So She


So She.

Like “God Bless the Girl,” “So She” was a promising song from the Next Day sessions demoted to a bonus track. Started at the Magic Shop in September 2011 (the core group here was David Torn and Gerry Leonard on guitars, Tony Visconti on bass and Zachary Alford on drums), its odd structure is a whirl of feints and altered and swapped roles. A stark rockabilly guitar turns out to be some harsh prep for the song’s main hook, a dancing six-note melody (with leaps of sixth and seventh intervals) carried on keyboard and guitar. The chord progression of the first verse gets reused for the outro, while the second verse nicks the intro’s A major progression. And what seems like a refrain, a bittersweet eight-bar shift to C# minor and F# (“further out to sea…”), turns out to be a bridge: it appears only once, with Bowie singing the title line over the return of the intro hook.

Paced by acoustic guitar (Bowie, showing yet again he’s an underrated acoustic player) and Visconti’s restless bass, colored by Leonard and Torn’s atmospheres (and the occasional piano dub, like the raindrops of notes starting at 1:57) and a Visconti/Bowie string arrangement that builds from ruminative long-held notes in the bridge to fluttering figures for the title line, “So She” shines for what seems like a moment, then winds down into silence.

There’s a trace of “Slip Away” (“slide away”) and “The Motel” (“the priceless man,” meet “the odorless man”), and echoes of other The Next Day pieces—purloined eyes; lunar eclipses. Mainly it’s the return of “The Loneliest Guy“: the broken lonelyheart figure that Bowie’s played since “Letter to Hermione.” The second verse’s brief lyric—“she saw me smile….feeling like…I’d never been”—offers a happy ending at last: he’s found a love that makes him feel as if he hasn’t been born. Yet the reveal is that she makes him forget, for a moment, what he really is: “the only one and all alone.” And there it ends. Even the title’s a fragment: so she what? We’ll never know, nor will he, apparently.

Recorded: (backing tracks) ca. 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: “Chris JL,” “Shoreditch, 2012.”

47 Responses to So She

  1. Galdo says:

    This track is so Heathen-ish. It reminds me of ‘I Would Be Your Slave’ and ‘A Better Future’. The album would benefit with the inclusion of the track, giving it another colour. I think it’s a lovely track.

    • roobin101 says:

      Definitely I Would Be Your Slave, melody, chords, mood… Bowie should sue himself. I love the song, the shifting, unstable mood, the glockenspiel riff, that and the whole thing’s wrapped up in two and a half minutes…

      Also big up to the 242 bus route, East London’s weirdest.

    • Vinnie says:

      Agreed! And I never thought of that until you said so.

  2. Dave says:

    A refreshing track. The song is devoid of the suffocation that pervades on The Next Day. A bit like the bonus Julie on ‘NLMD’,

  3. One of my favourites from the album, and it barely made the cut!

    Structurally it reminds me of the songs from Low, but it also feels like some of the stronger tracks from Toy. I can imagine a 1969 Bowie cutting a version of this.

    • Patrick says:

      Yes I thought it was another potential 60s Bowie soundalike, it’s pleasant enough and one of the better off cut extras but doesn’t quite feel resolved or fully satisfying in its current form. Still with a little workover, I might have swapped it for “Dancing out in space” or another weaker TND track.

  4. Mr Tagomi says:

    The six-note hook sounds very Sixties to me, for whatever reason.

    • col1234 says:

      yeah. it could even be a recycle from some ’60s DB song, but nothing rang a bell

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        It keeps making me think of Petula Clark, and that has made me remember Love You Til Tuesday. It seems like a distant cousin of the opening hook in that.

  5. The opening bars remind me very much of Gary Numan.

    • Patrick says:

      Funnily enough, (or not) I got a hint of Love Missile F -11 (which Bowie covered) but I think that harks back to 1950s rock without being more specific than that.

      • Great cover, but respectfully I don’t really hear the connection myself. Maybe I’m just dumb. But I do hear Numan from :12 going forward. And of course “So She” is very similar in title to “She Was” by the Talking Heads. Bowie always nicking from others.

    • s.t. says:

      I think of “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side” by the MFs and a little bit of “Caterpillar” by the Cure.

  6. roobin101 says:

    It puts me in mind of Belle and Sebastian for some reason.

  7. Silveryjim says:

    Perhaps like Feathers having a crack at Pulp’s shuffling Mile End? Hands down my favourite track from the sessions, alongside the other ‘Extra’ track, the insane Born In A UFO. Both sad and reflective. I can imagine an acoustic demo for Low sounding like this.

  8. MC says:

    The Belle and Sebastian comparison is a good call. Quite a nice track, but a shade underdeveloped for my taste.

  9. Brief and melancholy.

  10. Ramzi says:

    A gorgeous song in my opinion, but where would it go on the album? While it’s a much better song than Boss of Me, it disrupts the album’s flow wherever you put it in a way the latter doesn’t. The only place I can think of is the end, but Heat has got to be the final track.

    • col1234 says:

      well on the Deluxe CD it sorta works as the “encore”song after Heat

      • Michael says:

        It fits quite nicely after God Bless the Girl at the end of the Extra CD. Its undeveloped qualities work for me, reflecting the ambiguities of the words and their delivery – the drawn out ‘so she’ and ‘the only one and all alone’ shifting into ‘the only one and not alone’ at the end.

      • Ramzi says:

        yeah I agree, I think it works very well and is probably its best place at the end of the day

    • Verdelay says:

      I place it third in my user-defined cut of TND, between Dirty Boys and How Does The Grass Grow? Effectively replacing ‘Stars’ (which doesn’t make the grade), So She provides breathing space between the denser textures. To my ear it is of a piece with Up the Hill Backwards and Without You.

      The Next Day
      Dirty Boys
      So She
      How Does The Grass Grow?
      I’d Rather Be High
      Where Are We Now?

      Valentine’s Day
      If You Can See Me
      The Informer
      God Bless The Girl
      You Feel So Lonely You Could Die

      A 12 song, 46 minute treatise on violence and fragility. Perfect.

  11. Dave L says:

    Think it could be about Hermione? I’m just wondering if he’s having these intensely romantic feelings for her in his old age and this is a little cut-up poem about her.

    who knows.

    It’s such gorgeous little thing this song, it suggests so many things and emotions.

  12. s.t. says:

    Cute But

  13. Dave L says:

    Excellent write up, by the way, and I love the photo you chose, it’s fascinating.

    • col1234 says:

      yeah, just marvelous composition in that photo. all the parallels and contrasts; the sense of perspective and forward movement; the sense of shape: all those triangles & squares!; the cigarette in the bottom left as fourth-wall breaking; the noble, unreadable expression on the girl, who controls the whole frame.

      • Silveryjim says:

        On a personal note, a lovely reminder of where I was living when listening to this song nonstop.

      • Ramzi says:

        and £5 for any pizza or pasta is an absolute bargain for London

      • Mr Tagomi says:

        Actually, was the choice of pic this week prompted at all by the Shortditch anti-hipster riot at the weekend?

        I was on my first visit to London for 25 years last weekend and was invited to go to a comedy gig in Shoreditch, only to learn the next day that if I’d gone I might have stumbled upon this incident.

      • Dave L says:

        yes all the things you said, and the beautiful girl in front, she controls the frame, and yet doesn’t even seem to be a part of the scene at the same time, whether it’s her pensive expression or her energy, it just seems as if she’s walking somewhere else entirely.

        The two behind her seem to be “together,” and yet the man is taking a few steps ahead, as if trying — however unconsciously — to catch up to the first woman.

        A few other details pop out using the magnifier — seems to be a reflection in a bus window of a security camera pointing right at us; and the magazine the young woman is holding says “SHE’S A SLASHE,” whatever that means.

        Incredible pic.

      • Dave L says:

        Another thing just hit me — pic really reminds me of the cover photo of Rush’s “Permanent Waves” – amazing resemblance in many ways, theme, energy, etc.

        Okay, enough about the pic, back to Bowie 😉

  14. Vinnie says:

    My absolute favorite song from TND-era, and I wish it were out front more. MC’s points I agree with – Belle & Sebastian? Definitely. Underdeveloped? Good good – Bowie perhaps develops his songs too much, and needs to allow for more breathing room. The arrangement is sparse, lively, and enjoyable.

    The upbeat sound with the sad lyrics? How Morrissey/how Smiths.

    (love it love it love it)

  15. Peter Ramsey says:

    Love this track; absolutely puts me in mind of the gem-like little songs on LOW, that are over almost before they’ve really begun. I love Bowie’s miniaturist mode.

  16. Bowietiedaddy says:

    Belle and Sebastian? This is so Arcade Fire!! One of their quiet songs… but made with gusto and nuance, of course. Good David, another great song to the dustbin.
    By the way, the picture reminds me of Brian de Palma, it’s beautiful and odd. That guy with shades behind the girl…
    This blog doesn’t remind me anything else.

  17. Jubany says:

    Belle & Sebastian? Well, sort of…
    When I first heard this track I thought: “Bowie wrote a Neil Hannon tune!”
    The croon is typically Bowie’s, but you can easily imagine Hannon’s over the very same backing track, arrangements and all.

  18. colincidence says:

    Further out to sea, but there’s something in the AAAAAIIIIIRRRRR.

  19. Maj says:

    I really, really like this one. If it was a more complete track I would probably put it at the top of this era’s bonus songs.
    It’s just SO LOVELY. Bowie rarely does these, but he sure can. It’s just that he seems embarrassed by this ability, being his own biggest anal fanboy.
    The lyrics are vague for sure. I really wanted to find a photo of mine for this entry but the song is just so fleeting and nothing seemed to fit my perception of it. Oh well.

    The pic used is another angle…and a good one. Nice bus. Nice legs.

  20. steven says:

    maybe’s it’s just my twitter but the response to the new track seems reallly great. TLP trending on twitter too.

  21. Patrick says:

    Slightly off topic but yet another compilation from DB I notice , the 69 to 73 called FIVE YEARS . I’m assuming he or his management feel there is a demand for such things still but as much as we applaud his genius , and (at times) canny business sense , part of me feels he is milking things a bit excessively , with all the other stuff it’s not as if he was not well served by pre TND compilations that could have been reissued. But that’s show business, I expect, and I suppose there is a whole generation that wants to discover shiny but “same old things in brand new drag”.
    At least he is also adding to his catalogue.

    • col1234 says:

      the plus is that these discs will be sold separately and will become the new “default” Bowie CDs. which is good, as they sound better than the 1999 EMIs, for the most part. but otherwise, yeah, putting out this massive set but not even including “Velvet Goldmine” and the rest of the Ryko bonus tracks is a bit ridiculous.

      • Matt says:

        Velvet Goldmine is included. The set aims to collate all officially released (at the time) tracks. Bonus material as per the Ryko editions will be saved for the inevitable deluxe 2CD sets using the new remasters for disc 1.

      • col1234 says:

        yes: I meant “Sweet Head” (& also “Bombers” etc.)

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