I’m Deranged

March 26, 2013


I’m Deranged.
I’m Deranged (alternate mix, unreleased).
I’m Deranged (edit, Lost Highway soundtrack.)
I’m Deranged (alternate edit, Lost Highway).
I’m Deranged (rehearsal, 1995).
I’m Deranged (first live performance, 1995).
I’m Deranged (“jungle” version, live, 1997).

But if those walls could talk! [The inmates’] whole process and how they instinctively jumped from symbol to symbol in their narratives and things. One man is called the Angel Man—and in fact he turns up in one of the songs in the end—he believed he was an angel and said [German Angel Man voice], “I was exactly who I was up until the 5th of February, 1948, and then I became an angel…it was just after lunch.” And from that point, he believed that his old person disappeared and his angel took over him. He was totally reborn at that moment.

Bowie, interview with Moon Zappa, Ray Gun, 1995.

Another casualty of Outside‘s sequencing was “I’m Deranged,” the sixteenth of nineteen tracks and which, to the exhausted ear, seemed a lengthy retread of earlier songs: it had another cracked Mike Garson piano solo, another set of Brian Eno’s Nerve Net-vintage synth and drum loops, yet another Bowie salmagundi of a lyric with shadows of violence and (overtly here) insanity.

Inspired by his and Eno’s trip to the Gugging Psychiatric Clinic in 1994 (from which Bowie took the image of the “Angel Man,” see above), Bowie chopped up a provisional lyric via his Verbasizer computer program, then crafted a run of lines that followed eddies of thought and made shotgun marriages of vowel sounds (“be real” becomes “before we reel”; “blonde” quickly summons “beyond”). The lyric’s perspective isn’t that of a madman as much as someone with romantic hopes of growing mad, with an undercurrent of masochism (“I’d start to believe…if I were to bleed,” Bowie sings, gently extending his long Es) and a few phrases suggesting that Bowie had been reading John Rechy again (“cruise me baby,” “the fist of love”).

He later assigned “I’m Deranged” to his Artist/Minotaur figure (see “Wishful Beginnings”) but the conceit was wearing thin by this point, and any attempt to shoehorn “Deranged” into the “Nathan Adler” storyline would devote far more time than its author ever did. Its allegiances are with two other tracks on the record—the title song, for which “Deranged” seems a counterpart, inspired by the same Gugging visit and suggesting sensory derangement and “outsider” art; and “No Control,” with which “Deranged” shares a lyrical and textural mood.

Built over a repeated four-chord progression in F minor,* “Deranged” seems mainly Eno’s work, though one ancestor was Bowie and Nile Rodgers’ “Real Cool World” (there’s also an echo of “Billie Jean” in its opening four-note synth hook), and there’s a tinniness at times to the mix: take the anemic drum machine fill at 3:31, beats seemingly generated by a Sega Genesis. Garson’s two piano interludes also lack surprise; it’s as if Eno had triggered a sampler to play “Off-Kilter Garson Solo in F Minor” at various cue marks. There apparently were some brutal revisions: Reeves Gabrels said he worked for days on “serious orchestrated guitar stuff” for “Deranged” that was eventually scrapped, while Carlos Alomar recalled a three-part harmony track that also got the axe.

Its best element is Bowie’s vocal: while there’s a somber precision to his opening lines, in the second verse, Bowie defaces his melody, weighing and sounding each word as if he can’t recall how it’s pronounced, getting mired in each syllable, building up to the last repeats of “I’m deraaaanged,” where he bloats and strangles the latter word.

The track’s harmonic stasis and ominous mood better suited the sequence David Lynch used it for on Lost Highway—scoring a driver’s-eye shot of a sped-up stream of highway center lines, a loop of ceaseless, violent motion. “Deranged” also improved in concert, once the song was prised loose from its album mix and given fresh, bloody life by the Outside and Earthling tour bands.

Recorded ca. January-February 1995, Hit Factory, NYC. A remixed and edited (2:37) version appeared on the Lost Highway OST, released 18 February 1997 (a longer edit was used for the end credits).

* The progression seems to be i-II7-v-III-i (Fm-G7-Cm-A flat-Fm), with the major chords staggering the progress of F minor to its dominant, C minor, and back home again.

Top: Ted Barron, “Epiphany,” Brooklyn, 1995.