The other Bowie/Gerry Leonard co-composition, “I’ll Take You There” had bigger and better hooks than their “Boss of Me” but wound up slotted as a frenetic bonus track. Set in a B minor key that it’s desperate to escape whenever possible, “I’ll Take You There” is Bowie reconciling with his Eighties, to the point where his instructions in the studio were apparently to play “Beat of Your Drum” for the band a few times.
It’s mixed to grab at you, bluntly and often: the stereo-panned drums (fattened with percussion overdubs in the mixing sessions); Leonard, David Torn and Tony Visconti punching in as many guitar tracks as the console can take (Bowie played some acoustic, not that it’s found anywhere in the mix’s heavy traffic); Leonard doing his best Earl Slick imitation for a lead riff; a pneumatic drill of an intro/outro guitar line; the usual loop-de-loops with the backing vocals.
The lyric is well-sung bunk (the refrains start “what will be my name in the USA?”— it helps to forget the English language while listening) and the dippy bridge builds to a “look up…at…staaaaars!” climax that leaves Bowie stranded like a cat in a tree—the band has to ladder-walk him down before the next refrain kicks off.
It’s heartening that Bowie’s gaudy pantomime/ desperate “rocker” side hasn’t gone entirely lost, that he hasn’t grown too respectable. A tacked-on track on the “deluxe” edition of The Next Day, “I’ll Take You There” gives an amphetamine shot to an album bowing under the weight of its accumulated histories, miseries and deaths.
Recorded: (backing tracks) ca. mid-September 2011, The Magic Shop, NYC; (overdubs) spring-fall 2012, Magic Shop; Human Worldwide, NYC. Released on 8 March 2013 on The Next Day: Deluxe Edition.
Top: Xiaojun Deng, “Mombasa,” March 2011.
Ian McDuffie is a Chicago-based artist who’s been following this blog since…2010? A long time. In terms of blog commenters, he’s one of the village elders.
Ian’s taken my doom-filled, never-was 1977 Bowie Madison Square Garden concert from the “Bring Me the Disco King” post and has turned it into a short comic book. It’s been a tough month, so when I came home to find a copy of this in the mail, and to see my writing had inspired this—well, it really was something. So thanks, Ian, and thanks to all of you for sticking with this blog over the years (only 16ish more entries to go).
Please consider picking it up.
Rebel Rebel Promo News
Also: if you’re in the NYC area, mark your calendars: Sat. October 17, 2015.
It’s a big Bowie night at Q.E.D. in Astoria, Queens. I’ll be reading from Rebel Rebel and helping run a Bowie trivia contest, among other things. There will be music, and I’ll sign any books that you bring (and will have some copies to sell, too.) More details to come soon.
“to the point where his instructions in the studio were apparently to play “Beat of Your Drum” for the band a few times”
‘c’mon guys, you must remember THIS one? No?’
I found this song very similar to ‘you will set the world on fire’. I think it was probably left off the main album for that reason which is a shame as I prefer this of the two.
Agreed. I also prefer it to Beat of Your Drum (the chorus, at least).
I’ve got to admit, I was really disappointed when I realized this wasn’t a cover of the Staples Singers chestnut.
Reading this blog over the last few years has been a real joy, so I’m a little melancholy over its imminent end. Am heartened by the likelihood of new DB music soon, and also by the prospect of your upcoming blog, Chris. Cheers!
I was relieved. DB doing the Staple Singers seems like a formula for something embarrassing.
Chris, you will also need to review the songs from Lazarus…
no, i’m not going to now. I’ll do a post in December where people can put their first reactions (esp. if footage of songs leak on YouTube or something) but I find utterly nothing of value in writing my first impressions. If the songs come out on album, maybe in a year’s time or so, I’ll do some posts on ’em then.
But you should at least re-write each of the 500+ song entries in nine new iterations to reflect each of the remaining nine sephirot on the Tree of Life (I’ll let Da’at slide).
Failure to do so would simply be cruel…
hi, I have to say it at least once, because I only discovered this blog a few months ago, but it is indeed a joy to read, and there’s a copy of the book here in the South of France. I do hope there will be more than 16 more entries !
I have long held a suspicion that Bowie has been recycling compositions from Never Let Me Down on this album and Reality, and at least on evidence of this it’s true. Sadly however, this is no better than Beat of your drum, and it does behove me to wonder why lyrically, it comes across more superfluous than the original.
Agreed in all respects. I enjoy this song tremendously while I’m hearing it, then immediately forget about it. But maybe there’s something to be said for self-erasing rock’n’roll.
I’ve also always had a weakness for “Beat of Your Drum.”
I presume the bridge is intentionally comical. It originally came across to me like it was just half-written. But as you say, he ends up like a cat stuck up a tree, and it is funny.
For my money, the best song of the remaining bunch. More complete than “So She,” which just sort of meanders off into the audio sunset and “God Bless The Girl,” which has a chorus that doesn’t quite stick it’s landing.
This one, however, has hooks galore and holds them all very well. I disagree that the final chorus is a “ladder walk.” To the contrary, Visconti uses just that moment to reintroduce the five-note refrain and remind us why he’s the master at building multiple earworms into pop songs. And what a chorus it is! The best call and response on the record with harmonies that beg to be sung and a rhythm that demands the volume be cranked.
Yet, underneath the sugar rush, there’s a relationship torn asunder by immigration to the high hopes of the west, where “everything is a lie” and “tomorrow is king.” You hint at it so strongly in your chosen image, but refuse to delve into the interpretation, which is disappointing for this blog.
In that line of listening, the chorus makes powerful sense. “What will be my name in the U.S.A.?” It was a question pondered by so many in that country through the 19th and 20th centuries. Musically, the slight optimism of the refrain is brought, sonically and literally, to a halt by a bridge sung alone. Something has caused the narrator to lose someone he promised so much to…
“I don’t need to know
Know where you are
Only that you are
Safe in this world
Then I’ll be content
To get on with my life
Eat, drink and sleep
Look up at the stars.”
Finding connection through a shared glimpse of the stars is really all one has left when a relationship has ended. Especially one defined by such a dramatic move.
I’m not sure i like the song, much, but, I will agree with this post that, usually awesome writer: Chris O’Leary dropped the ball on this one. There’s clearly a little bit more going on in this song than just a raucous re-tread of dippy, disgusting, guilty pleasure “Beat Of Your Drum” and O’Leary (whom I could never thank enough for his excellent, thoughtful, informative, creative, inspiring, committed and entertaining writing– um, usually) should be ashamed for not giving some of it notice. Dare I say, in the grand “Heroes” tradition, Mr. Bowie seems to be discussing people in the middle of chaos and their efforts to steal some escape– permanent or otherwise. It’s at least an interesting failure (on Bowie’s part) and usually Mr. O’Leary will pay this a service by at least dropping a sentence or two about a song’s story or concept. Dude, are you burning out? Snarky comments about musical reference with no attempt at why he even took the time to commit this song to bytes? Maybe do a little edit/re-write and at least give Bowie his due in trying to track the ruptured lives of his characters. First-world problems, these gripes of ours…
Rather than griping anonymously, why don’t you enlighten us a little, since you seem to have some ideas of what this song is about? That’s what comments are for.
Hi Chris. Just wanted to say that some of us really do appreciate what you do and cannot imagine taking on a task the size of the one you have.
I wish I could buy you a beer to say thank you but as I can’t I’ve done the best I can by buying the kindle version of the book to read on holiday and a physical copy for my shelf because your writing on Bowie is truly the best I have read and I have read most of them over the last 20+ years.
I hope you bad month gets easier and hope you realize that unlike the entitled bell-end above most of us appreciate the amazing work you do and as I said, thank you.
First world problems indeed.
To clarify: I am not opposed to people thinking that I have underrated this song & that it merits further exploration. I don’t have a problem with Magnus’ post in the slightest.
What I dislike are the presumptuous (and oft-anonymous) people who think I’ve “let them down” if I don’t like a song as much as they do.
If you don’t like an entry of this blog, write a better one. Link to it. Don’t gripe at me that I’m letting you down and that you’re ashamed of me. I’m not your mother.
Whoa, whoa, whoa…
Chris need not feel “ashamed” for his entry. His writing, as displayed by the “Next Day” entry, is still probing and far from burning out.
I thought this song went deeper lyrically than some of the other tracks on the record. I expected him to dig into these ideas. He didn’t. Thus, I thought that was disappointing. But should he be “ashamed.” Please…
We just disagreed about a pop song.
I’m relieved he understood my original intent. Thank you, Chris. I hope we pleasantly disagree on occasion. Makes me want to listen more.
Carry on. Be inspired. Finish with a flourish.
The Anonymous community is ashamed by the gratuitous comment from one of its members. We do consider that the author of this blog doesn’t work for us and that we, the readers, aren’t his bosses.
And we must say that Beat of your drum is a filthy great song!!
End of the communique.
Cheer up, mate.
No, you don’t owe me– you owe yourself, your art and THIS is your art. I’m not paying you, they are not paying you, you are paying yourself and we get to benefit from it (as I said, go re-read if necessary– i think O’Leary is a fantastic writer and recommend this blog to many and even mention his expanded book to people– please don’t get the Vickies all in a bunch.) I don’t even much care for this song (I believe I started with that statement). I just feel that in a fairly comprehensive, opinionated, research project, creative writing / journalisitic whatever this is– that you, Sir O’Leary spit this entry out to meet an arbitrary deadline and owe it a little further investigation, or at least, a bit more of your keen and awesome insight. Heck, you may have written more for effing “Beat Of Your Drum” for godsakes… I’m sorry if I’ve upset you, but, I stand by my entry and encourage ALL OF YOU to re-read it. God bless and all hail Chris O’Leary. Really, this blog has been my companion through my monogamous year-plus adventure through Bowie’s catalog. If Bowie writes a bad song (ahem, maybe this one) we can all say it, and should, and he’s our freakin’ hero (just for one lifetime). If The col1234 shrugs off an entry without a 70% completion rate, he should be called on it. Consider yourself called. And, I look forward to reading the revised entry in book 2, you magnificent bastard! Oh, the anonymous thing was just laziness on my part– my name is, actually, and i swear, Mike Smith. I would even mention my friggin’ state but… it’s not one that merits much respect so please allow me that one omission. James is my middle name. p.s. i fucking love this blog, never doubt that.
It’s clear that your comments come from your respect for Chris’ work, but as he said/requested above, why not present your own thoughts on the song? Not necessarily in your own write up; just a comment that adds something. You meant no offense, but comments like “dude are you burning out?” are not going to be appreciated, no matter how much you like the bulk of the articles.
Most of what makes this blog special is Chris’ writing, but another part is its comments section. There are a few rude quips once in a while,* and a few heated discussions, but the vast majority has a maturity and intelligence to it that is sorely lacking on the internet. It’s the inverse of YouTube! Your own thoughts will be appreciated as well.
* Chris, hopefully you got that my own rude quip re: sephirot was meant as a goof on these types of quips.
I’m pseudonymous and I like this blog post.
The line about Bowie being a stranded cat is the best comparison you’ve written since comparing “Time Will Crawl”‘s placement on Nothing Has Changed to a plane crash survivor. I’m still laughing about that one.
I like this song well enough. It’s nice to listen to on May 1st if nothing else. The vocals are pretty strong on this one, and I think if you weren’t paying very close attention, you could mistake it for one of his early 00s songs. It was this track that caused me to wonder if perhaps some of his old-man yelps were just put-on. Make fun of the “staaars” thing all you like, but he doesn’t warble here!
It’s also one of the few songs on the Extra list that doesn’t make me strangely depressed.
Hey Chris, sorry to hear about the rough month. Your writing is still superb though, if it’s any consolation. Hopefully things will clear up for you in the fall (:
As far as the song goes, it’s one of my preferred listens from this monster of a release. It probably should have been on the album itself.
There’s an odd lyric connection to the West Side Story song, “Somewhere.”
“Hold my hand, and I’ll take you there.”
Given the content of Bowie’s song, and the Sondheim musical, it makes you wonder…
There’s a sometimes off-putting part of Bowie that likes to crib “junk lyrics” and smack them into other songs. You’ve got a couple coming up to review still, both of which I enjoy. And in recent(ish) recording history, we find “When The Boys Come Marching Home.”
This is also one of the songs that references another album track in its lyrics. After fretting for an entire song, “Where Are We Now,” Bowie quite abruptly decides- “I don’t need to know, know where you are.”
Last bit of strange trivia. “Sophie and Lev” have Brooklyn namesakes. A coincidence perhaps, but Lev, according to his wiki page, “is a senior writer and book critic for TIME.” Maybe Bowie read a piece by him, and jotted the names in the back of his head.
I’m guessing “Sophie and Lev” are Tolstoy and his wife.
Could be (:
Well first I’m bummed that you had a rough month. You give out quite a bit more than you receive, it seems. Perhaps that karmic imbalance will be corrected someday soon. At least advertise a little on your next blog!
Love this song, it’s no Heroes but you can’t expect that all the time and why do we? it’s light and hooky and fun, a cross between “Beat of your drum” and John Cougar Mellencamp, some good old fashioned rock-n-roll ya ya.
This song is pretty dull and adds nothing to the Bowie oeuvre. Gerry Leonard wasn’t the right choice for this album. He needed to collaborate with younger, hungrier musicians to push him out of his comfort zone.
I can’t believe those are the final lyrics considering the amount of time he had to work on them.
I like this one a bit, but it sounds familiar enough to YSTWOF (a better song) to be worth of be included on the album.
This song, particularly the intro and verses, reminded me quite a bit of the faster paced “rock” tracks off of Scary Monsters.
Best Bowie song in 20 years or so! This should have been the single. It has even a nod to The man who sold the world era (the oh ohs in the middle of it). Thanks for made me discovering it!
Great guitar, but as soon as the lyrics start, the break kills all the power. The song tries to reclaim it but doesn’t quite succeed. And the atrociousness of the lyrics isn’t helping. It scores a little as a reminder of past experiments with breaks and chaos like Scary Monsters or Blackout though.
Only a decent B-side, with a lot of musical ideas regurgitated from other Next Day tracks, but I don’t get the criticism of the lyrics. “Well-sung bunk” is harsh – by Bowie’s standards, this is a coherent narrative, and the “what will be my name in the USA?” line, as Magnus says above, makes perfect sense in this story.
You know what, I quite like this one.
It’s an average rock song, yes, and I never actually listen to the lyrics, but I don’t find it either boring or annoying, so as far as I’m concerned it’s a successful b-side material.
The comic looks great. Too bad I don’t have the money for it ATM (annoyingly the postage to CZ costs more than the comic itself. sigh.)
Even though I’ve always tried to view Heat as the final song of the album, this song was the last one I heard if I was just letting the album run (being the final bonus track on the digital deluxe edition). As a result, it was perhaps the song that stuck in my head the most at the beginning, so I like it quite a lot. Lotta things to grab your attention, and well sung.
I don’t think the lyrics are necessarily bunk. I think it’s a fairly exciting story of a couple escaping persecution to form a new life, having to separate to stay alive. In my mind I had German Jews escaping the first days of the Third Reich, although it could also be Russians escaping the revolution or Stalin, or something else altogether. It touches the bases of identity, starting over etc. The subject matter has perhaps become more relevant than it was when it was written, as well. Between the worst migrant crisis in Europe and the Middle East since the Second World War – a crisis to which no-one has any solutions – and the US Republican primary race – in which immigrants are treated as sub-humans by multiple candidates including the frontrunner – these are very dark days for migration and refugees indeed.
The last 4 lines of that bridge are bunk, though.
This could have brightened up the second half of TND. It’s catchy, it doesn’t hang around and who hasn’t wondered what their name will be in the USA but, goodness me, Bowie sounds like he’s singing in the bath.
It’s become a bit of a feature since Hours, when Bowie albums started to sprawl, really smart catchy stuff has been booted in favour of hardgoing songs; perhaps there’s a latterday mistrust of melody?
Yes, I think you are right. Al least, he could “balance” the albums with rocking song like this. What a pity!
Can I get a reminder of what got booted on Hours?
don’t know if they were booted as such, but there were a few bonus tracks like “1917,” “We All Go Through” “No One Calls” probably blanking on others.
And my favorite, We Shall Go to Town…
Then there’s Heathen – which (the main portion at least) is missing Safe and Wood Jackson, either could replace Cactus if you ask me. Then there’s Reality, where the theory almost falls to bits, though maybe you could swap Fly for one of the covers. But, anyway, I’m holding to a slightly old fashioned concept of albums, that they’re released, finished and done, and that they have a finite number of songs.
Oh my, more work: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/sep/01/spongebob-musical-hires-david-bowie-and-cyndi-lauper-to-write-songs
not for me!
i can’t believe no one’s mentioned the ELO riff yet.
From “Don’t Bring Me Down”? Yeah, I hear it too.
This is my five year old daughter’s first favorite Bowie song. This song engaged her and caused Bowie to resonate for her. It is such a fun hooky song.
Sorry for posting it so late, I should have posted it two years ago.
Born in the former Eastern Bloc ruled by the Soviet Union and now living in West Europe, far from my home country this song has lyrics I can very much relate to and which touches me deeply.
The 1st of May is not just a random date Bowie threw in the the text. This day, the International Workers’ Day was maybe the most important public holiday in the communist countries, on which day they were celebrating themselves by organising big public celebrations, rallies, parades in every communities. The biggest one was held in the capital of the country. There was a huge rally place in the capitals (actually in the capital where I lived it still exists) where on the side there was a huge tribune where the leaders of the communist party were standing and smiling greeting the mass of workers who were marching by under the tribune and hailing and looking up to the leaders. (Desribed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Workers%27_Day#Europe)
Of course it was all hypocrisy.
The International Workers’ Day was chosen because the slogan was that in communism the working class has the power. Everybody knew this is a lie. All these countries were ruled by the Communist Party in Moscow and by the Soviet army. People were greeting the leaders not because they wanted to but because they had to. People who did not want to attend became suspicious citizens, which was the first step to become an enemy of the state.
The attendees were grouped by the companies they were working in. The announcer said: “And the next is company XY coming, blah-blah”, the workers of the said company were marching by the tribune, smiles, greetings and that was it. After that people got free sausages and beers (of horrible quality) and by the end of the day most were drunk. The rally was televised and as there was only one television channel (at least until the second half of the 80s) you had to watch it if you wanted to watch TV.
The rally in Moscow (I think, the couple in the song are Russians, thanks to Steve M.) should have been huge, with millions of people. (And in one week there was a huge celebration of the Soviet Army: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victory_Day_(9_May)#Celebration)
The first verse eerily describes this situation, the feeling which surely millions in these countries shared.
The chorus is about planning to escape from the communist authority to the West. It reflects perfectly the hopes one has when one leaves the county where one was born. Will I have a better life there? How will life there? Will it be easy to start a new life there? Will be everything ok? (Magnus Genioso summarized it very well in his comment.)
Escaping from these countries was dangerous of life as the people who wanted to cross the Iron Curtain were free to kill by the border patrol. And if they succeed, their families, friends often had a hard time at home. They were watched, interrogated and classified as enemies which could mean for example that the were not hired or they could not go to university and they were not allowed to travel to the West anymore, or at all. The ones who left the country were called “dissidents” and often they did not heard for years from their beloved ones at home. Post was confiscated and telephone was a rarity, one had to request it and wait for it for a long time. And only people loyal to the party got one.
The lyrics of the bridge (it seems altough both of them wanted to escape only one of them succeed) catch these feelings perfectly, when you have a beloved one somewhere home, you do not know how is it them going, whether they still live and as far you know you will never heard from them in your life anymore. The line with the stars may sound corny but there have been and probably still are many-many people in the world whose only option to make a connection to their loved ones was looking up the stars and hoping that they look up the stars at the same moment.
How Bowie – who always lived in the “free world” – could capture the feelings of people behind the Iron Curtain so perfectly is beyond me. My respect from him has grown even bigger, as far as it was possible at all. What a great artist.
Reading the TND entries it seems that he must have read something about the Soviet Union during his hiatus and it was reflected in some songs of the album, like the KGB assassination with the needle in You Feel So Lonely You Could Die or the quotation of Stalin’s daughter in How Does the Grass Grow? (as Momus thought, You Feel So Lonely You Could Die could be really about Stalin, from the perspective of someone who suffers under the communist oppression). These songs are related for me, these are the East Europe on TND songs in my book.