Chapter Fourteen: Agent Jeffries Checks In (2011-2013)


Epigraphs   Eno: to Ian MacDonald, NME, 26 November 1977; Ronson: quoted in Sandford, 240; Walker: to Graham Reid, Rock’s Backpages, May 2006; Bowles: Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction,” No. 67.

570  Where Are We Now?    Wedding: as with all but one subhead in this entry, a neighborhood adjacent to the Berlin Wall, whether in East or West Berlin, during DB’s time there; just let things avalanche: to Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013; surprise albums: MBV came later the same month, Beyoncé at year’s end.

571  Observer: “What’s on David Bowie’s iPod?,” 24 January 2010; not thinking of touring: to Teri Agins, NY Times, 4 June 2010; as a fan of music, hope he returns: to Ron Hart, Jambase, April 2010; Gallagher: Q, October 2011; Grantland: “The Nobituary,” 11 March 2013; Jonesy can stay at home: to Andrew Davies, Big Issue, 11-17 January 1999.

572  it’s great if it works out: to Simon Miller, Epoch Times, 7 February 2013; he wants to record: to Mark Beaumont, NME, 2 March 2013; 6/8 Studios: near the Bowery and, unlike most of Bowie’s 21st Century studios, remains in business (you can still rent a studio for $50/hour); dungeon: to Greene, Rolling Stone, 20 February 2013; small grimy room: to Cole Moreton, Daily Telegraph, 13 January 2013; sketches he had all along: to Michael Hann, The Guardian, 12 January 2013; songs from a hat: to Jerome Soligny, Rock et Folk, March 2013; basic Pro Tools rig: Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013.

573  Torn: “On The Next Day I wound up playing in the control room a lot, which I don’t really like: I was taking a hit for the band,” to All About Jazz, 19 October 2017; sound like a record: to David Weiss, Sonic Scoop, 11 March 2013, a good source of engineering details.


574 finding his voice…not an opera singerno idea ever released…been like an art project: NME, 2 March 2013; played where he needed me: Rock et Folk, March 2013; song about Berlin: to Gary Graff, Billboard, 12 January 2013; let’s go to Berlin: Jones, 443; intense time for him: NME, 2 March 2013.

575  he doesn’t want you to: to Tim Teeman, Times of London, 12 January 2013; animals in the zoo pace around: Weimar Republic Scrapbook, 425-426, quoted in Weitz, 76.

576  beautiful changes…goes by ear: Leonard, speaking at a music seminar at Xmusic in Dublin, 31 March 2013. Chords per GL.

577  vulnerable voice: Daily Telegraph, 13 January 2013.

578   come to my cave: The Independent, 13 January 2013; Song of Norway: Farthingale and Bowie reportedly caught up backstage at a concert in the late Nineties. Upon learning the Song of Norway shirt was likely a message for her, she used Bowie archivist/historian Kevin Cann to convey a message of thanks to him (Daily Mail, 15 January 2016); we were like a museum exhibit: a work by Wolf Vostell, 1964, also translated as “We Were Kind of a Museum Piece.”

579  very important years: to Der Tagesspiegel, 2002; quoted in The Guardian, 12 January 2013.   The Next Day   first release: UK release date. It came out on the 8th in Europe; joke cover: Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013; subversive already…there’s a distance: Clash Music, 4 March 2013; wasn’t too contrived…melancholy of the songs: Barnbrook blog, 8 January 2013.

580  Cadillac of all religions: “Bowie’s ‘Jesus’ Video is a Mess,” Catholic League blog post, 8 May 2013; song about a tyrant: Guardian, 12 January 2013; insignificant…quite a horrific story: Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013.

581  The Stranger: “Well, here, anyhow, I wasn’t penned in a hollow tree trunk. There were others in the world worse off than I,” said by Meursault while in prison; Zarathustra: from Nietzsche’s prologue: “He then put the dead man in a hollow tree at his head—for he wanted to protect him from the wolves—and laid himself down on the ground and moss”; left to rot in hollow trees: Deep Blues, 27. I believe Matt Potter was the first to note this; the next day is the next day: Rolling Stone, 10 June 1993.


583  How Does the Grass Grow    not impressed with today’s music: to Shirley Halperin, Hollywood Reporter, 11 January 2013.

584  PJ Harvey: details on Let England Shake come primarily from a PJH interview with Kate Hutchinson, Drowned in Sound, 19 January 2011 (PJH: “I wrote purely words and nothing else for about two years. And during that whole time, would ask critical opinions from people whose opinions I respected and threw away a lot of words that weren’t working and ended up with some that I thought were and the ones that felt like a good balance…It took me a long time to find the voice for this record, the way the narrator would deliver them, because to have sung it in a deep and womanly way would have destroyed them…In a way, I wanted the voice to be quite unobtrusive but just to relay the story; almost like a witness, who is just narrating the stories and bringing them back from the place that they happened”); very different, new-style Bowie: Billboard, 12 January 2013; altering chords: The F# chord becomes an F#6 (F#-A#m-C#-Eb) with Bowie hitting an Eb note when singing over the chord. Augmenting chords is central to the track: Gerry Leonard extends B-flat minors in refrains by playing F, G, Ab and G notes that make the underlying Bb minors, consecutively, Bbm, Bbm6, Bbm7, and Bbm6. See also the keyboards augmenting D major chords in the bridge (playing A-F#-G#); Carol Anne Duffy: first noted by Peter Eakin; Balkan, burial, reverse: Moody disclosed his ‘list of 42’ in “Swinging Modern Sounds #44: And Another Day,” 25 April 2013. While of course it’s not confirmed that the order of words corresponds to sequenced album tracks, it seems very likely—I’m happy that Pegg agrees with this assessment.

586  Russian history: Times of London, 12 January 2013; George Harrison style: see Harrison’s “Long Long Long” (also a waltz) for a similar slowly-descending IV-iii-ii progression (in Harrison’s refrain (Bb/Am/Gm) and in Bowie’s verse (G/F#m/Em, “leaving slips of paper, somewhere..”), though Bowie then moves to the vi chord (Bm, “in the park”) before going home to D, while Harrison gets home to F via his dominant chord, C major); crunchy chords: Daily Telegraph, 13 January 2013; drums are in 4: JazzTimes, 16 May 2016.

587  hot coals: Slapper to CO, 2015; dictator of this empty world: Live, March 1997.

588  Bruges La Morte: Translated literally as Bruges-the-Dead and more euphoniously as The Dead City, it was the basis of Erich Korngold’s 1920 opera Die Tote Stadt; its plot would reappear in D’entre Les Morts, the novel upon which Hitchcock’s Vertigo was based. There was a mild Rodenbach revival in the 2000s, with some fresh English translations issued, which possibly caught Bowie’s interest.


589  Like a Rocket Man    arctic landscape of pure terror: St Aubyn, Bad News, 53;  soulmate in this drug: to Paul Du Noyer, Mojo, July 2002.

590 Born in a UFO   Lodger outtake…wild: to Pegg, 47. See also Alford to Andy Greene, Rolling Stone, 1 February 2013 (“one of the songs we worked on was a leftover from Lodger. I think it was called “Born in a UFO” when we worked on it, but I didn’t see that title on the record. Maybe he changed it. I don’t know.”); A-line skirt: starts off the theme that Bowie’s alien visitor favors mid-20th Century Continental fashion—Christian Dior first used the term “A-line” in 1955; Perugia shoes: André Perugia (1893-1977) was once quoted as saying “a pair of shoes must be perfect as an equation and adjusted down to the last millimeter, like a piece of an engine”; all Courrèges: André Courrèges (1923-2016), a French mod fashion designer of the Sixties—the Gallic equivalent to Mary Quant.

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591 Heat      Mishima: My summary of Mishima’s life and work is derived from a number of sources, the most essential being John Nathan’s biography, Donald Richie’s “Japan Journals,” and the 1985 Arena documentary “The Strange Case of Yukio Mishima.” Paul Schrader’s Mishima, though fictional, was another backdrop.

592  genius destined for death: after the book was printed, I realized that a more accurate translation was “destined for an early death.” Feel free to scribble that over the quote in the book if you’d like (Nathan, 53); he also resisted: Albery, interviewed in “Strange Case”; language of the flesh: Sun and Steel, 12; playing war: Nathan, 246.

594  just trying to be a person singing: to Jarvis Cocker, Q, June 2006.

596  different things now: recalled to Jim Farber, The Guardian, 4 October 2016.

597  The Stars (Are out Tonight)     chords stayed the same…sculpt it a bit: Leonard at Xmusic, 31 March 2013; stars of the 2010s: the blog post had a long digression into Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s The Wicked + the Divine, a comic whose publication began the summer after Bowie’s return. The premise is that every 90 years, the gods return to Earth, live for two years, then die (or, as is far more accurately the case, are killed). Pantheons correspond to whichever forms will garner the most worshipers—the 1830s set were mostly Romantic writers; the 1920s set had silent film stars, blues singers, and Modernist poets, writers, and painters. Wicked + Divine’s 2013 pantheon are pop stars, including Lucifer (whose look is Thin White Duke Bowie reincarnated as a wry young lesbian woman), Baal (Kanye West/ Jay-Z), Amaterasu (Florence Welch/ Kate Bush), Minerva (Grimes/ Gerard Way), Sakhmet (Rihanna), Dionysus (various EDM types), Woden (Daft Punk outfit, Rivers Cuomo personality), Bahomet and The Morrigan (assorted Goths) and Inanna (Prince). The real-world deaths of Bowie and Prince, in the same sequence as their respective gods’ dispatch in Wicked + Divine, was among the eerier parallels of 2016.

600  come over for coffee: Rolling Stone, 20 February 2013.

601  something old kept creeping in: Mojo, November 2015; chords: piano sheet music notes the verse progression as Bbm/Bbm7-Ab/Gb5/Gb6. On keyboard, Bowie’s playing Bb-Eb, Ab-Db, Gb-Bb, Eb-Ab; down on the Trinity: Sonic Scoop, 11 March 2013.

602  losing the other eye: Afternoon Plus, 12 February 1979; chords: mainly by moves to avoid going “home” to D major. See the verse (Bm-D-Bm-G-A), refrain (A-Em-A-Dm-F#m-Dm-D) and bridge (D-A-E-C7-A). There’s an inadvertent (?) Nabokov nod in the intro chords: A-D-A.


606 I’d Rather Be High   demobbed soldier: Times of London, 12 January 2013; Lady Manners: The connection’s possibly owed to a character in Waugh’s novel, “Mrs. Reginald Stitch,” whom Waugh had reportedly based on Lady Manners.

607  Dirty Boys   A euphemism: Times of London, 12 January 2013; dad conversation…gems in the recording: to K Webster, Counterpunch, 24 May 2013; he’s a little guy…stripper music: Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013.

609  (You Will) Set the World on Fire   happiness might be cheaply had: Broyard, Kafka, 8;  St. Teresa: from Letter 368, one of her epistles to Maconi, translated as “If you are what you ought to be, you will set fire to all Italy, and not only yonder” or “If you are what you should be, you will set the whole world on fire!”

610  Valentine’s Day    mass murderer named Johnny: Times of London, 12 January 2013. Not sure why Visconti called the character “Johnny” here. Perhaps an earlier version of the lyric had “Johnny” in it, or perhaps V. recalled some earlier Bowie Johnnies (see “Repetition” or “I’m Afraid of Americans”); a person seemingly with little confidence…psychotic: audition notice placed in Backstage, 20 May 2015.

612  terrorist position: to Vin Scelsa, Idiot’s Delight, 13 June 1993.

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