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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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