Don’t Sit Down

December 1, 2009

Don’t Sit Down.

“Don’t Sit Down” is a squib, a 40-second lazy jam with a Bowie guide vocal that soon cracks up. Its presence on Space Oddity is part of the deliberate informality of late ’60s LPs, from Jimi Hendrix coughing at the start of “Rainy Day, Dream Away” to Dylan murmuring “Is [the tape] rolling, Bob?” on Nashville Skyline to the king of them all, the Beatles’ White Album, which is riddled with mutters, coughs, false starts, control room chat, outtakes (the fiddle scrapings at the end of “Don’t Pass Me By,” etc.) and tiny shards of discarded tracks. Something that would get an engineer or producer reprimanded in 1963 was now proof that a band was keeping it real.

RCA deleted “Don’t Sit Down” when it reissued the Space Oddity LP in 1972 and the track finally was restored on the Rykodisc 1990 CD release. No one had missed it.


Don’t Let Me Down and Down

October 9, 2012

T Beyby (Tahra, 1988).
Don’t Let Me Down and Down (Tahra, 1988).
Don’t Let Me Down and Down (Bowie).
Don’t Let Me Down and Down (Indonesian vocal).

Sometime in 1992, Iman went on a trip to Paris and returned home with a CD made by a friend of hers. She played the album for her new husband and suggested that he cover something from it. Aloft in the giddy state of early marriage, he happily agreed. So the most obscure cover of Bowie’s life began as a wedding gift.

Tahra Mint Hembara, the musician, was born in Néma, in southeast Mauritania, in 1959. Often described in Bowie literature as a “Mauritanian princess,” she was more accurately a hereditary griot, a member of Mauritania’s caste of poets and musicians  (her aunt was a revered griot, Lekhdera Mint Ahmed Zeidane). Tahra, who was also strikingly beautiful, did some modeling in Europe, which is how she met Iman and how, one assumes, she got connected with Pathé Marconi EMI, who gave her a record contract.

Her first, and to my knowledge only, album on a Western label, Yamen Yamen, was produced by Michel Pascal and Martine Valmont. It was an album of, in the words of the Rough Guide to West Africa, “Mooro-Tech”: songs derived from the traditional modal system of Mauritania (a five-mode system in which a musician plays each mode via two different scales, often called “black” and “white”*) but which were interpreted by French musicians in state-of-the-art Parisian studios in 1988.

It wasn’t as odd a fusion as one would imagine, as Mauritanian music had been more receptive to outside influences than other traditional North African musics, reflecting its location (Mauritania is the large vestibule between the Western Saharan nations of Algeria and Morocco and the Western African nations of Senegal and Mali) and its population, a mix of Berbers and Arabs, Wolof and Soninke. At the same time Mauritanian griots kept to strict gender roles: men played the tidinit (a four-stringed lute) while women, including Tahra, played a harp variant called the ardin (you can see Tahra playing it here, in a concert earlier this year at the Institut Français de Mauritanie.)

For her album, Tahra wrote a haunting song called “T Beyby” that was sequenced as the LP closer. Built of sparse materials—Alain Caron’s fretless bass, Olivier Hutman’s keyboards and Christophe Pascal’s drum programming—“Beyby” was a vehicle for Tahra’s unique voice, which was as harsh as it was unearthly, seemingly existing outside of its song, an exile’s voice captured in an exquisite net of sound; her voice was also the sonic equivalent to her ardin, which plays a jabbing two-note ostinato in the track’s closing minute. The refrain, the hypnotic “den eden dani den edani,” seems like an ardin line reincarnated as words.**

Taken by the song and convinced it could be a possible single, Tahra’s producer Martine Valmont wrote an English lyric for “T Beyby,” renaming it “Don’t Let Me Down and Down” (an English syllabic near-equivalent to Tahra’s refrain) and radically altered the song’s mood. “T Beyby” was sung by a man who’s learned that the woman he loves has left her husband. “He rejoices and thanks God for the Arab proverb, ‘all things return to their source.’” Valmont’s translation, allegedly inspired by a friend who’d recently died, introduced obsession and fatalism into the song: a woman, trapped in a cycle of despair, begs her lover not to let her down yet again.

So Bowie had a palette of choices when covering the song. He could return to the original version’s sense of divine liberation or delve further into the obsessional qualities of the translation, and he could build on the Western/Arabic fusion of “The Wedding.” Unfortunately he did nothing of the sort, instead condemning the song to a fate of glossy schlock, the unwelcome return of the sound of Tonight at its immaculate nadir, with overbearing backing singers, a glittering wall of keyboards, tasteful guitar fills and an airless production that seemed intent on smothering any sense of mystery in the song.

Still, Bowie’s “Don’t Let Me Down and Down” would have been comfortably banal but for his vocal. For whatever reason, Bowie decided to sing the first verses in a cod-patois, some baffling attempt at a vague Jamaican or French-inspired accent (“steel I keep my lurve for youuu,” he begins) that hovers between his lower register and a croaking somnolent timbre. As though shamed by Lester Bowie’s fluttering beauty of a trumpet solo, by far the finest thing on the track, Bowie corrected course in the latter half of the song, lunging into his high register, riffing against the ghastly backing singers and impressively flailing away in an attempt to make the song seem like a Young Americans outtake. It was too late: the mix of a crass arrangement and a bewildering, schizophrenic vocal made “Don’t Let Me Down & Down” one of Bowie’s most disappointing covers.

Recorded ca. summer-fall 1992, Mountain Studios, Montreux and Power Station, NYC. Released in April 1993 on Black Tie White Noise. Planned as the third single from the record until the bankruptcy filing of Savage Records in late 1993. Bowie’s Indonesian vocal (which is preferable to the English one) was released on Indonesian pressings of the album and later included on the reissue of Black Tie White Noise.

* The “black” and “white” scales reportedly have no racial connotations; unfortunately I couldn’t find much information as to their differences. (Tahra and/or her producers translated “Don’t Let Me Down” into an A-flat tonality, with the song built of rich augmented chords—the verses and solo sway between an F minor eleventh and an Ab major seventh (vi11-Imaj7) while the chorus moves from dominant (E-flat) through Ab and Fm11 to close on a D-flat major 7th (V-I-vi11-IVmaj7). The presence, if muted, of “black and white” scales fit symbolically with Bowie’s own “Black Tie White Noise.”

** Though presumably Bowie had the lyric sheet, at times he seems to have learned the song phonetically, singing along to Tahra’s oddly-accented English. Hence he sings “you jog-jog in my memory” instead of “judge and jury in my memory,” among a few other clunkers.

Some recent footage of Tahra is on YouTube: an apparent backstage performance of “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” and some fantastic ardin picking here.

Top: Mikael Colville-Anderson, “Kazghar Chicken Express,” Xinxiang Province, China, 1992.


Links: Chapters 1-3

March 24, 2015

Chapter 1: The Junior Visualizer (1964-1966)

bowie '65

“Liza Jane” (Toy)
“Louie Louie Go Home”
“I Pity The Fool”
“Take My Tip”
“That’s Where My Heart Is”
“I Want My Baby Back”
Bars of the County Jail”
“You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving”
(Toy)
“Baby Loves That Way”
(Toy)
“I’ll Follow You”
“Glad I’ve Got Nobody”
“Baby, That’s a Promise”
“Can’t Help Thinking About Me”
“And I Say to Myself”
“Do Anything You Say”
“Good Morning Girl”
“I Dig Everything”
(Toy)
“I’m Not Losing Sleep”

More: Britain on Film (Look at Life): “Fashion,” London on Film: “Suburbs,” “Why I Hate the Sixties” (2004); Richard Hoggart, The Uses of Literacy (conclusion); Devin McKinney on Colin MacInnes; Nick Bentley, “Translating English: Youth, Race and Nation in Colin MacInnes’s City of Spades and Absolute Beginners;” Bowie: Tonight interview, November 1964; The Beatles Anthology: 1963, 1964, 1965; “British Mods and Rockers” (BBC); scenes from Billy Liar;  Georgie Fame, “Yeh Yeh“; Glenn Gould, “The Search for Petula Clark“(1967); Bowie, radio interview, Marquee Club, 1966; Pye Studios.

Chapter 2: Gnome Man’s Land (1966-1968)

db1

“Rubber Band” (album remake)
“The London Boys”
(Toy)
“Over the Wall We Go”
“Uncle Arthur”
“She’s Got Medals”
“Join the Gang”
“Did You Ever Have a Dream”
“There Is a Happy Land”
“We Are Hungry Men”
“Sell Me a Coat
” (remake)
“Little Bombardier”
“Maid of Bond Street”
“Silly Boy Blue”
(Toy)
“Come and Buy My Toys”
“Please Mr. Gravedigger”
The Laughing Gnome
The Gospel According To Tony Day
When I Live My Dream
(remake)
Love You Till Tuesday
(single remake)

David-Bowie-1967

“Waiting For the Man”: (1967) (1970) (1972) (1976)
Little Toy Soldier
Pancho
Everything Is You
“Silver Tree Top School For Boys”:
(Slender Plenty) (Beatstalkers)
April’s Tooth of Gold
“Let Me Sleep Beside You”
(Toy)
“Karma Man”
(BBC, 1968)
“C’est La Vie”

“Even a Fool Learns to Love”
“In the Heat of the Morning” (Toy)
“London Bye Ta-Ta”
(1970 remake)
“When I’m Five” (BBC, 1968
) (demo, 1969)
“Social Kind of Girl”
“Ching-a-Ling”
“The Mask”

More: The Strange World of Gurney Slade (1960: Ep. 1, opening sequence); Anthony Newley, live, 1964; Alan Klein, “I Wanna Be a Beatnik“, 1964; Alan Sillitoe, The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner (esp. “Uncle Ernest,” “The Decline and Fall of Frankie Buller” and “The Disgrace of Jim Scarfedale”); There Is a Happy Land (1974 adaptation); Heinrich Harrer, “My Life in Forbidden Lhasa” (1955); Ophiel, The Art and Practice of Astral Projection (1961);  David Guy, “Christmas Humphreys”; The Prisoner, excerpt from “Fall Out” (1967); “Forgotten Heroes: Big Jim Sullivan“; The Mothers of Invention, Freak Out (1966); The Fugs, “Dirty Old Man,”(1966); Ken Nordine, “Word Jazz” (1957); The Image (Armstrong, 1967, excerpts).

Chapter 3: The Free States’ Refrain (1969)

db69

“Space Oddity” (demo) (original version) (1979 remake)
“Love Song”
“Life Is a Circus”
“Letter to Hermione”
(demo)
“An Occasional Dream”
(demo)
“Janine”
“Conversation Piece”
(Toy)
“Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” (B-side)
(LP remake)
“Don’t Sit Down”

“God Knows I’m Good”
“Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed”
“Cygnet Committee”
” (“Lover to the Dawn”, demo version)
“Memory of a Free Festival”
” (1970 remake)

More:  2001: A Space Odyssey (“Stargate” sequence); The Bee Gees, “New York Mining Disaster 1941“; Apollo 11, pre-flight conference, July 1969;  International Times (1969 archive); Scott Walker, live in Japan, 1970; Jean Itard, Victor de l’Aveyron (French) (English); Prof. John Merryman, France: May 1968; MC5, “Kick Out the Jams” live, Detroit, 1969; Rolling Stones, Hyde Park free concert, July 1969; George McKay, “The Free Festivals and Fairs of Albion” (in Senseless Acts of Beauty); Beckenham Free Festival, 1969.


Dirty Song

October 5, 2011

Dirty Song.

Written with his friend Ludwig “Lud” Prestel, Brecht’s poem, known variously as “Baal’s Song,” “Dirty Song” or just the opening line “If a Woman’s Hips Are Ample,” dates to July 1918 and was included in the first version of Baal. It’s in Scene 7, in which Baal has been reduced, like a fading rock star, to performing as a burlesque of his former self at a seedy club called the Night Cloud. He haggles over his “contractual brandy” rations, sings dirty ballads (while dressed in tails and a child’s sailor hat) to a drunken audience. He finally flees into the latrine with his guitar, crawls out through the window and runs off into the woods.

“Dirty Song,” described by John Willett as Baal’s “last disgusting gesture,” is the shortest Bowie song since “Don’t Sit Down;” with its “stage Cockney” vocal and woodwind/horn arrangement, it could’ve been an outtake from Bowie’s debut album. Three quick, nasty verses and it’s over with a plop.

Baal was taped on 8-12 August 1981, BBC Television Centre (unfortunately there’s no accessible footage of “Dirty Song” and the other two remaining songs); shown on BBC1, 2 February 1982. Studio version recorded in September 1981 at Hansa on the Wall, Berlin; EP released 13 February 1982.

Top: Augusto Braidotti, “Heidelbergerstrasse,” 1981.


Angel Angel Grubby Face

May 28, 2019

pathe

Angel Angel Grubby Face (earlier demo, 1968).
Angel Angel Grubby Face (later demo, presumably 1968).

Around February 1968, Bowie and his then-manager, Ken Pitt, “were still working on the assumption that all our problems at Decca would be solved and that David would continue to have his recordings released on the Deram label,” Pitt wrote in his memoir. Though his debut David Bowie had been a flop, Bowie was encouraged by Decca’s Hugh Mendl to start planning a second album, to be produced by Tony Visconti and cut in spring 1968. So Pitt and Bowie “sat down one night and compiled a list of possible titles…songs already recorded and rejected as singles…a number of old songs and some new ones that he had been writing at the flat.”

The latter included songs whose demos Pitt was sending out at the time, some of which were recorded by the Beatstalkers and the Slender Plenty (“Everything Is You,” “Silver Tree Top School For Boys,” “When I’m Five,” “C’est La Vie“). Bowie split with Deram once their rejection of the “In the Heat of the Morning” single made it clear they’d written him off as a dud, and when he got his next record deal a year later, he had the likes of “Space Oddity” and “Letter to Hermione” to offer. Looking back on Bowie’s never-made 1968 album, Pitt mused that “I suppose that David has forgotten that he ever wrote some of those songs, but they live on in my box files where I keep his original manuscripts, typewritten by himself or written in his own hand.”

With the Spying Through a Keyhole set, we finally hear a few of these ghost songs in demo form:* “Angel Angel Grubby Face” even appears twice. Mark Adams’ liner notes argue for its second, presumably-later-recorded demo as having a guitarist other than Bowie, as it’s a finger-picked style he rarely used: DB was a born strummer. If it’s not Bowie playing, possible candidates are John Hutchinson (which could place the second demo as late as winter 1969) or Tony Hill, Bowie’s mayfly partner in the folk trio Turquoise in summer 1968.** [The more I’ve listened to it, the more I disagree with Adams—this sounds like Bowie, if playing more ambitiously than usual.]

davidbowie-occasional-dreaming2

Lyrically, “Angel Angel” falls in with David Bowie tracks like “Maid of Bond Street” and “There Is a Happy Land,” here contrasting hustling time-bound city life with a pastoral escape-land—a dozing bumblebee, “naked sky,” and an oak tree with generous shade, where lovers from Factory Street meet on stolen Sundays. There’s a briskness to Bowie’s “city” lines, which the alternate demo shows he shuffled around to try different phrasings: buses and smoke, disorder and vouchers (or buses and vouchers, smoke and disorder). Call it a sequel to his 1966 single “I Dig Everything” (which Bowie was reviving for a potential cabaret set at the time), with a “briefcase prince” shackled to the nine-to-five city world he’d once laughed at from his bedsit window.

Some of its melodies are also in “London Bye Ta-Ta,” which Bowie cut as a prospective B-side in March 1968—compare the “Angel” verse’s four-beat phrases (“Sun-day oak-tree,” “Mon-day mor-ning”) to “red-light green-light” in the latter, or the “Angel” refrain (“your briefcase prince is by your side”) to the bridge of “Ta-Ta” (“the poet in the clothes shop…”). As the two songs were contemporaneous, being pressed onto a two-sided acetate around this time, it suggests that Bowie was looking to see where some melodic ideas fit better, and “Ta Ta” apparently won. (The later demo sounds as if done in part to tweak the “Ta Ta” melody, especially in the refrain.)

Bowie sings the later demo quietly and somberly, aligned with the more intricate, bass-heavy guitar line. His refrain lyric now begins “‘Tom, Tom,’ she whispers low/ ‘don’t forget my name’,” a revision that darkens his song. What was once “citizens of town” slipping off to the country to be lovers could now be a seduction by a cad who’ll soon get on the train and leave the girl behind—the “she wants to feel older” line becomes more troubling. If he remembers her at all, it will be by the mocking nickname that he gave her under the oak tree.

Recorded: (early demo) ca. December 1967-early spring 1968. Possible locations (London): Kenneth Pitt’s apartment, 39 Manchester Street; Essex Music, 68 Oxford Street. David Bowie: lead and backing vocal, acoustic guitar; (later demo) summer?-winter? 1968. Along w/ previously-mentioned locations, 22 Clareville Grove. Acoustic guitar: Bowie? Hutchinson? Hill? First release: 5 April 2019, Spying Through a Keyhole.

Just FYI: Patreon contributors got this post some days ago, and also got an essay on Lodger at 40, so they’re having a truly wonderful month, I’ve been told.

* Of Pitt’s track list, only “Tiny Tim” and “The Reverend Raymond Brown (Attends the Garden Fete on Thatchwick Green)” remain unreleased or un-bootlegged. Perhaps their turn will come in the next expensive box set of 7″ singles this year!

** As Bowie found Hill via a personal ad DB had in the International Times of 14-27 June 1968, this would place the 2nd “Angel Face” demo (if it is Hill) between then and ca. October ’68, when Hill left Turquoise.

Top: London street scene, summer 1967, from “Swinging Britain,” a British Pathé newsreel.


(Could It Really Be?) the Last Xmas

December 21, 2018

bowie-xmas

Do They Know It’s Christmas? (Live Aid, 1985).
Bowie’s 2013 Xmas “Elvis” Message.
Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy.
Peter and the Wolf.
The Snowman.
Feed the World.

This blog turns 10 years old next year. Those of you who have followed it for a while know that one of its (unintentional) traditions is a Christmas post in which I, the fool who runs the “Bowie song by song” site, say something like “well, it looks like X is going to be the last year for the blog. We’re almost done.”

And then something happens in the following year—new Bowie music, another slowdown in production, etc.—so that I appear at year’s end to say pretty much the same thing.

This time it’s really and truly over. Well, in a way. All the Bowie songs (as of today) have been written about: in the book, if not on here. No doubt some new song will appear soon—possibly on his birthday! (You don’t have to make that joke, really!) But whatever the situation, this doesn’t mean the blog will shut down, nor that I won’t put up new posts on occasion, especially when something new happens in Bowieland (I’m assuming there’ll be a Tin Machine and/or a “Black Tie-to-whenever” box set in the new year.)

But we are moving into a more “posthumous” period in this blog, sad to say. It feels fitting—the end of a decade, a move ahead into something new.

So, a few things:

Ashes to Ashes will be out in mid February and can be pre-ordered in all sorts of ways (see link).

There will be some fun promotional events for it early next year. Things will kick off with two New York City dates—McNally Jackson in Soho, on Thursday 21 February 2019; and Rough Trade in Brooklyn, on Monday 25 February 2019. With hope, there will be some UK events relatively soon after that in March, and other appearances in the US throughout the year.

During 2019, I’m going to start working my way towards another project (or two), in a new blog or site. If this interests you, I’ll likely have some more details in a month or so. It’ll be quite a long road, full of detours—a shocker, I know.

I’d like to say thanks again to all of you. To commenters old and new, and to anyone who bought a book or has had something kind to say about them. Happy Xmas, happy New Year, Happy “we’re still here, and doing okay.” Here’s to the future. Take care.


Chapter Twelve: Forward Into Remove (2001-2002)

December 19, 2018

pulse02

Epigraphs   Chapter title’s from Jana Prikryl’s poem “Argus, or Fear of Flying,” collected in The After Party; claws are showing through: to Vin Scelsa, “Idiot’s Delight,” 13 June 1993; I wouldn’t think about the future: Dylan interviewed in Sing Out!, October/November 1968.

492  I’ve Been Waiting For You  released as a Canadian CD single (Columbia 38K 003369), while an edit that’s roughly 15 seconds longer is on Heathen‘s SACD edition. Grohl: cut his solo presumably at his Alexandria, Virginia-based home studio, ca. October 2001; engineered: Visconti’s 2nd engineers at Allaire were Brandon Mason and Todd Vos; at Looking Glass, Christian Rutledge and Hector Castillo; Live By Request: not aired during broadcast—it’s on YouTube at present; live: there’s one bootleg (“Pas Alcohol!”) of a 21 October 2003 Paris show with “I’ve Been Waiting for You” in the setlist, but apparently the song wasn’t performed any other time that year. It went back into rotation in 2004; serious songs: to Jim Farber, NY Daily News, 9 June 2002; cut and tailored before I went in: transcript of DB interview by Robert Cherry for Alternative Press, 23 October 2001; little creative tags…alive and sober: Visconti, Brooklyn Boy, 349; crock of songs: to Jeff Gordiner, Entertainment Weekly, 31 May 2002; magnum opus…layers and layers of overdubs: to Richard Buskin, Sound on Sound, October 2003.

493   harmonic structure had improved: Sound on Sound, October 2003; cut up beats and pasted them: Brooklyn Boy, 350; trebling up on loops: Cherry transcript, 23 October 2001; Catskills: the Hudson River valley and the Catskills have long been something of a rock ‘n’ roll theme park; it’s surprising there aren’t Van Morrison and Dylan re-enactors. The Band’s “Big Pink” house is in West Saugerties, Steely Dan’s Annandale-on-Hudson and Barrytown are across the river, Opus 40 is off the NY Thruway, and the former Bearsville Studios (once Todd Rundgren’s playhouse, now a private home) is near Woodstock, where Dylan crashed his motorcycle on Striebel Road. Further west is Bethel, where the Woodstock Festival took place. Its 1994 sequel was in Saugerties, its ghastly 1999 edition upstate in Rome; very American but aristocratic…Spartan quality about it…accumulated in my mind: to Ingrid Sischy, Interview, June 2002; bought a mountain: During an early 2010s visit to New Paltz, NY, a local told me “oh, that’s Bowie’s mountain,” pointing from a downtown street (btw, if ever in New Paltz, visit Jack’s Rhythms). Bowie bought Little Tonche Mountain for $1.16 million in 2003 (he shot the video for “Bring Me the Disco King” there) with the apparent intention of building a home on the mountainside. This never happened, but he did later buy a house in the Woodstock area (fans of real estate can read Blair Golson, NY Observer, 21 July 2003, and Judy Dutton, Realtor, 17 January 2016); wasn’t a rock ‘n’ roll life: Brooklyn Boy, 353.

02muncie

494   bookends firmly in place: to Gil Kaufman, VH1.com interview, 23 June 2002; Neil Young and Bob Dylan…ideas that work for me, not my audience: to Timothy Finn, Kansas City Star, 9 May 2004; Young: He rarely mentioned Bowie, except for one notable time in 1973, speaking to B. Mitchell Reid. “The Sixties are definitely not with us anymore…the change into the music of the Seventies is starting to come with people like David Bowie and Lou Reed…they don’t expect to live more than thirty years and they don’t care. And they don’t care. They’re in the Seventies. What I’m tryin’ to say is these people like Lou Reed and David Booie or Bowie, however you pronounce it, those folks—I think they got somethin’ there, heh heh. Take a walk on the wild side!” (quoted in James McDonough, Shakey, 410); A minor: intro/later refrains open with a D suspended 2nd chord that aches to resolve to D major, but the sequence instead cools into A minor.

495  Sunday   An alternate Visconti mix is on the European “Everyone Says ‘Hi’” single and the Canadian “I’ve Been Waiting For You” single, while a Moby mix is on the 2-CD edition of Heathen. The former gave “Sunday” an undercarriage of a jogging loop of “ah ah ah ah” voices a la “O Superman”; Richard Strauss: Born in 1864, Strauss lived through Bavaria’s absorption into Prussia to form Germany, the whirling spree of Kaiser Wilhelm’s empire, a catastrophic war, fascism, another catastrophic war that ended with Germany carved into capitalist and Communist halves. “I have outlived even myself,” Strauss said in 1949, and then died at last; Four Last Songs; As with Blackstar, Strauss didn’t intend his Four Last Songs as a last statement—the title wasn’t his, for one thing. In 1948 he scored three Hermann Hesse poems and one by Joseph von Eichendorff. Only after his death, when the four songs were grouped as a single work and re-sequenced by Ernst Roth, did they become his Four Last. (Bowie’s preferred recording was Gundula Janowitz’s performance with Herbert von Karajan from 1973, which he described as “ach[ing] with love for a life that is quietly fading”); certain sense of universality…as a template: Interview, June 2002.

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496  got to let it go: Interview, June 2002; British amateur-ness…cathedral out of matchsticks: Bowie web journal, 3 May 2002; Kafka meets Ed Wood: Bowie web journal, 12 November 2001.

497  under the bracken: possibly a reference to D.H. Lawrence’s “A Fragment of Stained Glass,” a short story in which a medieval serf sets his master’s house ablaze and flees (“For hours I was all fire. Then I went to sleep under the bracken”); no past no future: to Bob Guccione Jr., Gear, July/August 2002; Khalil Gibran: Jonathan Hart first noted this, and I thank him for it. Bowie also referenced Gibran in “Width of a Circle”; All My Trials: though sometimes said to have been derived from a 19th Century slave spiritual, it was in truth cobbled together ca. 1955, with a melody nicked from a Barbadian lullaby.

498  I Would Be Your Slave  entreaty to the highest being: Bowie web journal, 17 May 2002.

499 necessary break: Bowie web journal, 17 May 2002.   5:15 The Angels Have Gone   The Heathen SACD had a slightly longer edit; man who could once see his angels: Billboard, 1 June 2002; we create so many circles: Bowie web journal, 24 May 2002.

guardina02

500  Heathen (the Rays)   young, fancy free…long road: to Ellen DeGeneres, 23 April 2004, in what would be his last-ever American TV interview; he is what he reads: to Buckley, 255.

501  felt like a vehicle for something else: to Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 27 January 1973; lukewarm relationship: Crawdaddy, February 1978; what a shitty game: my translation of “was für ein Scheißspiel.” From DB’s interview with Thomas Hüetlin in the 11 June 2002 Der Spiegel. “I used to be insecure and afraid of relationships. I never listened to anyone. But now…I’m starting to like it down here. What a cool place. [In a robot voice] “I’m fine in this world now. I can now make connections to you other living beings.” That’s why I’m annoyed by the finiteness of life. Now that I understand myself and others, I’m supposed to die—what a shitty game. Isn’t there anyone with whom you could revise the rules of the game? I would like to be 200 or 300 years old”; Hauerwas: “Preaching As Though We Have Enemies,” First Things, May 1995; Philistine too on the money: to Alan di Perna, Pulse, July 2002; heathenism is a state of mind: Bowie web journal, 29 May 2002; heathen: etymology from Webster’s New Twentieth Century Unabridged, 2nd. ed., and Joshua Rood, “Heathen: Linguistic Origins and Early Context” (2012).

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502  barbarian: Bowie’s look for the album cover shoot was possibly inspired by photographs of the naturalist/entomologist Jean Henri Fabre; the defaced art of Heathen: six “defaced” paintings appear in various editions of the album. 1) Duccio di Buoninsegna (b. ca. 1255, d. ca. 1318, Siena), Madonna and Child With Six Angels, ca. 1300-05, Tempera on wood, 97 x 63 cm; Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, Perugia.  In the Heathen defacing (only on the Heathen LP sleeve—it’s not in the CD booklet), the painting is severely cropped to eliminate angels (it must be 5:15) and the Christ child, while Mary’s mysterious, slightly reproachful gaze is obliterated by splashes of white paint; 2) Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio) (b. 1483, Urbino, d. 1520, Rome), Saint Sebastian, 1501-1502, oil on wood, 43 x 34 cm; Accademia Carrara, Bergamo. St. Sebastian is often depicted being tied to a tree and shot full of arrows, his legendary torture during the Emperor Diocletian’s persecutions (Sebastian allegedly survived the arrows only to be bludgeoned to death later, his corpse thrown into a latrine: he rather earned his sainthood). As with Duccio’s Madonna, the Heathen defacing is centered on the subject’s eyes, here Sebastian’s face “slashed” into rhomboids as if by a razor (possibly referencing the attack by Gerard Jan van Balderen on Barnett Newman’s painting Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III—van Balderen used a box-cutter on Newman’s painting when it hung in the Stedelijk Museum); 3) Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) (and Frans Synders?) Christ and John the Baptist as Children and Two Angels, ca. 1615-1620. Oil on panel, 76.5 × 122.3 cm; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. Variously identified as The Little Jesus, St. John and Two Angels, The Infant Jesus Playing With St. John or, as its resident museum has it, Christ and John the Baptist as Children and Two Angels, it depicts Jesus and John (his elder) meeting as cute babies, attended by two cherubs, one of whom has a top-knot. Heathen, which uses an engraved variant of the painting (unclear from where), again slashes the picture. Where St. Sebastian was maimed, it’s now four vertical tears that nearly quadrisect the engraving; 4) Guido Reni (1575, Calvenzano-1642, Bologna), Massacre of the Innocents, 1611. Oil on canvas, 268 x 170 cm. Pinacoteca Nazionale, Bologna. Created by Reni for the Basilica of San Domenico, Massacre of the Innocents is a horrific baroque depiction of Matthew 2:16, Herod’s slaughter of all children in Bethlehem under two. Picasso’s Guernica, among others, lives in its shadow. The Heathen defacing again (see 1) crops the massacre’s angelic audience and the corpses underfoot. It’s as if the defacer hurled a paint pot repeatedly against the canvas, as the splotches here seem random—all doomed children and all but one weeping mother remain visible; 5) Carlo Dolci (1616-1686, Florence), Maria Maddalena (Mary Magdalene), ca. 1670. oil on canvas, 73.5 x 56.5 cm. Galleria Palatina, Florence. Another razor attack on the painting subject’s eyes; 6) Raphael, Angel (fragment of the Baronci altarpiece), 1500-1501, oil on wood, 31 cm × 27 cm, Pinacoteca Civica Tosio Martinengo, Brescia. And another paint-splotch blinding (in the sleeve found under the CD back tray); blessed fulfillers of our wishes: Freud, Interpretation of Dreams, 113; all these things…create the bomb…can we do that?: TV interview with Guillaume Durand, June 2002; so still and primal: Interview, June 2002.

503  how beautiful and wonderful life is: Gear, July/August 2002.

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504  Cactus   EMS Synthi AKS: apparently the same model that Eno had used on Low. “It was up for auction, and I got it for my fiftieth birthday,” Bowie wrote in a 22 May 2002 web journal entry. “Everything on the EMS is miniaturized beyond belief; nothing like it existed at the time. Taking it through customs has always been a stomach-turning affair as it looks like a briefcase bomb in the X-ray. Eno got pulled out of the line on several occasions. I wouldn’t even dream of taking it through these days”; massive ballroom: Mojo, May 2014. Other details from Josh Frank and Caryn Ganz’s Fool the World: The Oral History of a Band Called Pixies; broke up virtually penniless: Time Out, 5-12 June 2002; power chords: with a rising sequence of A minor (“take off your”), C (“dress”), D (“send it to”) to E5 (“meeeee”). Bowie made this sequence Dm9-F-G-A (he also had a main verse sequence of CACA).

505  chanted: “B! L! A! C! K!” in Bowie and Moby’s 2002 performance on the Tonight Show; my little humoresque: to Paul Du Noyer, Mojo, July 2002; over my own loop: Bowie web journal, 15 May 2002.     I Took a Trip  The “Deepsky’s Space Cowboy” remix is on the promo US 12″ single for “Everyone Says ‘Hi’”; without being a madman: to Spitz, 171; it would be nice if David Bowie: scan of handwritten letter on the Cowboy’s website, ca. 2001; People magazine: a “Picks and Pans” review of the latest Cowboy album (a pick!). Why on earth People reviewed that album in summer 1984 is another question.

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506  got guilty: Bowie web journal, 17 May 2002; quiet reverie or two: Mojo, July 2002; Novicki: to Irwin Chusid, Songs in the Key of Z; Cowboy: sources for Odam’s life include Chusid’s Key of Z and Richard Skanse’s profile in Texas Music Magazine, Winter 2003 (source of the “too slow for me” quote). Bowie had gotten the Ledge’s three Mercury singles from Mercury’s promo man Ron Oberman, his contact during his first US promo tour in early 1971. “Back home, I choked on ‘Paralyzed,’ gasped in awe at “Down in the Wrecking Yard” and fell all about the floor at ‘I Took a Trip On a Gemini Spaceship,’” Bowie wrote in Mojo. “It was the laugh of love. I could not believe that such a talent was unrecognized…I became a lifelong fan, and Ziggy got a surname.” He’d call “Paralyzed” “unbelievably atrocious” in a Jools Holland interview in 2002.

507  two stop signs: Brad Kava, San Jose Mercury News, 12 June 2002; somebody isolated in space: VH1.com, 23 June 2002; this guy is writing seriously: Mojo, July 2002; more intimidated by the Ledge: Skanse, Texas Music Magazine, Winter 2003.

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508   sweetest smack in the world: Skanse, Texas Music Magazine, Winter 2003.  Wood Jackson was actually never released in America: it was a bonus track on the Japanese Heathen and on the EC “Slow Burn” and UK ‘Everyone Says ‘Hi'” singles. Seems to be entirely out of print (not downloadable, not streaming), at least in the US at the moment. Given this slightly odd situation, I’m breaking my usual rule of using the UK or US release date to instead use 3 June 2002, the release date of the European single. Pegg had the inspired suggestion that Bowie possibly found the name from a mid-20th Century SF pulp writer, M. Scott Michel—it was Michel’s private detective character (“Wood Jaxon”); trouble with thinking…funny little cassettes: Mojo, July 2002; Johnston: some details of his life from O’Hagan, “At War With His Demons…and Metallica,” The Observer, 1 April 2006; when a child hits a piano: to Dave Simpson, The Guardian, 15 September 2004.

509  When the Boys Come Marching Home as with “Wood Jackson,” this was a geographically limited release, found only on the EU’s “Slow Burn” CD single and the UK’s “Everyone Says ‘Hi’.” And again, out of print/not streaming in the US at least; stumbled upon a truth: DB to Thomas Vinterberg, 4 July 2002.

510  fallen for a religious war: to Richard Wallace, Daily Mirror, 29 June 2002.                  A Better Future  Air’s remix is on the album’s two-disc version; the SACD cut lopped off 15 seconds; rosy expectations: to Tim Cooper, The Observer, 8 June 2002.

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511  not having to dodge bullets: to Sean Sennett, Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 2002; three-chord progression: the Ab-Bbm-Eb progression is I-ii-V, a not-unusual jazz or pop construction where the ii chord appears in place of an expected IV chord (see Lennon’s “Don’t Let Me Down”).  Everyone Says ‘Hi’  released as a single (Columbia/ISO 673134 3, UK #20) in September 2002. The “METRO” remix appeared on a US 12″ promo in January 2003; SubUrban Studios: a converted outbuilding at Miller’s house, with (in 2002) an Apple G4 Mac as primary recording/editing desk.

512  just worked from the vocals: Sound on Sound, August 2002; raincoat and cap on: quoted in Thompson, Hallo Spaceboy, 196 (from a ca. 2000 interview about Mr. Rice’s Secret); feel very alone: to Durand, June 2002 TV interview; made me cry: to Brian Ives, 20 February 2017.

513  America   another country: to Vinterberg, 4 July 2002; 9/11: recollections are from my journal entries of 12-13 September 2001. I was 29 at the time, living in Sunnyside, Queens.

515   fit woman: Daily Mirror, 29 June 2002.

516  Don DeLillo resonances: to Jon Pareles, NY Times, 9 June 2002; felt duty-bound to do something: Cherry transcript, 23 October 2001; bewilderment and uncertainty…Simon’s song: web-chat on BowieNet, 15 November 2001.

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518  Slow Burn  the SACD edit is a touch longer (5:04 to 4:43). There was a promo film made of it, by Gary Koepke, which wasn’t seen in full until it appeared on YouTube after Bowie’s death. The shoot was done for a 30-second and 60-second TV ad for Heathen. As per Adam Owett, Sony’s executive creative director, “good critical press and a couple of print ads ain’t going to cut it for an older artist and no one’s waiting for the 49th Dylan album” (to Sandy Hunter, Boards, 5 June 2002; more in Ann Mack’s piece for Ad Age, 16 September 2002); not my style of playing: KY comment on the blog’s “Slow Burn” entry, 30 May 2016; Townshend: he soloed either on a Five Torino Red, Shoreline Gold or Olympic White Fender Eric Clapton Signature Stratocaster, and/or a Shoreline Gold Fender Stratocaster with a white pickguard. “All modified with the Fishman VMV Powerbridge piezo transducer saddle-pickup system (controlled by knob located just above cord jack on guitar body) for mock acoustic sound” (http://www.thewho.net/whotabs/gear/guitar/history.html); contained anger in it: Sydney Morning Herald, 13 May 2002 (Bowie added: “At least on Scary Monsters, he was actually in the bloody studio…This time around, it was crazy here [in New York] at that particular time. The New York concert was happening. We were trying to rehearse and record. We all had our own separate lives outside of that concert, we just didn’t have the time to work together. I sent the track Slow Burn over to him. He sent me a selection of takes, but I took his first take.”)

519  Hop Frog   good way to go out…downloading their music: Uncut, March 2003.

520  Saviour  as a writer of some proliferation: Billboard, 17 December 2001; Young: some biographical details from a 13 June 2011 interview on Keanan Duffty’s “Rebel Rebel AntiStyle” blog; part rock, part Bartok: Visconti, Brooklyn Boy, 386.

521  cousins to each other: quoted in Thompson, Spaceboy, 262; touring the only unique situation left: NY Times, 9 June 2002; he’d broken enough rules: Dylan on Theme Time Radio Hour, Ep. 62, 2008.

522  Earl Slick country….horizon that went on forever: Bowie’s foreword to David Bowie: Live in New York.


Chapter Fourteen: Agent Jeffries Checks In (2011-2013)

December 18, 2018

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Epigraphs   Eno: to Ian MacDonald, NME, 26 November 1977; Ronson: quoted in Sandford, 240; Walker: to Graham Reid, Rock’s Backpages, May 2006; Bowles: Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction,” No. 67.

570  Where Are We Now?    Wedding: as with all but one subhead in this entry, a neighborhood adjacent to the Berlin Wall, whether in East or West Berlin, during DB’s time there; just let things avalanche: to Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013; surprise albums: MBV came later the same month, Beyoncé at year’s end.

571  Observer: “What’s on David Bowie’s iPod?,” 24 January 2010; not thinking of touring: to Teri Agins, NY Times, 4 June 2010; as a fan of music, hope he returns: to Ron Hart, Jambase, April 2010; Gallagher: Q, October 2011; Grantland: “The Nobituary,” 11 March 2013; Jonesy can stay at home: to Andrew Davies, Big Issue, 11-17 January 1999.

572  it’s great if it works out: to Simon Miller, Epoch Times, 7 February 2013; he wants to record: to Mark Beaumont, NME, 2 March 2013; 6/8 Studios: near the Bowery and, unlike most of Bowie’s 21st Century studios, remains in business (you can still rent a studio for $50/hour); dungeon: to Greene, Rolling Stone, 20 February 2013; small grimy room: to Cole Moreton, Daily Telegraph, 13 January 2013; sketches he had all along: to Michael Hann, The Guardian, 12 January 2013; songs from a hat: to Jerome Soligny, Rock et Folk, March 2013; basic Pro Tools rig: Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013.

573  Torn: “On The Next Day I wound up playing in the control room a lot, which I don’t really like: I was taking a hit for the band,” to All About Jazz, 19 October 2017; sound like a record: to David Weiss, Sonic Scoop, 11 March 2013, a good source of engineering details.

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574 finding his voice…not an opera singerno idea ever released…been like an art project: NME, 2 March 2013; played where he needed me: Rock et Folk, March 2013; song about Berlin: to Gary Graff, Billboard, 12 January 2013; let’s go to Berlin: Jones, 443; intense time for him: NME, 2 March 2013.

575  he doesn’t want you to: to Tim Teeman, Times of London, 12 January 2013; animals in the zoo pace around: Weimar Republic Scrapbook, 425-426, quoted in Weitz, 76.

576  beautiful changes…goes by ear: Leonard, speaking at a music seminar at Xmusic in Dublin, 31 March 2013. Chords per GL.

577  vulnerable voice: Daily Telegraph, 13 January 2013.

578   come to my cave: The Independent, 13 January 2013; Song of Norway: Farthingale and Bowie reportedly caught up backstage at a concert in the late Nineties. Upon learning the Song of Norway shirt was likely a message for her, she used Bowie archivist/historian Kevin Cann to convey a message of thanks to him (Daily Mail, 15 January 2016); we were like a museum exhibit: a work by Wolf Vostell, 1964, also translated as “We Were Kind of a Museum Piece.”

579  very important years: to Der Tagesspiegel, 2002; quoted in The Guardian, 12 January 2013.   The Next Day   first release: UK release date. It came out on the 8th in Europe; joke cover: Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013; subversive already…there’s a distance: Clash Music, 4 March 2013; wasn’t too contrived…melancholy of the songs: Barnbrook blog, 8 January 2013.

580  Cadillac of all religions: “Bowie’s ‘Jesus’ Video is a Mess,” Catholic League blog post, 8 May 2013; song about a tyrant: Guardian, 12 January 2013; insignificant…quite a horrific story: Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013.

581  The Stranger: “Well, here, anyhow, I wasn’t penned in a hollow tree trunk. There were others in the world worse off than I,” said by Meursault while in prison; Zarathustra: from Nietzsche’s prologue: “He then put the dead man in a hollow tree at his head—for he wanted to protect him from the wolves—and laid himself down on the ground and moss”; left to rot in hollow trees: Deep Blues, 27. I believe Matt Potter was the first to note this; the next day is the next day: Rolling Stone, 10 June 1993.

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583  How Does the Grass Grow    not impressed with today’s music: to Shirley Halperin, Hollywood Reporter, 11 January 2013.

584  PJ Harvey: details on Let England Shake come primarily from a PJH interview with Kate Hutchinson, Drowned in Sound, 19 January 2011 (PJH: “I wrote purely words and nothing else for about two years. And during that whole time, would ask critical opinions from people whose opinions I respected and threw away a lot of words that weren’t working and ended up with some that I thought were and the ones that felt like a good balance…It took me a long time to find the voice for this record, the way the narrator would deliver them, because to have sung it in a deep and womanly way would have destroyed them…In a way, I wanted the voice to be quite unobtrusive but just to relay the story; almost like a witness, who is just narrating the stories and bringing them back from the place that they happened”); very different, new-style Bowie: Billboard, 12 January 2013; altering chords: The F# chord becomes an F#6 (F#-A#m-C#-Eb) with Bowie hitting an Eb note when singing over the chord. Augmenting chords is central to the track: Gerry Leonard extends B-flat minors in refrains by playing F, G, Ab and G notes that make the underlying Bb minors, consecutively, Bbm, Bbm6, Bbm7, and Bbm6. See also the keyboards augmenting D major chords in the bridge (playing A-F#-G#); Carol Anne Duffy: first noted by Peter Eakin; Balkan, burial, reverse: Moody disclosed his ‘list of 42’ in “Swinging Modern Sounds #44: And Another Day,” 25 April 2013. While of course it’s not confirmed that the order of words corresponds to sequenced album tracks, it seems very likely—I’m happy that Pegg agrees with this assessment.

586  Russian history: Times of London, 12 January 2013; George Harrison style: see Harrison’s “Long Long Long” (also a waltz) for a similar slowly-descending IV-iii-ii progression (in Harrison’s refrain (Bb/Am/Gm) and in Bowie’s verse (G/F#m/Em, “leaving slips of paper, somewhere..”), though Bowie then moves to the vi chord (Bm, “in the park”) before going home to D, while Harrison gets home to F via his dominant chord, C major); crunchy chords: Daily Telegraph, 13 January 2013; drums are in 4: JazzTimes, 16 May 2016.

587  hot coals: Slapper to CO, 2015; dictator of this empty world: Live, March 1997.

588  Bruges La Morte: Translated literally as Bruges-the-Dead and more euphoniously as The Dead City, it was the basis of Erich Korngold’s 1920 opera Die Tote Stadt; its plot would reappear in D’entre Les Morts, the novel upon which Hitchcock’s Vertigo was based. There was a mild Rodenbach revival in the 2000s, with some fresh English translations issued, which possibly caught Bowie’s interest.

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589  Like a Rocket Man    arctic landscape of pure terror: St Aubyn, Bad News, 53;  soulmate in this drug: to Paul Du Noyer, Mojo, July 2002.

590 Born in a UFO   Lodger outtake…wild: to Pegg, 47. See also Alford to Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 1 February 2013 (“one of the songs we worked on was a leftover from Lodger. I think it was called “Born in a UFO” when we worked on it, but I didn’t see that title on the record. Maybe he changed it. I don’t know.”); A-line skirt: starts off the theme that Bowie’s alien visitor favors mid-20th Century Continental fashion—Christian Dior first used the term “A-line” in 1955; Perugia shoes: André Perugia (1893-1977) was once quoted as saying “a pair of shoes must be perfect as an equation and adjusted down to the last millimeter, like a piece of an engine”; all Courrèges: André Courrèges (1923-2016), a French mod fashion designer of the Sixties—the Gallic equivalent to Mary Quant.

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591 Heat      Mishima: My summary of Mishima’s life and work is derived from a number of sources, the most essential being John Nathan’s biography, Donald Richie’s “Japan Journals,” and the 1985 Arena documentary “The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima.” Paul Schrader’s Mishima, though fictional, was another backdrop.

592  genius destined for death: after the book was printed, I realized that a more accurate translation was “destined for an early death.” Feel free to scribble that over the quote in the book if you’d like (Nathan, 53); he also resisted: Albery, interviewed in “Strange Case”; language of the flesh: Sun and Steel, 12; playing war: Nathan, 246.

594  just trying to be a person singing: to Jarvis Cocker, Q, June 2006.

596  different things now: recalled to Jim Farber, The Guardian, 4 October 2016.

597  The Stars (Are out Tonight)     chords stayed the same…sculpt it a bit: Leonard at Xmusic, 31 March 2013; stars of the 2010s: the blog post had a long digression into Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + the Divine, a comic whose publication began the summer after Bowie’s return. The premise is that every 90 years, the gods return to Earth, live for two years, then die (or, as is far more accurately the case, are killed). Pantheons correspond to whichever forms will garner the most worshipers—the 1830s set were mostly Romantic writers; the 1920s set had silent film stars, blues singers, and Modernist poets, writers, and painters. Wicked + Divine’s 2013 pantheon are pop stars, including Lucifer (whose look is Thin White Duke Bowie reincarnated as a wry young lesbian woman), Baal (Kanye West/ Jay-Z), Amaterasu (Florence Welch/ Kate Bush), Minerva (Grimes/ Gerard Way), Sakhmet (Rihanna), Dionysus (various EDM types), Woden (Daft Punk outfit, Rivers Cuomo personality), Bahomet and The Morrigan (assorted Goths) and Inanna (Prince). The real-world deaths of Bowie and Prince, in the same sequence as their respective gods’ dispatch in Wicked + Divine, was among the eerier parallels of 2016.

600  come over for coffee: Rolling Stone, 20 February 2013.

601  something old kept creeping in: Mojo, November 2015; chords: piano sheet music notes the verse progression as Bbm/Bbm7-Ab/Gb5/Gb6. On keyboard, Bowie’s playing Bb-Eb, Ab-Db, Gb-Bb, Eb-Ab; down on the Trinity: Sonic Scoop, 11 March 2013.

602  losing the other eye: Afternoon Plus, 12 February 1979; chords: mainly by moves to avoid going “home” to D major. See the verse (Bm-D-Bm-G-A), refrain (A-Em-A-Dm-F#m-Dm-D) and bridge (D-A-E-C7-A). There’s an inadvertent (?) Nabokov nod in the intro chords: A-D-A.

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606 I’d Rather Be High   demobbed soldier: Times of London, 12 January 2013; Lady Manners: The connection’s possibly owed to a character in Waugh’s novel, “Mrs. Reginald Stitch,” whom Waugh had reportedly based on Lady Manners.

607  Dirty Boys   A euphemism: Times of London, 12 January 2013; dad conversation…gems in the recording: to K Webster, Counterpunch, 24 May 2013; he’s a little guy…stripper music: Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013.

609  (You Will) Set the World on Fire   happiness might be cheaply had: Broyard, Kafka, 8;  St. Teresa: from Letter 368, one of her epistles to Maconi, translated as “If you are what you ought to be, you will set fire to all Italy, and not only yonder” or “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!”

610  Valentine’s Day    mass murderer named Johnny: Times of London, 12 January 2013. Not sure why Visconti called the character “Johnny” here. Perhaps an earlier version of the lyric had “Johnny” in it, or perhaps V. recalled some earlier Bowie Johnnies (see “Repetition” or “I’m Afraid of Americans”); a person seemingly with little confidence…psychotic: audition notice placed in Backstage, 20 May 2015.

612  terrorist position: to Vin Scelsa, Idiot’s Delight, 13 June 1993.


Chapter Five: The Strike Price (1983-1985)

December 16, 2018

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182  Let’s Dance   demo: only Nile Rodgers and Erdal Kizilcay have been credited on this—a photograph from the session shows three other people, presumably keyboards, drums and another guitarist or engineer?; sears through: to Timothy White, Musician, May 1983.

183  avatar of pure fame: a wonderful phrase coined by “Magic Fly,” one of Tom Ewing’s commenters on Popular’s “Let’s Dance” entry, 27 May 2009; RCA: New York Times, 13 December 1985; Bertelsmann: RCA was folded into the newly-formed BMG which, in 2008, would be sold to Sony; ten million albums: Washington Post, 26 April 1987; Lodger sold: Zanetta/Edwards’ Stardust lists purported Bowie global album sales as of 1983, noting that only Changesonebowie and Ziggy Stardust had gone platinum. But that doesn’t jibe with BPI platinum certifications in the UK for Scary Monsters and Best of Bowie (1981) and Hunky Dory (1982).

184  K-Tel: to Hopkins, 231. Best of Bowie was a UK #2; manager of the club: New York Post, 12 January 2016. There are lots of versions of this story—the funniest finds Rodgers desperately trying to get out of the way of a puking Idol, and that’s how he meets Bowie. Another version of the story has Bowie and Rodgers sitting side by side, silently, for hours until Rodgers gets the courage to say hello; in another, a less-inebriated Idol introduces Rodgers to Bowie, his fellow London suburbanite.

185 I want you to make hits…David’s directive: Juby, In Other Words, 187; urge to play around with musical ideas: to Chris Bohn, NME, 16 April 1983; two takes: to Robert Palmer, Penthouse, November 1983; old rock ‘n’ roll records…non-uptight music: quoted in Hopkins, 242, 244; vacuousness: Penthouse, November 1983.

186  my paint and canvas: to Jay Cocks, Time, 18 July 1983; that quality of necessity: to Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone, 12 May 1983; not happening, man: to Trynka, Starman, 315; Donovan meets Newley: Rodgers, Le Freak, 189; you won’t get played: to Buckley, Strange Fascination, 337; strummy chords: Le Freak, 190; afraid to chuck anymore: Rodgers, 7 November 2014, speaking at the Oredev Conference.

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187   don’t play that shit: Starman, 316; gated drums: for much more, see Greg Milner’s Perfecting Sound Forever. In 1983, Bowie described the Low drum sound as “that “mash” drum sound, that depressive, gorilla effect set down the studio drum fever fad for the next few years. It was something I wish we’d never created, having had to live through four years of it with other English bands, until it started changing into the clap sound we’ve got now.”; Collins fell in love with the gated snare: see the Collins-produced “I Know There’s Something Going On” by Frida, in which the former ABBA singer fights for her life against all-conquering drums; annihilates the drums: interview with Kevin Hilton, 21 February 2018; decay out fast…rhythm section was doing: to Stan Hyman and Vicki Greenleaf, Modern Recording and Music, July/August 1983.

188   snapshot of Bowie’s brain: Starman, 316; looked like the future…would be timeless: Oredev Conference, 7 November 2014. serious moonlight: a less occult origin for the line is that, according to Rodgers, Bowie would call a particularly good groove or track “serious.” Bowie once said the phrase was his attempt at an “Americanism”; red shoes: Tanja Stark’s “Confronting David Bowie’s Mysterious Corpses” brilliantly puts the use of the red shoes imagery into a universe of Bowie’s death imagery. David Mallet and Bowie made another iconic video, with red shoes as a corrupting symbol of modern capitalism. It’s best remembered for a few sequences: an Aboriginal boy dragging a machine down a Sydney street; an Aboriginal couple painting a snake on the wall of an art gallery; an immaculate-looking Bowie playing his song in an outback bar where some non-actors are growing agitated at the Aboriginal actors dancing.

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189  Modern Love    clean-up single: pop albums once had diminishing returns. A third single, if even released, often charted low. But by the early Eighties, labels were milking one album for years. Epic led the way with Thriller (seven charting singles from a nine-track LP), but many huge mid-Eighties hits were third or fourth singles: “Borderline,” “Purple Rain,” “Hello,” “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Walk of Life,” “Born in the USA.” Ten years later, labels were harvesting albums so ruthlessly that no one wanted to hear anything else the artist ever did again (e.g., the Spin Doctors, Alanis Morrisette, Hootie and the Blowfish); it all comes from Little Richard: Guitar Player, June 1997.

190  the questions of chaos: The David Bowie Story, 1993. In 1990, talking to the LA Times, Bowie said “Modern Love” was “not one of my favorites,” that he’d tried “to cover two subjects…religion and love…and I don’t think they linked too well….lyrically it was too wishy-washy.”

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191 Shake It   a longer version of the track (5:20, compared to the album version’s 3:49) was the B-side of the “China Girl” 12″ single; singer’s album: Musician, May 1983; fresh ears: to Tom Doyle, Mojo, August 2018; thumbnails: Le Freak, 191; spiky about my stuff: MTV interview, 27 January 1983.

192 Ricochet  fitting its outsider status, “Ricochet” was the only Let’s Dance track not to be issued on a single. It titled an odd promotional film, directed by Gerry Troyna, that documented Bowie’s Australasian tour in late 1983 (in which he didn’t perform the documentary’s title song); it should have rolled: Musician, August 1987.

193  just threw it out there: Rodgers, at a performance for Grammy Week, Village Recording Studio, 2015; “Night Mail”: the rhythm of Bowie’s “march of flowers, march of dimes” hook is a close match to Auden’s lines (“letters of thanks, letters from banks”)

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194  Criminal World  also the B-side of “Without You” biggest mistake: Rolling Stone, 12 May 1983; major miscalculation…image: Time, 18 July 1983; Robinson: interview tape, recorded ca. June-July 1983.

195  banner over me: Penthouse, November 1983. In the first The Book of Lists (1977), Bowie made the list of “Famous Homosexuals,” along with Janis Joplin and Elton John; now it’s changing: Serious Moonlight, 168; puritanical place: Blender, August 2002; I am Rod Stewart: to Spitz, 326.

196  spice in his image: The Face, November 1980; only person who knows this?: to Tim De Lisle, The Independent, 10 September 1995; station to station: to David Keeps, Details, October 1995; Metro: Browne, who died of cancer in 1993, and Godwin had hits as solo acts in the Eighties: Godwin’s “Images of Heaven” and Browne’s “The Wild Places.”

197  Without You   in the US, it was Let’s Dance’s fourth single, issued in February 1984, with a Keith Haring cover (EMI America 8190, #73); we’re the opening act: Sound on Sound, April 2005.

198 like a hawk…proud to show off his genius: Le Freak, 191.

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199 Waiata  older well-dressed audience…requests for tickets: Serious Moonlight, 44; literature of crowd psychology: New York Times, 26 July 1983; the guy who wrote about those people: Serious Moonlight, 54; for three concerts in Chicago…$1.2 million for a single show: Hopkins, 261; $50 million in 1983: Tremlett, 313; posh accent: Starman, 324.

201  Imagine The concert performance appears to have been filmed professionally, perhaps as part of the Ricochet documentary; hip ones of the Sixties: Lennon RKO radio interview, 8 December 1980; the unknown is what it is: Playboy, December 1980; might as well do ‘Imagine’: Starzone Interviews, 113.   Tumble and Twirl  the B-side of “Tonight,” whose 12″ single has an “extended dance mix” of this song by Steve Thompson, most notable for an up-mixed heavy bassline that sounds like a bowed cello at times.

202   certified platinum:  Billboard, 15 December 1984; he does deliver: to David Fricke, Musician, December 1984; huge mistake…scantily-dressed: Washington Post, 26 April 1987; too soon: Rolling Stone: David Bowie: The Ultimate Guide, 2016; much further: Rolling Stone, 12 May 1983; searching for me: Soul Interviews, 16 December 2012. All Bowie had heard of Bramble’s work were demos he’d produced for Jaki Graham; conscious effort to distance himself: Buckley, 359; Heatwave: a band with a rather cursed history. A rhythm guitarist was stabbed to death, their original bassist was stabbed and left temporarily blinded and paralyzed, and the lead singer was paralyzed from the neck down after an auto accident; guy upstairs: Musician, December 1984.

203   going in and doing it…after the snow had gone: Juby, 119; Le Studio: an “environmental” studio that opened in 1974, it had a floor-to-ceiling glass wall (as seen in Rush’s video for “Limelight”). It closed in the 2000s, being essentially abandoned to the elements until it was partially destroyed by fire in 2017; jack shit…wanted to get the record out: Buckley, 360, 362; violent: Musician, August 1987; breathing space…buying time: Wipe-out (Hong Kong TV), December 1983.

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204  Haiti: Pop and Friedman’s calamitous time in Haiti is well-depicted in Trynka’s Bleed; solitude in foreign climes: Musician, December 1984; Brooke Shields: NME, 29 September 1984.

205 didn’t want what I earned for myself: David Bowie Story, 1993; frantic complex swing: Musician, December 1984.  Don’t Look Down    mix: its backing tracks were used as incidental music in Jazzin’ for Blue Jean.

 206   proper reggae: NME, 29 September 1984; cut lines: Bowie changed the opening of the first verse, which Pop had repeated later in the song. Pop’s blunt “Why be bored? Who scared you? Why stay here? It’s no piece of cake” becomes “No, I won’t be bored/ I won’t be there. Look at life: it’s no piece of cake.” Blue Jean  exact release date is hard to pin down. It’s reviewed in the 8 September 1984 Billboard and the 15 September 1984 Cash Box; it’s first reported being added to radio playlists in the 10 September 1984 Eurotipsheet and in the 7 September 1984 Radio & Records. As there are other indications that the single was out in the UK the week of 3 September 1984, that’s my guess; Padgham: After Tonight, he went to London to record Phil Collins’ No Jacket Required, which in a way comes off as successful realization of Tonight: it has a similar production style and vocal treatments, rhythm guitar work that sounds like Carlos Alomar outtakes, horns, Arif Martin string arrangements. But NJR has an internal consistency—its uptempo singles are embedded within a wider set of gloomy pieces, making the former seem like manic flights in a depressive’s journal. Also, there are no covers.

207  Jazzin’ for Blue Jean: the Julien Temple video used the age-old formula where the star plays both nerd and mean cool kid (for a relatively recent example, see Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me”). Look for the Right Said Fred guy playing Bowie’s bassist. Mike Sarne’s 1962 UK hit “Come Outside,” where Sarne’s hapless character, failing to pick up a bored-sounding girl (he’s “a smooth-talking East End horndog who’s nowhere near as suave as he thinks he is,” as Andy Zax noted), is almost certainly an influence on Bowie’s sad-sack “Vic” in the video.    I Keep Forgettin’  given its more formal title (“I Keep Forgetting”) on Tonight’s first US release.

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208  Smokey Robinson…wild dance: Ken Emerson, Always Magic In the Air, 170; the single: Wand 126, released in July 1962, charted in September (#55 pop). While Leiber and Stoller are credited as co-composers with occasional collaborator Gilbert Garfield on the Jackson single, they’re the only ones credited on Bowie’s and other cover versions.   Loving the Alien  issued as a single in May 1985. Its video (directed by Bowie and Mallet), with its mix of surreal imagery (the backing band out of de Chirico paintings; the Gilbert and George reference first seen on the LP cover) and high Eighties cheese (Bowie’s primary outfit and ur-Rick Astley dancing) sums up the song in a way.

209  Anderson: though Bowie took pains to say that Glass was his only inspiration, “Loving the Alien” has affinities to “O Superman” and plays with similar themes of faith and power; Fairlight: played by an uncredited musician, Rob Yale, who later claimed he was one of the first people in Canada to have mastered the instrument; Salibi: in The Bible Came from Arabia, he argued that the kingdoms of David and Solomon were in the Saudi provinces of Asir and the southern Hijaz. While Salibi’s book hadn’t been published when Bowie wrote “Loving the Alien,” his ideas were circulating in articles in the Christian Science Monitor and other publications. Bowie mentioned him to Charles Shaar Murray as a “historian [who] is putting forth the idea that Israel is wrong and that it was in fact in Saudi Arabia”; sins hooked upon the sky: suggestive of a line in the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa’s The Keeper of Sheep (“One day while God was sleeping…[Christ] went to the chest of miracles and stole three…With the third he created a Christ eternally stuck to the cross/ and left him nailed to the cross in the sky/ and it serves as the model for others.”). It’s possible Bowie had read Pessoa, whose work had been translated into English in the Seventies; had to do with Major Tom: Buckley, 363.

210 alien Christs: Davies, God and the New Physics, 71; inherent in the song…not even in the lyrics: NME, 29 September 1984.

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211 God Only Knows   in our twenties: to Marc Myers, Wall Street Journal, 7 October 2011; instrumentation: some details from Albin Zak’s The Poetics of Rock.

212 original or better: Musician, December 1984; bit saccharine: NME, 29 November 1984.

213 Dancing with the Big Boys    just recorded it all: Musician, December 1984; threw out there: Juby, 119.

214  work together for survival: Musician, December 1984; one more set of pieces like that: Rolling Stone, 25 October 1984. This is Not America   release: Possibly the previous week (it’s reviewed in the 2 February 1985 Cash Box). The soundtrack album was released on 22 February 1985.

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 215  Boyce: He escaped from prison in 1980, became a bank robber for a time, and intended to fly to the Soviet Union to join the Red Army until being arrested again in 1981 (both he and Lee have since been paroled); Metheny: “He asked if any of us could sing (we couldn’t/can’t!), so he did all the background vocals himself, kind of transforming into what seemed to be two or three different people as he did each part.” (Metheny’s website, “DB RIP,” 11 Jan 2016); pop record: Billboard, 7 June 1986.

217  people in the film: Brian Jay Jones, Jim Henson: The Biography, 355; Lee: he was the one who named the goblin character Jareth; new challenger: Labyrinth: Ultimate Visual History, 29; David Lee Roth: Roth playing against Jennifer Connelly in this film would have been…well, something. Bowie got the nod in part because Henson’s son Brian thought Bowie “was cooler” and because Bowie had more film and stage experience than other candidates; I could see the potential…spoiled child: Inside the Labyrinth; June-August 1985: principal photography began on 15 April 1985 but Bowie didn’t report to the set until early June. Most of his scenes were filmed that month, including the “Magic Dance,” “As the World Falls Down” and “Within You” sequences. Barring a day’s shoot in August, Bowie had completed his scenes by the end of July; just this side of getting it: to Spitz, 336.

218  free hand: Inside the Labyrinth; virtually finished tracks: Labyrinth: UVH, 164; wasn’t a nightmare: Labyrinth: UVH, 123; re-do that whole sequence: Labyrinth: UVH, 131; Wild Things: after Bowie’s death, the demo went up on YouTube, complete with photographs of the session, which showed Eric Idle in attendance.

219 Magic Dance  Portnow: 2 August 1986, Billboard. He later became head of NARAS; filmed: by a 4 June 1985 script draft, the full lyric of “Magic Dance” was complete, though Jareth was originally supposed to sing the “puppy dog tails” line (as he does on the soundtrack version); baby gurgles: Inside the Labyrinth.

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220 As the World Falls Down   exactly the same age: Heather Henson and Jennifer Connelly were born within a week of each other in December 1970.

 221 Velimirovic: Labyrinth: UVH, 41; inner fantasies of this girl: Labyrinth: UVH, 53; Hollywood talent scout: Henson script memo, 24 September 1984; old-fashioned: Inside the Labyrinth; oh how she wants: lines from Laura Phillips’ script revision of August 1984.

222 Ferry: his Girls and Boys was released during the shooting of Labyrinth, in June 1985, Within You    Stone walls and crumbling power: Inside the Labyrinth.

223  little audiocassette: Labyrinth: UVH, 162.  Underground  The 7″ single edit (EMI EA 216, trimmed by over a minute), was backed by an instrumental version; the 12″ has an Extended Dance Version, Dub Mix and another instrumental (no choir this time). The sheet music has an extra verse not found in any mix, to my knowledge (“when will I afford you?/ don’t turn around./ You’re turning slower/ That’s underground”).

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225  That’s Motivation  Various release dates are cited for the release of the Absolute Beginners soundtrack, typically sometime in April 1986. Given that it was reviewed as a new release in the 23 March 1986 Observer, I went with the following day, the by-then-typical UK release day of Monday. Further evidence is that the soundtrack was reviewed in the 5 April 1986 issue of Billboard along with the Stones’ Dirty Work, which came out on 24 March.

226  sexless sparrows: “A Short Guide for Jumbles (to the Life of their Coloured Brethren in England)” (1954); wavering accent: Bowie said he took the idea from a “con man” ad executive he’d known (“there was this continual fluctuation between English and American”). See also MacInnes’ “Young English, Half English” (1957), about Tommy Steele: “[when Steele] speaks to his admirers, his voice takes on the flat, wise, dryly comical tones of purest Bermondsey. When he sings, the words (where intelligible) are intoned in the shrill international American-style drone”; high-falooting…real big number in the old tradition: to Tom Hibbert, Smash Hits, 26 March- 8 April 1986; scenes were shot: dates courtesy of Graham Rinaldi, whose upcoming book on Bowie’s films looks to be definitive; pied piper: Juby, 123; kind of devil: Spin, May 1986; million pounds over budget: The Guardian, 21 September 2005; Sinfield: Literature, Politics, 170.

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227  Release: “Volare” was only included on the 2-LP complete soundtrack, which didn’t get an American release at the time.

228   Absolute Beginners  hey, it’s yet another difficult-to-determine release date! “Absolute Beginners” first charted the week of 15 March 1986 in the UK and Australia (and 29 March 1986 in the Billboard Hot 100), but it was reviewed in the 12-25 February 1986 Smash Hits. While the release date was most likely 3 March 1986, it’s possible it came out the week before, on 24 February 1986; people forget they love: a commenter on Tom Ewing’s “Popular” whose comment I can no longer find. But I swear it once existed; glass eye: to Sandford, 242; Wakeman: added what he described as “classical piano/ Rachmaninoff type stuff” in a later mixing session, where he and Bowie (neighbors in Switzerland) spent a few hours reminiscing; cocaine: a goodbye indulgence, as it’s the last reported time that Bowie used it, as per Kevin Armstrong in Trynka’s bio (the source of the coke was allegedly Angela Bowie—it’s a bit too good a story). But Neil Conti disputed that account on my blog: “It’s absolute rubbish that Bowie was doing cocaine in the studio. He was very calm, happy and healthy, if a little overweight”; tension: The A major 7th possibly came about by Bowie moving a finger while fretting an A major chord (he’d played his chord ideas on guitar to Armstrong in the studio). Chord substitutions brighten the song—a C major chord is swapped in for what should be C# minor on “I’m absolutely,” so affirming that declaration; chords: “Magic Dance” in particular has similar D-Bm-G and F#-E progressions in its refrain (an insight of commenter Y. Tyrell); on a plate: to Buckley, 368; Janet Armstrong: Kevin’s sister, who worked at the clothing store Dorothy Perkins, as per Trynka (332). I say first “major label” performance as she seems to have been the vocalist on a few post-punk singles from the early Eighties.

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230  Dancing in the Street  its B-side was an “instrumental” version (the sort with vocals) with some Saturday Night Live segue-style saxophone noodling and a guitar solo.

231  music-less video: as per Donny McCaslin and other Blackstar musicians; healthy relationship with Mick: Musiek Express, June 1983.

232  cabaret band: Buckley, 367; ego tripsphinxlike: Sandford, 246; Madison Square Garden: Saunders’ blog (www.marksaunders.com), 22 January 2016; smiling, indulgent one: Starman, 332; Stones: The album the Stones were making in the summer of 1985, Dirty Work, sounded like the final, chaotic days of a marriage, with Jagger singing about nuclear war, money-grubbers, and violent sex, with a reoccurring motif of wanting to beat the shit out of someone. It should have been their last album.

234   When the Fires Broke Out      Looney Tunes: Its official title was The Bugs Bunny Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary Special, first airing on 14 January 1986. Other guests included Steve Martin, Billy Dee Williams, Bill Murray, Quincy Jones, Cher, Chuck Yeager, and Molly Ringwald.


Chapter Four: A Society of One (1980-1981)

December 16, 2018

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138   It’s No Game Pts. 1 & 2: While these songs are titled “No. 1” and “No. 2” on sleeves of some editions of the album, primarily UK and European pressings, “Pt. 1” and “Pt. 2” are always the LP/cassette/CD/download/stream label. Was this a late-in-the-day title alteration that didn’t get a follow-through? The change in name subtly alters the relationship of the two songs. Being “Pt. 2” makes the slower, less manic track the sequel to, or continuation of, “Pt. 1,” rather than being, as “No. 2” would suggest, another edition of the same song. There’s also a scatological pun with “No. 2” (“camel shit ”); recorded: sessions went at least to mid-March, as Bowie was in New York on 13 March 1980 for the opening party of an ill-fated musical staged by his former tour arranger, Michael Kamen; release: 12 September was the UK date; contemporary ads in the Los Angeles Times have the US date as 19 September; Scary Monsters: though sometimes referred to as Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps), it’s mostly been identified as Scary Monsters on LP spines and tape, disc, etc. labels. But to make things confusing, it has on occasion had the full title, such as the original 1980 UK cassette , the first (1984) European CD issue and currently on Spotify; Fripp: to Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone, 13 November 1980; most glossy studio…stop experimenting: In Other Words, 100-101. Originally a Con Edison plant on West 53rd St. and 10th Avenue, the Power Station (hence the name) had opened in 1977. It was owned by Tony Bongiovi (cousin of Jon) and Bob Walters. Among its first users were Chic, who at times would book Studio B for months. After a long period as Avatar Studios in the late Nineties and 2000s, it’s now owned by Berklee and remains in operation: the last studio in Manhattan that’s large enough for a symphony or Broadway cast recording; awful lot of mistakes: Radio One interview (Andy Peebles), 5 December 1980, later issued as a promotional 12″; not as immediately as I used to: to Angus MacKinnon, NME, 13 September 1980; grinding and intense: Illustrated Record, 112.

139  Three Steps to Heaven: also the source of the “Queen Bitch” riff; mid-tempo beat: an earlier (bootlegged) take of “Pt. 2″ has a slower tempo, though that may be in part due to tape distortion; angry vehement statement: Peebles, 5 December 1980.

140  flange the combined sound electronically…Swiss chalet: High Fidelity, July 1982.

141  Japanese translation: the full Japanese lyric, as translated by Stephen Ryan: shiruetto ya kage ga kakumei wo miteiru (silhouettes and shadows are watching the revolution)/ mo tengoku no jiyu no kaidan wa nai (free [without restrictions] steps of heaven are no longer there/here)/ ore wa genjitsu kara shime dasare ([a ‘tough’ ‘masculine’ I] have been excluded from reality)/ nani ga okotteiru no ka wakaranai (I don’t understand what’s going on)/ doko ni kyoukun wa aruno ka hitobito wa yubi wo orareteiru (where’s the lesson [moral]? people’s fingers are being broken)/ konna dokusaisya ni iyashimerareru no wa kanashii (to be abused [taunted] by this strong-willed leader [dictator] is sad)/ nanmin no kiroku eiga (documented films of refugees)/ hyoutekini se wo shita koibitotachi (lovers are set as a background to the target)/ michi ni ishi wo nagereba (if you throw a stone into the road)/ konagona ni kudake (it is shattered into a powder)/ kino ni futa wo sureba (if you cover up [put a lid on] yesterday) /kyoufu wa masu (the terror [fear] grows)/ ore no atama ni tama wo uchikomeba (if you shoot a bullet into my head)/ shinbun wa kakitateru (the newspapers will write about it in an exaggerated way); Japanese girl typifies it…samurai kind of thing: Peebles, 5 December 1980.

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142   Tired of My Life: with a slight variation—the original lyric has “I’ll make all the papers”: list of targets: confusion and legend abound in re Mark Chapman and Bowie. Various accounts have: a) Chapman attending an Elephant Man performance days before he shot Lennon (possible but unlikely, as Chapman had arrived in New York on 6 December and spent most of his time over the next two days casing the Dakota, trying to meet Lennon); b) Chapman planning to shoot Bowie at the theater on the 8th if he hadn’t been able to get to Lennon that night (almost certainly wrong, as it was a Monday, the night when a Broadway show is usually dark, and Bowie was out on a date that evening, according to May Pang); c) Chapman had gotten a front-row ticket for Elephant Man on the 9th, the night that Lennon and Ono allegedly were supposed to attend. In 1999, Bowie told the radio host Redbeard this latter (Dec. 9) story, as well as that the NYPD had told him that his name was second on Chapman’s list of targets; going on in this world: as per Pang to Paul Trynka. An old friend (Lennon’s ex-girlfriend and Tony Visconti’s future wife), she was asked by Corinne Schwab to come to Bowie’s apartment once news of the shooting broke; Pang and Bowie arrived around the same time (Starman, 299.)   Because You’re Young  Never performed live, but as with “Scream Like a Baby,” it was played in 1987 tour rehearsals.

143   pretending to be a rock ‘n’ roll band: to Tom Hibbert, Q, July 1989; behind a desk: to Chris Welch, Melody Maker, 17 September 1977; hitting out at everybody: to Steve Rosen, Sound International, April 1980; personification of my worst fears: to Mick Brown, Sunday Times, 1985; Power Station: not confirmed, but it’s far more likely that Townshend cut his solo there rather than in London in April-May 1980. Townshend was already in the US in February 1980 to meet up with Nicolas Roeg about a potential film of Lifehouse; in April-May, the Who were on tour much of the time; wine: Townshend snapped “there’s no such thing as white wine!” when Visconti offered him a choice of bottles; bottle of brandy…can’t pull it off: Sound International, April 1980; old men…right rave-up: to Hopkins, Bowie, 217; foul, laconic mood…oh windmills: Brooklyn Boy, 285; chord as a drone: Sound International, April 1980.

144  old roué: Peebles, 5 December 1980 (a reference to Jacques Brel’s “My Death”); felt old all my life: see Melody Maker, 14 October 1978 & NME, 12 March 1983, among other interviews.      Kingdom Come  Verlaine’s song used the title of an unreleased Television song, but the two are otherwise unrelated; New York’s finest new writers: Peebles, 5 December 1980; Tom Verlaine look: Circus, 19 February 1980.

145  scattered scheme of things: NME, 13 September 1980; Porter: the connection here was Hazel O’Connor, on whose debut album Porter worked and whose follow-up Visconti produced. Porter went on to engineer hits like George Michael’s “Faith”; lugubrious…used a note of his playing: Brooklyn Boy, 285; Verlaine: to Kristine McKenna, in the November 1981 New York Rocker, he said “I didn’t go along with the Bowie version of “Kingdom Come” myself, but it’s always a thrill to hear someone else interpret your work even if you don’t like what they do with it. I’d love to hear Ray Charles do that song—I bet he’d do a great version.”

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146  Up the Hill Backwards  the last Scary Monsters single, issued in March 1981 and hitting #32 in the UK. Its Top of the Pops performance by Legs & Co. is a marvel—dry ice, hand chops, deadpan expressions. Few TOTP dance routines were ever choreographed to a 7/8 intro and a Fripp guitar line; poem for children: I found it in a 1964 kindergarten textbook, which may have been its only appearance; music carries its own message…ball of middle-classness: NME, 13 September 1980; Richter: Art and Anti-Art, 122; since 1924…high-energy Fripp: Peebles, 5 December 1980.

147  most exploratory of all the tracks: to Thomas Jerome Seabrook, Record Collector 299, March 2012; system of echo repeats: interview for Recorder Three, 1981; disguised in indifference: Peebles, 5 December 1980.

148  Scream Like a Baby rehearsed for, but not performed in, the 1987 tour; kleen machine: NME, 13 September 1980; anti-tech: Peebles, 5 December 1980; Brother D: Daryl Aamaa Nubyahn, a Brooklyn math teacher/activist who recorded, with the Collective Effort, for the Clappers label, founded as a Maoist effort; retrospection and pastiche: Fisher, Ghosts of My Life, 14.

149  key: verses are built of two clusters of three chords (Cm-Abj7-G7 (“hide under blankets”) and Bb-Ab6-Eb (“mixed with other colors”)), two descending progressions in the key of Eb. The refrain, however, builds to a major chord resolution, while the six-bar bridge centers on a troubled iii chord—Gm7/sus4, C#dim7, F5, C#°, Gm9, Gm7.  Is There Life After Marriage  other track: it’s been reported (but unconfirmed) that the real “Is There Life After Marriage” track was intended as a duet with Iggy Pop. After the book went to press, I realized I should have put quotes around this title, as it’s not the actual name of the bootlegged track. I also had thought of combining this entry with the “I Feel Free” one in Chapter 8, but thought some readers might have been confused by that. It may have been the wrong call. But hey, let’s move on; revue: An Evening With Quentin Crisp (the “life after marriage” line is quoted in the 7 January 1979 New York Times review). The phrase was also a feminist slogan and titled a chapter in a self-help book of the period, so who knows where DB picked it up.

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150  Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) issued as a single in January 1981; WXRT: this acoustic version by Reeves Gabrels and Bowie was released in 2005 on ONXRT: Live From The Archives Vol. 8; Londonism: Peebles, 5 December 1980; worked it up: Rolling Stone, 27 January 2016; major-chord: verses push between home chord (E major) and flattened VII chord (D major); refrains pit dominant and subdominant (B and A) against each other; British punk group: WNYC interview, March 2009.

151  right there at the Power Station: Momus blog, 5 March 2010; Kellogg’s: Bowie claimed this, but I found no evidence of this campaign, sadly; EDP Wasp: Designed by Chris Huggett and introduced in 1978, the Wasp was indeed wasp-colored in yellow and black. With a two-octave keyboard, it was one of the first digital/analog hybrid synthesizers (digital oscillators, analog filters) and would be key to early Eighties synth-pop: Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran loved it. Visconti possibly used the deluxe model, which had a three-octave keyboard and oscillator mixer; equalization changestriggered the sequence: Brooklyn Boy, 286, 283.

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152  Teenage Wildlife    Savage: The Face, November 1980; punk failures: Reynolds, Rip It Up, 326; checking out ideas…escape route: Record Mirror, 29 November 1980; Elms: The Way We Wore, 188-89.

153  most creative people: Blitzed, 43; Frith: Music For Pleasure, 176; TV show: the 1979 Kenny Everett’s Christmas Special. Numan had already filmed his performance and was hanging around to see Bowie play. “All of a sudden, this bloke I’d adored for years was throwing me out of a building because he hated me so much,” Numan told the Independent in 2003; image is to be copied: Trouser Press, January 1981; note to younger brother: Peebles, 5 December 1980; first convention: “The 1980 Floor Show: Bowiecon 1,” as per Cann, Chronology, 236 (the date listed was 27 April 1980—Kenneth Pitt and Cherry Vanilla were among the speakers). An article in the 7 June 1980 Sounds describes the day-long convention, which about 1,000 attended. There were screenings of Bowie films and videos and a Bowie lookalike contest that didn’t make the grade, according to Sounds (“13 very feeble entrants. Each one would come and on wriggle about to ‘Rebel Rebel’ for about five seconds. One man in a red plastic cape came on wearing rollers skates and did an Evel Knievel bit by jumping four chairs on stage.”) It ended with Pitt auctioning off memorabilia, including the jock strap Bowie wore in “The Mask,” his 1969 mime.

154   Conservative radicals: Peter York, Style Wars, 15; wanted heroes: Beckett, Miracle, 189; service industry: Q, July 1989; warm up to this track: Brooklyn Boy, 284; Hammer: Record Collector, March 2012.

155  splintery guitar…still enamoured: Mail on Sunday, 22 June 2008.    Ashes to Ashes   Tonight Show: Alomar put together the band: G.E. Smith (guitar), John Kumnick (bass), Gordon Grody (keyboards), Steve Goulding (drums). The Tonight Show was their only public performance, though they’re also seen in the concert filmed at Hurrah for Christiane F, and most are in the “Fashion” video. There’s some debate over the date of taping: Pegg has 3 September, Griffin 5 September 1980 (which is definitely the date of broadcast) Watching the entire episode, it’s obvious that Bowie taped his performance at a different time than the rest of the guests, but it’s quite possible it was earlier that day.

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156  accommodate your pasts: to Timothy White, Musician, July 1990.

157  where I left him: NME, 13 September 1980; complete dissolution…from whence he came: Peebles, 5 December 1980.

158  nursery rhyme: Peebles, 5 December 1980; old ska beat…chair and a cardboard box: to Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 29 September 1984.

159  decent moving stereo image: Brooklyn Boy, 279-80; People Are Turning to Gold: are the “little green wheels” in “Ashes to Ashes” and Bowie’s legendary lost Man Who Fell to Earth soundtrack piece “Wheels” connected? If so, is it then possible “Ashes” is yet another Scary Monsters song whose origins lie in the mid-Seventies? Perhaps we’ll know one day; riff: a fine, concise analysis is found in Aileen Dillane, Eoin Devereux and Martin J. Power’s “Culminating Sounds and (en)Visions.” As they note, the riff is a six-bar sequence. The first three bars are the complete melody: F-Bb-C/ C- F/ Bb-Eb. The fourth bar repeats the opening F-Bb-C melody, so the ear expects the two-note C-F bar to follow. Instead there’s an empty bar, then the Bb-Eb “closing” bar; chords: much of the verse and refrain is in Ab major, but the intro/outro is Bb minor7/ Ab major/ Eb minor/ Bb min7, in which both the Bbm and Ebm chords work against Ab establishing itself as the home chord; chord inversions: Record Collector, March 2012.

160  Gracyk: Rhythm & Noise, 168; smoking pistol: Countdown interview, 1 December 1979.

161  Tom Ewing: Popular, “Ashes to Ashes,” November 2008.   Fashion issued as a single in October 1980, hitting #5 in the UK.

162   strange aura about it:  Peebles, 5 December 1980; structural similarities: “Golden Years” also has two chords playing off each other for the verse. “Fashion” is in F major (with the Bb7 in the refrain the IV chord, and the bridge a slow game of moving from the iv chord, Dm, back home to F); Fripp: Graham Coxon allegedly was so intent on trying to capture the sound of Fripp’s “Fashion” solo on Blur’s “London Loves” that the song’s working title was “Fripp”; contemporary grammar: Rock et Folk, May 1995. Fripp’s Scary Monsters work was consistent with the guitar sounds on his own Exposure a year earlier. Compare “Breathless” and “Disengage” to “It’s No Game” and “Fashion”; just out of a truck: Electronic Musician, June 1987; end of Davis & Murray: Bowie let them go because he didn’t record or tour for over two years, and couldn’t keep them on retainer. Davis joined up with Stevie Wonder, with whom he played for most of the Eighties, and became a teacher: among his students was future Bowie drummer Sterling Campbell. Davis died a few months after Bowie in 2016. His son, Hikaru, has started a wonderful YouTube series, The HD Projects, in which he interviews his father’s old collaborators. George Murray got out of the game soon after leaving Bowie—his last appearance on record is Jerry Harrison’s 1981 The Red and the Black. He stayed close friends with Alomar and Davis, and is alive and well as of this writing (Hikaru Davis interviewed him in 2017).

163  more techno: Brooklyn Boy, 284 (the original idea was to remove the drum machine and just use Davis’ drums); grew into a monster: Five Years.                       Crystal Japan  unclear when first issued in Japan, but the single (c/w “Alabama Song”) has a 1980 copyright on the label. Crystal Jun Rock: incorrectly described as sake (by me, among others), it’s instead shochu, more of a vodka-like liquor; money is a useful thing: March 1980 Japanese interview quoted in Cann, Chronology, 205; B-side: an unknown Bowie track for many until its appearance on the 1992 Ryko reissue of Scary Monsters. That’s where Trent Reznor, who subconsciously nicked its melody for “A Warm Place,” first heard it.

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164  Cat People  Lots of different release dates out there. My source is the 27 March 1982 Cash Box, which reported the single was released on 12 March and the soundtrack LP on 1 April 1982; doesn’t speak French well: Sunday People, 10 May 1981.

165  time immemorial: Esquire, July 1982 (quoted in Kouvaros, 47); dream state…took it lyrically: New Zealand TV interview, filmed on the set of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, ca. September 1982; I said ‘Jim’: comment on “Cat People” blog post, 6 March 2014.

166  really bothered him…same tempo: High Fidelity, February 1984; took instruments away: The Face, May 1983.  Under Pressure   first release: date as per the 17 October 1981 Record World.

167  Ewing: Popular,Under Pressure,” 4 February 2009; booked Mountain Studios: trying to pre-empt the pedants here. Yes, Queen owned the studio, but I think it’s fair to say they would still “book time” to record there; under the influence of Switzerland: NME, 16 April 1983; who paid what?: Sandford, 209; vocals removed: Brian May, in International Musician and Recording World, November 1982: “David just did a backing track. I don’t think anyone thought any more about it, except that it was a nice ornamentation. We just sent him a courtesy note telling him that we had used it and he said, ‘I want it taken off, because I’m not satisfied with it.’ Unfortunately he didn’t tell us until about a day before the album was supposed to be released, so it really set us back. It delayed the album’s release”; inevitable jams: NME, 16 April 1983; other people’s stuff: Absolute Radio interview (for “Killer Queen” documentary), 22 August 2011.

168  get a bit twitchy: New Zealand TV interview, ca. September 1982; from the ground up: response to BowieNet fan question, 19 April 2004; skeleton of a song…better as a demo: NME, 16 April 1983; this song appears: David Bowie Story, 1993; My God it’s caught fire: as recalled by Freddie Mercury to Simon Bates, Radio One interview, June 1985; press on instinctively…why the words are so curious…template for the final vocals: May, Daily Mirror, 11 January 2016; what he felt they should say: to Alan di Perna, Guitar World, October 2002.

169  West Side Story meets Queen: David Bowie Story, 1993; bassline: The case for Deacon: various interviews with May and Taylor over the years, including May’s 2016 article for the Daily Mirror. The case for Bowie: “The song itself is mainly David’s and Freddie’s idea. But we were all included in the credits. It was an interesting experience, because David wrote the bass-line, he owes the responsibility for it,” Deacon to Mizuno Kumiko, Viva Rock (December 1982) and “The bass line came from David, it took me a certain time to learn it. But there was also a strong influence from Brian for the middle part. It was an interesting experience which we might do repeat if we have a chance with David and other people,” Deacon to Guido Harari, Petite Reine (1984); pedal point: Ethan Hein delves more into this on his site); mixing: producer and author Bobby Owsinski first noted some apparent minor “UP” performance flaws on his Big Picture Music Production blog, 27 April 2010.

170  quite simply about love: International Musician and Recording World, November 1982.

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171 Baal’s Hymn  a wild lack of clarity on the release date for this EP. We have Bowie’s website in 2013 claiming that the EP came out on 13 February 1982. As this was a Saturday and weeks before the broadcast, this is…not likely? The recent New Career in a New Town set instead has the date as being 13 March 1982. But the only contemporary source I found, the UK trade paper Record Business (22 February 1982 issue), lists the EP’s release date as being 2 March 1982, the same day of the broadcast. Out of exhaustion, I’ve chosen this date, but it was perhaps the 1st (a Monday) or 26 February (a Friday); UK #29: Baal’s amazing UK chart placing—#29 on the singles chart for an EP of obscure Brecht—is a testament to refined British taste and/or undiscerning Bowie fandom; broadcast: I’m deviating from my usual listing of the date of filming in favor here of listing the actual broadcast date. I did so for clarity, as Bowie’s Baal performances were shot over five days, 8-12 August 1981; Marks: was a BBC stalwart, even writing four Doctor Who scripts; alienation: Verfremdungseffekt (also translated as “estrangement affect”), in which audiences are prevented from emotionally identifying with actors on stage via actions like having actors break character and directly address the audience or, as in the Baal production, using split-screen intertitles as narrative commentary on actions taking place “on stage”; lead actor: Clarke originally wanted Steven Berkoff, whom he’d used in Scum; Marks favored Barry Humphries (aka Dame Edna Everage). Willett claimed he’d been the first to suggest Bowie; career of acting: Juby, 104.

172  quintessential amoral artist: Juby, 104-105; human race…wants that: Radio Times, 27 February 1982.

173  two stanzas: stanzas seven and nine, the most redundant, were cut. For the BBC production, stanza three (“so through hospital…”) appeared between stanzas six and eight, but was restored to its proper place in the EP recording. Like the BBC take, the EP version puts stanza 11 (“Baal can spot the vultures”) after stanza 12; Willett’s translation: Brecht’s first line, “Als im weißen Mutterschoße aufwuchs Baal,” is translated by Eric Bentley and Martin Esslin as “in the white womb of his mother Baal did lie.” Willett instead keeps the Germanic sentence structure: “whilst his mother’s womb contained the growing Baal.” It gives the line more of a punch and lets Bowie dig into the bleating vowel in “Baaal”; construction noise: Bowie allegedly tried to stop it by going out into the hallway and yelling “lunch!” while another story has Marks storming through the studios to find the worker, who was using a pneumatic drill; bandoneónist…four strings: Starman, 307.

175  Remembering Marie A.  Brecht, arr. trad.: the lyric is Willett’s 1970 translation. Odd that he’s not listed as a co-songwriter but perhaps this was a BBC work-for-hire standard; Amman: her name is sometimes spelled “Aman.” In 1978, around age 80, she was the subject of an East German short film; “Marie A.” in German, it sounds like “Maria,” the Virgin Mary. Brecht was fond of “Marie” (as the name “spanned the distance between housemaids and Saint Mary”), using it in several poems (via Hugo Schmidt’s notes on Brecht’s Manual of Piety); Zuckmayer: Willett, 166; 1926 Baal: recollection of Oskar Homolka (note in Brecht, Poems, 527).

176  The Drowned Girl  RCA requested a video for “Drowned Girl.” Shot by David Mallet, its supporting band (the same used for a “Wild Is the Wind” video to promote Changestwobowie) is all ringers: Tony Visconti, Simple Minds drummer Mel Gaynor, Andy Hamilton (a British saxophonist heard on Duran Duran’s “Rio”), and Coco Schwab; magic spell…his own will on anybody: Fuegi, Brecht & Co., 128-129; Rimbaud: “Ophélie” also begins with a dead “white” girl in the water (“Sur l’onde calme et noire où dorment les étoiles/ La blanche Ophélia flotte comme un grand lys”). Rainer Nägele’s “Phantom of a Corpse: Ophelia From Rimbaud to Brecht” (2002) notes what Brecht owed to Rimbaud as well as connections that “Drowned Girl” has with other Brecht poems of the period.

177  phenomenon of death: “A Note Concerning Das Berliner Requiem,” May 1929, quoted in Kowalke, Kurt Weill in Europe, 504; Lotte Lenya: Bowie knew her version from Lotte Lenya Sings Kurt Weill (1955). She sang “Drowned Girl” to Brecht shortly before the latter died. When she asked if her performance suited his idea of epic theater, Brecht replied: “Lenya, you are always epic enough for me”; absolute tutorial: Starman, 367.

178  Dirty Song: Brecht allegedly cut it for being too insubstantial; Lud Prestel: enjoyed the fate of many Brecht collaborators in that he wasn’t credited.