Chapter Eight: Family Albums (1992-1993)

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Epigraph   Bowie to Robert Palmer (the other one), Penthouse, November 1983.

334  Real Cool World    38 Fresh: Black Tie White Noise is among the more opaque Bowie albums, in terms of when and where it was cut and who played on it. Several of its performers, such as the saxophonist Dan Wilensky, were uncredited; its creation was lengthy and convoluted, involving multiple studios, engineers, etc. (Reeves Gabrels recalled to me that at the Hit Factory sessions he worked on in 1992, Nile Rodgers wasn’t there). It’s unclear which Black Tie songs began at 38 Fresh in Los Angeles, a studio Bowie first started using at the end of the Tin Machine period. 38’s engineer Dale Schalow (who has confirmed “Jump They Say” started there) has written an article for the David Bowie Glamour fanzine that unfortunately came out after this book was completed—I look forward to reading it; Songs from the Cool World: a pretty hip soundtrack for DB to be associated with in this era. Tracks included Future Sound of London’s “Papua New Guinea,” My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult’s “Sex on Wheelz,” and some early Moby tracks; first release: as with many Black Tie tracks, there’s a host of edits and remixes. For “Cool World” there is: a) the 3:47 edit used for the video; b) the 4:14 soundtrack cut, used in the closing credits of Cool World—this version appeared on the 2003 2-CD reissue of Black Tie; c) Satoshi Tomiie’s five remixes, including “Cool Dub Thing” Nos. 1 and 2, the “Cool Thing” 12″ club mix and “Cool Dub Overture,” which were on the 12″ and CD single; d) an instrumental version on the B-side of the original 7″ single; funny, works with him…never go home again…always a lot of pressure: to Spitz, 354-355; hybrid of Eurocentric soul: to Dominic Wells, Q, January 1995.

335  You’ve Been Around   A remix of “Around” by Jack Dangers (of Meat Beat Manifesto) appeared on the 12″ “Black Tie White Noise” single; a longer edit of this remix is on the 2003 reissue of the album; live: performed once in 1989, at Tin Machine’s first gig in New York.

336  had the chance to mix Reevesno harmonic reference: Black Tie White Noise promotional video; Gabrels: While he’d also cut a solo for “I Feel Free,” it was wiped once Bowie recruited Mick Ronson for that track. His work on “Nite Flights” wasn’t credited in the album liner notes.

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337  The Wedding/ Wedding Song   St. James Episcopal Church: Commonly known as “the American Church” in Florence. The church’s first rector was Pierce Connelly, who later abandoned his wife and children to become a Catholic priest, only subsequently to change his mind, become an Episcopalian and then sue his wife, who’d become a nun in the meantime, for “restitution of conjugal rights” (from Alta Macadam’s Americans in Florence.) Sinclair Lewis described weekly services there in his World So Wide as being an hour when the assembled US expats “are betrayed into being American again…[though with] their flippant unfaith to their lean and bitter mother, America, there is yet more faith than in their zest for Europe, their opulent mistress”; I was totally confused: Times of London, 29 August 1992; troubled by our inability…being moved by it?: “Perfume, Defence and David Bowie’s Wedding,” a lecture that Eno gave at Sadlers Wells Theatre on 20 July 1992; had to happen at a church in Florence: Hello!, 13 June 1992.

338  hated Wagner: Hello!, 13 June 1992; important for me to find something: The David Bowie Story, 1993; all icing with a couple on top: to Steve Sutherland, NME, 20 March 1993.   Pallas Athena    first release: The original club 12″ single (MEAT 1) had the Don’t Stop Praying Remixes #1 and #2 and the Gone Midnight Mix (the album version, unsurprisingly, was first heard on the album). These mixes also appeared, respectively, on the B-side of “Jump They Say,” on the 2003 reissue of Black Tie, and on the 2003 reissue of Sound + Vision. Along with the album mix, they were released as a digital EP in 2010. A live version of “Pallas Athena,” recorded at Club Paradiso in Amsterdam on 10 June 1997, was issued on the Tao Jones Index 12″ and the “Seven Years in Tibet” single that same August (it also appeared on the revised Sound + Vision). 

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339   Arista fat on earnings: they dropped £10,000 to hold a “rave” promotional party in the summer of 1993, one of no doubt many extravagances; I had to try to make him cool: Watson to CO, 2012. Watson was a true Bowie fanatic (among his bona fides: attending all six Wembley shows in 1976). At the meeting, Arista sat him next to Bowie. While the rest of the table nodded along and deferentially complimented the mixes they were hearing, Watson was actually listening, and at one point leaned over to Bowie and said, “is that something from ‘Heroes’ there?” Bowie reached over and snapped off the tape. The room fell silent. Watson feared for his professional life. Then Bowie smiled, put his arm around Watson and said: “This guy’s got ears!” “I went from persona non grata to top boy,” Watson told me. “We got the gig”; mutually beneficial for his name: Larry Flick’s “Dance Trax” column, Billboard, 6 February 1993; unshakeable belief in God: to David Sinclair, Rolling Stone, 10 June 1993; cornerstone of my existence…own God: Hello!, 13 June 1992.

340   don’t know what it’s about: NME, 20 March 1993.    Lucy Can’t Dance  a CD “bonus track” on the original release, across most markets.  Star Wars 2…couldn’t all suck!…already accepting my Grammy: to Buckley, 416-417.

341  Madonna: as “Lucille Can’t Dance” hasn’t leaked, it’s impossible to know how much of the lyric was there in 1988. It may also be a nod to The Linguini Incident, as Lucy was the name of Bowie’s co-star Rosanna Arquette’s character; ex-husband: Tin Machine’s “Pretty Thing” winks at then-current tabloid stories about Madonna and Sean Penn —Madonna years later publicly denied these claims were true. Bowie made things worse by joking about “hanging out with Sean, and he told us a few things, you know what I mean?” in a 1989 interview; conventional in the extreme: ca. 1991 US TV interview (I did a transcript of it, which is no longer found on YouTube, but this line is also quoted in Pafford and Paytress’ BowieStyle, so I didn’t hallucinate it). He also told the Daily Mirror (18 October 1991) that “I wouldn’t know a Michael Jackson or Madonna record if I heard one”; anything in my video: i-d, July 1987; top-drawer plate spinner: Radio One Madonna special, 1998.    Don’t Let Me Down and Down   planned as the third single from Black Tie until the bankruptcy filing of Savage Records in late 1993. Bowie’s Indonesian vocal (preferable to the English one) appeared on Indonesian pressings of the album and later on the 2003 reissue of Black Tie.

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342   diary-like way: Black Tie promo video, 1993; Tahra: information on her life is still scant in the Western press, but I found biographical details in Le Monde’s review of Yamen Yamen, “Le premier album de Tahra, la belle Mauritanienne” (10 May 1989), and El Madios Ben Chérif’s “Tahra Mint Hembara : L’artiste-amazone,” Noor Info,‎ 5 April 2012. She’s been described as a model, a “princess,” and a friend of Iman by various Bowie resources but I couldn’t verify any of this and much of it seems dubious; “black” and “white” scales: As per 2009’s World Music: Africa, Europe and the Middle East, these modes derive from Arabic music and are always played in a precise order: karr, fagu, lakhal, labyad, lebtayt. These correspond to the concepts of “black” and “white” (the first two, and the last three, respectively), and also to the stages of a life, with lebtayt symbolizing the afterlife. The “ways” are al-bayda (white), al-kahla (black), and l’-gnaydia (mixed, or “spotted”). “Black” is considered more masculine and direct, “white” more feminine and refined. On Yamen Yamen, the song has an A-flat tonality—the verses and solo section move between an F minor eleventh and an Ab major seventh chord  (vi11-Imaj7) while the refrain moves from dominant (E-flat) through Ab and Fm11 to close on a D-flat major 7th (V-I-vi11-IVmaj7); pidgin English lyric: Black Tie promo video, 1993.

343  Looking for Lester    uncredited musicians:  While the trumpeters aren’t credited on the album, there’s a photograph of Bowie and three of them in the studio in the sheet music book. Dan Wilensky cut one saxophone performance that Bowie’s credited with on Black Tie but reportedly couldn’t recall which; America’s classical music: Basically, the “Ken Burns” story of jazz, in which the music loses its way, becoming too academic/ avant garde/ pop-oriented/ what-have-you after 1967 or so, until its rescue by neo-traditionalists like Wynton Marsalis. This scenario is thankfully on the wane, with younger performers like Kamasi Washington easily moving between influences in various genres and not confined to “fusion” or “traditional” modes—Nate Chinen’s Playing Changes documents this generational change, which very much includes the Donny McCaslin quartet; roll the tape…madly out of tunebasket of sounds: Graham Reid interview with DB, 1993; choruses: generally close with a transition progression meant to ready the listener to return to D major (Gmaj7-F#m7-Cmaj7-Bm7).; follow him around with a microphone: Record Collector, May 1993.

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344  Black Tie White Noise  The album’s second single, it had an exhausting set of remixes, detailed in depth on the Illustrated DB Discography site. Among the mixes were the “3rd Floor” mix, first issued on a promo CD for US radio and later on the Black Tie reissue; the “club mix,” the Extended Remix and the Here Come da Jazz mixes (the latter uses Bowie’s “crankin’ out” coda chant as its central hook, be warned) were on the UK 12″ promo (BLACK 1); beginnings of a revolution: David Bowie Story, 1993; far too keen as white liberals…don’t want our advice: NME, 20 March 1993.

345   denial in America…museum of Black America: NME, 25 November 1995; change is no easy thing…positive outcome….often quite punishing for both of us: Record Collector, May 1993; Sure!: a regular chart presence at the turn of the Nineties, with one top 10 hit (“Nite and Day”) and a few R&B #1s (“Off on Your Own,” “Right Now”). Appearing on “Black Tie” didn’t do much for him, to put it mildly: he didn’t release another LP or single until 2009.

346  all bad poetry: often misquoted as “all bad poetry is sincere.” In Wilde’s essay The Critic as Artist, 1891.    Miracle Goodnight   Arista’s third single from the album. Remixes include the 12″ 2 Chord Philly Mix, the Blunted 2, Make Believe Mix, and Dance Dub (all on the 12″ single) and the Maserati Blunted Dub (on the CD single). The Make Believe Mix later appeared on the Black Tie 2-CD reissue. There’s a surprisingly decent mashup out there of Thom Yorke’s “Black Swan” with the Maserati Blunted Dub remix; opening riff: it’s three dyads, or two-note chords: G-B, A-C, A#-C#; a falling phrase (a B-D dyad) answered by a G note; and a repetition of three G notes. It’s opened on Rodgers’ guitar, but mainly played by two synthesizers parked far left and right in the mix. They begin each reiteration in sync, but as the left-mixed synth gets an additional repeat of the tail-end hook (three repeats of the three G notes to the other synth’s two), this creates an echoing effect. There are also two basses parked on the ends of the spectrum, both of which hit on the downbeat then trail off across each bar. The riff is constant throughout the song except for the two solos; bridegroom reveries: Bowie calls her a “yellow dime”: a sun (morning star) that’s also a perfect 10; Handel’s Queen of Sheba: more in mood than melody, as Bowie’s sets of 16th notes jump upward where Handel’s regally descend.

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347  I Know It’s Gonna Happen   Shit-kicking skinhead in a pack: to Paul Nolan, Hot Press, June 2008; pop moment: to Brian Boyd, Irish Times, 20 November 1999.

348  spoofing one of my earlier songs…weepy and silly: Record Collector, May 1993; Ronson having a laugh: as per Mark Levin to Uncut; we are your support group: quoted in David Bret, Morrissey: Scandal and Passion, 236; 11 rows deep: Melody Maker, 25 November 1995.

349   have to worship at the temple of David: The Importance of Being Morrissey, (Channel 4), 2003; only relevant by accident: GQ, 15 October 2012; last we heard of him: BowieNet chat, 1999.    Jump They Say   Again, a big heap of remixes. The UK 12″ single included the Hard Hands, Leftfield and Dub Oddity mixes (the latter, also by Leftfield is on the 2-CD Black Tie reissue); the Rock Mix (orig. on the Savage CD single, “Rock Mix” = banal guitar) and the Brothers in Rhythm 12″ mix are also on that reissue.

350  no going back: New Zealand TV interview, ca. September 1982; my own hang-ups: David Bowie Story, 1993; two-chord progression: much of the song alternates between B-flat and C major, the chords shifting every other bar. The refrain progression (Dm7-F-Gm7-C5) offers a vague resolution, establishing the song in C, with Bb borrowed from F major as a substitute IV chord and so portending a key change to F that never happens. You could also make a case that the song’s been in F major the whole time, with the dueling Bb and C chords the IV and V chords of F; too many of my mother’s tendencies: “Evelyn McHale, Photojournalism as Iconography.” There’s another Bowie half-sibling: his half-sister Annette, born in 1943 (she was his father Haywood’s daughter), whose story ends far happier. As Bowie wrote in the introduction to I Am Iman (7): “When I was seven or thereabouts, my half-sister, Annette, left England for good. She had fallen in love with an Egyptian and was to travel to his village to marry him. She would write. My father may have received news but if so those letters were not shared. I never heard another thing from or about her…[when] Annette had arrived in Egypt, she had converted to Islam, which had meant undergoing a name change. Being the first Western Christian girl to ever visit let alone live in her husband’s village, the most appropriate name for her was obvious. If you care to listen I will tell you that I, David Robert Jones, a Protestant Caucasian boy from South London in jolly old England, have a wife and a sister, both called Iman.” Is Annette (Iman) née Jones still alive? Still in Egypt? A last familial mystery.

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351  Nite Flights  according to Martyn Watson, the “Moodswings Back to Basics” remix was mislabeled and remains misidentified on current releases.  Noel Scott Engel: biographical and career information on Scott Walker from a heap of sources. Anthony Reynolds’ Walker Brothers biography, The Impossible Dream, is essential, as is the Rob Young-edited No Regrets, a 2012 anthology of critical writing on Walker’s music; the documentary 30 Century Man; and Walker’s various interviews for the NME, The Wire, the Guardian and other publications. I’m also indebted to Walker-related conversations I’ve had over the years with the producer and writer Andy Zax.

352   Any recognizable reality: No Regrets, 32; years of bad faith…pay off bills: to Alexis Petridis, The Guardian, 4 May 2006; Heroes…Eno character: Impossible Dream, 318.

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355  Like a Rolling Stone  Mellencamp: In a 2008 interview with Classic Rock, Mellencamp said “I’d thrown [“Jack and Diane”] on the junk heap. Ronson came down and played on three or four tracks…All of a sudden, for ‘Jack and Diane’, Mick said “Johnny, you should put baby rattles on there.” I thought, “What the fuck does ‘put baby rattles on the record’ mean?” So he put the percussion on there and then he sang the part “let it rock, let it roll” as a choir-ish-type thing, which had never occurred to me. And that is the part everybody remembers on the song. It was Ronson’s idea.”    The Buddha of Suburbia  the first track on the CD single is a blend of the original track and the Kravitz “rock mix.” The album wasn’t released in the US until October 1995. The BBC’s Buddha of Suburbia aired over four weeks in November 1993, so technically the title song’s debut was its first episode; commercial presence: Savage laid off its entire staff barely a month after Black Tie‘s release, which wasn’t great for the album’s US promotion. Savage would sue Bowie, claiming that after spending $2 million in advances and video promotion expenses, BMG/Arista, Bowie’s UK/European label, had “unilaterally terminated” its distribution agreement with Savage and had refused to pay $1 million it allegedly owed. The case was dismissed and in July 1998, the New York Court of Appeals refused Savage’s request to reinstate its lawsuit. “This drives a stake through the heart of this ridiculous case,” Bowie’s lawyer Paul LiCalsi said at the time (AP, 3 July 1998).

356  make some money out of it: Jones, 379; never existed: 1994 Bowie memo, shown as part of the David Bowie Is exhibit; dangerous or attractive elements: original Buddha liner notes, 1993.

357  it’s a miracle…how all this happened: to Trynka, Starman, 7; gloom and immovable society: Seconds, August/September 1995; straightforward narrative to the past: Buddha liner notes; emotional contact…opening up a lot of other spaces: to J.D. Considine, Baltimore Sun, 6 April 1993.

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358  South Horizon  lead instrumentation…intercut arbitrarily: Buddha liner notes.

359   spaces between notes: Garson described his performance in detail to Clifford Slapper in the latter’s Piano Man.    The Mysteries  misprinted as “The Mysterie” on the most recent US CD issue of Buddha; converging on this little room: Kureishi, Buddha, 62; my entire world…out the front hall: Interview, May 1990; sanctity of the suburban bedroom: Pitchfork, 2 May 2018.

360   thematic information against it: Buddha liner notes. Dead Against It    house with five thousand rooms: Kureishi, Buddha, 126.

362  Sex and the Church  wedding thing: DB “Hollywood Online” web chat, 1 July 1994.

364  Ian Fish, U.K. Heir    As a listener you’re happy with a lot less: “A Conversation With Brian Eno About Ambient Music,” Pitchfork, 16 February 2017; something of a refrain: I owe a debt to “Magnus Genioso,” the public face of the Mad Genius collective, for their insights into this track and for helping me to hear it with sharper ears.

365  Strangers When We Meet   A different mix of the Buddha “Strangers” is on a Dutch promotional cassette—notable differences are the lack of the “Gimme Some Lovin’” hook and a greater emphasis on the synth drums. The Outside “Strangers” was released in November 1995 as RCA/BMG 74321 32940 2 (c/w “Man Who Sold the World,” UK #39). Tom Frish: this appears to have been his only musician credit—searching for variants like “Frisch” or “Fish” on Discogs didn’t turn up anything.

366 It wasn’t built on honesty…we were worlds apart: Daily Mirror, 19 August 1991; resonance on the road: Gabrels, email to Nicholas Greco, 23 February 2000, quoted in the latter’s master’s thesis, David Bowie’s 1. Outside: The Creation of a Liminoid Space as a Metaphor for Pre-Millennial Society, subsequently published as David Bowie in Darkness.

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