Chapter Ten: The Bottle Imp (1995-1997)


Epigraphs   Bowie: interviewed in Melody Maker, 26 February 1966.

410 Reptile/Hurt   go on the road again: Quebec TV interview, March 1990; cabaret style big hits: quoted in Thompson, Moonage Daydream, 142; I tended to pander: to Mat Snow, Mojo, September 1994; blow us off the stage…what I need to do right now: to Ned Raggett, The Quietus, 10 December 2012. Duran Duran had opened for some of the Glass Spider tour in 1987, but they were a bit past their peak. NIN opening for Bowie in 1995 was as if the Clash had opened for him in 1978.

411   streamed towards the gates: Paul Hampel, St. Louis Post Dispatch, 13 October 1995; shouting Tin Machine…shell of his former self: Tom Moon, Philadelphia Inquirer, 25 September 1995; arm-crossingly bored: Thompson, 150; decidedly to see Nails…what I do: Newsday, 20 September 1995; mosh to Teenage Wildlife: as noted by Gene Armstrong, Arizona Daily Star, 25 October 1995; challenged every night: to David Sprague, Pulse, February 1997; in front of younger crowds: Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 12 April 2004; so-called stature: CompuServe chat, 11 September 1996; predictable mediocrity: Las Vegas Review Journal, 19 October 1995; valentine to the sufferer: to Alec Wilkinson, New Yorker, 12 December 2012.


412 oddly made…catchy memories: NY Times, 29 September 1995; less radical set lists: The “pre-release” Outside shows in September usually opened (after the NIN hand-off) with “Voyeur of Utter Destruction” and “Hearts Filthy Lesson.” Bowie front-loaded Outside songs and ended with a run of slightly older pieces (“Nite Flights” and “Teenage Wildlife” were often the closers). By mid-October, sets often began with “Look Back in Anger.” In the UK/Ireland shows (14 November-13 December 1995), no longer having to front-load uptempo songs to keep momentum from the NIN sets, Bowie could open with “The Motel.” Also “DJ,” “Boys Keep Swinging,” and “Moonage Daydream” were incorporated into sets and old standby “White Light/White Heat” was played in some European shows (17 January-20 February 1996).   I’m Afraid of Americans  Reznor’s various remixes appeared on a US-only CD single (Virgin V25H-38618, #66 US), issued October 1997; I loved all the things…corporate togetherness: to Jeff Gordiner, Entertainment Weekly, 31 January 1997.

413  Java McDonald’s: Earthling press kit; identity in mind…more self-doubting: Daily Telegraph, 23 July 2016; quite a clean-up job: Plati, full transcript of interview done for Buckley’s Strange Fascination, ca. 1999 (henceforth “Plati transcript”); chords: mostly set on a F7 chord, with guitars shifting to F5 chords to beef up the refrains. A C minor chord (the dominant of F’s parallel minor) makes a cameo in the “God is an American” section; direct into the board…instead of amp ugly: to Chris Gill, Guitar World, April 1997.


414  European tourist’s nightmare: around this time, the media was playing up a “wave” of German tourists being mugged in Florida. The ill-fated 1996 revival of Doctor Who opens with Sylvester McCoy walking out of the TARDIS onto a San Francisco street, almost immediately getting shot and dying on an operating table thanks to American surgical malpractice.    Kodak Commercial  borderline apocryphal (though Pegg also lists it, which was the deciding vote in favor of its inclusion). I didn’t put it in the table of contents: consider it the book’s secret bonus track.   Telling Lies The order of internet releases were: 11 September 1996 (the Guy Called Gerald “Paradox” mix), 18 September (the Bowie/Plati “Feelgood” mix), and 25 September the Adam F. mix. All were subsequently collected on a UK CD single.

415   band it should have been: Ray Gun, March 1997; old lady at a basement sale: to Steve Pond, Live, March 1997. “I went to raves, took E and the scales fell from my eyes,” Gabrels later told Dylan Jones (404); never been to a club in his life: to Andy Gill, Mojo, March 1997; if only that was the case now: Independent on Sunday, 9 November 1997; great cry of the 20th Century: Triple-J radio interview, 16 March 1997; jungle is a new vocabulary: to Jurgen von Rutenberg, Die Zeit, 17 January 1997.


416   first formal approach…mutated: to Paul Ill, Music Paper, March 1997; devoted to the live drums…major change was in the structure: Plati transcript; most successful of the juxtapositions: Music Paper, March 1997.   Dead Men Don’t Talk    first shown: Inspirations premiered at the Toronto Film Festival on 6 September 1997 and was subsequently aired on the BBC; Inspirations: Apted interviewed seven artists in various mediums: Bowie; his former collaborators, dancers/choreographers Louise Lecavalier and Édouard Lock, of La La La Human Steps; Nora Naranjo-Morse (a potter and poet); the painter Roy Lichtenstein; Dale Chihuly (a glass sculptor); and the architect Tadao Ando. The “Dead Men” fragment is still often misidentified on bootlegs as being from the Earthling sessions or rehearsals for Bowie’s 50th birthday concert. But the copy of the New York Times that Bowie uses (from “Friday last,” he says in the clip) is the 17 May 1996 edition (“His Medals Questioned, Top Admiral Kills Himself,” by Philip Shenon), conclusively placing the recording during the week of 20-24 May 1996.

417 Law (Earthlings On Fire)  Just listed as “Law” on Plati’s production chart for Earthling, suggesting the parenthetical title was a late-in-the-day addition. We’re bloody good…band on the album: Triple-J, 16 March 1997: eight or nine days: Rockline, 3 March 1997; 2 ½ weeks: to Mark Brown, Addicted to Noise (ATN), April 1997. Gabrels said the Earthling sessions ran from late August through the first week of November 1996, including mixing. He and Plati took the album to mastering with Bob Ludwig on 11 November 1996, and there were no overdubs after that (RG to CO, August 2018); rough mixes with no effects: to Matt Diehl, Rolling Stone, 13 December 1996; Eno and myselfwasn’t an expected album: Music Paper, March 1997; the next Nathan Adler diary: Interview, February 1997; vanity showcase for the band: Rockline, 3 March 1997.

418  Looking Glass: it had two main rooms, one with a 48-input SSL 4000G console and the other a Digidesign D-Command desk. Looking Glass soon became Bowie’s primary workplace (parts of ‘hours,’ Toy, Heathen and Reality were cut there). It would close in February 2009, the victim of Manhattan rents and the collapse of the record industry; lose the guitar…how do we start this: Guitar World, April 1997; cranking out one per day…day’s end do a vocal: Plati transcript; no suggestion of melody…free associate against that: Music Paper, March 1997.


419  bottomy Les Paul thing: Guitar World, April 1997; keep recurring throughout a piece: to J.D. Considine, F-I, October 1997; in about thirty seconds…hotel-room ideas: Plati transcript.

420  Thrill Kill Kult: Bowie reportedly said one inspiration for the record was Big Audio Dynamite; certainty: the exact quote was “what men really want is not knowledge, but certainty.” It doesn’t come from any of Russell’s published works but rather an interview he gave to the BBC magazine The Listener in 1964; hang so heavy: to Rod Usher, Time, 10 February 1997; looking for knowledge: NME, 25 November 1995; no certainties: Mojo, March 1997; fight fight fight: recounted variously, including Beckett and Death, 50.


421 Looking for Satellites   It got a 3:51 radio edit but wasn’t a single anywhere. samples from records I’d done before: Plati transcript; me being pissed off: BowieNet chat, 13 November 1998; statement on dick string…walls of the box: Guitar World, April 1997; shopping list of words: Rockline, 3 March 1997.

422  spiritual song: Earthling press kit.  Seven Years in Tibet  Earthling‘s fourth single in Europe (BMG/RCA 74321512542). Its Mandarin version (yet another new language for DB), known as “A Fleeting Moment,” was collected on various CDs, including a bonus disc to the Hong Kong Earthling. overnight Buddhist…it’s a very short life: to Mick Brown, Daily Telegraph, 14 December 1996; Harrer: the film adaptation of Harrer’s book was released in October 1997, well after Earthling was recorded and released.

423  except Buddha: to Tremlett, Living on the Brink, 72; made my stance on what I feel about it: Triple-J, 16 March 1997; Chinese helicopters…mere ciphers: Earthling press kit; Biscuit Lady: as per Plati’s production worksheet. The urban legend about the “holding in her brains” biscuit lady was referenced in several newspaper articles in the Nineties. Snopes ventured that its origin lies in a 1994 Brett Butler comedy routine, but it may have been older; dump this one Reeves: to Joe Gore, Guitar Player, June 1997; finding new chords: Plati transcript. It’s a fairly minimal chord structure (Am-Bbm-Gm in the intro and verses, and a refrain in a reclusive F major (Gm-Am-Bb)).


424  Stax influence…ton of bricks chorus: Guitar Player, June 1997.   Dead Man Walking  issued as Earthling’s third single in April 1997 (RCA 74321 475842, UK #32), with the edit cutting four lines from the pre-chorus (moving from “older than movies” to “and I know who’s there”); Bowie used this edit in live acoustic versions. In Britain, the 12″ single had the House Mix and the Vigor Mortis remix (BMG/RCA 74321 475841 (oh, for the days of “BOW 5”)) as well as a promo single (RCA/BMG DMW02) with the Moby Mix 1, the This One’s Not Dead Yet Remix, and the two others. The EU and the US offered different variations, including a Moby Mix 2 on a US promo 12″ later included on the 2004 Earthling reissue; Rosie O’Donnell: as with “Scary Monsters,” the performance wasn’t broadcast; Conan O’Brien: performance later issued on Live from 6A.

425 Neil Young: Bowie claimed this was the Bridge Benefit Concert that he’d played with Young in October 1996. However, most of Earthling was cut in August-September 1996. Perhaps Bowie finished the lyric to “Dead Man Walking” after the Bridge show, or in interviews he confused that show with memories of an earlier Young concert; grand old man…energy to escape: Mojo, March 1997; we are all growing old: to Massimo Cotto, Amica, 4 April 1997; opening up that E string: Guitar World, April 1997; hard to listen to…it’s completely live: Plati transcript.

426  Little Wonder  Junior Vasquez did the Ambient, 4/4 and Club Dub remixes. Danny Saber’s mix, which featured a cello played by David Coleman, appeared on the soundtrack to the Val Kilmer edition of The Saint; what is the point of David Bowie now?: Times of London, 17 January 1997.


42dad embarrassing you: Addicted to Noise, March 1997; demented persona…crazed sound: Ray Gun, March 1997; no compromises whatsoever: to Charlie Rose, 31 March 1998.

428  like head cheese: Guitar Player, June 1997; chord sequence: the E major verse progression is a tromp back home (I-vi-IV) that’s interrupted by the C major chord, borrowed from the parallel minor (so I-vi-IV-VI, then back to I). While the whole song could be in E, the dominance of B major in the refrains (so that the song never feels like it’s yearning to resolve back to E, but seems happy to stay hunkered down on B) suggests a modulation (thanks: Dave Depper); dwarf in rehab: Facebook, 19 January 2016; essentially the same idea: Plati transcript; drunk roadie: taken from the opening of the Dan’s live “Bodhisattva” single, 1974.

429  Battle for Britain  Anti-icon…torn and stained: NY Times, 19 March 2000 (“Alexander McQueen was producing a series of Edwardian-style frock coats that caught your eye. You wore them on the street but for the stage, you worked with Alex to produce a “distressed” look. Something in the world of Fagin, maybe. An in-joke for the older rocker in you”); tatty remains of a metaphysical empire: Triple-J, 16 March 1997; go back to Britain…looking at the world: Karel interview, 26 January 1996; inner war in most expatriates: Mojo, March 1997; quite cruel fashion: to Stephen Dalton, NME, 1 February 1997; so much energy…we’ll get all whiney about it: Mojo, March 1997.

430  progressions: often using a VIIb chord before moving back to the tonic—take the verse, which is I-V-VIIb: (B) “and a loser I will be, for I’ve (F#) never been a winner in my (A) life…” or the I-V-VIIb-IV refrain: (C) “don’t you let my letter get you (G) down (Bb) (F) don’t you…” jazz-tinged jungle track…songs over atmospheres…it took days: Plati transcript.


431 Lindner: Artist’s Choice, 5 May 2016. Last Thing You Should Do   discarded overdub bits…nine-song cohesive statement: Plati and Gabrels, Facebook, 19 January 2016.

432  very much of its time…survive these days: Mojo, March 1997.

433  Dirty Blvd.   when I’m 50 I’ll prove it: Daily Express, 14 February 1979; project him into the future: to Buckley, 451.

434  Blue Moon   French radio: DJs on France’s “Fun Radio” liked to call scheduled guests early, hoping to wake up the jet-lagged celebrity and have them sound flustered live on the radio (c’est drôle!). Bowie got the drop on them, having risen at 6 AM despite being on New York time.  Planet of Dreams  never appeared anywhere else but Long Live Tibet, which is now out of print and, to my knowledge, was never available as a download or on streaming services; hard for me to get a look in: BowieNet chat, 5 March 2003.

435  Truth   acid and coke: DJ Mag interview, YouTube, 11 January 2016; laughing my bollocks off: a May 1998 interview reprinted on Bowie Wonderworld; unclear where it originally appeared.


436 Fun has the sort of release history that’s one step above being bootlegged. Its only official releases, to date, were BowieNet exclusives, such as a 3:31 mix on a CD-ROM sent to new subscribers when the site started in 1998, and an alleged “live” version from Amsterdam’s Paradiso in June 1997, included on the section of BowieNet. To make things more confusing, the CD sent to BowieNet users in 2000 instead featured Dillinja’s remix of the track. Other mixes (variations on the aforementioned versions) appeared on promo CDs (thanks to the Illustrated DB Guide for making some sense of this); study the form a bit more: Q, August 1997; stop trying so hard: Observer, 8 June 1997; Sellars: to Teenage Wildlife, 3 June 1997. The last show with the split-set format was the Utrecht gig on 11 June 1997. The following show, Dortmund on 13 June, had an incorporated set and the French concerts (14-19 June) solidified what would be the typical set of the European leg of the tour, with “Is It Any Wonder” often slated midway through; dance shite: as per fan reports on the show (22 July 1997) for Teenage Wildlife; information on recording of “Fun,” Gabrels to CO, August 2018.

438   O Superman   live: its last extant recorded performance is from Brazil, Halloween 1997. Bootlegs of the last South American shows are incomplete, but none have “O Superman”; exhaling middle C: Butler, “Here Come the Planes,” The Fiddleback, 2010); o juuuuuuudge: to be fair, I think only Anderson could nail it—it’s a note she seemingly forged just for her voice. According to the sheet music it’s a high G, but Anderson’s vocoder makes its pitch more slippery to determine. Other Bowie 1997 alterations to the song included moving from 2/4 to (mostly) 4/4 and to play the “ha ha ha” bass pedal as a waltzing figure.

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