Some Weird Sin

March 29, 2011

Some Weird Sin (Pop and Bowie, live, 1977).
Some Weird Sin (Pop, 1977).
Some Weird Sin (Pop, live, 1981).
Some Weird Sin (Pop, live, 2016).

Lust For Life opens with odes to gluttony and lust and later covers sloth, pride and anger, so “Some Weird Sin,” sequenced in the middle of the LP’s first side, comes as something of a theme statement.

Debuted during the Idiot tour of spring 1977, “Sin”‘s studio incarnation is a frantic, murky recording, with the players determined to outrace each other. A shift to double time before the first verse lets Pop burn through a 12-bar verse in 15 seconds, while Ricky Gardiner’s barbed little solo seems only as long as Hunt Sales’ cowbell fill at the end of the first chorus. Sales pounds away throughout, then suddenly abdicates in the outro, letting the track expire in a smear of cymbal crashes.

“Sin” is something of an inadvertent duet: Bowie’s backing vocal, which shadows a few of Pop’s phrases in the verses (like “stuck on a pin”), doubles him in the choruses and slowly becomes the dominant voice, to the point where the last descending “some weird sin” is essentially only Bowie’s voice, at least an octave higher than Pop’s basso, with the latter buried in the mix. The dueling vocals parallel the song’s chord structure, which often moves back and forth between A minor and G major.

Pop’s lyric is an outsider’s credo (“I never got my license to live,” “when things get too straight, I can’t bear it“): though there’s some longing for a more stable life, it’s dispersed when Pop realizes that happiness comes from exploring a new degradation. The guitars back him up.

Debuted ca. 1 March 1977 (the recording linked above is from Detroit, 25 March). Recorded ca. 4-20 June 1977, Hansa, Berlin. Pop performed it in the 1980s and has revived it of late.

Top: Francis Bacon in the Claude Bernard Gallery, London, 1977.