It’s Hard To Be a Saint In the City

November 3, 2010

It’s Hard To Be a Saint In the City (Bruce Springsteen, demo, 1972).
It’s Hard To Be a Saint In the City (Springsteen, Greetings From Asbury Park).
It’s Hard To Be a Saint In the City (Springsteen, live, 1975).
It’s Hard To Be a Saint In the City (Bowie, 1974?).

After I heard this track I never rode the subway again… it’s called ‘Saint In the City’. That really scared the living ones out of me, that.

Bowie on Radio One, May 1979.

Bruce Springsteen came to Sigma Sound on 25 November 1974, on what was supposed to be the last night of the Young Americans sessions. His escort was Ed Sciaky, a Philadelphia DJ, who had brought Springsteen along at the request of Tony Visconti. Bowie had been working on a version of “It’s Hard to Be a Saint In the City,” off of Springsteen’s debut album, which was Bowie’s favorite of Springsteen’s records. (During the ’79 Radio One appearance, Bowie took a dig at Darkness At the Edge of Town.) Visconti thought Springsteen would be interested in hearing the cover, even playing on it.

Springsteen at this time seemed committed to living out his own street myths. Contacted around noon that day, he hitched a ride to Asbury Park, then took a Trailways bus to Philadelphia, and, upon arriving, hung out with the bums in the station until he was picked up.

Bruce is stylishly attired in a stained brown leather jacket with about seventeen zippers and a pair of hoodlum jeans. He looked like he just fell out of a bus station, which he had.

Mike McGrath, Bowie Meets Springsteen, November 1974.

Bowie arrived at the studio an hour later. The initial meeting was polite but strained. Springsteen was shy and reserved, while Bowie admitted years later that he was so cracked up on drugs and worn down by his breakneck work schedule that he found it hard to relate to anyone. “What do I say to normal people?” Bowie recalled. “There was a real impasse.” Still, the two found common ground, complaining about stage jumpers, and Bowie complimented Springsteen by saying there was no other American artist he was interested in covering. Bowie tried to do a vocal take, noted it wasn’t late enough in the evening (“I won’t be able to record anything till about half past five”); he drifted in and out of the conversations, perking up when the talk turned to UFOs.

Springsteen left at 5 AM. Bowie never played him the cover of “It’s Hard to Be a Saint,” partly because Bowie wasn’t happy with the track, which he soon shelved. A shame, because Bowie’s somber, romantic take on “Saint,” complete with a Visconti string section, was in line with what Springsteen was attempting to do, broadening the sonic palette of his first two records, committing fully to what the radical John Sinclair sneeringly called “tales of a mythic urban grease scene.” Springsteen had spent much of 1974 laboring over what would become Born to Run, with little to show for it at year’s end. Only when he hooked up with Jon Landau and Steven Van Zandt, in March ’75, did the record really take focus.

“It’s Hard to Be a Saint,” with its Bo Diddley-esque braggadocio, its self-mythology, was better suited for Bowie than “Growin’ Up,” Bowie’s earlier cover. Bowie sang it as though he was trying out the extent of his vocal range (taking the verses low, subbing for his backing singers on “don’t that man look pretty”). There are the occasional wayward notes and gruesome phrases that seem to be attempting Americanisms, but it’s one of Bowie’s more inspired covers of the decade, better than most of the covers Bowie officially released. Bowie was channeling Springsteen’s own development, ghosting his future records. The two would never work together, but on that evening, unknown to each other, they were brothers.

Recorded 20-24 November 1974? (though it’s possible Bowie revisited the track during the Station to Station sessions, in October-November 1975). Released on the Sound + Vision box set in 1989.

Top: Terry O’Neill, “Bruce Springsteen on the Sunset Strip,” 1975.


Reissues: Win

August 9, 2016

death

Readers of Mojo have likely seen the article that I wrote for them this month (a preview here). Though commissioned to coincide with the announcement of The Gouster as part of the upcoming Bowie boxed set, the article is far more about the early days of the album sessions, in Philadelphia in August 1974. This was research I did for the book—I went to Philly and heard the various studio tapes held in Drexel University’s Audio Archives, which document the raw, loose first takes of things like “Young Americans” as well as the legendary “Shilling the Rubes” and the Bowie-sung “I Am a Lazer.” For more, read the article or check out the book. Also, if you’re going to the Bowie conference in Lisbon this September, excerpts from the tapes should be played during Leah Kardos’ and Toby Seay’s presentations.

The Gouster has been talked up as being  a “lost” Bowie album but that’s a bit of marketing—all of the restored songs (“John, I’m Only Dancing Again,” “It’s Gonna Be Me,” and “Who Can I Be Now”) have long been available as bonus tracks on other editions of Young Americans. And perversely, the new set doesn’t include previously-issued outtakes like “After Today” and “It’s Hard to Be a Saint In the City” (the latter a confusing track that started during Diamond Dogs and was possibly completed as late as Station to Station). But it is an interesting sequencing—Young Americans reconsidered as a slow-jam album, dominated by lengthy ballads. Would it have sold as well without having “Fame”? Maybe not.

What’s notable is that “Fascination” and “Win” aren’t on The Gouster sequence, though they were recorded prior to Tony Visconti leaving for London to mix and arrange the tracks, unaware that Bowie would upend things with his John Lennon collaborations. Any sequence without the masterful “Win” in particular seems just wrong, but perhaps it goes to show that the song, one of Bowie’s most gorgeous pieces, was underrated from the start.

Originally posted on 15 November 2010, all you’ve got to do is:

Win.
Win (live, 1974).
Win (live, tantalizing fragment, 2004).

The finest Young Americans ballad, “Win” is the closest Bowie came to the Philly Soul sound, using it to cushion a study of obsession and control. Softening David Sanborn’s alto saxophone, which plays dreamy scales throughout, and adding sweeps of low strings, Bowie and Tony Visconti made the track seem swathed in cotton. Along with the promiscuous use of sixth and major seventh chords, the arrangement gave “Win” a narcotic lassitude.

Like “Fascination,” “Win” has little in common with the rambling early Sigma Sound recordings —it’s the track on Young Americans to most foreshadow Station to Station, signaling an end to Bowie’s American soul project. Bowie said the chord structures in “Win” were “much more of a European thing than an American thing,” though they were also apparently a Brooklyn thing, too, as Earl Slick claimed in 2014 that he and Bowie “came up with that whole chord structure” in a hotel one night on tour. It was a standoff between G major and F major in the verses (with an A major posing an unresolved question, rather than moving the song anywhere) and a modulation to D major in the refrain.* It may have come from Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me,” with which “Win” shares a taste for sixths and major sevenths and a rhythmic hiccup: in the latter case, it’s two bars of 6/8 capped by a bar of 2/4 at the close of the refrain (compare “all you’ve-got-to-do-is-win” with the bridge of “Hello It’s Me,” “I’d nev-er-want-to-make-you-change,” a little steal first noted by Jeff Norman).

Singing his most inspired lines on the album (“someone like you should not be allowed to start any fires,”“Me, I hope that I’m crazy”), Bowie made a vocal in brushstrokes. The Philadelphia DJ Ed Sciaky, who attended the last “Win” session, said Bowie worked by “sing[ing] three lines, then having the engineer play them back, keeping the first line every time…hitting every line the way he wanted.” Finishing around seven in the morning, Bowie had the track played back twice, then nodded and pronounced it done.

While on other Young Americans tracks, Bowie had been foiled by his backing singers, on “Win” he keeps them in check. He paces them, undermines them (take the threatening “it ain’t over” that closes the second refrain). The refrain’s a set of knife blows, with an organ high in the mix and a Carlos Alomar arpeggio that calls back to the closing guitar figure of the Beatles’ “You Never Give Me Your Money.” Bowie sings “all…you’ve got…to do…is…win” like a piece of extortion, dreamily lingering on the last word (he’d developed the refrain from riffs during live performances of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”: “you’re not alone! All you’ve got to do is win!”). At the close, Bowie sings “it ain’t over” in a rising melody over an out-of nowhere E major chord. It’s as if “Win” was just prelude so far, that the song’s about to move somewhere else, that Bowie’s barely exhausted his reserves. The sudden fade comes as a small mercy.

Recorded: ca. 20-24 November 1974, Sigma Sound; ca. 3-10 December 1974, Record Plant; January 1975, Air Studios, London (strings, arr. Visconti). First release: 7 March 1975, Young Americans. Only one live recording of “Win” exists: 1 December 1974 at the Omni Theater in Atlanta, the last night of the “Soul Dogs” tour. It’s unknown whether “Win” debuted there or in Nashville or Memphis gigs in late November, neither of which were taped. Bowie hummed the first lines of “Win” after a performance of “Station to Station” in his penultimate show in the US (Jones Beach, 4 June 2004), then cruelly yelled “enough!” to his band.

* “Win” is in G mixolydian (the G major scale with a flattened VII chord, here the song’s “rival” chord, F major). The verse sequence of G-G6-A-A6-G-G6-Fmaj7-F6 is odd, as the A major chord, instead of the expected A minor, seems as though it should have a “purpose” of some sort, but it doesn’t change the key: you go right back to G major and then move on to the flatted VII chord, F. A major is merely a strong flavor in Bowie’s soup.

Top: Tammy Hackney, “Death,” ca. 1974-75. Death’s newly unearthed recordings reveal a remarkable missing link between Detroit bands like the Stooges and MC5 from the late 1960s and early ’70s and the high-velocity assault of punk.”


Born In a UFO

November 6, 2015

majphotoufo

Born In a UFO.

Half a year after Bowie’s surprise return, it turned out that the surprise return wasn’t quite done yet. The Next Day Extra, announced in September 2013, offered four new tracks, along with compiling previous bonus tracks and remixes. It was, cynically, a means to get fans to buy the album again and, generously, a way for Bowie to get more songs out, rather than letting them languish for decades in his vaults, like all the alleged Lodger outtakes.

So what was The Next Day Extra? How should it be considered? As a new EP? As a digestif for an overstuffed album? As just more ones and zeroes sent into the ether, more disconnected music for a time when sequenced albums are antiquated?

The Extra tracks were mainly cut during the Next Day sessions but had needed more time to cook, Tony Visconti said, with further overdubs done in early 2013. But they didn’t sound too labored over. If anything united the Extra tracks, it was a sense of Bowie letting his hair down. No longer having to establish the Back-From-the-Dead Bowie, he could sneak out a couple of loopy, SF-themed songs that few people (relatively) would ever hear. Sharing an overbearing, blotto production aesthetic, the four Extra tracks now seem, with two years’ distance, to be a brief loud party held before the next scene change.

“Born In a UFO” is a case in point: a cracked parody of Bruce Springsteen (obviously in its refrain, but the verse melody also has a pinch of “It’s Hard to Be a Saint In the City“), with a Dylan nod (“‘there’s no direction home,’ she pleads”) and even some of Toni Basil’s “Mickey” in the rising keyboard lines (played by Bowie). A homage to SF serials Bowie had watched as a boy in Beckenham and Fifties novelty songs like the Earth Boys’ “Space Girl,”, it’s also a workable metaphor for falling in love with the “right” person at last: she or he can seem like they fell out of a spaceship one day, sent here to upend your life.

Zachary Alford said the song began as a reworking of a “leftover from Lodger,” (though there’s a chance he was recalling another song whose title Bowie later shifted to the released “UFO”). If so, you can see a few common threads—“UFO” shares the gonzo mood of “Red Sails” and has some vague similarities, chord-wise, to “DJ”: more in its sense of movement, with three rising chords as a hook (F-G-Ab in “UFO”, Am-Bm-C in “DJ”). Visconti and Alford (or Sterling Campbell) hammer the hell out of things; Earl Slick gets the “Andalusian” guitar solos. Bowie plays a suburban loser made hysterical by lust, though more for his alien inamorata’s fashion sense (“an a-line skirt,” “her clutch bag,” “silver hair, trapezoid flanks” and, best of all, “I was so in love with her lavender vest!“). All she’s missing is a bipperty-bopperty hat.

Recorded: (backing tracks) ca. July 2012, The Magic Shop, NYC?; (overdubs) fall 2012-spring 2013, Magic Shop; Human Worldwide, NYC. Released on 4 November 2013 on The Next Day Extra. Thanks to “Crayon to Crayon” for musical insight, as often.

Top: Maj Halova, “Žižkov Television Tower,” Prague, January 2015 (“there are babies climbing our rocket-like TV tower”). Maj has been commenting for many years, and it’s always nice to see her take on a new post. Thanks, Maj.

POLL POLL POLL: closing in on 100 ballots received so far. Plenty of time for you to add to the pile! Again: bowiesongs@gmail.com, subject line: POLL. Your 30 favorite Bowie songs, 10 favorite albums.


Links: Chapters 6-8

March 25, 2015

Chapter 6: Ziggy In Nixonland: 1972-1973

db73

“You Got To Have a Job/ Hot Pants”
“I Feel Free”: (live, 1972) (1980 inst. outtake) (1993 remake)
“White Light/White Heat” (VU)
“All the Young Dudes”: (Mott the Hoople) (Bowie)
“John, I’m Only Dancing”
“My Death”
“The Jean Genie”
“Drive-In Saturday”
“Watch That Man”
“Panic In Detroit” (1979 remake)
“Cracked Actor”
“Time”
“Aladdin Sane”
“Let’s Spend the Night Together”
“Lady Grinning Soul”
“This Boy” “Love Me Do”

More: Ziggy Stardust tour, 1972: Aylesbury; Rainbow Theatre, London; Santa Monica. Rock and Roll (1995, Ep. 7, “The Wild Side“); Classic Albums: Transformer; Evelyn Waugh, Vile Bodies; Kazumi Hayashi, “Some Cat From Japan,” (on Kansai Yamamoto); Dirty Harry (1971, opening sequence); “Baader-Meinhof: In Love With Terror”; New York Dolls, “Personality Crisis” (Midnight Special, 1973); Mayor of the Sunset Strip; Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture.

Chapter 7: The Anxiety of Influence (1973)

dblate73

“Everything’s Alright” (Mojos)
“I Wish You Would” (Billy Boy Arnold) (Yardbirds)
“Rosalyn” (Pretty Things)
“Don’t Bring Me Down” (Pretty Things)
“I Can’t Explain” (The Who)
“Anyway Anyhow Anywhere” (The Who)
“Here Comes the Night” (Them) (Lulu)
“Where Have All the Good Times Gone” (Kinks)
“Friday On My Mind” (Easybeats)
“Sorrow” (Merseys)
“Shapes of Things” (Yardbirds)
“See Emily Play” (Pink Floyd)
“Zion”
“Music Is Lethal”
“Hey Ma, Get Papa”
“Growing Up and I’m Fine”

More: Pin Ups (Bowie radio promo, 1973); Richie Unterberger, Billy Boy Arnold interview; The Yardbirds Story; Pete Townshend interviews: 1969, 1971, 1972, 1972, 1974; the Kinks: live, 1966; Ray Davies, interviews, 1971, 1977; Syd Barrett: interview, 1967; Mick Ronson: interview, ca. 1992.

Chapter 8: Tomorrow’s Double Feature (1973-1974)

db74

“I Got You Babe”
“Growin’ Up” (Springsteen, live, 1972)
“It’s Hard to Be a Saint In the City” (Springsteen, live, 1975)
“Having a Good Time”
“Things To Do”* (the one clip not on YouTube! it’s on Spotify though)
“I Am Divine”
“People From Bad Homes”
“I Am a Laser” (Bowie, 1974, fragment)
“1984/Dodo” (“1984”) (“Dodo”)
“Big Brother”
“Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family”

“We Are the Dead”
“Rock ‘n’ Roll With Me”
“Rebel Rebel” (1974 single version) (2003 remake)
“Future Legend”
“Diamond Dogs”
“Candidate 1 (Alternative Candidate)”
“Sweet Thing—Candidate—Sweet Thing (Reprise)”

More: The 1980 Floor Show, 1973; J.G. Ballard, Future Now; “The Family,” BBC, 1974; Pathe, “West End of London,” 1973; John Lydon, on ’70s England (from The Filth and the Fury); Nineteen-Eighty Four (BBC, 1954); Jenny Diski, on Sonia Orwell; The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, “Mr. Apollo”, Colour Me Pop, 1968; John Rechy, City of Night; Marcello Carlin, “Diamond Dogs” (TPL).


Young Americans

October 12, 2010

Young American (take 3, fragment).
Young Americans.
Young Americans (live, 1974).
Young Americans (The Dick Cavett Show, 1974).
Young Americans (live, 1983).
Young Americans (live, 1987).
Young Americans (live, 1990).

Americans love flattery and youth, so it’s no surprise that David Bowie finally cracked the US Top 40 with this song. Bowie always performed it on stage with an acoustic guitar, making the song seem like a remnant of his folkie days, and eventually “Young Americans” was tumbled in with other congratulatory good-time songs of its era. Yet “Young Americans” is a cold piece of work, a ballad that becomes a diatribe, its bite kissed away by Bowie’s American backing singers.

Asked by the NME in summer 1975 about the song, Bowie said: “No story. Just young Americans. It’s about a newly-wed couple who don’t know if they really like each other. Well, they do, but they don’t know if they do or don’t.” (cf. Sly Stone’s “Family Affair”: “Newly-wed a year ago, but you’re still checkin’ each other out.”) In the opening verses, a young, bewildered couple finds solace in sex (though not much: it took him minutes, took her nowhere) and eventually squander all they have going for them, their youth. At least that’s what the final line of the third, shortened verse suggests: We live for just these twenty years, do we have to die for the fifty more?

Bowie was covering Bruce Springsteen songs (he’d cut “It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City” in a later Young Americans session), so “Young Americans” conceivably started as a tribute or a rip of something off The Wild, The Innocent & The E Street Shuffle. But Springsteen was in love with his characters, making myths of their meager lives, and even his walk-on roles have pathos, like Madame Marie in “4th of July, Asbury Park.” In “Young Americans,” the boy and the girl lack names, jobs, desires, histories, friends. They’re not even types. Vocal uncertainty (does Bowie sing “they pulled in just behind the bridge” or “behind the fridge” in the first line?) makes even the song’s setting unknowable: the story could open in the backseat of a car, or in some squalid apartment. It doesn’t matter.

The boy and girl move in jump cuts, speak in stilted language, as if they’re hostages reading from a script. It’s just poster love, as Bowie sings later in the song. “Am I still too young?” the girl asks. “Where have all papa’s heroes gone?” she says later. He’s referred to as “her bread-winner.” She’s no more than a talking Barbie doll (her heart’s been broken, just like you have). Even the chorus reads like Maoist agitprop: She wants the young American! I want the young American!

And after the bridge and saxophone break, Bowie knocks his pieces off the board. Instead of continuing his story, he uses his last two verses to riff, offering quips, shorthand, signifiers. In “Life On Mars?” Bowie began with a close-up on the mousy girl in the movie theater stalls, then zoomed out for a wider, more surreal picture, but “Young Americans” begins far away from its subjects. Their fates aren’t important, because the boy and girl didn’t exist in the first place. They were just mere impressions, as ephemeral as the other fleeting images that the singer sees as he watches a country spool past his limousine window: Ford Mustangs, Americans on buses, Caddys, Chryslers. Americans blacklisted, those just back from Washington, whites on Soul Train. Americans using Afro-Sheen, Americans contemplating suicide, carrying razors in their briefcases.

In Serge Gainsbourg’s “Ford Mustang,” from 1968, Gainsbourg and his co-singer whisper and chant to each other American ad slogans, catch phrases and comic book dialogue: Pickup! Keep cool! Fluid makeup! Coca Cola! Ford Mus-tang! But it wasn’t just parody, as Gainsbourg was playing off the hipness and vitality American imagery still had in mid-’60s Europe. In “Young Americans,” that power is gone, long dissipated. Bowie is a tourist who came in the off season, and he leaves with a curse. Leather, leather everywhere and not a myth left from the ghetto.

Richard Nixon’s sudden appearance in the song’s bridge (a line that Bowie would update on stage to Reagan or Bush the Elder) is partly just a contemporary note, as Bowie cut “Young Americans” a week after Nixon’s resignation. Yet it’s also another dismissal, with Bowie accurately predicting that the downfall and disgrace of Richard Nixon, the grand finale of The Sixties, would soon enough be reduced to history, to be fought over by partisans and barely remembered by the masses. (The Clash offered a similar barb in “White Man In Hammersmith Palais” a few years later: “If Adolf Hitler flew in today/they’d send a limousine anyway”) .

As the song closes down, other ghosts appear. The chorus, out of nowhere, sings the opening line of the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” in the final verse, a further alienation (the song reminding us it’s just another song, and a lesser one at that). John Lennon originally sang the line as a beautiful, floating reverie, though he was noting how the media turns tragedy into wallpaper, how a crowd watching a car crash only considers it in terms of the victim’s possible celebrity. “Young Americans” views an entire world this way, a flattening of perception.

And then Bowie’s final costume change, a last irony: before the end chorus, Bowie moves to free time and sings, suddenly all alone, “Ain’t there one damn song that can make me…break down and cry?,” the last four words a jolt up to a high D, then a slight descent to a run of high A notes. Bowie’s become Johnnie Ray, who, as Dexy’s Midnight Runners sang, once broke a million hearts in mono. Bowie, interpreting black music, crafting it with primarily black musicians, channels Ray, who he turns into an earlier, flawed incarnation. Ray, a white boy from Oregon, was first taken up by patrons of a black club in Detroit and later signed to Columbia’s “race” label, OKeh: his singles topped the R&B charts. Ray didn’t imitate black singers as much as he did wild, fevered interpretations of them, fueling his art with his own tortured experience (he had a punctured eardrum, was a closeted bisexual); Ray burned out quickly but lingered for decades, dying in Los Angeles in 1990.

Lester Bangs, watching a Bowie performance in Detroit in 1974, picked up on the parallel: I peered and peered, trying to catch the ultimate vibe…Johnny Ray. Johnny Ray on cocaine singing about 1984. The audacity of it all made Bangs tip his hat. Don’t be fooled: Bowie is as cold as ever, and if you get off on his particular brand of lunar antibody you may well be disappointed in his latest incarnation, because he’s doubling back on himself.

So is “Young Americans,” at its cold heart, Bowie reflecting himself, making a mirror play of his own preoccupations, disgusts, betrayals? And yet he did so in a song that American audiences loved, one they took to be a communal tribute, a gift left by a party guest. As the years went on, Bowie accepted this: at the height of his ’80s fame, he sang “Young Americans” on stage as if he was covering Springsteen, asking the crowd to sing his Johnny Ray line back to him. “Young Americans” is a guide to a foreign country by a man who never left his house, one beloved by those he never really visited.

Of course “Young Americans” is also good-time music, founded on a steady groove, sweetened by David Sanborn’s alto saxophone obbligato and blessed with a vocal hook, a bar-long exaltation so compelling that all of Bowie’s bile and alienation seem to melt away whenever the chorus sings.

The hook was mainly Luther Vandross’ doing. Vandross, listening to studio rehearsals of “Young Americans,” said to his friend, the singer Robin Clark, ‘what if there was a phrase that went ‘young Americans, young Americans, he was the young American—all right!’ Now when ‘all right’ comes up, jump over me and go into harmony,” Vandross told Musician in 1987. Bowie overheard Clark and Vandross singing this, and, intrigued, brought them into the session. Soon enough, Bowie had reworked the chorus to include the hook.

“Young Americans” is built out of standard materials, its verses moving from the home key, C, up to the dominant, G, in 4-bar repeats, and after the bridge and sax/guitar breaks, there’s a key change up to D, which parallels Bowie discarding his characters in favor of his rolling impressions. The groove slides through most of the song, built on Andy Newmark’s drums, Willie Weeks’ bass (mainly playing repeating two-note patterns) and a running duet between Carlos Alomar’s rhythm guitar and Mike Garson’s piano. Garson had tried to get the taste of more avant-garde material like “Aladdin Sane” out of his playing, establishing a groove “that had a bit of a Latin feel, without going over the top into salsa music,” he told David Buckley.

If the groove feels slightly restrained (Garson’s piano doesn’t swing that much), and while Sanborn later said that his sax playing was under par, calling “a bit repetitive,” any drawbacks are erased by the sense of narrative motion. The verses are quickly answered by choruses, the choruses are broken up by first a 4-bar sax/piano break, the “Nixon” bridge and another 4-bar break dominated by Alomar’s guitar. Bowie’s singing is also a marvel, zipping up to falsetto and, in his final verses, Bowie reels out strings of language, like someone possessed by prophecy (each bar seems to fill up with more sung notes: 11 in “you ain’t a pimp and you ain’t a hustler, a”, 13 in “pimp’s got a Caddy and a lady’s got a Chrysler,” to the point you expect Bowie to finally shatter the song’s sense of rhythm).

Recorded 11-13 August 1974* and released in February 1975 as a single c/w “Suffragette City” (RCA 2523, #18 UK, #28 US) and a month later as the lead-off track of the album it titled. First performed on stage in Los Angeles on 2 September 1974, with the Dick Cavett Show performance taped on 2 November. While a staple of Bowie’s 1980s tours, Bowie hasn’t played “Young Americans” in over 20 years.

Top: William Eggleston, “Two Girls on a Couch,” 1974. A few years later the women [in this photo] sang in a Memphis punk band called Gangrene and the Scurvy Girls.”

* “Young Americans,” according to Tony Visconti’s autobiography and researchers like Nicholas Pegg, was said to be the first track completed at the Sigma Sound sessions, finished on the first night, 11 August 1974. But the newly-surfaced “Shilling the Rubes” reel contains what almost certainly sounds like an earlier take of “Young Americans,” recorded on 13 August (Newmark’s drum intro isn’t quite there yet, for instance).


Chapter Twelve: Forward Into Remove (2001-2002)

December 19, 2018

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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.

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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.

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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 Nine: In the Realms of the Unreal (1994-1995)

December 17, 2018

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Epigraphs   Johnson: quoted in Dwell, March 2007; Rodgers: quoted in Ted Fox’s In the Groove, 334; Robbe-Grillet: to Susha Guppy, Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction, No. 91”; Mac Liammoir: quoted in Simon Callow’s The Road to Xanadu, 168.

370  The unreleased Leon tapes and the “Segue” tracks that appear on 1. Outside are the work of the improvising set of musicians/co-composers in the initial March 1994 sessions at Mountain Studios. That said, I’ve also included in these credits musicians from the January 1995 New York sessions to cover what sound like, on occasion, different overdubs and rhythm tracks on the officially-released segues—in particular the first Nathan Adler segue—and on “Nothing to Be Desired.” It’s possible these overdubs were recorded in the West Side Studios sessions of late spring 1994, but given that Eno was working on “Segue” mixes and backing tracks in late 1994, there’s a decent chance that at least a few overdubs hail from January 1995; Eno: gear (including transistor radio) as per Eno to Musician, November 1995; commandeered the DJ’s system: as per DB to Steven Wheeler, Music Connection, September 1995. “We spent most of our time at the party afterwards talking about what we were both doing musically. We were going back and forth to the DJ putting on different tracks that we were both writing [laughs]. It almost became a listening session, with people dancing until the record was taken off, and then another one would go on”; distressed instruments: DB interview tape with Simon Witter, 4 October 1995; on the same course again: to Dominic Wells, Time Out, 23-30 August 1995; crank out a record of songs: to John Schaefer for “New Sounds,” 15 September 1989, reprinted in Opal No. 15 (Winter/Spring 1990). I wrote about Wrong Way Up for Pitchfork in 2017.

371  stop mucking about: Jones, David Bowie: A Life, 394; why am I like this?: Rose to Kerrang!, 21-28 April 1990. (Soon after the “I’m gonna kill you Tin Man!” exchange, Rose and Bowie made up); extreme positions: to David Gritten, LA Times, 27 September 1992; mini manifestosboring and bland in popular music: to Ingrid Sischy, Interview, September 1995; songs in 11/8: as Gabrels described it to Trebuchet, 22 November 2014, adding that he sometimes used graph paper to figure it out; bigger landscape in play: to Mark Rowland, Musician, November 1995; full participation creatively: 1 July 1994, “Hollywood Online” web chat (Bowie’s first-ever web Q&A); disastrous new media adventure: to Paul Schütze, The Wire, September 1995.

372  you sort it out: LA Times, 27 September 1992; make the medium fail: to Robert L. Doerschuk, Keyboard, March 1995; evolving on the cuspSim Earth: to Kevin Kelly, Wired, May 1995; endless puzzles: DB’s London press conference for the Outside tour, 14 November 1995; armed with fodder: Interview, September 1995; it’s a visual society now: to David Lister, The Independent, 24 September 1994; musicians always have to be catching up: McLaren’s “end of the Eighties” essay for the Village Voice, 2 January 1990; periphery of the mainstream: Witter interview tape, 4 October 1995; Rudolf Schwarzkogler: (1940-1969). In 1965, he and other Viennese artists—Hermann Nitsch, Otto Mühl, Günter Brus—formed the Wiener Aktionsgruppe (‘Vienna Action Group’). The self-castration myth apparently began with a 1972 Robert Hughes article in Time, which described Schwarzkogler as the “Vincent Van Gogh of body art.. [who] amputated his own penis while a photographer recorded the act as an art event.” Needless to say, the castration imagery in Schwarzkogler’s Aktion series was simulated. Further, the model was Heinz Cibulka—they weren’t self-portraits; Nitsch: (1938-). The artist whose work Bowie most drew on for Outside, as the ritual murder of Baby Grace seems influenced by descriptions of Nitsch’s Orgies Mysterien Theater. Nitsch and Bowie met several times, including a 1997 concert in Vienna (“Here was a short, plump, red cheeked, long gray bearded perky Prof…The tiny baby soft hands. Full of crinkly smiles and of sparkling eye he came over as a little like Santa on a night off. Try as I might, I could not combine the beautific (sic) face in front of me with the barely whispered of horrors of his chosen artistic expression. For even today, in this post-Hirstian era, his 1970s’ exploits still leave one’s mind whirling and the blood curdling.. After our show, with band in tow, we all went off to an industrial style club where, my goodness yes, Herman cut-a-rug, jiggling like some frenzied Friar Tuck.” (Bowie web journal, 23 August 1998)); Ron Athey: (1961-) his “crown of thorns” is referenced in the “Hearts Filthy Lesson” video, and a computer-manipulated image of Athey appeared in Bowie’s “Diary of Nathan Adler” article in Q.

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373  O.J. Simpson: Humo, 5 December 1995; role playing is essential: Witter interview tape, 4 October 1995; Whole Earth Review: e.g., “A new profession, meme-inspector, comes into being”; characters: descriptions from Eno’s “Notes on the Vernacular Music of the Acrux Region” (an appendix of his 1995 diary) cross-referenced with Trynka’s various interviews in Starman (364-365); all the events of the day: Interview, September 1995; Oriental stuff: Trynka, Starman, 364; cannot even play four bars: Spitz, 359.

374  inhibiting or embarrassing position: to Paul Gorman, Music Week, 26 September 1995; fellow pirates: Interview, September 1995; weren’t any good: Jones, 394; over-coherent: Dominic Wells DB/Eno interview, Q, January 1995; archive of strange sounds: Witter interview tape, 4 October 1995.

375  3 March 1994: journal entry was part of the David Bowie Is exhibit; blindingly orgiastic: Ray Gun, October 1995; entirely different spin: to Chris Roberts, Ikon, October 1995; had to do with the art world: to Melinda Newman, Billboard, 19 August 1995; bootlegged: details on the development of Leon, its bootlegging and the assessment of its bootlegger are per Gabrels to CO, August 2018. By the early 2010s, the “I Am With Name” suite was circulating in full, while the other two suites only existed as fragments on various bootlegs. When I began writing blog entries about Leon in January 2013, a mysterious figure (who has never emailed me again, at least via that same address) contacted me and sent me the full three “suites,” with the caveat that I could not share them with anyone, nor post audio excerpts of them on the blog. While this was a bit cheeky for someone sharing pilfered goods, I upheld my end of the deal—the subsequent leaking of the three “full’ suites wasn’t my doing.

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379  incredibly boring: Billboard, 19 August 1995 (“because we did all our recording in Switzerland, it’s about ‘Day One: went skiing, looked at mountain, looked at lake Day Two: bought fromage’”); what the lyric contentafter the fact: Gabrels email to Nicholas Greco, 25 January 2000; cut up the tape: Jones, 397; all based on me: Ray Gun, October 1995; great skeleton…around in 1995: Music Week, 26 August 1995.

380  Adler: another likely reference is to Albert Adler, founder of the individual psychology school; fragmented kind of state: Ray Gun, October 1995.

381  wants to be God: 2003 interview with Koenig; Baby Grace’s voice…that kind of man each time: Humo, 5 December 1995.

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382 Blair Witch Project: “I really wanted to give it a chance but I completely lost interest around fifteen minutes in. Iman was far more objective and felt that without all the hype it would have worked for her a lot better and that there was ‘the kernel of a good idea in there’. Nuts!!” (Bowie web journal, 16 August 1999); Charrington: From Bowie’s interview with George Petros and Steven Blush, Seconds, August/September 1995. S: Do I detect a character from 1984 lurking on your new album? B: Not intentionally. The guy who rents the room… A-ha – Catshriek! Yes, the guy who owns the store in 1984. That’s a little bit of him, I thought. It is very much. A very English character, he’s almost the stereotypical shop owner. 1984’s dystopian imagery has always played a role in your music. It has, indeed. I think it comes out of my background. For those of us born in South London, you always felt you were in 1984. That’s the kind of gloom and immovable society that a lot of us felt we grew up in.”

383  held back a year: New Zealand Herald, 26 June 1999; pissed off more people than Tin Machine: Reevz.net, ca. 2003.

384  Nicholas Nickelby: Ray Gun, October 1995; Grand Guignol: Billboard, 19 August 1995.

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385  Small plot of new land: A Thousand Plateaus, 161. The phrase was a potential response to a question posited a page before: “how can we unhook ourselves from the points of subjectification that secure us, nail us down to a dominant reality?” (Chapter title is “How Do You Make Yourself a Body Without Organs?”) Duncan Jones was a philosophy major at college around this time, though ATP‘s absolutely the sort of book Bowie would love in any regard; Thou Swell: by Rodgers and Hart; functional theatricality: Gabrels email to Greco, 19 March 2000.

386  Hearts Filthy Lesson along with the single edit, it has five remixes found on various single issues—most on the UK 12″ (Trent Reznor’s Alternative Mix; Tim Simenon’s mix (called, variously, the Simenon Mix and the Good Karma Mix); and Tony Maserati’s Rubber Mix, Simple Test Mix and Filthy Mix); juxtapositions and fragments…it makes things a lot clearer: Outside promotional video, 1995; more hooklike: Gabrels email to Greco, 23 January 2000.

388  Thru these Architects Eyes   Live: only performed twice in the 1995 tour, at Tacoma and Hollywood dates in October.

389  boys in leather: quoted in Gregory Woods’ Homintern, 158; we, the best: in Johnson’s review of Mein Kampf for the Examiner, quoted by Kazys Varnelis in “Philip Johnson’s Politics and Cynical Survival,” Journal of Architectural Education, November 1994.

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391  Wishful Beginnings its exile (cut from the second European CD issue of the album) was short-lived, as it was restored to the 2003-2004 reissues; Joni Ve Sadd…Macintosh Quadra 650: shown as part of the David Bowie Is exhibit; going back to the Romans: Seconds, August/September 1995; Rothko: stomach-churning details on his suicide are in James E.B. Breslin’s biography; many sources inaccurately say that Rothko slashed his wrists.

392 called 1. Outside: BowieNet chat, 13 November 1998.

394 The Motel    could occupy the territory of Bowie’s: Eno diary, 11 April 1995; NME offices: recalled in the Walker documentary 30 Century Man; traitors to themselves: Humo, 5 December 1995.

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395 Outside  outsider art: In early 1972, Cardinal, a teacher from the University of Kent in Canterbury, published a survey of “marginalized” artists that he wanted to title Art Brut, referencing how the painter Jean Dubuffet had classed similar artists. His publisher wanted “something more easy to get on with the English ear”: hence Outsider Art. Reviewing the book, Corinne Robins (“A Vocation for Madness and Art,” NY Times, 8 April 1973) pinpointed the flaws of Cardinal’s approach, that he conflated surreal, obscure artists with those who suffered from schizophrenia, and treated the latter as Noble Madmen. Some claimed that “outsider art,” because of its lack of technique, was more pure, spontaneous, and resonant (Dubuffet in 1951: “Those works created from solitude and from pure and authentic creative impulses—where the worries of competition, acclaim and social promotion do not interfere—are, because of these very facts, more precious than the productions of professionals.”) Once the art world became a wing of the stock market in the Eighties, the idea of “outsider” purity became even more alluring. The only remaining real artists were Sunday painters, weird retirees, Jesus enthusiasts, and assorted hermits; Tuchmanhappy looking at them: Parallel Visions, 10; exhilaration watching them work: quoted in Thompson, Hallo Spaceboy, 118.

396  Wild Man Fischer: A Frank Zappa discovery from the late Sixties (how Bowie heard of him). Fischer was a typical “outsider” artist  in that he recorded sporadically, was bipolar and diagnosed with schizophrenia, and later in life was on the street for a time. He died in 2011; no longer felt scrambled: Q, January 1995; Henry Darger: the full title of his opus was The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is Known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion. Its influence on early 21st Century culture is inescapable, from the band Vivian Girls to the cover art of Animal Collective’s Feels to John Ashbery’s poem sequence Girls on the Run; strong, muddy, prolix…wish it was shorter: Eno diary, 18 June 1995; Armstrong: while Armstrong is credited on “Thru These Architects Eyes” (an overdub from the West Side sessions in summer 1994), he apparently isn’t heard on his own song, “Outside.”

397 We Prick You    full of tangential ideas: Eno diary, 11 January 1995.

398  something to be desired…lovely melodies in his rhythm lines: Eno diary, 16 January 1995.

399  I’m Deranged  a remixed/edited (2:37) version appeared on the Lost Highway OST, released 18 February 1997 (a longer edit was used for end credits); just after lunch…totally reborn: Ray Gun, October 1995; serious orchestrated guitar stuff: Musician, November 1995; the bit you liked never happens again: Eno diary, 17 January 1995; F minor progression: i-II7-v-III-i (Fm-G7-Cm-A flat-Fm), with the major chords delaying the progress of F minor to its dominant chord, C minor, and its return home again.

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400  really rather disturbed words: Detour, March 1997. Hallo Spaceboy the Pet Shop Boys remix was issued as 1. Outside‘s third single in February 1996 (four other remixes appear on a Virgin promo 12″ and were collected on the 2004 2-CD album reissue).

401 buried in moondust: Gysin, The Process, 35. There’s an unsubstantiated report that “if I die, moondust will cover me” were Gysin’s last words in 1986 (over the years, I’ve grown dubious of anything that’s allegedly a famous person’s last words). Gabrels’ reference to Bowie finding “moondust” in a book of poems, possibly John Giorno, was possibly a misremembering of seeing Bowie reading Gysin; long sustain guitars…middle eastern scale…pretty much forgotten about it: Gabrels’ response to a query on his website, Reevz.net, ca. 2003 (some quoted in Pegg, 103).

402  almost nothing…we had something…Lagos Mack-truck weight: Eno diary, 17 January 1995; follows the chord changes: Reevz.net, ca. 2003; Space Oddity, frankly: London press conference, 14 November 1995.

403 Oxford Town  hunter to my pastoralist: Eno diary, 17 January 1995; kept us in suspense: Eno diary, 19 January 1995; text almost turned into music: Byrne, Stop Making Sense DVD commentary.

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404  No Control  sturdy frame: Musician, November 1995.

405  body of a great song…extended to the future: Eno diary, 20 January 1995; down a chordal slope: Momus on the “No Control” blog entry, 8 April 2013; Jonathan Coulton: in a very minor coincidence, Coulton and I went to high school together—he graduated the year before me.

406  Onion: written by Nathan Rabin, 21 April 1999; vaguely offered financial backing: Eno diary, 19 January 1995; Indonesian pirates…a peculiar piece of work: Ray Gun, March 1997; Saint Petersburg: Eno told Mojo in May 1997 that he’d moved to Russia because “London is now the hippest city in the world [and] if you live in England and you finally scale the thorny path to celebrity, finally the critics decide, ‘Fuck me, he’s been around so long I guess we should leave him alone.’ You then find you get invited to do every stupid, pathetic thing going—you know, judge this competition, award this, and so on—and I just saw my life turning into a series of small events. I thought I’d go somewhere else where there aren’t any small events”; far out…put it on at a party: Music Connection, September 1995; St. Petersburg and wherever I amRipley’s Believe It Or Not…that new tuberculosis: USA Today, 12 March 1997.

407  Salzburg cancelled: in August 1998, Gerard Mortier, the director of the Salzburg Festival, was quoted in the Austrian press that the Bowie/Wilson opera concept was “stagnating” and that he wouldn’t have the Festival finance Bowie’s proposed stage design, describing the opera’s progress as being at an “impasse”; over 24 hours of material: BowieNet web chat, 17 October 1999; pieced together: Eden.vmg chat, 2 February 2000 (I realize I mistakenly called this a BowieNet chat in the text—pedants get a half-point); Afrikaans: this title apparently originated from a fan’s posting on a long-defunct Bowie message board in July 1997; Ebola Jazz: the origin of this 17-track fake setlist was apparently an anonymous email sent to the Teenage Wildlife site in March 1999. You’ll still find the occasional bootleg or torrent listing these names: caveat non-emptor!; falsifying a concert: a March 1994 diary entry displayed in David Bowie Is; never took place: London press conference, 14 November 1995; I think Brian would have the patience: Soma, July 2003.


Chapter Two: Berliners (1977)

October 7, 2018

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Epigraphs Brasch emigrated to West Germany in 1976. These lines are from his “Sleeping Beauty and Pork” (1980): “Abschied von morgen Ankuft gestern/ Das ist der deutsche Traum”; Mann: from 1921, quoted in Gay, 131 (in turn found in Ludwig Marcuse’s Mein Zwanzigstest Jahrhundert, 54); Smith: Hit Parader, April 1978. The rest are self-explanatory, with hope.

66  Turn Blue   Peace, Lacey: Geoff MacCormack, known as “Warren Peace” at the time, was Bowie’s childhood friend, traveling companion, and occasional collaborator (“Rock and Roll With Me”). He drops out of the picture roughly after Station to Station, though he and Bowie remained close until the latter’s death. While Pop once said that MacCormack “had become more Hollywood than was great for [MacCormack and Bowie’s] relationship,” it seems a bit more likely it was the other way around. As for Walter Lacey, the only reference I’ve ever found was of him reportedly performing a spoken-word piece called “Meatpack Man” in 1982. He’s without a doubt the all-time most obscure Bowie co-composer; recorded: as per Trynka’s Bleed, Eduard Meyer’s diary lists Lust for Life sessions on 8-12 and 14 June 1977. As Pop and other musicians recall the album as being cut in one go, in about nine or 10 days, I’ve estimated that Lust for Life was recorded ca. 4-16 June 1977. The sessions could have ended no later than 25 June, when Bowie was in France; Gardiner: spelled “Gardner” on the Lust For Life LP sleeve/label and in copyright filings for “The Passenger” and “Neighborhood Threat” (and he’s listed as “Gardener” on Low, though possibly that was a pun?); first release: another inconclusive date: some sources (e.g., Cann) list 9 September 1977, but Lust was reviewed in the 27 August 1977 issues of Billboard and Cash Box, suggesting a slightly earlier date in the US at least. Given Elvis Presley’s death’s impact on RCA’s LP shipments, Lust possibly didn’t reach some stores until well into September; care not a sot…person again: to Charles M. Young, Rolling Stone, 12 January 1978; eyes turned toward him: Pitt, The Pitt File, 175. Bowie was appearing on Musik Fur Junge Leute, whose usual studio was in Hamburg but the West German government had been pushing to have shows taped in West Berlin “to reduce the sense of abandonment felt by West Berliners,” Pitt wrote; soldiers like film extras…we were home: MacCormack, Station to Station.

67   Isherwood myth: Ash, The File, 36; a year all told: to the Daily Mirror (22 October 1977), Bowie claimed he’d only spent two months in Berlin at that point (a slight understatement, as recording Lust for Life and “Heroes” alone had taken up roughly that time and he’d spent considerable time in Berlin in autumn 1976), and that he’d “drained himself of enthusiasm” for the city, calling it a “ghost town…everyone seems to be leaving”; temporary stop off: Rüther, Heroes, 67; very claustrophobic: Record Mirror, 24 September 1977; island of luxury: Byrne, Bicycle Diaries, 46; total isolation: Heroes, 41; gunners on the Wall: Five Years; 40% of budget: Clay Large, Berlin, 464.

68  particular dilemma: to Angus MacKinnon, NME, 13 September 1980; grumpy, snotty students: Kerrang!, 8 September 2001; little in between: I Want More, 95, 101; sleep it off: 1990 radio interview with Nicky Campbell. “They’d pick me up and take me home, which is nice in a way”; rockism: to Trynka, Bleed, 349; one jump ahead of them: Starman, 271-272.

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69  drug use was unbelievable: to Adrian Deevoy, Q, May 1993; tinker toy: NME, 12 March 1977; no excess of any kind: Stephen Dobson, The Man Who Killed the Hamsters, 52; punk rock: CBC interview, 11 March 1977. Pop said he was impressed by Johnny Rotten (“he puts as much blood and sweat into what he does as Sigmund Freud did”); second fiddle to Iggy: Bleed, 222.

71  Some Weird Sin   edits: live, Gardiner typically played a 16-bar solo after the second verse. On the studio cut, it’s cut in half (at the 2:12 mark); angry poem: quoted in Adams, Complete Iggy Pop, 96.

72  Tonight   remake: issued as a single in November 1984, it was a trans-Atlantic stiff (EMI EA 187, stalling out at #53 in both the UK and US). Bowie sang it with Turner on 23 March 1985, in Birmingham, UK, a performance included on Turner’s Live In Europe; barren thing: to Murray, NME, 29 September 1984.

73  Neighborhood Threat    it went totally wrong: to Scott Isler, Musician, August 1987.

74  Oompa-Loompas: Stylus, 12 July 2005.   Lust for Life  issued at last as a UK single in 1996 (it hit #26, Pop’s highest-charting single since “Real Wild Child” a decade earlier)  Call this one Lust for Life: Krautrock: Rebirth of Germany; Morris: Uncut, April 2001; had to follow: Bleed, 226; Burroughs: see “control addicts…were to be seen on every corner of the city hypnotizing chickens,” from The Ticket That Exploded. Pop also borrowed from Naked Lunch (“No one talks, no one reads, no one walks”) for the chorus of “Tonight.”

75  fuck somebody over: Rolling Stone, 5 April 2011; small mountain of cocaine: Bleed, 261.

76  Success  issued as a single in October 1977 c/w “The Passenger” (RCA PB 9160; didn’t chart); damn crooning thing: Bleed, 227. Pop recalled that his strategy was to “wait until [Bowie] walked out of the studio and then I changed everything”; Lonely at the Top: Randy Newman, to Rolling Stone, 15 September 2017: “There was a massive drive at Warner Bros. Records to get Frank a hit. I thought – maybe stupidly – that he would be ready to make fun of that leaning-against-the-lamp-post shit: “Oh, I’m so lonely and miserable and the biggest singer in the world.” I never bought that part of him. I thought he’d appreciate that. I played it for him, at his office on the Warner Bros. lot. His reaction? Nothing. He said, “Next.” I also played “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today.” He said, “I like that one.” But he couldn’t hide his bitterness at young people’s music”; money in rugs: Viz, 1980.

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77  Passenger  It had the same chord progression as “Neighborhood Threat” (Am-F-C-G); The Lords: the key passage is Morrison’s “Modern life is a journey by car. The Passengers change terribly in their reeking seats, or roam from car to car, subject to unceasing transformation. Inevitable progress is made toward the beginning(there is no difference in terminals), as we slice through cities, whose ripped backsides present a moving picture of windows, signs, streets, buildings.”

78  Fall In Love With Me   Julian Casablancas owes his career to this and a few other Pop vocals on Lust.

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79  Sons of the Silent Age  Used as the basis of the fourth movement of Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 4 (“Heroes”), premiered September 1996. Scored for: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 2 bassoons, 3 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, 3 percussion (side drum, tenor drum, bass drum, tambourine, cymbals, triangle, vibes, tam-tam, castanets, glockenspiel), harp, piano, celesta, strings.   Recorded: I’ve used the recording dates listed on a Hansa telegram sent to Visconti in August 1977, included as part of the David Bowie Is exhibit (these dates were also referenced in the New Career in a New Town box set). Some final overdubs were done at Mountain Studios in August, marking the start of a nearly 20-year relationship between Bowie and that studio; Brel: Bowie was familiar with Scott Walker’s version of “Sons Of” (off Scott 3, 1969) and Elly Stone’s from Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well, both of which used Mort Shuman’s translation. Stone’s version of “Old Folks” (“the old folks never die/ they just put down their heads and go to sleep one day” and also “you lived too long” (see “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”)) may have been a starting point for Bowie and Visconti’s vocal harmonies; melody: the refrain melody mainly draws from the E-flat scale until, on “all I see,” it flats the seventh chord, turning the scale into either Ab or Eb mixolydian. As Larry Hardesty noted to me, of Eb, D, Db, and C, only Eb is natural in the key of Eb, while Eb and Db are both natural in the key of Ab. Thus when the chromatic sequence finally breaks with a move to Ab, right as the melody appears to have switched to the Ab scale, it makes Ab sound like the home key. But this gets immediately undermined by the move to Bb and Eb— the standard-issue cadence in Eb. The oddball chord progression and the ambiguities in the pitch class of the melody, create a tonal instability until that cadence; major step up: Hardesty: “In What in the World, the verse rocks back and forth between two chords a whole step apart — F and Eb— and then the chorus modulates to G, which is a whole step higher than the top chord of the verse. In Sons of the Silent Age, the verse rocks back and forth between two chords a whole step apart — G and F — and then the chorus modulates to Eb, which is a whole step lower than the bottom chord of the verse. In both cases, the modulation maps out a sequence of three major triads a whole step apart. That’s the same relationship that gives the famous guitar break in “Space Oddity” its extra oomph: C F G A…A Bowie signature trick.”

80   Beauty and the Beast    whole thing evolved: NME, 26 November 1977; weird amp: Sound International, September 1978.

81  best, most positive album…no bad scenes: Juby, In Other Words, 88; he had a life!: to Buckley, Strange Fascination, 276; ray of light: Heroes, 121; nook in the unconscious: Uncut, April 2001.

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82  Blackout     Dennis Davis: years later, Eno said in a New Yorker interview, “the question is: do drummers have different brains from the rest of us? Everyone who has ever worked in a band is sure to say they do.” (25 April 2011); most abstract: Sound International, September 1978; jazz metronome: to Richard Buskin, Sound on Sound, October 2004. Visconti: “‘Heroes’ wasn’t played to a click track, but its tempo is virtually the same through the entire six minutes. He’s not only an innovative drummer but a human metronome, and he’s also a jazz guy who never plays the same thing twice”; built on two structures: Mayes, On Tour, 114.

83   bit of a distance: Rock On, 20 October 1977; angst in the air: to Jonathan Mantle, Vogue, September 1978.         Joe the Lion   A pointless remix appeared on the Ryko reissue of “Heroes” in 1991, mostly beefing up the drums; Alice Cooper: Peter Plagens, “He Got Shot For His Art,” New York Times, 2 September 1973.

84  Art doesn’t have a purpose: Donald Carroll, “Chris Burden: Art on the Firing Line,” Coast, August 1974; Carr: On Edge, 16; take dangerous risks…started with the characters…same kind of risks: to Nicky Horne, Capital Radio interview, 13 February 1979; like a Roman arena…a protest against himself: Bleed, 157-158; Matterhorn of cocaine: Times of London, 12 January 2013; working on getting drunk: Backstage Passes, 158; clashing set of chords: Much of the song moves from B major to E major, with F# cropping up for one line. But I think the opening is D-G-D.  There’s also an apparent flaw at 2:38, with the left channel of the stereo mix vanishing for a second.

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86  Heroes   Bowie’s German vocal (“Helden”) became far more well-known among fans in the late Eighties when it was chosen for the Sound + Vision box set over the English version (an odd decision, though Jeff Rougvie has repeatedly said that the set was meant as a Bowie sampler, not a greatest hits compilation). As I first knew “Heroes” in its German form, DB’s wildly over-the-top “ICH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ICH BIN DANN KOE-NIG!” still sounds like the “real” version of that section to me.

87   Reagan was a survivor: Cannon, Governor Reagan’s Rise to Power; failure of nerve: Village Voice, 17 December 1979.

88   motive was guilt…offices were nearby: Rolling Stone, 12 January 1978.

89   beautiful spatial noises: Music Moguls: Melody Makers (BBC), January 2016; both dastardly, like the Velvet Underground: Capital Radio, 13 February 1979; horizontal groove: Uncut, June 2008; shuddering, chattering effect: Sound on Sound, October 2004.

90 four feet away was an A: Mat Snow, Mojo: 60 Years of Bowie, January 2007; dreamy, wailing quality: Sound Opinions, Show 381, 15 March 2013; weedy violin patch: Sound on Sound, October 2004; David lived with it…master level: Roland blog interview, 2014; fairly heavy compression: Sound on Sound, October 2004.

91   Grave for a Dolphin: of course, Bowie went on to marry a Somalian woman. He referenced Denti’s novel in his introduction to her I Am Iman (2001); Antonia Maaß: “No way was it us,” she told Rüther (Heroes, 122-123).

92  swimming with dolphins: David Bowie Blackstar, 22 September 2017 (https://www.davidbowieblackstar.it/our-interview-with-clare-shenstone/); we all knew never would come to pass: Uncut, October 1999.

93 continue to live: Finnish television (YLE) interview, 16 January 1996.   Secret Life of Arabia   Billy MacKenzie’s 1982 cover with the BEF is one of few Bowie covers that pretty much blows the original out of the water.

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94  V-2 Schneider  The last movement of Glass’ Symphony No. 4 (the “V-2-Schnei-der” chorus melody, initially played on woodwinds, is shifted to open the piece)  live:  a recording from the Paradiso, Amsterdam, on 6 October 1997 was issued as a b-side of “Pallas Athena”; insider knowledge: the earliest reference I found in the US/UK press was Hütter and Schneider telling Glenn O’Brien these nicknames in a 1977 Interview; neo-Nazi kind of thing: Circus, 27 April 1976. Schneider’s father, architect Paul Schneider-Esleben, served in the German army during the war but wasn’t a Nazi party member. His Fifties work was associated with the “Year Zero” movement of rejecting Nazi-era neo-classicism and championing the modernism of the Bauhaus school; they’re like craftsmen: to Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone, 23 April 1987; lazy analyzes…music was spontaneous for the most part: Uncut, April 2001.

95   no fathers: Movie Maker, 1 December 1995; German entertainment…parents bombed out of their homes: my conflation of two Hütter interviews, with Lester Bangs (1975) and Mark Cooper (1982); Witts: from “Vorsprungdurchtechnik,” Chapter 8 of Kraftwerk: Music Non-Stop; we influenced Bowie: Keyboard, October 1991; weeble sounds: to Paul Du Noyer, Mojo, July 2002.

96  they have their reasons: to Buckley, Kraftwerk, 88; reassuring…in his work: Soho Weekly News, 29 September 1977; pzzt: Sounds, 20 September 1975; Visconti: from FAQ on former website; wrong way round…impossible to write that: MM, 18 February 1978 (a longer version of the interview appears in Egan, Bowie On Bowie, 95).

97   Abdulmajid   At present, only available on the All Saints compilation. Used as the second movement of Glass’ Symphony No. 4—Glass gave it an “Iberian” feel, with an initial rhythmic base of castanets. Visconti: to Pegg, 13 (as with all Pegg references, the most recent 2016 ed.)

98  Sense of Doubt    broadcast: A “video” of sorts, it’s a filmed performance of Bowie miming the piano line, then staring moodily into space, in the empty RCA Studios in Rome, done for an Italian television appearance (Odeon) on 8 October 1977. The song was the third movement of Glass’ Symphony No. 4, and among its weakest, with Glass mostly keeping to the original’s melodic confines, losing the strangeness and severity of the “Heroes” recording while adding little else; trying to do the opposite: to Lisa Robinson, Interview, June 1978; organic sound: quoted in Pegg, 237; Eno: liner notes for Music for Airports.

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99  Moss Garden  koto: first brought to Japan in the early Nara Period (8th Century), the modern koto is about 70 inches long and has 13 strings tuned according to the placement of bridges and plucked with three picks, called tsume, worn on the thumb, index and middle finger. Bowie’s koto was much smaller, not much longer than a foot (likely the same one used on “Brilliant Adventure” 20 years later): it was included in the David Bowie Is exhibit. dog’s ears: multiple tests conducted with D. Lucy O’Leary, Easthampton, 2011-2018.

100   Neukoln  Used as the fifth movement of Glass’ Symphony No. 4, with the lead saxophone lines in part taken up by strings. Also the neighborhood of Christiane F. Bowie’s misspelling was…maybe? him punning on the band Neu! and the city of Köln but it was more likely a mistake; good relationship…it’s not a good one…thick wedge of sound…humorous aspect: to Steve Weitzman, Musician, May 1983. Bowie described his “Turkish modal” scale as having “whole notes where one could take a half note,” suggesting possibly the Phrygian dominant scale; critics: a recent example, far from unique: “In Neukoln, Bowie looked to embody the culture clash of displaced immigrant communities in mid-‘70s Berlin against the cold war backdrop,” All About Jazz, 24 November 2014.


Chapter One: New People (1976-1977)

October 6, 2018

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Epigraphs    Shaftesbury: pen name of Albert Webster Edgerly, late-19th-Century American reformer/con man who promoted healthy eating (particularly of whole grain cereal), “probationary marriage,” teeth brushing, and eugenics. He wrote over a hundred books: “The New Race” is an essay in one of them, Cultivation of the Chest; Or, The Highest Physical Development of the Human Form (1895); von Wolzogen: quoted in Berlin: Culture and Metropolis, 98; Kino-Eye: as per subtitles of the now out-of-print Image DVD.

20   Sister Midnight    Hansa Tonstudios: Hansa began as a label, production company, and publishing firm founded by the Meisel brothers in 1962. In the Sixties, the brothers regularly used the future Hansa by the Wall Meistersaal, booking time from its then-owner, the Ariola label. They also built their own studio, Hansa Tonstudio 1, where The Idiot would be mixed (and possibly have some last overdubs). Tonstudio 1 was not in the same building as Meistersaal Tonstudio 2 (where Low overdubs and mixing & vocals/tracking for “Heroes” were done) and the less grand Tonstudio 3 (where Lust for Life was cut), both of which were on Köthener Straße—Hansa had bought the latter studios in the mid-Seventies. The original Tonstudio 1 was located at Nestorstraße 8-9, in Halensee. When it closed at the end of the Seventies, a “new” Tonstudio 1 was built in the Köthener Straße location (sources include a Hansa profile in the 22 January 1977 Billboard.) As per Tobias Rüther, Hansa engineer Eduard Meyer’s diary lists Idiot mixing sessions for 21-22 and 28 August 1976—I gave a slightly broader range of dates; engineered: Meyer and Tony Visconti did enough significant work on the album that they likely should be credited, too; first release: Iggy album release dates of the period are harder to determine than Bowie’s. In this case, I went with Kevin Cann’s Chronology, published in 1983 and closer to the time than most other sources: Cann lists 18 March 1977, a Friday. The Idiot is reviewed in the 19 March 1977 Record World, the 26 March 1977 Billboard, the 28 March 1977 Village Voice, the 5 March 1977 Melody Maker, and Cash Box notes it first being added to radio playlists in its 19 March 1977 issue; live: while there are claims that Pop played Sister Midnight live in 1990, I didn’t find any bootlegs to verify this; trailer park: the Osterbergs lived there until 1982; Jim Bowie: Pop to Paul Trynka, Open Up and Bleed, 19. Trynka’s biography is by far the best depiction of Pop’s early life in Ann Arbor and a key source of details here; city administrator’s daughter: Sally Larcom. “It’s hilarious when I remember how straight and smart he was,” she recalled of her ex-boyfriend (Michigan Live, 23 June 2008); studded with rivets: recollection of Cub Koda to Trynka, Bleed, 39; sort of smelled out: 2009 Pop interview in Benjamin Piekut’s Experimentalism Otherwise, 182.

21   guys were over my head: to McCain and McNeil, Please Kill Me (PKM), 367; used to work off the age: to Roy Trakin, New York Rocker, No. 25, December 1979/January 1980; Corrs: eyewitness account on this ILX thread, 23 July 2002; hear words musically: to Chris Roberts, Sounds, 18 October 1986; I was the worker: to Mat Snow, Q, September 1988; 24-hour job: Cynthia Rose interview with Pop, from an undated 1980 issue of Viz (a UK art and fashion magazine, published 1979-1981); who cares if we’re not the best: one of the Whiskey a Go-Go shows in September 1973; against the wall: to Dave Marsh, Zig Zag, December 1970; one-piece life: NY Rocker, Dec. 1979/Jan. 1980; proximity of the electric hum: I Need More, 60.

22  need the freedom: quoted in Joe Ambrose’s Gimme Danger, 31; rock and roll reality that Iggy lived: PKM, 122; both escaped from LA…no fixed address: to Jim Sullivan, Boston Globe, 8 July 1990; watching Bowie doing: NME, 12 March 1977; never showed bad form: Bleed, 202; all the shit I know: PKM, 252; I think that was liberating for him: to Edwin Pouncey, The Wire, November 1999; important young actors: to Ben Edmonds, Circus, 27 April 1976.

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23  sweet but stupid: to Lester Bangs, Creem, March 1975; Hunter: Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 5 April 1975; Château d’Hérouville: for more on Bowie’s history there, see the Pin Ups chapter in Rebel Rebel. Bad Company cut Burnin’ Sky there between the making of The Idiot and Low; the Bee Gees wrote “Stayin’ Alive” there not long afterward. Having closed in 1985, the studio was abandoned “to weeds and squatters” for nearly two decades until being put on the market in 2013 and sold to a trio of French musicians. A restored studio was set to open in 2018 but as per its website, it remains “currently under restoration”; great rock ‘n’ roll studio: recalled by Thibault to Trynka, Starman, 253; compositional drought: “I was very unhappy with my writing style by the end of Station to Station. I thought my work was deteriorating,” Bowie told Lisa Robinson (Hit Parader, June 1978). Station to Station had only five original songs, one of which, “Stay,” was essentially a rewrite of “John, I’m Only Dancing”; fought for royalty advances: despite having just had a successful tour, Bowie was nearly broke at times in summer 1976. His MainMan-era royalties were reportedly in escrow due to his split with Tony Defries, and Thibault recalled Bowie having no cash for day-to-day expenses; first days of June: Bowie was in Switzerland for his son’s birthday on 30 May 1976: The Idiot sessions began within days after that; poor Jim: to Kurt Loder, Sound + Vision booklet interview, September 1989; Santangeli…suivons!: Bleed, 206-207. Thibault told Trynka that French musician/engineer Michel Marie played guitar in some tracking sessions, including the unreleased “Iggy Pop Don’t Stop” (see appendix). Edgar Froese also was slated to play synthesizer on the album but never got called to the studio—he went home after getting sunburned by the pool.

24  not seeing superheroes…godlike: Circus, 27 April 1976; cut your hair: Hughes, writing in Classic Rock, 26 September 2016; I was a guinea pig: to David Fricke, Rolling Stone, 19 April 2007; you fucking idiot: to Glenn O’Brien, Interview, April 1990; point of view of an idiot: to Thomas Vinterberg, 4 July 2002 TV interview; a little too much of me: Radio One interview with Stuart Grundy (Rock On), broadcast 29 October 1977.

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25   possibly demoed: Pop recalled that Bowie played him a four-track demo of “Sister Midnight” in LA in February 1976, so the song almost certainly preceded the tour; gigantic system built at Olympic [Alembic? see next]: Alomar to John Schaefer, WNYC Soundcheck, September 2010; sounds I was fascinated with: to Trynka, Mojo 219, February 2012 [someone on Tumblr had a good point—this may likely be an Alembic system, though it’s written as “Olympic” in Mojo—they’re homonyms, so it’s easy to see how the error happened if so]; Sister Midnight: shot between 1967-1974, its director Mays described the film as being about five young people who get high, then “enter as a group into a series of multiplexed dreams.” One girl, “Sister Midnight, allows one of the guys to enter her mind. As a result of this invasion she is reborn” (Mays, Film Works). See the NSFW trailer (soundtracked to “Baba O’Reilly”). It’s quite plausible that Bowie knew of the film, as it reportedly premiered in LA in June 1975, before he left for New Mexico to shoot The Man Who Fell to Earth; played live: debuted in Vancouver, 2 February 1976 (video footage exists of a rehearsal performance there). Its last extant concert recording is Philadelphia, 16 March 1976 (it’s not in the set in Boston, the following night). While it may have been performed in one of the last, un-bootlegged US shows that month (New Haven or Springfield), it didn’t survive the crossing to Europe; Radio-Activity: along with the Ramones’ debut, which Bowie told Pop showed that “the world hasn’t forgotten the Stooges”; Stacy Heydon: one of quite a few musicians whose name has been misspelled in Bowie or Bowie-related LP liner notes. It’s Stacy, not Stacey: that’s how he’s referred to in a CBC profile in 2016.

26  this record is bent: to Stephen Demorest, Phonograph Record, April 1977; mother: Pop sang that he’d made love to potatoes (or maybe? the Turtles—it’s a muddy vocal) during his Dinah Shore performance in 1977; Harrison console: a solid chance it was the same 3232 Harrison desk on which Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” was recorded; I love noises: Thibault to Bradley Banks (http://idiotlust.blogspot.com), 23 January 2008.

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27  Funtime   Dinah!: it aired on 6 May 1977. Other guests included Rosemary Clooney and the Miracles. A note (within a note): though I’ve listed Iggy Pop live performances, I didn’t do the same for solo Iggy broadcasts. The data on the latter is spotty, and it just was taking up way too much research time for a book about Bowie’s songs, not Iggy’s; we want flesh: The Ticket That Exploded, 54; my love song: Phonograph Record, April 1977; range of a fourth: with emphasis on the root (D) note of the D5 chord. When the chord shifts to E major for the solo, the spoken “we’re havin’ fun” is on that chord’s dominant note (B); make moneylittle gay: quoted in Adams, Complete Iggy Pop, 87; Lila Engel: inspired suggestion of Greg Smith.

28  Baby   live: he debuted it at the Teragram Ballroom, LA, on 9 March 2016. “This is a good little song off The Idiot”; torn apart in his heart: to Hideaki Okada, Music Life, 23 April 1977 (an interview tape that was on YouTube for a time, but appears to be gone. Some excerpts are transcribed in Roger Griffin’s Golden Years).

29  Tiny Girls   there’s allegedly a bootleg of Pop singing “Tiny Girls” for the only time in his life on stage—at Tsubaki House in Tokyo, 22 June 1983. As I couldn’t track down this tape, I didn’t feel there was enough evidence to mark the song as having been sung live. If the setlist is indeed genuine, it appears that “Tiny Girls” was sung as part of a medley that also included the standard “One For My Baby”; released: a quasi-official Iggy box set issued in the mid-2000s has an alternate mix roughly 15 seconds longer, with a slightly-different saxophone track; she destroyed me, man: NME, 3 May 1975. In 1979 Pop ranted to Kent that “all the bitches, all the women, want me now…Well, I hate women!”; little girls in Berlin: NY Rocker, Dec. 1979/Jan. 1980.

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30   Dum Dum Boys   broken-up group: unspecified 1997 interview, quoted in Wilcken’s Low, 42; Straight: a play on Williamson’s nickname, “Straight James”; we were outcasts: Bleed, 58; basic Archie Bunker juniors: quoted by Jon Savage, Dazed & Confused, 1997.

31   wandering tribe: to Bill Holdship, Detroit Metro Times, 7 October 2009; like a sociologist looking back: Phonograph Record, April 1977; intro: Bowie would get Pop in the vocal booth and tape him recounting stories of his misspent youth, with the vague idea of making a spoken-word album. It’s possible the opening of “Dum Dum Boys” came out of this; you jerk!: quoted in Dave Thompson’s Pretty Face Is Going to Hell, 259. “You know that little part on ‘Dum Dum Boys,’ that Boweeeewaaah? That’s his part, that’s David doing that.” (“Boweeewaah” was his guitar trademark, as he’d contributed a similar sound to “Fame”); Palmer…bend that note more: Bleed, 210. Ray and Dave Davies’ nephew, Palmer was summoned via a 2 AM Bowie phone call to Munich in early August 1976. He recalled to Trynka walking into a darkened room full of guitars and drum kits (property of Thin Lizzy, who were recording Johnny the Fox during the day—Palmer helped himself to their effects pedals), while Bowie and Pop sat in the control room, giving cryptic instructions; metal groups: unspecified 1997 interview, quoted by Wilcken and Ambrose; it’ll be me: Pop to Nick Kent, NME, 3 May 1975; Dum Dum Boys: the song would name a Norwegian and a California band, and it was Stone Gossard’s suggested name for what became Mother Love Bone, the ur-Pearl Jam.

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32   China Girl   Pop’s “China Girl” was issued as a single in the UK in May 1977 (RCA PB 9093); Bowie’s remake in May 1983. The latter’s David Mallet-directed video included a homage to the beach scene in From Here to Eternity, with an oft-censored shot of Bowie’s ass; live, 1985: an unrecorded Pop/Bowie performance with Ron Wood and Steve Winwood at a Pop gig at the China Club, NYC, 5 November 1985; politely drunk: Pop, interviewed in Krautrock: The Rebirth of Germany (BBC, 2009), where he uses a power drill to open coconuts between questions; blundering blustering: Phonograph Record, April 1977.

33   Brando: Neil Young’s “Pocahontas” has parallels to “China Girl”— written around the same time, with a similar relationship between the white singer and his non-white title subject, and a Marlon Brando cameo.

34  bubblegum: to Buckley, Strange Fascination, 338; misjudged the length: Bob Clearmountain recalled “I could see the wince on Vaughan’s face. I said, ‘I’ll fix it,’ but David jumped in and said, ‘Don’t touch it. It’s perfect.’ We looked at each other, but David insisted. He loved the spontaneity.” (Wall Street Journal, 26 March 2011); invasion and exploitation: DB intro to VH1 Storytellers performance, 23 August 1999; fairly angry but it’s loving: Musiek Expres interview tape for a June 1983 feature, apparently conducted ca. March 1983, as Bowie references Vaughan as being in his touring band; Nguyen: “David Bowie m’a embrassée. Il était beau, j’ai pris peur…” Journal du Dimanche, 17 January 2016. Nguyen also wrote that she played “devil’s advocate” in a dinner conversation with Bowie (translated by Higelin? did Bowie speak enough French to communicate with her?) by defending Soviet communism—“in the name of this utopian, beautiful idea of ​​sacred unity for human beings”—against Bowie, who “was obsessed with the loss of freedom, he never missed a criticism of the Soviet regime.” The argument began when Bowie heard her reciting Pushkin in Russian, and it’s possible the idea of using a Dostoevsky novel’s title started here.

35  Mass Production   a child transfixed: Bleed, 210; zombie deadpan: Kent, NME, 12 March 1975; cities devoted to factories: Gimme Danger, 176.

 36  Nightclubbing    live: Pop sometimes sang the first verse in German during 1977 performances. Scott Thurston didn’t want to play “Nightclubbing” on Pop’s late 1977 tour because “I thought it was too drippy” (PKM, 434); lyric: Pop credited Bowie with “we walk like a ghost”; lousy drum machine: Pop remembered it as an “odd little Roland.” Trent Reznor sampled it for “Closer”; only Iggy Fucking Pop: South Bank Show interview, December 2004.

37   incredible coldness and deathly feeling: Phonograph Record, April 1977; Wardour Street: Bleed, 209.

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38  What in the World    ARP: Bowie and Eno never said which ARP synthesizers were used on Low. Top candidates are the ARP 2600 (a three-oscillator analog synth dating to 1971), the Odyssey Mark I (ca. 1972: a “suitcase” edition (two oscillators) of the 2600 that was meant to compete with the more affordable Minimoog; Roger Powell played one of the former on Bowie’s 1978 tour), and the Axxe (a smaller version (one oscillator) of the Odyssey, and reportedly used on The Idiot). One clue is the apparent use of a ring modulator (found on the 2600 and Odyssey but not the Axxe) on tracks like “Speed of Life” and “Weeping Wall,” though the latter most likely had an ARP Pro Soloist (ca. 1972) as its main synth. A commenter on the Vintage Synth boards noted that the Pro Soloist’s “Fuzz Guitar 1” preset is almost certainly heard on the track, adding “you can hear that Bowie has put Vibrato as a Touch Sensor effect in both cases, which you can hear him pressing harder then releasing in places, and then around 2:15 you can hear that he has added Growl as a Touch Sensor effect on the Clarinet preset.” The ARP Solina String Ensemble is a strong candidate for “Sound and Vision” at the least. The Solina, with a four-octave keyboard on which you could play violin, viola, trumpet, horn, cello and contrabass sounds, was popular among disco producers of the late Seventies; Rimmer EMI: possibly Eno’s EMS Synthi AKS temporarily renamed in honor of the composer John Rimmer; engineered: no credits listed, so my surmise is Thibault and Visconti for the French sessions, Meyer and Visconti for Hansa; Musikladen: a date maddeningly hard to verify. Consensus has it at 30 May 1978, but 29 May has also been cited. Maybe they shot it at midnight; tempo: Bowie’s last live versions, in 2002 as part of his revival of Low, restored the studio version’s tempo; Roy Young: A member of the Rebel Rousers in the early Sixties, Young was once called “England’s Little Richard.” He was in the house band of Hamburg’s Top Ten Club in 1962, playing with Tony Sheridan and Ringo Starr, and occasionally with the Beatles at the neighboring Star Club. (He and the Beatles cut backing tracks for an unreleased Sheridan single (“Sweet Georgia Brown”) in May 1962.) Young was still a hellion in 1976, making gin and tonics between takes at the Chateau, keeping a bucket of ice on his piano. Sending up cocktails to the control room proved disastrous, with Bowie found asleep or drunk at the console soon afterward; Farfisa: used on Eno’s Another Green World, the organ was being revived at the time by Jimmy Destri in Blondie and Jools Holland in Squeeze; Syd Barrett: he was “singing through the gloom,” which Barrett in turn had taken from James Joyce’s poem “Lean Out of the Window.”

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39   anima: a concept by Carl Jung, and an inspired suggestion of a commenter known only as “Norsey.”   Speed of Life    descending progression: Eb-Db-Bb-Ab, or I-VIIb-V-IV. Compare any 1978 live version to the Low track. The former are easier on the ear, with the verses given a rich, flowing bed of synthesizers to make the chord changes fall more smoothly.

41   A New Career in a New Town   Lennon: his earthy playing (he treated his chromatic harmonica like a one-key blues harp) is a key part of the sound of the early Beatles, from their first singles to album cuts like “Chains,” “Little Child,” and “I Should Have Known Better.” There’s a sharp drop-off in Beatles harmonica by late 1964, with the Dylan-tinged “I’m a Loser” marking the end of the line: a sign that the band thought the sound was becoming old hat. Lennon’s harmonica is heard only a few times more in the Beatles years (“All Together Now,” “Rocky Raccoon”), and his last recorded harmonica performance was his glorious solo on “Oh Yoko!”; chord progression: C-Am-F-G, or I-vi-IV-V, the “Fifties” progression (see “Five Years” in Rebel Rebel); Mr. Bloe: The B-side of an early Tony Orlando single, “Make Believe.” As songwriter Kenny Laguna recalled, he and his partner Bo Gentry dusted off the backing track of a “Mony Mony” knock-off single called “Bingo Bingo” and “improvised a haphazard harmonica and melodica overdub” (via Laguna’s website.) Called “Groovin’ With Mr. Bloe,” as performed by “Mr. Bloe,” the track became a UK #2. David J, in a Facebook post (1 June 2016), recounted that there was a Fifties-style jukebox outside Bowie’s dressing room during The Hunger shoot. After J punched up the Bloe 45, “Bowie was smiling all the while and well . . . grooving with Mister Bloe. Somehow I summoned up the audacity to make a statement. “This reminds me of something.” To which D.B. responded: “Oh, yeah? What’s that then?” “It’s one of yours!” “Yeah? Which one?” “It’s off of ‘Low.” “Yeah? Well, which track?” “Eh, ‘A New Career In A New Town?” And with that, Bowie put a finger to his lips, winked and carried on dancing!”

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42   Always Crashing in the Same Car    crashed Mercedes: Thibault to Trynka, 2005 “He told us he has to sell his Mercedes…It was a big class Mercedes and the value of the car was terrible because he’d had a car crash. So they offered only a very low price. David was very angry because he said that the Mercedes was paid for by RCA as an advance in royalties and it was very, very expensive and they wanted him to sell it for nothing”; like being in a car: The David Bowie Story, 1993; hardest one to get right: Mojo, February 2012.

43  spooky, not funny: Visconti, response to query on his old website (https://archive.is/YtKC8)   Sound and Vision   Low’s first single, it did well in the UK but died in the US—by April 1977, RCA took out ads in industry trades all but begging for Top 40 disc jockeys to play it. Top of the Pops 2: performed in the set, as per fans who attended the taping, but never aired; live: sung once on the 1978 tour, at Earl’s Court, a recording that first appeared on the semi-bootleg RarestOneBowie. Revived at the end of the Eighties, “Sound and Vision” titled Bowie’s career compilation and subsequent greatest-hits tour. A ghastly 1991 remix appears on the Rykodisc Low, while 808 State’s remix was issued as a David Bowie vs. 808 State 12″/CD-single the same year. A 1’50” reworking for a Sony’s Xperia Z was released as “Sound And Vision 2013,” and with hope, that’s the end of it; ultimate retreat song: to Michael Watts, Melody Maker, 18 February 1978; deep blue: this excerpt, which Bowie gave to Cameron Crowe in 1975, is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Archives. Quoted by Martin Schneider in Dangerous Minds, 31 July 2015; hand-cranked gramophone: “David had some odd requests, and it was my job to fulfill them. He was a vegan (sic) and more or less lived on milk and large amounts of cocaine which isn’t that easy to come across in the desert. I also found him a wind up gramophone. He used to sit alone in the white sands winding it up and listening to vinyl records for hours on end.” David Cammell, Man Who Fell to Earth’s producer (Daily Telegraph, 10 November 2016); greenie-grey light…buy your own groceries: to Charles Shaar Murray, NME, 12 November 1977.

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44  Crusaders tune: to Ralph Denyer, Sound International, September 1978; chords: in G major, so G-Am-D-G (I-ii-V-I), with the subdominant chord held back until the refrain, where it’s pitted against the tonic chord (C6 (“I will”) G (“sit right down”).)

45  theme from Deep Throat: a truly inspired discovery by Owen Maercks in 2017; not become a casualty: David Bowie Story, 1993.    Be My Wife   a promo shot by Stanley Dorfman in Paris in late June 1977 appears to reference earlier Bowie videos—Bowie’s flailing, awkward body movements parody his Jagger-esque moves on “Let Me Sleep Beside You” while the white-room setting and washed-out lighting invoke the promo for “Life On Mars?”; he just can’t be bothered: Momus comment on ILX, 10 October 2004.

46  genuinely anguished, I think: Melody Maker, 18 February 1978; merely sad: recalled by Annie McDuffie, who saw DB’s 5 February 2004 show in Phoenix.

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47  Breaking Glass   mangled treatment: to Chris Roberts, Uncut, October 1999; aggressive guitar drone: to Rob Hughes and Stephen Dalton, Uncut, April 2001; hit one A note: Music Tech, 26 November 2014.

48  Eventide H910: Unveiled in 1974 (Yes’ Jon Anderson advised on the prototype), it had four knobs (input level, feedback, anti-feedback, and manual control) and eight buttons to regulate delay and output. It was invented by Eventide engineer Tony Agnello, who envisioned it as a means to pitch-correct wayward vocals or brass (NYC’s Channel 5 would use a Harmonizer to downward pitch-shift audio of I Love Lucy reruns that they’d sped up to squeeze in more commercials). Visconti had already used earlier-model signal distorters, like the Digital Delay and the Keypex, on his mixing of Diamond Dogs; fucks with the fabric of time: see any Visconti interview in the past 15 years; feedback of the tone…man hit in the stomach: Visconti, Brooklyn Boy, 237; how hard he hit his snare: to Michael Molenda, Electronic Musician, 19 April 2007; as big as a house: Sound International, September 1978; eccentric and listenable: to Rüther, Heroes, 48. Meyer added that “the glissando lowered the punch on the (snare) drum down to the basement.” In 1978, Bowie took credit for the sound!, telling Michael Watts that “I mixed up the bass very high…and did very extraordinary and naughty things to the snare drum sound…I wanted the snare drum to disintegrate. I was incredibly bored with the drum sound one hears, especially the American drum sound of the last 4, 5 years, the big, heavy, upfront bass drum, the make-it-sound-like-a-wooden-box that’s been there ever since “I Can’t Stand the Rain.” It doesn’t cut it anymore. So we fooled around with the drums and found that when we treated the whole drum kit it started to get back to a sort of psychedelic sound so we picked out different drums and treated them all individually. We found that corrupting the snare drum definitely put the whole thing out of focus with the normal perspective on how drums have sounded”; punky…did that shit the day before!: Five Years.

49  don’t normalize it: David Bowie Story, 1993; Tree of Life: to Uncut in 2001, Bowie said “it is a contrived image…it refers to both the Kabbalistic drawings of the Tree of Life and the conjuring of spirits.”   Subterraneans    Used as the opening movement of Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 1, premiered in August 1992. Scored for: 2 flutes, piccolo, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, Eb clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, bass trombone, tuba, 4 percussion (side drum, tenor drum, bass drum, glockenspiel, triangle, chimes, tambourine, cymbals, castanets, tam-tam, woodblock), harp, piano, strings (8 first violins, 6 second violins, 4 violas, 4 celli, 2 double bass).   Strick: Circus, 28 February 1977; New Music: the album’s name apparently changed late in the day, as New Music was the title on first-run cassette labels in Canada, and it was also apparently on some promo issues, as  Ian MacDonald, reviewing the record in January 1977, referred to that name as if it was the album’s subtitle; manic disco…interesting shapes: to Miles, NME, 27 November 1976.

50  hence he brought in Eno: to George Cole, Record Collector, January 2017; soundtrack work: Music for Films was issued in a limited edition in 1976 and, with a revised track list, to the general public in 1978; David, Peter and me: Record Collector, January 2017; back into music again: Alan Yentob TV interview (Arena Rock), filmed in Cologne and broadcast 29 May 1978; faint jazz saxophones: to Tim Lott, Record Mirror, 24 September 1977.

51   16-bar refrain: As per the 1977 Low songbook, the sequence is: bars one to four: 3/4, 4/4, 4/4, 3/4 (“A”); bars five to eight: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 3/4 (“B”); bars nine to twelve: 3/4, 4/4, 4/4, 3/4 (“A”); bars thirteen to sixteen: 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, 3/4 (“B”); phonetics: Melody Maker, 29 January 1977.

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52  Art Decade  It was credited solely to Bowie until being changed to “Bowie-Eno” on All Saints in 1993 (the original, privately-issued version of this compilation) and subsequently on the European 2005 reissue of Stage. Possibly the latter was an error caused by referencing the first All Saints, as the credit had never changed on various Low reissues. The recent box set has restored the original sole-Bowie credit; sound made completely physical: quoted in Sheppard, Faraway Beach, 63-64; blast of synthesizer nonsense: to Lenny Henry, GQ, September 1996.

53  fecundity: Eno’s work of the 1973-1976 period includes (solo vocal LPs) Here Come the Warm Jets, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and Another Green World, (solo vocal singles) “Seven Deadly Finns” and “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” (instrumental albums) No Pussyfooting, Discreet Music, Evening Star, and the original Music for Films, (producing & “Eno-izing”) John Cale’s Fear, Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, Phil Manzanera’s Diamond Head, the first Penguin Café Orchestra album, Robert Calvert’s Lucky Leif and the Longships and more; more of a technologist: to Steven Davy, Beetle, January 1975; credited: It was happening before the first album came out (e.g., “Bowie’s newest, produced by Eno,” in a Low preview in the Soho Weekly News, 9 December 1976.) In 1999, Visconti told Uncut “David’s set the record straight many times since, and of course my name is in the credits as co-producer with David. How rock journalists continue to make that mistake is beyond me. Come to think of it, I don’t recall Brian ever setting the record straight.” In his NME review of Low, MacDonald praised “Eno’s treated snare drum” sound; German music: Bowie claimed in 1999 that “I took it upon myself to introduce Eno to the Dusseldorf sound with which he was very taken,” a recollection that may have surprised Eno; in Germany, he found something: to Stubbs, Future Days, 347.

54  wasn’t associated with rock: to Rob Patterson, “The Real David Bowie Stands Up,” Indiana Gazette, 7 January 1978 (this article was syndicated, so it wasn’t done for this newspaper); I needed somebody to work with…empathetic git: Rock On, 29 October 1977; cello: Meyer interviewed in Mike Christie’s Hansa Studios: By the Wall, 1976-90. “So when you listen to the track, you listen to a cello orchestra, played by myself.”

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 55  no hope of retribution: Record Mirror, 24 September 1977.  Warszawa  It was used as the basis of the third movement of Glass’ Symphony No. 1.  pockmarked with bullet holes: as described to Trynka, Bleed, 205.

56  Żoliborz: A northern district, west of the Vistula river and a roughly twenty-minute walk from the station; Plac Komuny Paryskiej: Paris Commune Square. It was restored to an earlier name, Plac Wilsona (after American president Woodrow Wilson, proponent of Polish independence), in the Nineties. I differed from my usual approach in recounting this story, which remains legend—to my knowledge there are no photographs of Bowie walking in Warsaw in 1976, nor has anyone else on that trip (e.g., Pop, Andrew Kent, Schwab) recalled this walk, I believe. But it’s far from improbable—it seems very much like the thing Bowie would have done. The story feels true, and ought to be in any regard; emotive, almost religious feel: Melody Maker, 18 February 1978; sonic scenarios: BBC Hard Talk, 11 May 2016; single notes: NME, 27 November 1976; melody against bass: JazzTimes, 15 May 2016; root notes instead of chords: In September 2016, a blog commenter “Tyrell” broke down the song’s structure brilliantly and greatly improved my original analysis. So: the opening melody is A-D-G-F. From F the melody goes to E, but as the root note remains A, this now sounds like an A major chord. When the melody started by Visconti’s son appears— A-B-C—the underlying chord changes to C major. The main melody (or first part of the “theme”) moves from F# major to D# minor to C# major, reaching a peak with an A# chord. After a repeat, there’s a third sparkling little melody, an upward movement that begins B, F#, B, F#, etc. After the theme section, the chords are F# major, F# minor, E major. The root note is now E, so the “solo vie milejo” section seems as if it’s in E major (Bowie sings a G#) while the “cheli venco deho” section feels more like E minor (Bowie sings a G). “After “malio” the root note goes from E to A (E-F-G-A) and it remains A during the second part of the sung section. At the end of this (after the last “malio”) it goes back via A-G-C and C# to the key of the main melody, which closes the song; musical picture of countryside in Poland: Melody Maker, 18 February 1978.

58  Polish folk songs: to Filip Łobodziński, Machina, January 1997; Polish choir as a child: to Watts, Melody Maker, 29 January 1977. Over the years, this statement has evolved into Bowie playing a “Balkan boys choir” album at the studio; phonetic language that doesn’t exist…different kinds of tensions: Okada Music Life interview, 23 April 1977; nice-sounding words: NME, 27 November 1976.

59  sinister: Pyzik to CO, February 2011. Her Poor But Sexy expands upon her thoughts here & is greatly recommended.    Some Are  Currently only available on the All Saints and iSelect compilations. The basis of the second movement of Glass’ Symphony No. 1.   bittersweet songs: Wilcken, 129, citing a “recent biography” that claimed this.

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60  wolf: Mail on Sunday, 28 June 2008; free-association: idea from Anthony Teague (whose name I misspelled as “Heague” in Rebel Rebel; apologies again, Anthony).

61   All Saints   electronic loops: to Pegg, 18 (all references in these notes are to Pegg’s seventh edition, from 2016);  label: the label in turn was named after All Saints Road in Notting Hill. Its first releases were holdovers from Eno’s Opal Records, which had closed in 1991.   Weeping Wall    works it out in his head: Heroes, 76; Meta-Musik Festival: after the performance, Bowie introduced himself to Reich. “And [he] then writes “Weeping Wall,” which sounds like “Music for 18 Musicians,” Reich told Alex Tween of The Gothamist (15 November 2013). The date of the 1976 festival is oddly hard to determine: one source has it as 5 October. Held in West Berlin in 1974, 1976 and 1978, the Festival was programmed by Walter Bachauer, an appointee of the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienst, or DAAD), a government-run body indirectly funded by the Ford Foundation. The DAAD favored avant-garde and American artists to foment “freedom of expression” as part of West Germany’s cultural war with its eastern half; no regular beat…Bach, Stravinsky…irrational relationship: Reich interview with Jonathan Cott, 1996.

62  phasing: “What you really have is a unison canon or round where the rhythmic interval between the first and second voices is variable and constantly changing. “Phase” was just a technical word I used at the time to refer to the function of the tape recorders” (to Cott, 1996); out of phase with the original…new timbre that is both instrumental and vocal: Reich, Writings on Music, 76; vibraphone: “lying around in the studio,” as Meyer recalled to Rüther. It was an early version of the vibraphone (a marimbaphone with a distinct vibrato), built by the instrument’s creator, Herman Winterhoff, in 1916; bassline: in standard notation in the Low songbook, “Weeping Wall” is 97 bars of 3/4 time (the same time as much of “Mallet Instruments”), with a 16-bar outro faded halfway through. The synthetic bassline is four measures of a single note that’s repeated six times per bar—it starts with D, then A, F, B, G, B, G, E, G# and so on, patterns emerging as the piece proceeds; accumulative piece: David Bowie Story, 1993.


Album Poll, Day 1: One-Votes to 30-20

January 4, 2016

If the song poll was a cavalry battle, the “readers’ favorite Bowie albums” poll was trench warfare.

The song poll’s results came after many sweeps and shifts, with a wide range of songs jockeying for position during the vote tallying. The album poll, by contrast, quickly settled into a long slog between two LPs for the top slot, while three albums slugged it out in the middle of the top 10. The rest of the list soon sorted itself out, position-wise. The top 15 was cemented by the time I’d compiled 100 ballots (out of roughly 350 cast).

So, at least within the confines of this poll, there’s a substantial consensus on what the top Bowie albums are. You’ll find out soon enough.

But first, as in the song poll, here are the single-vote picks: those albums loved by one single voter. Mainly a list of bootlegs and compilations:

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Blackstar (one clairvoyant, or optimistic, voter). ChangesTwoBowie. Christiane F. (soundtrack). Images: 1966-1967. iSelect. Nothing Has Changed. Peter and the Wolf. A Reality Tour. Live Santa Monica ’72. A Portrait in Flesh (bootleg: Los Angeles, 5 September 1974). 50th Birthday Bash (bootleg: New York, 8 January 1997). Heaven’s In Here (bootleg: Tin Machine, Chicago, 7 December 1991). Sound + Vision (voter specified the original 1989 set).

Then the handful-favorites:

Lust for Life; Glass Spider (2 points/votes each); All Saints; Ziggy Stardust: the Motion Picture (soundtrack) (3 points/votes); Labyrinth (soundtrack), Bowie at the Beeb (4 points/votes); Baal (5 points/votes); Deram Anthology (5 points, 1 vote—its sole vote was a #1); Tin Machine II (6 points/votes); ChangesOneBowie (6 points, 2 votes, 1 #1 vote).

Now, we reach the outer regions. The top 30-20 Bowie albums, starting with the last “underrated” Bowie LP?:

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30. ‘hours…’ (7 points/votes).

I’ve watched [friends] flounder a little over the last 10 years, when they’re reaching that stage where it’s very, very hard to start a new life. Some of them are affected with resignation and some of them, a certain bitterness maybe…they found themselves in relationships that aren’t what they had expected to be in when they were younger.

Bowie, 1999.

‘Hours . . .’ wafts into the room, breezily delivers its angsty arabesques and afterlife lullabies, and then luminously bows out in a succinct 45:42… an album that improves with each new hearing…further confirmation of Richard Pryor’s observation that they call them old wise men because all them young wise men are dead.

Greg Tate, Rolling Stone, 1999.

THREE WAY TIE, 29-27, among albums that have little to do with each other:

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Stage (10 points/votes).

This particular package, extravagant yet minimal, arrives hard on the heels of a critically and commercially successful world tour: to capitalise on the thousands thirsting for vinyl souvenirs – love me, love my records – and to conveniently fill the contract quota. Spanning four sides and six years, it’s an obvious complement to the earlier, more fraught ‘David Live’ – there being no reduplication of any songs therein – and serves as a suitably ‘weighty’ and timely summary to the latest (and to many, the most interesting) stage.

Jon Savage, Sounds, 1978.

David Bowie

Leon (10 points, 6 votes, 1 #1 vote).

(For new readers asking ‘wait, what the hell is Leon?’ A not-quite-album, Leon is a bootleg collection of three 20-minute mood/song suites that were later cut up and diced into Outside.)

Our conceptual parameters are not that dissimilar. Brian would often set tasks which would define the movements of the day and then we would work according to that plan, which he would redefine in the studio. This is a great way to start because, as Brian often says, “When you ask musicians to jam, the common ground will always be the bloody blues.” So you always end up with these endless, boring bloody blues pieces. Brian’s thing is to break the structure from the beginning of the day and enter into a feeling of improvisation from new places.

Bowie, 1994.

Never Let Me Down (10 points, 6 votes, 1 #1 vote).

My nadir was Never Let Me Down. It was such an awful album. I’ve gotten to a place now where I’m not very judgmental about myself. I put out what I do, whether it’s in visual arts or in music, because I know that everything I do is really heartfelt. Even if it’s a failure artistically, it doesn’t bother me in the same way that Never Let Me Down bothers me. I really shouldn’t have even bothered going into the studio to record it. [laughs] In fact, when I play it, I wonder if I did sometimes.

Bowie, 1995.

Never Let Me Down is an inspired and brilliantly crafted work. It’s charged with a spirit that makes art soul food; imbued with the contagious energy that gives ideas a leg to stand on.

Glenn O’Brien, Spin review, 1987.

yugotin

26. Tin Machine (11 points/votes).

We were sick of turning on the radio and hearing disco and dance music and drum machines, which I think in the business they call “crap.”

Tony Sales, 1989.

I’ve never been worried about losing fans. I just haven’t bothered to put that into practice recently. My strength has always been that I never gave a shit about what people thought of what I was doing. I’d be prepared to completely change from album to album and ostracize everybody that may have been pulled in to the last album. That didn’t ever bother me one iota. I’m sort of back to that again…

Bowie, 1989.

iggy77

25. The Idiot (13 points, 9 votes, 1 #1 vote).

Iggy is in great shape – he’s not the drug-crazed lunatic of yore. Iggy is very together…he’s still got mischief forever. And it’s a great album. David plays saxophone on it. Everybody’s gonna find out where all the punk bands that are making it did their homework. I mean, Iggy’s so far ahead of everybody…

RCA official, to Wesley Strick, Circus, 1977.

I was happy to be a guinea pig if [Bowie] had a new idea. The more obscure and weird the idea, that’s what I wanted.

Iggy Pop.

CAREER SPANNING TWO-WAY TIE for 24-23: young man; rich man:

David Bowie (1967) (14 points, 10 votes, 1 #1 vote).

It was such a weird album. I can’t believe it got released.

Gus Dudgeon, 1993.

Oh, that thing… that was on a very semi-professional basis. I was still working as a commercial artist then, and I made that kind of in my spare time, taking days off work and all that. I never followed it up, did any stage work or anything. I just did an album, ’cause I’d been writing, y’know, sent my tape into Decca and they said they’d make an album. Thought it was original.

Bowie, to Lenny Kaye, 1973.

Tonight (14 points, 10 votes, 1 #1 vote).

It was rushed. The process wasn’t rushed; we actually took our time recording the thing; Let’s Dance was done in three weeks, Tonight took five weeks or something, which for me is a really long time. I like to work fast in the studio. There wasn’t much of my writing on it ’cause I can’t write on tour and I hadn’t assembled anything to put out. But I thought it a kind of violent effort at a kind of Pin Ups.

Bowie, 1987.

Tonight is not a great album. It is, however, a good album, and perhaps more importantly, it’s a much better album than you think it is, or may have been led to believe. Bowie’s made some subpar records, but this isn’t one of them—and frankly, even its failures aren’t boring, because, well, it’s an ‘80s Bowie album, from a decade in which he was wildly inconsistent, but also never dull. And remember: your family is a football team.

Thomas Inskeep, 2005.

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22. David Live (17 points, 9 votes, 2 #1 votes).

The artiste at his laryngeal nadir, mired in bullshit pessimism and arena-rock pandering–and the soul frills just make it worse.

Robert Christgau.

The first track, “1984” burst into the room, and again Bowie settled back in a chair to listen. While the album was playing, several of the musicians traveling with him and some of the MainMan staff came into the room to hear it. Bowie was very much a musician, not a “personality” in the manner of so many rock stars when they listen to their own music. He was like a fan pointing out special touches – some crisp guitar lick or a particularly hot saxophone solo – that delighted him. There were, quite justifiably, many reasons for his delight. Though it is a bit dangerous making such judgements on the basis of a single listening, David Live is quite possibly the best live rock album I’ve ever heard – an urgent, highly accessible, brilliantly performed collection.

Robert Hilburn, Melody Maker, 1974.

WE END ON ONE LAST TIE, 21-20:

Black Tie White Noise (19 points/votes).

I knew what people would think when they heard I was going back in to work with Nile. But I was thinking, ‘I hope this doesn’t turn into another ‘Let’s Dance’,’ and that probably drove me even harder. It is a very personal album.

Bowie, 1993.

Black Tie is a very straight album. The skills which were once Bowie’s by default have been irretrievably passed on to the kind of talents he used to eat for breakfast, and he is left flapping alone, a mudskipper when the mud’s dried up. Welcome to the middle-aged disco, welcome to the dehydrated dance and, once past the hopeful roar of the instrumental opening ‘Wedding’, welcome to the disinherited second cousin of Let’s Dance again (like we did last summer).

Dave Thompson, The Rocket, 1993.

Pin Ups (19 points/votes).

This flashy tribute to the English scene, ca. 1966, remains Bowie’s quirky triumph–not that he’d come up with any other kind of triumph. I mean, who else could sing ‘Here Comes the Night’ as a raging queen and make it sound right?

Greil Marcus.

In those days [the 1960s] I was an audience, but I never dressed like anybody that was in the rock business.

Bowie, 1973.

Next: Bowie albums, 19-11 (I think—unless I find enough time to put it all together tomorrow. but most likely 19-11).