Chapter Fifteen: Noewhemoe (2014-2016)


614  Sue   Bob Bhamra: have seen it spelled “Bharma” on various other releases. Bhamra is the spelling on the “Brand New Heavy” single label ; 8 May 2014: Birdland’s Twitter noted Bowie was in the audience that night.

615  Schneider: details come from a number of interviews, particularly those with Judy Carmichael (2004), Jennifer Kelly (2009) and Michael J. West (2015). I recommend all of Schneider’s work, but a good place to start is with recordings that I mention in the book—“Dance You Monster to My Soft Song” (a DB favorite) on 1994’s Evanescence; “Hang Gliding” and “Dissolution” on Allegresse (2000) (heck, all of that album),Bulería, Soleá y Rumba” on Concert in the Garden (2004) and “Cerulean Skies” on Sky Blue (2007); all this fluttering: to Ben Ratliff, NY Times, 17 November 2006 (later collected—in an expanded version of the interview—in Ratliff’s The Jazz Ear); logistical hell: to Zachary Woolfe, NY Times, 14 April 2013.

616  to some other place: Kelly, In Her Own Words: Conversations with Composers in the United States, 251 (July 2009 interview with MS); during that first May visit…first workshop different: MS to CO, August 2018.

617  so unexpected and wonderful: MS to CO, Aug. 2018 (all session details per MS); he wanted it to be really dark: to Pamela Espeland, Minnesota Post, 2 September 2015; reaction was mixed: I first heard “Sue” while visiting my mother. At some point, during one extravagant DB phrase, she slightly grimaced, said “oh, David,” and left the room.

619  new Sue took the longest: to Michael Bonner, Uncut, January 2016; roadmap: to Kevin Johnson, No Treble, 14 January 2016; bit more edge…bouncing around: to Ken Micallef, Modern Drummer, 26 February 2016; EDM kind of stuff (and pedals info): Pedals and Effects, 7 March 2016.

620  just rage: to David von Bader, Premier Guitar, 15 January 2016; really atmospheric stuff: to Jon Weiderhorn, Yahoo Music, 13 January 2016; go-to trick…really good: to Lee Glynn, interview for Dawsons, 14 January 2016; extreme sounds…Wurlys through pedals: to Micallef, Electronic Musician, 15 April 2016.


621  Tis a Pity  The original B-side is a bit hard to locate at the moment, though it appears to be on Apple Music (and apparently on European/UK? Spotify) As physical media, it’s only found on the vinyl “Sue” single at present.   Jason Hoppin: in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 14 October 2014. More backstory on the Pacific Garden Mall from a piece by Wallace Bain in the Sentinel, 3 October 2009.

622  McCaslin primarily from DM interviews with Jason Crane, All About Jazz (8 September 2008), David Adler, Jazztimes (13 June 2011), and with Neon Jazz, 12 February 2016 (latter’s the source of “pool of condensation” and “where I was isolated and alone” quotes). Where to start with McCaslin? Soar (2006) is a gorgeous recording influenced by Brazilian music; Recommended Tools (2008) is his first trio LP and has strong earlier compositions (“Eventual,” “The Champion”); Declaration (2009) finds him in Schneider territory, with one of his largest bands to date (“M”); Perpetual Motion (2010) is his first recording with Lefebvre and Mark Guiliana and his first substantial move into electronic and funk (“LZCM,” “Five Hands Down”). Casting For Gravity (2012) is truly essential (Jason Lindner’s on board by now), as it was Bowie’s main reference as to what he wanted from the group (“Praia Grande,” “Alpha and Omega,” “Stadium Jazz”). Fast Future (2015) is a snapshot of the McCaslin Quartet right before they recorded Blackstar–the album was cut in summer 2014, some weeks after Bowie first saw them play (“No Eyes,” “54 Cymru Beats”); Chinen: NY Times, 14 June 2007; know what that feels like: Modern Drummer, May 2013. Bowie was taken with Guiliana’s 2014 Beat Music: The Los Angeles Improvisations, another reason he went with McCaslin’s group; outlets are janky: to Kevin Johnson, No Treble, 14 January 2016.

623  Jack Spann: to Thomas Crone, St. Louis Magazine, 22 March 2016; production skills have gone up 5,000%: to Keith Cameron, Mojo, January 2016; quirky and awesome: Pedals and Effects, 7 March 2016.

624  Alex Reed: to CO, Dec 2015.

625  he wanted to re-record it…might have been first take: Uncut, January 2016.

626  complement the progression: JazzTimes, 15 May 2016; Octave pedal: Pedals and Effects, 7 March 2016; one-bar loop…pushing the intensity: Modern Drummer, 26 February 2016; Laskey: on an insightful blog post a day or so after Blackstar‘s release, 11 January 2016.


627  Lazarus   New York Theatre Workshop: I saw two performances. One was a 5 December 2015 preview show for the press, which I reviewed for Slate at the time. This is where the man called it visionary crap (don’t think he was a journalist, more of a citizen-journalist). The other was a few days after Christmas 2015. I saw this performance with Rahawa Haile, who hiked the Appalachian Trail the following year and is now writing a book about her experience, In Open Country.

628  keen on writing in such a way: Front Row (Radio 4) interview with John Wilson, June 2002; I would do all the music myself…other things you can do on stage: NY Daily News, 9 October 1999; Cunningham: article in GQ, January 2017—all details are from it.

629-630  King James translation. Being an unconfirmed Catholic who grew up among Baptists and Dunkers in rural Virginia, my take on these verses may be a touch unorthodox; Lazarus: there are many other paths to follow, of course. Sylvia Plath’s “Lady Lazarus,” for instance (“Soon, soon the flesh/ The grave cave ate will be/ At home on me/ And I a smiling woman./ I am only thirty/ And like the cat I have nine times to die.”) And given Bowie’s interest in Russian literature and history, another intriguing prospect is “Lazarus” by Leonid Andreyev, an early 20th Century Russian writer. It’s a horror story in which Lazarus, restored to life by Christ, wanders about as a zombie (“through the black discs of his pupils, as through darkened glass, stared the unknowable Beyond”), spending his days staring at the sun. All who encounter him soon fall into vast suicidal despair, until the emperor Augustus orders him to be blinded with a hot iron.

631   cheap cheesecake, so there is no rest: to Sean O’Hagan, The Guardian, 1 April 2012; ridiculous fucking door: Walsh, speaking at the Dublin Bowie Festival, 10 January 2017. He added that he told Bowie “that’s a really stupid door.” Other details on Walsh and Bowie’s partnership from a Walsh interview with the Daily Telegraph (24 October 2016); wants to fucking kill love: to Trynka, Mojo, December 2016; constructing weather…infused with morphine: Walsh at Dublin Bowie Festival, January 2017.

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632  three months’ time: Walsh at Dublin Bowie Festival, January 2017.

633  intro didn’t exist: Modern Drummer, 26 February 2016; big fan of Fink: No Treble, January 2016; really nice first take…taking a few more chances: Modern Drummer, 26 February 2016; bizarre shrapnel guitar: Electronic Musician, 15 April 2016.

634  London: at Rich Mix, 15 November 2016; Dorsey and McCaslin: at the Cutting Room, NYC, 5 February 2017; biblical tale of Lazarus…the humanity of it: Guardian, 18 January 2016.

635  he thanked everyone…last time I would see him: Walsh at Dublin Bowie Festival, January 2017; I’d like a sing: details from Hey’s interview with Bruce Handy, Hollywood Reporter, 20 December 2016.

637  When I Met You    three-day growth and hangover: Spin, 23 February 2017; McCaslin: all quotes from Mojo, December 2016.

638  No Plan   new song for my character: Playbill, 8 January 2016.

639   dramatic music theater approach…low-end tenor sax stuff: Mojo, December 2016.


640  Girl Loves Me   two loops: Modern Drummer, 26 February 2016; what are these words?: JazzTimes, 15 May 2016; Hancock: “Shelta and Polari,” pp. 384-404 in Language in the British Isles, 1984 (ed. Peter Trudgill); Melody Maker: 22 January 1972; kind of fake language: David Bowie Story, 1993.

641  listening back: DownBeat, May 2016; halftime backbeat: Modern Drummer, 26 February 2016; really coloristic: JazzTimes, 15 May 2016; cheap little thing: No Treble, 14 January 2016.

642  different kind of person: “Future Sounds with Annie Mac” (Radio One), 6 July 2017; weren’t clear on his role: to Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 4 December 2015; It wasn’t selfless of me…I can’t do it: to Alexis Petridis, The Guardian, 31 August 2017; whole other thing with it: Uncut, January 2016; brilliance of that writing: 26 March 2016 interview of Lefebvre on Georgian television (“Communicator,” with Elene Margvelashvili).

643 Yanko Tsvetkov: Medium, 26 August 2016.


644   Dollar Days     few hours in one day: Talk Music Talk podcast, 20 October 2016; can’t recall what that song was: Rolling Stone, 4 December 2015; not hearing an acoustic part: Yahoo Music, 13 January 2016.

645  Cash girls: From Gompers’ testimony before the Education and Labor Committee of the U.S. Senate, 16 August 1883 (included in the Gompers Papers); survival sex: a term coined to describe a specific situation—impoverished people (particularly in non-Western countries) engaging in sex work for money to provide food and shelter, and often running the risk of HIV infection. It dates to roughly 1990; vague line: Premier Guitar, 15 January 2016.

646  Details about Bowie’s last UK trips come from Iman’s interview with The Observer, 28 June 2014 (“We went this summer. And no one knew we were there. We flew in on the jet to Luton and every day we went and did different things and the press never knew! It’s absurd this idea that celebrities can’t be anonymous. We even went on the London Eye. We queued separately, Lexi had a friend with her and they went with the bodyguard and then we all met on board..[Bowie and Lexi] went and took a photo outside the house he grew up in.”)


647  I Can’t Give Everything Away     trancelike: Rolling Stone, 4 December 2015; dial in a basic patch…intense moments: Dave Smith Instruments interview with Lindner; accommodate this simple part: Modern Drummer, 26 February 2016.

649  Killing a Little Time    cheesy Eighties: aptly described by Greg Smith as a “my first metal” riff; always angry song…harmonizing them: Mojo, December 2016.


652  Blackstar   the reason he did what he did: Jones, 454; handed him headphones: Jones, 457.

653  coming full force…not have the pressure: Brian Hiatt, Rolling Stone, 11 February 2016; two-part suite: Rolling Stone, 4 December 2015; morph into the next section: DownBeat, May 2016; cohesive piece of music: Forbes, 26 February 2018; sticking to David’s plan: Premier Guitar, 15 January 2016.

654  groove is true to the demo: Modern Drummer, 26 February 2016; original lyric: as in other references, this appears on a worksheet included in the David Bowie Is exhibit; told McCaslin: Rolling Stone, 25 November 2015 (““He told me it was about ISIS,” says McCaslin. “It’s just an unbelievable tune.” (McCaslin’s ISIS assertion is news to Guiliana and Visconti, who say they have no idea what the song is about.”)

655  somehow dissolve this…busy pick-bass stuff: Premier Guitar, 15 January 2016.

656  we talked about black stars: Irish Times, 13 April 2016; theorized black stars: Carlos Barcello, Stefano Liberati, Sebastiano Sonego and Matt Visser, “Black Stars, Not Black Holes,” Scientific American, October 2009. I’m grateful to Deanna Kerry, atmospheric physics graduate student and longtime blog commenter, who clarified this theory and improved my none-more-layman’s understanding of black stars.

657  I see it all around, man: MTV News interview (Rob Markman), 31 March 2015; mid-section of Blackstar: putting old drafts into a box recently, I saw that I’d scrawled “Someday at Xmas?” at the top of a page for this entry. And I realized I’d meant to mention that, as several have noted, Stevie Wonder’s 1967 “Someday at Christmas” does sound a bit, melody/phrasing-wise, like Bowie’s lines in this section. But apparently I forgot, as it’s not in any draft. So there you go: someone else can pursue this one. Good luck! They’re not that close, I think.

661 David and Tony were gathering information: Uncut, January 2016; added on overdub day: The Observer, 20 January 2016; Elmhirst: mostly from an interview with the Grammys website, 15 May 2017.

662  total bullshit…adamant it’d be the single: Rolling Stone, 25 November 2015; vinyl: Blackstar was the best-selling vinyl album in the UK in 2016: it moved 54,000 copies; physical object…quite threatening: Creative Review, 26 November 2015; robust on different technologies: Uncut, January 2016.

I’ll annotate the appendix when I can. If you’ve made it this far, you’re a serious fan of notes.

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