Chapter Three: Someone Else’s Horizon (1977-1979)

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Epigraphs   isolationist: uncredited early 1978 interview, DB quoted in Miles, In His Own Words, 33.

104  Madman/Sitting      Broadcast: I differ from some sources (Pegg, Cann) here, who have the Bowie/Bolan taping as being on 9 September 1977. There’s a contemporary article by Chris Welch, who attended the show and wrote that it happened “last Wednesday.” Wednesday was the 7th, not the 9th, of September 1977; Bolan back in England…wanting passionately to do it: NME, 7 March 1976.

105  co-write a song: There are other alleged Bowie and Bolan recordings from the mid-Seventies, the one most cited being “Walking Through That Door,” said to be a recording of Bowie, Bolan, and Gloria Jones in LA in 1975. But this is apparently a Bolan song called “Lovin’ You” produced for Richard Jones’ (Gloria’s brother) unreleased album, recorded at MRI Studios in January 1976. Richard Jones has reportedly said Bowie is not on this track; Madman: first issued on a fan-club cassette after Bolan’s death, it was covered by the Cuddly Toys in 1980 and Belgian synth artist Snowy Red in 1982; final episode: its performers were Generation X; a pub rock band called Lip Service; “Heart Throb,” Bolan’s cut-rate Pan’s People, who danced to their self-titled theme song (with giant glowing heart as backdrop) and Gonzalez’s (Gloria Jones-penned) “Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet”; Bolan barely bothering to lip-sync “Deborah” and, with more commitment, “Ride a White Swan” and his blues “Groove a Little”; Eddie and the Hotrods having a blast on “Do Anything You Wanna Do”; and finally a subdued “Heroes,” with Bowie performing alone to a prerecorded backing track; staffers from entering the studio: depicted in Welch and Tim Lott’s articles about the taping for Melody Maker and Record Mirror, respectively, with more stories later recounted to Trynka and Hopkins for their biographies.

106  died within seconds: though it’s often reported that a sycamore tree killed Bolan, the tree (which stood behind a concrete fence post) in truth prevented the car from tumbling down a hill and likely saved Gloria Jones’ life, as per Lesley-Ann Jones’ Ride a White Swan; his son: because Jones wasn’t Bolan’s wife at the time of his death (in fact he was still married to June Child), their son Rolan was legally regarded as illegitimate and Jones couldn’t access the trust fund that held Bolan’s royalties. “Things got very tough,” Rolan told the Daily Mail in 2011. “David’s generosity helped my mother and me to survive [Bowie paid for Rolan’s education and “settled other expenses”]. It wasn’t just the financial help, but the time and kindness. He never came to see us in California…but he kept in regular touch by phone…He’d shrug off our thanks, saying it was the least he could do for the family of a good friend.”  Peace On Earth    Bing was no idiot…I hate that song…biggest complaint: to Paul Fahri, Washington Post, 20 December 2006.

107   knew everything: Hit Parader, June 1978; little old orange: Q, October 1999; on-line mix: Ted Scott, AudioWise, Stories From Sound Control.

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108  Peter and the Wolf   little concerned to say the least: Peter Dobrin, Philadelphia Inquirer, 17 January 2016; Ustinov: Arthur Rubenstein also reportedly declined the job; Kaplan: (who wound up buying the Bowie album), in her Leave the Building Quickly, 177.

109  Revolutionary Song   release: the Just a Gigolo soundtrack also includes Marlene Dietrich and the Village People singing the title song, the Manhattan Transfer, and a version of a Scott Joplin rag; it could have been put on Voyager 2; largest budget: reportedly 12 million deutsche marks (as per Wolfgang Tasler, “Just a Gigolo—A Song, A Story, A Film,” June 1978).

110  somewhat thick: Uncut, April 2001.

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111 Alabama Song     No more costumes: Melody Maker, 18 February 1978; musician seduced: PC Magazine, 3 April 1984; try to play my same music: Melody Maker, 18 February 1978; didn’t interfere too much: Mayes, Starzone Interviews, 39; Alomar: He came close to not being on the tour—in January 1978, Bowie was publicly talking about using Stacy Heydon. The issue was that Alomar was working on his wife Robin Clark’s album (“This is the first year we’ve had any time off,” Alomar told the Emerald City Chronicle in May 1978. “David probably felt I needed to sometime work with Robin and if I didn’t want to do this tour, he wasn’t going to hold me to it.”) But Alomar cleared up his schedule in time. In the same interview, he described his usual role on tour. “When David looks around and looks at the band, he only looks at me. I give him cues and he gives me cues.” In his memoir, Mayes confirmed that “Carlos was in charge. David [acted] as if he was his own kid brother who got a chance to jump up and sing with the band sometimes…he was acting as if the band isn’t going to take him seriously”; Stage: Bowie’s bald attempt to knock off two records from the remaining four that he owed RCA; it didn’t work.

112  began including: its likely debut was Chicago, 17 April 1978; strident piece of music: Vogue, September 1978; speech rhythm: quoted by Kowalke, in Music & Performance, 84; cult of money: Albright, Untwisting the Serpent, 118.

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113  Lenya: Brecht Unbound, 105; more like a circus: to Mark Paytress, Mojo, November 2017; he felt worked best: Mayes, Life On Tour, 111. In 1966, the Doors had started performing the song because its calls for the next whiskey bar was a crowd-pleaser: they were playing the Whiskey A Go-Go at the time.

114 Move On    Mountain Studios  It opened in 1975, the project of singer Anita Kerr and her husband and manager, Alex Grob, who had moved to Switzerland at end of the Sixties. Its Westlake Audio control room was designed to record concerts, as an easy source of work was taping performances at the annual Montreux Jazz Festival (it’s one reason why the actual studio was so cramped and unappealing, as Mountain was originally geared towards recording off-site live performances). By the time Bowie recorded Lodger there in September 1978, Queen had also started using Mountain—the band would buy it from Kerr and Grob the following year; I don’t live anywhere: Northern Lights interview, 16 June 1978; the more I travel: Melody Maker, 29 October 1977; I have never got around…all my traveling: NME, 12 November 1977; trilogy: Bowie was calling Lodger part of a triptych or trilogy before it was released—in an October 1977 interview to promote “Heroes,” he said he was already at work on the third album. Eno also referred to the records as being a trilogy; The Tenant: other nods in the LP art are a postcard addressed to “David Bowie c/o RCA Records, London” (Polanski’s tenant receives a postcard addressed to the former occupant), and the layout of a photo album that Polanski flips through is similar to that of Lodger‘s inner sleeve. The images, which include an infant, a dying Che Guevara and Christ, have similar poses to Bowie’s fallen Lodger; all suggest death or rebirth, “repetition” throughout time. Other influences on the cover art are Egon Schiele’s Self Portrait as St. Sebastian (1914-15) and Francis Picabia’s Nature Morte: Portrait of Cézanne/Portrait of Renoir/Portrait of Rembrandt (1920); Christgau: Village Voice, 10 September 2002, in a review of Heathen as “Dud of the Month.” “Just to be mean I compared his latest phoenix imitation to 1979’s Lodger, a certified nonclassic I always kind of liked. Lodger won easy.”

115  no mixing equipment…we had no choice: Mojo, November 2017; sketchpad: NME, 13 September 1980; self-plagiarism: Melody Maker, 26 May 1979; Kierkegaard: Momus, comment on the “Move On” blog post, 22 July 2012: “It’s not hard to see why Kierkegaard appealed to Bowie at this stage in his life. K’s themes keep returning to belief versus doubt, marriage versus seduction, the aesthetic versus the ethical. His voice is a playful, ironic and experimental one, with constantly shifting styles and personae. If Bowie begins the 1970s as a disciple of the bombastic Nietzsche (most notably in “The Supermen”), he ends the decade under the influence of Kierkegaard (a much subtler, nicer and more social-democratic figure)”; Dudes: the refrain of “Dudes” is D/Dmaj7/Bm/D-A/Am/Am7-G/F/C (with a G-C-A-D turnaround); the refrain of “Move On” is C/F/G/Am/D/Bm/D, with a A-C-G turnaround. The bridge of “Move On” shifts to A minor; that became ‘Move On’: Brooklyn Boy, 268; Garson: to Dan LeRoy, Greatest Music Never Sold, 59.

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116  pick a country: to John Rockwell, New York Times, 7 May 1978; something like Dvorak: Mayes, On Tour, 114.    African Night Flight    fifth business: from the 1970 Davies novel of the same name; Eno chords: Bowie once said he’d gotten “Look Back In Anger” out of the “chalkboard chords” session, but both Mayes and Visconti recalled that the session produced nothing of use.

117  almost all Brian…terrible way to mix a track: Mojo, November 2017; crickety sounds: Uncut, April 2001.

118   German pilots: some were still in East Africa in the 2000s, running anti-al Qaeda surveillance operations out of Mombasa; when they’re going to leave: radio interview, 18 April 1979; Noel Coward: in live versions of “Mad Dogs and Englishmen,” Coward often sang a nonsensical “native” chant to break up verses.   Yassassin   Issued as a single ca. July 1979 in Turkey and Holland (unknown what the Turks made of it). The Dutch single edit lops off over a minute. Bowie said he was considering “Yassassin” for his 1995 tour, but that’s as far as it went.

119  up-chop: Brooklyn Boy, 268. A story to take with some salt, as Davis had been playing a reggae “What in the World” throughout the 1978 tour without apparent difficulty; Hassan I Sabha: From Quark, Strangeness & Charm (1977). Nicking from a song named after the founder of the Hashashin, then calling your own track “Yassassin” is a bit cheeky, even by Bowie standards. Another nod in the lyric was to Shane Fenton and the Fentones’ 1961 “I’m a Moody Guy” (Fenton later became Alvin Stardust); coffee bars in Turkey: 18 April 1979 radio interview; particular culture: NME, 13 September 1980.

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120  Red Sails    Stan Harrison: only credited as “Stan” on the original LP sleeve—he’d later play on Bowie’s 1983 tour. live: for the “Serious Moonlight” tour, Bowie slowed its tempo and added a brass section. It didn’t gel, and he soon cut it from the set list; Errol Flynn…cross reference…don’t know what it’s about: to Watts, Melody Maker, 19 May 1979; motorik: Dominique Leone once gave on ILX a concise definition of it—4/4 time, with snare on 2 & 4; continual eighth notes on hi-hat, with the bass drum mirroring the latter except on snare beats; Belew: David Shaw interview, undated.

121 Repetition    Live: technically, it wasn’t performed in front of an audience in 1997—a backstage performance from rehearsals for Bowie 50th birthday concert was shown on the pay-per-view broadcast. But I figured this was enough for “1997” to merit inclusion; Lodger: Its sequencing has “Repetition” directly following “Boys Keep Swinging.”

122 numbness: Capital Radio, 14 May 1979.

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123  DJ   liberators: The very 1990 movie Pump Up the Volume was probably the last time that a DJ was portrayed as any sort of liberating figure; Mathers: “On Second Thought—Lodger,” Stylus, 20 July 2004; dead air: “Conversations with Bowie,” Capital Radio, 14 May 1979; promo film: directed by Mallet, it helped establish a cardinal rule of early MTV that at some point in a video, glass must be broken.

124 Fantastic Voyage   anxious song: Moody, Salon, 20 September 2014; out of our control: Capital Radio, 14 May 1979; first target: Record Mirror, 24 September 1977; reading: Erdman knew a hit when he saw one, as he went on to write The Last Days of America and The Panic of ’89. Sir John Hackett’s The Third World War sold over three million copies—even Reagan allegedly read it. Another Bowie favorite of the time was Anthony Burgess’ 1985, an odd combination of an essay on Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and a bad novella about a future Britain overrun by trade unions and Muslims; mandolins: Visconti, Roland blog, 2014: “I noticed that the first two chords of the song were the same as the first two chords of ‘Love Me Tender’…instead of strings, it called for mandolins, playing like a string section of mandolins…You can hear ‘Love Me Tender’ if you listen closely to the mandolins just for a bit. Then the third chord is not in LMT anymore so we stopped playing that motif.”

126  Look Back in Anger  US/Canadian single, released ca. August 1979, to little chart action.  remake: it was performed (to a backing track) twice in 1988, at the Intruders at the Palace show on 1 July and for Nam June Paik’s “Wrap Around the World,” a pre-Olympics 90-minute live television broadcast with events simulcast from Europe and Asian countries, on 10 September (in retrospect, this merited inclusion in the “Broadcast” list). The remake is currently out of print; angels to put the world to right: interview with Boffomundo, 1979.

127 tatty angel of death:  Capital Radio, 14 May 1979; rhythm guitar solo: to Buckley, Strange Fascination, 304.

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128 Boys Keep Swinging    UK #7: Bowie’s decision to finally release his disco “John (I’m Only Dancing again)” in late 1979 may have been inspired by the chart success of “Boys.” Twenty years later, Blur raided the song enough for “M.O.R.” that they had to credit Bowie and Eno as co-songwriters. Roxy Music’s “Trash,” released in early 1979, was a similar gambit: an old glam act looking to remake itself as New Wave, with the single debuted on Kenny Everett. Unlike “Boys,” the single flopped, but Roxy soon rebounded with “Dance Away.”

129 colonization…glory was ironic: Bust, Fall 2000; more tension: the D-E-Bb verse progression is a swift move away from the home chord (I- v-of-V- VIb). Bowie adds tension to his underlying chords by briefly pushing to sing submediant notes (B) over the D chord (“hea-ven loves ya”), doing it again (C) over the E chord (“clouds are for ya”), then a tumble down to hit the root note in the Bb chord (“no-thing stands”). Visconti said a third song using this progression was cut during the Lodger sessions, but scrapped; young kids in the basementworld’s your oyster: to Buckley, 304.

130  Red Money   mere whimsy: Uncut, April 2001.

131 Wilson…Dylan: “Reet Petite” and “Mr. Tambourine Man” (cf. “my hands can’t feel to grip”), respectively; small red box: one painting was Man With Red Box, from 1976, described by Will Brooker as “a haunted male figure in a 1930s outfit, glancing off-canvas with apparent horror as he holds, in both hands, an object roughly the size and colour of a brick.”

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132 I Pray, Olé  it was out of print for over 20 years, never found on compilations (as with the rest of the late Seventies Ryko bonuses); it’s at last being released on a single for the upcoming Record Store Day. no memory: to Pegg, 124; Palmer: reply to a commenter on the Illustrated DB Discography board, posted 10 October 2011.        Play It Safe  Source for many stories about this track is Trynka’s Bleed, pp. 241-246, based in turn primarily on interviews with Pop and Barry Andrews (Glen Matlock wasn’t in the studio when Bowie visited).

134  Velvet Couch  first surfaced as a bootleg 7″ (“Two Gentlemen in New York”) sometime in the Eighties; Ciarbis Studios: various references cite a recording date of either 5 or 15 October 1979, based on what I have no idea, though I presume it was cut around that time. There’s also utterly no other reference to a “Ciarbis Studios,” in NYC or elsewhere, that I could find. Presumably it was the name given to someone’s (Cale’s?) home recording set-up or maybe it’s a bootlegger joke; war had been declared: quoted in What’s Welsh for Zen, 176; unheard in the mix: The Cornell Daily Sun, 6 April 1979; throwing things around: to Tom Pinnock, Uncut, February 2016.

135  good old bad old days: Uncut, June 2008.

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