Saturday, September 12, 2015

scary monsters . . . . . and super creeps

David Bowie drew the blinds on yesterday and reached heaven's high with more idols than realities in the used up truth of this psychodelicate cyberpunk retrospective.    His incomparable career opened strange doors and had seen him adopt myriad styles and stage persona over thirteen albums  (David Bowie in 1967,   David Bowie (Space Oddity)  in 1969,   The Man Who Sold the World in 1970,   Hunky Dory in 1971,   The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in 1972,   Aladdin Sane   and   Pin Ups in 1973,   Diamond Dogs in 1974,   Young Americans  in 1975,   Station to Station in 1976,   Low   and   "Heroes"  in 1977,   and   Lodger in 1979)  in as many years.

As a new decade was dawning, he was in a reflective mood.  The fertile period that produced his "Berlin Trilogy" (Low  ,   "Heroes" ,   and   Lodger ) had left his personal life in shambles as his marriage with Angie ended in February, just as he went to New York to begin work on his latest album.   Bowie remembers:     "I can relate to that person if I go back there, in my head. I can relate to what was going on with me. The light and shade in it is that the late ’70s, when I was living in Berlin, is when I was nearest to who I am now...When I came to New York briefly, just as the ’80s began. But the big difference is that then I was deeply unhappy and incredibly lonely...I did have two or three fabulous, wonderful friends… but the loneliness was within me. Coco was always a great support, and I was very close to Iggy as well, so the three of us bonded as a team. And yeah, some wonderful work came out of it. But within myself I was a very lonely person. It wasn’t a pleasant neighbourhood in my head. I was in a kind of recovery, yet I didn’t know it. I’d really badly fucked myself up, and it took quite a few years to realise the extent of the damage to my emotional self. I was really cracked-up and broken, y’ was just… self-abuse. It was. Drugs were not helpful in my life...Absolutely nothing original. I just took ’em. Ha! I had lots of money, I bought ’em, and I ingested them. Mr President, I did inhale...I dived in with a vengeance...I was not on this planet. I was just not aware. I was so very unaware of so much that was going on about me...I do remember great periods of pain, but I think some of it was… most enjoyable. Again, more than anything else, the creativity. The writing, recording, and some of the touring I remember with strong affection. But I honestly don’t remember having much of a personal life. It obviously had no importance to me. My memories of private living really start in the ’80s, when it slowly dawned on me that I needed another kind of life, as well as the obsessively workaholic one. I mean, if you think I work hard now, you don’t know how crazed I was in those days...But I wasn’t really ever playing! It all went into the work...I like crazy art and, most of the time, out-there music...I like the idea that I’m in there changing the plan of what society and culture look like, sound like. I did change things, I knew I would. It feels great, and very rewarding.”

'Scary Monsters' was recorded during February at The Power Station in New York City and finished up during April in London at Visconti's Good Earth Studios and features  David Bowie on vocals, keyboards, backing vocals, and saxophone;   Dennis Davis on percussion;   George Murray on bass guitar;   and  Carlos Alomar on guitars;     with    Chuck Hammer playing guitar synthesizer on "Ashes to Ashes" and "Teenage Wildlife";   Robert Fripp playing guitar on "Fashion", "It's No Game", "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)", "Kingdom Come", "Up the Hill Backwards", and "Teenage Wildlife";   Roy Bittan playing piano on "Teenage Wildlife", "Ashes to Ashes" and "Up the Hill Backwards";   Andy Clark playing synthesizer on "Fashion", "Scream Like a Baby", "Ashes to Ashes" and "Because You're Young";   Pete Townshend playing guitar on "Because You're Young";   Tony Visconti singing backing vocals and  playing acoustic guitar on "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" and "Up the Hill Backwards";   Lynn Maitland and  Chris Porter on backing vocals;   and   Michi Hirota doing the voice on "It's No Game (No. 1)".      Bowie and Visconti handled  production and engineering  with  Larry Alexander and Jeff Hendrickson providing engineering assistance.

Bowie looks back:  
"['Scary Monsters'] was the last thing that Visconti and I did. Before we took holidays...Creatively, I had a good run from ’72 through Let’s Dance, which is a good album, I think the writing on it is very good, so that’s ’72 to ’83 which is like 11 years – or if you go into Hunky Dory, even earlier – it wasn’t bad, I had a good long stretch when things were flowing...[Major Tom reappears because] being a writer you half fabricate and half… you “faction” when you write. I do anyway. I have to. So there’s elements of my really wanting to be clean of drugs and all that. So I meta-morphed all that into the Major Tom character, so it’s partially autobiographical but not completely so, there’s a fantasy element in it as well. It probably comes from my wanting to be healthy again. Definitely. And the first time around it wasn’t. The first time around it was merely about feeling lonely. But then the limpets of time grabbed hold of the hull of my ship; it was de-barnacling by the time I got round to 'Ashes To Ashes'. No leave all this out, actually, the barnacles...Davy Jones’s locker! Ha ha!...In many senses, probably. That was a very good time for me and it did open things up to approach music in a different way but it was very strange because I did feel this was this was very different, doing this stuff straight, without the support of anything...[The Pierrot look came] from Lindsay Kemp. It was made by the same woman, Natasha Korniloff, who made that exact costume for Lindsay Kemp in 1967. It was identical. What was different was that I used much more the Pierrot face...And the original genesis for all that, the clown was on the back of the second album I did, the one that contained ‘Space Oddity’, the clown on the back of that is supposed to be me with my mother, that particular scene I put into the video; it was a painting done by George Underwood and it’s the back cover of the Man Of Words Man Of Music album. So it was a confluence of events at that time which led up to he imaging of that particular album."

Bowie would explain: "The chauvinism between various art forms - theatre, film, and music - it's all so silly because the creative force is operative in all these things. I think it might be evident that I never completely leave one for the other - there's no barrier...I was trying to move on a little from the Ray Davies concept of fashion; to suggest more of a gritted-teeth determination and unsureness about why one's doing it, rather like one goes to the dentist and has a tooth drilled."

'Scary Monsters'  climbed to number twenty in Austria;  twelve in the US;   eight in Germany;   four in Sweden;   three in the Netherlands and Norway;   and number one in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.   

"Ashes To Ashes" revisited the character of Major Tom from his first number one single "Space Oddity".  It became a massive European hit and a number one smash in the UK.  Its innovative video was directed by Bowie and David Mallet.

Do you remember a guy that's been
In such an early song
I've heard a rumour from Ground Control
Oh no don't say it's true
They got a message from the Action Man
"I'm happy, hope you're happy too
I've loved all I've needed love
Sordid details following"
The shrieking of nothing is killing
Just pictures of Jap girls in synthesis
And I ain't got no money and I ain't got no hair
But I'm hoping to kick but the planet is glowing
Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom's a junky
Strung out in heaven's high
Hitting an all-time low
Time and again I tell myself
I'll stay clean tonight
But the little green wheels are following me
Oh no, not again
"I'm stuck with a valuable friend
I'm happy hope you're happy too"
One flash of light but no smoking pistol
I've never done good things
I've never done bad things
I never did anything out of the blue
Want an axe to break the ice
Want to come down right now
Ashes to ashes, funk to funky
We know Major Tom's a junky
Strung out in heaven's high
Hitting an all time low
My mama said to get things done
You'd better not mess with Major Tom

"The Continuing Story of Major Tom"
("Space Oddity" segues into "Ashes To Ashes")

"Fashion" peaked at number five in the UK.

"Teenage Wildlife" spoke to his imitators in the new wave.

Well, how come you only want tomorrow
With its promise of something hard to do
A real life adventure worth more than pieces of gold
Blue skies above and sun on your arms strength in your stride
And hope in those squeaky clean eyes
You'll get chilly receptions everywhere you go
Blinded with desire guess the season is on
So you train by shadow boxing, search for the truth
But it's all, but it's all used up
You break open your million dollar weapon
And push your luck, still you push, still you push your luck
A broken nosed mogul are you
One of the new wave boys
Same old thing in brand new drag
Comes sweeping into view
As ugly as a teenage millionaire
Pretending it's a whiz kid world
And you'll take me aside, and say
"Well, David, what shall I do?
They wait for me in the hallway"
I'll say "Don't ask me, I don't know any hallways"
But they move in numbers and they've got me in a corner
I feel like a group of one, no-no
They can't do this to me
I'm not some piece of teenage wildlife
Those midwives to history put on their bloody robes
The word is that the hunted one is out there on his own
You're alone for maybe the last time
And you breathe for a long time
Then you howl like a wolf in a trap
And you dare not look behind
You fall to the ground like a leaf from a tree
And look up one time at that vast blue sky
Scream out aloud as they shoot you down
No no, I'm not a piece of teenage wildlife
I'm not a piece of teenage wildlife
And no one will have seen and no one will confess
The fingerprints will prove that you couldn't pass the test
There'll be others on the line filing past, who'll whisper low
I miss you he had to go
Well each to his own, he was
Another piece of teenage wildlife, oh-oh-oh-ohh
Another piece of teenage wildlife, oh-oh-oh-ohh
Another piece of teenage wild...

" Up the Hill Backwards"

"Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)"

'Scary Monsters' 
full album:

All songs written by David Bowie, except where noted.

Side One
It's No Game  (No. 1) (music and lyrics by Bowie, Japanese translation by Hisahi Miura)
Up the Hill Backwards
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
Ashes to Ashes
Side Two
Teenage Wildlife
Scream Like a Baby
Kingdom Come   (music and lyrics by Tom Verlaine)
Because You're Young
It's No Game (No. 2)


 "Is There Life After Marriage?"

 "Crystal Japan"

"Panic In Detroit"

"Alabama Song"

"Life On Mars / Ashes To Ashes"
live on Johnny Carson

interview promo disk
part 1

part 2

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