to push a “rockist” notion of what counts as talent, what is inspiring, what is worth time or respect…often as if it’s some objective law rather than opinion.

        I actually really like a lot of rap, from Whodini to Biggie to Earl. I couldn’t live without more conventionally melodic and poetic forms of music, but there’s a lot of exciting stuff out there. And so much pop and dance is just damn fun, cheesy though it may be. I used to be obsessed with the ideas of cool and authentic, but now I just care if my pleasure center is stimulated.

        I so wanted to hate Lady Gaga’s new album, but it’s quite excellent actually, as pop goes. Too bad critics are focusing on the fact that she’s not as cool anymore…

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        I agree, my iPod shuffle mix is mental, despite being relatively rap-free. ( I mean no recent stuff really. Old skool sounds very musical now).

        Although, I did get a handshake from Afrika Bambaataa, my partner a birthday kiss from Gil Scott-Heron, and I share a birthday with Dr Dre, so maybe our music collection isn’t too lacking after all, lol. (It probably is).

        I used to work beside someone obsessed with rap and I think I overdosed on his record collection. I am currently being forced to get my ears around Kanye West and surprised at liking some of the sounds, but I’m not fully on message, lol.

        And I can’t believe I’m still awake. I really thought a glass of wine with my pasta would knock me out. Don’t you love putting deadlines behind you?

        Have a restful weekend, g’night…

      • Sky-Possessing Spider says:

        To me it’s never been a case of what’s “hip” or “cool”, it’s more about what my nervous system can accommodate. Opera, Country and Western, and Heavy/Thrash/Speed Metal are all styles that leave me running at full acceleration for the off switch. But when it comes to sheer sonic torture of the fingernails down the blackboard variety, none of them can hold a candle to the sheer hideousness that (for me) is Rap and Hip Hop.

      • twinkle-twinkle says:

        Yes, as I think we’ve said before, age makes us more relaxed about our music – and wardrobe, lol. Listening to music alone in our own space also results in our playing what we like, not what we think we should.

        However, new interesting music often comes with a certain cache of hipness. We find new music not just from the radio – the trendy DJ – or friends, but from reviews, and the ones we listen to usually are from individuals or periodicals we respect, and these usually have there own aspect of ‘cool’.

        I wonder if ‘cool’, ‘hip’, ‘cutting edge’ etc, or perceived lack of, is the reason for many people disliking aspects of post-70’s Bowie; he’s crooning, not experimental, look who’s playing the guitar solo, or on backing vocals etc. This blog is full of such comments. People are judging on the liner notes as much as with their ears. (In the art world people often buy with their ears – what’s hip and a good investment – rather than visually and emotionally).

        How many of us bought the first Arcade Fire album on hearing only one track – or none – and Bowie and David Byrne’s praise? It’s taken me three albums to work out I don’t play them because I dislike the vocals.

        There are so many albums bought in the midst of awards and praise which I never play anymore – Portishead, Tricky, Roni Size. Even Massive Attack never lived up to expectations: the first album is great, then a slide into formula. So much music which was hailed as ‘the future’ turned out to be less than 15 mins of ‘now’ hipness. I wait for the dust to settle now and pick up the stuff with longevity a little after the fact.

        I’ve also notice that the advent of CD’s and the iPod has also changed the context and appreciation of once favourite artists. Eno’s Ambient stuff is meant to disappear into the background if you so wish, ideal for creatives to work along too.

        The warmth of vinyl with 20 mins blocks worked best for me. 75 mins on CD and, potentially, hours on digital should have left me free to chill and concentrate. Instead it became hugely irritating and intrusive, like water-torture. It might as well have been thrash metal I was listening to. I think the 70’s production on vinyl suited Eno’s Ambient stuff better.

      • s.t. says:

        Yes, this discussion about “cool” and “unhip” is especially appropriate for the Hours songs. My above comparison to the Magnetic Fields could be interpreted to some extent as “Stephin knows that his references are uncool, therefore he is still hip. With Bowie it is unclear.” I’m troubled by the MOR quality of Thursday’s Child, yet I laud Stereolab’s embrace of lounge music.

        In my younger days, I could easily say that I disliked Hours because Bowie had utterly failed the cool test. I’d like to say that I’m no longer preoccupied with such qualifications, but perhaps there still is some higher aesthetic standard to which I hold Bowie. Maybe it’s because Bowie himself usually holds himself to higher standards, and Hours seems like a misstep on an otherwise promising trajectory from 80’s hell to 90’s transitional purgatory to 00s elder statesmen paradise.

        But at least that misstep didn’t include guest spots from Busta Rymes and Three Six Mafia!

  31. Ian McDuffie says:

    What I think is most interesting about TC is the choice pf voice that bowie uses on it (and a lot of hours). Its this strange, throaty thing. You can hear it most on the final ‘seeing my past to let it go’. It kind of sounds like Bowie’s New Morning voice, a different use of the pipes. The strained wail works with the material, however drab the arrangements around it may be.

    For all that I make a scene about my Young Americans was the first Bowie album i listened to, its not actually true. My mother bought Hours when it came out, and we as a family unit spent a week or so giving it a listen. Later i would put it on myself (and always get bored after ‘dreaming my life’. If there is any enduring legacy to this album, its the fact that i completely forget that I heard it first. It just turned into wallpaper.

    Still, if it wasnt for Thursdays Child, i wouldnt have heard this album at all- the draw of moms around the universe brought Bowie to the house.

  32. Steve says:

    I think the “throw me tomorrow” line may be referencing early Bowie songs “C’est la vie” (“Show me tomorrow, show me tomorrow) as well as “Shadow Man,” which was likely a re-tooled version of “C’est la vie” ( “He’ll show you tomorrow, he’ll show you the sorrows”).

  33. crayontocrayon says:

    having just been tinkling at the piano, it dawned on me that this song shares an awful lot chord-wise with Warszawa. Made me rethink the farty synth that maybe it was trying to recapture some of those early synth sounds and just doing a bad job of it.

  34. KenHR says:

    A few weeks ago, I invited my bandmates and their families over to my place for a cookout. I stuck my mp3 player on random for background and we spent quite a lovely afternoon eating, talking and playing badminton and the like. The music, a mix of everything on my 120GB player from Classical to jazz to industrial to shoegaze to punk to MOR schmaltz to synth pop to classic rock to noise, was kept to a low volume and appreciated but not really _noticed_ by anyone.

    Until Thursday’s Child came on. Conversation stopped and everyone turned to the speakers to listen for a few seconds.

    “What’s this? I love it.”
    “Which album? Can I get a copy?”
    “It’s gorgeous and ethereal.”

    I’m not sure why TC in particular proved so arresting to everyone that day. I know I’ve loved this song since I first popped ‘hours…’ into my CD player on the day of its release, but I can understand where others would find it lacking. Maybe something about it struck a chord with the adults (we’re all heading into our 40s) as we enjoyed a wonderful summer day, watching Paul’s boy play with the neighbors’ kids, knowing that work beckons tomorrow, a week followed by another week followed by still another, and it won’t be that long, really, until this glorious season is gone, autumn fading into winter again.

  35. zsani says:

    Thank you,Chris this post! I finally understand the lyrics(I’m not native english), I knew I have to search much more meaning. Your blog helps to understand the whole Bowie’s legacy and ease his miss.
    An excellent site and excellent insights, congratulation!!

  36. Gb says:

    This was the first (contemporary to me)Bowie song that I really fell for. It didnt feel old to me, or unhip, or boring to my 19 year old self…it sounded incredibily fragile and it moved me close to tears. And if the synth sounds where cheap…that was all but lost on me.

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