Chapter Six: The Man on the Spider (1986-1987)


Epigraphs  never makes minor errors: Murray’s review of Low, NME, 22 January 1977; thwarted dreams: to Murray, Q, October 1991.

238  Shades   Blah-Blah-Blah‘s second single, issued in February 1987 (AM 374) and given a slight edit (“it makes me come in the night” was too much for radio—Iggy had to go night-swimming instead). Its video has Iggy lip-syncing while being filmed through a chain-link fence on what appears to be a cricket ground. Kizilcay: some guesses as to his studio gear, as this is what he told Musician in 1987 was his touring gear. As both the Emax and Akai S900 came out in 1986, it’s possibly too early for them to have been used on Blah-Blah-Blah—hence my Emulater II (1984) suggestion. Other candidates are the Yamaha CS-70 and Korg SVI. The DX7, a favored Kizilcay synth, was often plugged into a Casio MIDI controller; first release: Blah is incorrectly said (by Wikipedia, among others) to have come out at the end of October 1986. But it was listed as coming out “this week” in the 4 October 1986 Cash Box and there are other indications that the first week of October was its release, leading to my guess of Monday 6 October (the date it would have come out in the UK). It may have been a week earlier; almost like a Bowie record: to Trynka, Bleed, 285.

239  sees me as a character: interview tape with Steve Harris and Yoichiro Yamazaki, 24 April 1987; waits for the signal: David Fricke, People, 10 December 1984; Jones: “Beside You,” which Pop recorded for American Caesar, also dates from this period; good enough to be played on the radio: to Peter Antony, Radio Luxembourg interview, ca. October 1986; not my favorite album…fast ones, slow ones: Bleed, 285, 328; wanted to do this myselfStooges retreads…color the music: to Lisa Robinson, Interview, November 1986.

240  intense and ordered: to Cynthia West and Lenny Stoute, Rock Express, April/May 1987; reformed guy: Bleed, 282; personal growth: to Chris Roberts, Sounds, 18 October 1986; grand in his allusions: TV interview with Terry David Mulligan of MuchMusic, ca. late 1986. The audio’s garbled and I realized after the book went to press that Pop’s recollection of the original lyric may be “not St. Francis of Assisi or Baudelaire or Son of Sam,” which makes more sense.


240 Baby It Can’t Fall an extended mix was released as the B-side of the “Shades” 12″.

243  Work up my sense of melodysinging in a monotone: Interview, November 1986; qualities of his own voice: DB’s New York press conference, 18 March 1987; damn good song: The Word, June 2009; down to the basement: to Barney Hoskyns, NME, 25 October 1986.

245  Blah-Blah-Blah  a live version from Zurich is the B-side of “Fire Girl.” polite way of saying fuck you: Danish TV interview (Beatbox), ca. early 1987; reverse TV: Sounds, 18 October 1986; boom-boom-chick: Beatbox, ca. early 1987; trash Supermen: to Scott Cohen, Spin, November 1986.

246 drifted away from each other: to Robert Phoenix,, 5 October 1999; not a cross there right now: Times of London, 17 April 2010; Brick by Brick: though it’s been claimed that Brick by Brick was Pop’s first gold-certified album, RIAA’s database of gold-certified albums doesn’t include it. Brick by Brick charted lower (peaking at 90 in the US) than The Idiot or Blah-Blah-Blah.


247  personal annihilation…benefactor: NY Times, 13 January 2016; first response: Twitter, 11 January 2016.

248  When the Wind Blows  its single release had an instrumental and an extended mix, both of which were collected on a 2007 digital EP. common sense is useless: Penelope Mesic, review in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 1983; Kizilcay: Facebook, August 2018.

249  Girls  The full-length (5:35) edit, as well as the Japanese vocal, first appeared on the 12″ single.

250 Day-In Day-Out  A pair of 12″ singles had extended dance and dub mixes, some of which had different vocal tracks than the album version. Its notoriously awful Spanish language version (“Al Alba”) was a bootleg until getting an official release in 2007 as part of a digital “Day-In Day-Out” EP. The LP edits of Never Let Me Down were generally shorter than those on the CD or cassette—e.g., the LP edit of “Day-In” is nearly a minute less. This was part of the industry’s mid-Eighties push towards making vinyl obsolete (how little they knew!)—make the higher-priced CD the “deluxe” version of an album, with extra songs and longer edits. I chose to not list players on the 2018 remake of NLMD because the re-recording was done after Bowie’s death and thus isn’t canonical, despite him allegedly providing directions as to what he wanted (the exception is the 2008 remake of “Time Will Crawl,” whose players are indeed listed in that entry). Also, to be honest, the remix came out barely weeks before this book went to press and I didn’t want to revise all of the track information on the proof for this chapter solely for that reason. That said, players on the 2018 remix include: Reeves Gabrels (g), David Torn (g), Tim Lefebvre (b), Sterling Campbell (d), with Mario McNulty (keyboards, programming); quiet existence: London press conference, 20 March 1987.


251  chateau: Bowie lived at the Chateau du Signal, which was built, allegedly for a Russian prince, around 1900. Soon after Bowie sold it (for CHF 4 million), it was used as a location in Claude Chabrol’s Merci Pour le Chocolat (2000); Momus: “Recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreux,” 4 January 2013 (; quietest of countries: to Tricia Jones, i-D No. 49, July 1987; Swiss are a mountain people: to Karyn Swayne, No. 1, 4 April 1987; I lost the trade winds: The Independent, 23 September 1994.

252  I wonder if I did sometimes: Interview, September 1995; I was writing crap: Charlie Rose interview, 31 March 1998; Spin: May 1987; comeback album: to Richard Harrington, Washington Post, 26 April 1987; Dame David: Smash Hits, 22 April 1987; new baby: to Thompson, Hallo Spaceboy, xi.

253  happy with the songs I’ve written: London press conference, 20 March 1987; until the reviews came in: FB post, August 2018; very structured this one: London press conference, 20 March 1987.


254  five-piece band: i-D, July 1987; Wilde: a reference to The Importance of Being Ernest, when Jack discloses to Lady Bracknell that as an infant he’d been found in a handbag, with no idea of his parentage. “A handbag?” Jack: “Yes, it was…[makes gestures] an ordinary handbag”;  subject matter deals with the street…street video: Rock Express, April/May 1987; one for the pictures, one for the truth: NY Times, 26 April 1987; split between personal romance…more linear fashion: London press conference, 20 March 1987.

255  or even Delhi: Music & Sound Output, June 1987; bottom of the pit: London press conference, 20 March 1987; Neil Tennant: Irish Times, 31 July 1999.

256  Too Dizzy   recalled: deleted from the first reissue of the album (1995), it’s never appeared on any other subsequent one, including the eight-CD Loving the Alien set that collected every other remix, edit, and alternate release from the 1983-1988 period. Suggestions that this was Bowie depriving his co-composer of a royalty are undermined by the fact that two other Kizilcay co-writes (“Girls” and “When the Wind Blows”) were added to the 1995 NLMD reissue and have been on subsequent reissues. It seems more likely that DB really just hated the song; sort of try-out: Music & Sound Output, June 1987.


257  New York’s in Love  LP edit cuts about 30 seconds; real vain aspect of big cities: Music & Sound Output, June 1987; fourth-form poetry: to Scott Isler, Musician, August 1987.       Shining Star  rehearsed for, but not performed in, the 1987 tour, possibly due to the demands of the vocal—during rehearsals, Bowie sometimes doesn’t nail the high notes (he also performs Rourke’s rap). The LP cut is almost a minute shorter: go LP!

258    disasters and catastrophes: Music & Sound Output, June 1987; augmented chords: C major 7ths and C major 9ths as tonic chords, with a B-flat major 9th in the pre-chorus; Rourke: Bowie, Amsterdam press conference, 30 March 1987. “Like most actors, he said ‘yeah, I wanna do a rock ‘n’ roll single, you know,’ so I said ‘give me a part in your movie.’ He never did, but I let him do a rap-thing on one of the songs”; programming is a mess: Rolling Stone, 24 July 2018.


259 Beat of Your Drum   LP edit is about 30 seconds shorter; worth it: Music & Sound Output, June 1987; Mattix: to Michael Kaplan, the Thrillist (3 November 2015), and also to such Bowie biographers as Trynka and the Gillmans, with differing details at times. The claim got great media attention in 2016: e.g., pieces by Jia Tolentino in Jezebel and Erin Keane in Salon, the latter of which was excerpted in Dylan Jones’ oral history.

260 Bang Bang  Issued as a Pop single in 1981; a 1987 Bowie promo single has a live version of it from Montreal. Bowie’s LP edit cuts 25 seconds.

261  emancipation of women: Gimme Danger, 206; scoring drugs: described to Trynka in Bleed, 258; having the right stuff: I Need More, 109; I cover Iggy Pop: New York press conference, 18 March 1987.


262  ’87 and Cry LP cut is 35 seconds shorter; rooted in the British way of life: Who I Am, 152.

263  Thatcherite England: to Pareles, New York Times, 26 April 1987; pushy person eating: Music & Sound Output, June 1987; I don’t know about playing: Musician, August 1987.

264  Time Will Crawl  NLMD’s second single, it had a mild edit (roughly ten seconds) on the 7″ while two 12″ singles had the Extended Dance Mix, the Dance Crew Mix and a dub version. The 2008 remake, first appearing on iSelect, was used in the 2014 Nothing Has Changed compilation and appeared (to my knowledge unaltered) on the 2018 NLMD remake. they weren’t rain clouds: Mail on Sunday, 23 June 2008. The Chernobyl accident happened on the night of 25-26 April 1987, but news of it didn’t hit the West until two days later, on the evening of the 28th—possibly the day that DB was recalling, or perhaps it was a day later, when the news was more widespread; it just sort of plows through: to Radcliffe Joe, Words and Music, January 1988.

265  Glass Spider  LP edit is roughly 30 seconds shorter.

266 suck rock: “1973 Nervous Breakdown,” included in the Lester Bangs Reader; lot dumber: Rolling Stone, 4 June 1987; your mother: Music & Sound Output, June 1987.


267  Zeroes  Chorus: some members of the chorus—John and Aglae Seilern, Sandos and Charuvan Sursock—appear to have been members of a Swiss punk group, the Zero Heroes (and thus a likely source for the song’s name).

268  Rock and roll is not for kids…every cliché: to Kurt Loder, Rolling Stone, 23 April 1987; naivety song about rock: Music & Sound Output, June 1987; McLaren: Village Voice, 2 January 1990; Coral sitar: it had an impeccable Sixties pedigree, as its former owner was Jimi Hendrix.; chords: it begins in A major: A-B-D. At the end of the verse, instead of the expected D chord, there’s an Eb diminished seventh (after “how it feels”), which builds tension. Later is another harsh transition: a four-bar solo break that veers out of F major back to A major via a Gb major chord. Only at the end of the second refrain, with its run of Db chords in the last three bars, is there a “logical” transition, as the coda shifts to Db. When the coda starts with a Gb chord (the subdominant of the new tonic chord, Db), the move finally feels settled, the progression soon resolving to Db (on “to dooo”). There was a method to the apparent madness: the Eb chords at the end of verses, and the Eb and Gbs in the solo, fit into Db (II and IV chords, respectively).


270 Never Let Me Down  The US 12″ had a few other mixes: Extended Dance Remix, Dub and Acapella.  Communicate in code: Daily Mirror, 19 March 1990; reciprocal song: Stockholm press conference, 28 March 1987; platonic but love in it: Rolling Stone, 23 April 1987; pet in a park: Pareles, NY Times, 2 August 1987; Ben Greenman: “Here Come the Sons,” New Yorker blog, April 2012.

271  I Wanna Be Your Dog  still only found on the Glass Spider video. 60 feet high…360 tons: NY Times, 2 August 1987; $10 million each: Words and Music, January 1988.

272  give me a bone!: to Buckley, 378; rock ‘n’ roll revue: Washington Post, 26 April 1987; symbolist theater and modern dance: NY Times, 2 August 1987; American street dancing: Dutch TV interview (Patty Brard), 30 or 31 March 1987; revue in style: Music & Sound Output, June 1987; about mixed media: Words and Music, January 1988; total cohesiveness: to Spitz, 339; giant bugs in 1950s films: Chicago Tribune, 23 August 1987; many cursing about the show: Detroit Free Press, 14 September 1987; worst dancer of all rock front men: Courier Journal, 19 September 1987.

273   heap of bodies: Hugh Fielder, Sounds, 6 June 1987; large aggressive guy: NY Times, 2 August 1987; burned spider: Bowie spun (pun intended) this fable as early as the flight back to Switzerland, as per Kizilcay, and he told a few journalists the story over the years—it’s the opening sequence of Thompson’s Moonage Daydream. The myth was finally put to rest after Bowie’s death, in a 12 January 2016 piece in New Zealand’s Stuff.


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