Live: A Reality Tour
Live Video: A Reality Tour
In the early days of Tin Machine Bowie began singing the praises of the Bostonian alt-rock band Pixies, later covering their 1989 track "Debaser" on Tin Machine's It's My Life tour. In 1997 the band's now solo singer Frank Black (formerly Black Francis) joined David to perform "Scary Monsters" and "Fashion" at his fiftieth birthday concert, and five years later Bowie once again tipped his hat to Francis when he contributed to the Pixies documentary Gouge and recorded an energetic cover version of "Cactus" for inclusion on Heathen. Hailing originally from Pixies' 1988 debut album Surfer Rosa, "Cactus" boasts a typically gritty Francis lyric, written from the perspective of a prison inmate who entreats his lover to rub her dress with sweat, food and blood before sending it to him as a keepsake.
Featuring David on guitar, drums and keyboards, and backed by the distorted wobble of Tony Visconti's pile-driving bass, Bowie's raw-edged but tightly produced version is a sophisticated piece of garage rock which makes much of the song's obvious debt to T Rex's "The Groover", even inserting a tongue-in-cheek cry of "D-A-V-I-D!" into the instrumental break in tribute to the "T-R-E-X!" which opens the Bolan number. "Cactus" was performed throughout the Heathen and A Reality tours, clocking up a number of recordings for TV shows including Top Of The Pops and Late Night With Conan O'Brien, and featuring in the live BBC radio session of September 18th 2002. The live version on the A Reality Tour album finds David reinforcing the Bolan connection by parachuting a few bars of "Get It On" into the number, although this segment is pruned from the same performance on the DVD.
Asked in 2009 about Bowie's recording, Frank Black was effusive: "Do I like David Bowie? A big yes. How do you feel when David Bowie covers one of your songs? Uh, really great. You know, it's like having Jesus Christ come out of the clouds and say, 'You have done well, my son.' It doesn't get any bigger than that."
CAMERAS IN BROOKLYN see UP THE HILL BACKWARDS
CAN I GET A WITNESS (Holland/Dozier/Holland)
Marvin Gaye's 1963 single was covered live by The King Bees the following year. Bowie later cited the Kon-Rads' unwillingness to perform "Can I Get A Witness" as a reason why he left his earlier outfit.
CAN YOU HEAR ME
Album: Young Americans
B-Side: November 1975
Bonus: The Gouster
"Can You Hear Me" began life as "Take It In Right", demoed at Olympic Studios on January 1st 1974 during the Diamond Dogs sessions. Decreeing the song unsuitable for his present purposes, Bowie instead redirected it towards the Lulu album he was intending to produce following her successful cover of "The Man Who Sold The World". The pair had collaborated on the abandoned "Dodo" during the Diamond Dogs sessions, and on March 25th 1974 they convened at Olympic to record "Can You Hear Me". Overdubs were later added to the Lulu version at RCA's New York studios on April 17th. Among the musicians at the New York recording was Puerto Rican guitarist Carlos Alomar, a regular RCA sessioner; it was Bowie's first encounter with one of his most loyal and significant collaborators. As if to emphasise that times were changing, the string arrangements on the track were handled by Mick Ronson, in his last professional connection with Bowie for many years.
In the run-up to the Diamond Dogs tour Bowie was still enthusing to journalists about Lulu. "I'd like to take her to Memphis and get a really good band like Willie Mitchell's and do a whole album with her, which I will do," he told Rock magazine in April 1974. "Lulu's got this terrific voice and it's been misdirected all this time, all these years. People laugh now, but they won't in two years' time, you'll see! I produced a single with her, "Can You Hear Me", and that's more the way she's going. She's got a real soul voice, she can get the feel of Aretha." Neither album nor single ever happened, and Lulu's version of "Can You Hear Me" remains one of the lost grails of Bowie fans.
"Can You Hear Me" was revived for Young Americans at Sigma Sound in August 1974, from which an early take would receive its first official release many years later on The Gouster, the 'lost album' included with 2016's Who Can I Be Now? box set. Work continued on the song in November 1974 and the finished track, benefiting from an elegant Tony Visconti string arrangement, became one of the album's highlights, prefiguring the majestic ballad style Bowie would hone further on Station To Station. In 1975 he told an interviewer that "Can You Hear Me" was "written for somebody, but I'm not telling you who it is. That is a real love song. I kid you not." It's usually assumed that the song is addressed to David's then girlfriend Ava Cherry.
It is worth noting that the line "it's harder to fall" echoes the title of Humphrey Bogart's last movie, a boxing melodrama called The Harder They Fall which appeared in 1956, the same year as the similarly-themed Somebody Up There Likes Me, which of course gave its title to another Young Americans track. From shadow-boxing on stage in 1974 to his appearance on the sleeve of Let's Dance and the lyrics of "Shake It" nine years later. Bowie maintained an interest in the cinematic image of a sport which, like so much of his music, functions on the unsettling meeting-point between violence and glamour.
Some sources suggest that "Can You Hear Me" was performed during the studio recording of The Dick Cavett Show in November 1974, but lost to posterity when the song was cut from the transmission; however, this claim is based on the anecdotal recollection of a fan in the studio audience, and its reliability is dubious. What is beyond doubt is that a year later, on November 23rd 1975, David performed "Can You Hear Me" as a duet with Cher on CBS's The Cher Show.
CANDIDATE see also SWEET THING
Album: Diamond Dogs
Live: David Live
Bonus: Diamond Dogs (2004)
There are two distinct Bowie songs called "Candidate", and although both hail from the Diamond Dogs sessions they're sufficiently different to warrant separate discussion. The more familiar version forms the central section of the "Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing" sequence which dominates the first side of Diamond Dogs. This "Candidate" is musically and lyrically inseparable from the rest of the nine-minute medley.
The other "Candidate" was unknown until it appeared as a bonus track in 1990, subsequently resurfacing on 2004's anniversary edition of Diamond Dogs. Recorded at Olympic Studios on New Year's Day 1974 and labelled by Ryko as a "demo version", it is in fact an entirely different song, with only the lines "I'll make you a deal" and "pretend I'm walking home" to connect it with the later version. Led by Mike Garson's piano and bumped along by some jaunty swing-band percussion and rasping guitar, the song dabbles with two of Bowie's favourite mid-1970s topics, self-image and messianic megalomania: "I make it a thing when I gazelle on stage to believe in myself / I make it a thing to glance in window panes and looked pleased with myself." There's a hint of the abortive Nineteen Eighty-Four project in the Orwellian reference to "the correction room", while Bowie serves alarming notice of his Thin White Duke period when he announces "I'm the Fuhrerling". As lyrics go, it's also one of Bowie's most sexually suggestive, with an opening couplet guaranteed to raise eyebrows. One of the finest tracks unearthed during Rykodisc's reissue programme, the original "Candidate" offers a valuable glimpse into the genesis of a classic album and is entirely worthy of attention.
A cover by Brendan Benson was released in 2011. An unreleased 1973 Bowie demo, pre-dating the bonus track version, was used by longtime Bowie devotee Marc Almond as a musical basis for "Redeem Me (Beauty Will Redeem The World)", a track on his 2007 album Stardom Road. "We originally built the song around the beat and a bit of guitar," Marc explained, "but in the finished track the sample was taken away." What remains - besides an instantly recognisable swing-beat clearly inspired by "Candidate" - is a brief excerpt of Bowie's voice at the beginning of the track, saying "All I've got is a great shhhh..." and then counting in Mike Garson's piano run. It's a touching tribute to one of Almond's heroes, and a beautiful song into the bargain.
CAN'T HELP THINKING ABOUT ME
A-Side: January 1966
B-Side: October 1972
Live: VH1 Storytellers
Live Video: VH1 Storytellers
In the autumn of 1965, The Lower Third and their newly renamed singer David Bowie struck a deal with Pye records and producer Tony Hatch, who had been introduced to David's manager Ralph Horton by a mutual acquaintance, Denny Laine of The Moody Blues. Hatch, who had revived Petula Clark's career a year earlier with the monumental hit "Downtown", would later make his mark on cultural history as the composer (with his wife Jackie Trent) of the theme tunes to Crossroads and Neighbours. Many years later, Hatch recalled that David was "good to get on with and excellent in the studio. His material was good, although I thought he wrote too much about London dustbins. Those were his formative years and he hadn't reached maturity, but he was unusual, unique." The Lower Third's first recording with Hatch was an early take of David's composition "The London Boys", rejected by Pye on lyrical grounds. "I remember "The London Boys"," Hatch later told Paul Trynka. "There were a lot of songs about his background. There was one about the Hackney Marshes which is probably in some archive somewhere."
On January 14th 1966, David Bowie with The Lower Third released "Can't Help Thinking About Me", Bowie's first Hatch-produced single on Pye. Recorded at the label's Marble Arch Studios with the producer himself on piano, the session was marked by an incident in which Hatch is said to have berated the band's backing vocals as sounding "like a Saturday night at the old Bull and Bush". A launch party for the single was held at the Victoria Tavern in Strathearn Place, financed by Bowie's sponsor Raymond Cook and attended by all manner of minor celebrities including, bizarrely, John Lennon's father. Apparently David was steered among the press while the rest of the band were ignored, fuelling the discontent already in the air after the singer had been flown back from their recent Paris gigs while the band tagged behind in their converted second-hand ambulance.
The release of "Can't Help Thinking About Me" sees the earliest full-blown evidence of the darker and more abstruse elements of songwriting which would distinguish David's later career, and this, as much as the rejected "London Boys", is surely at the root of Tony Hatch's "dustbins" comment. The standard fodder of the R&B lyric - heartless girlfriend doesn't fancy singer - here surrenders to familiar Bowie themes of solipsistic self-withdrawal and emotional alienation, in an obscure narrative about the singer leaving town for an imagined "never-never land" after having mysteriously "blackened the family name". The lyric is also notable for featuring the singer's name ("My girl calls my name - Hi, Dave"), a distinction it shares only with "Teenage Wildlife" and Bowie's cover version of "Cactus".
Bowie later laughingly referred to the title of "Can't Help Thinking About Me" as "an illuminating little piece". Bearing in mind its position in his career - as the last single for many years that he would release as a band frontman rather than a solo singer - it's worth speculating on the wider implications of lines like "I've got a long way to go, I hope I make it on my own". Long years of struggling and disappointment lay ahead, but already the motif of lonely travelling as a metaphor for the creative quest, later surfacing in tracks like "Black Country Rock", "Be My Wife" and "Move On", was becoming evident. In his first Melody Maker interview, in February 1966, Bowie revealed that "Several of the younger teenagers' programmes wouldn't play "Can't Help Thinking About Me", because it is about leaving home. The number relates several incidents in every teenager's life - and leaving home is something which always comes up." It would be daft to make any claims, but The Beatles came up with their classic "She's Leaving Home" not so very long afterwards.
Like its predecessors the single was a flop, and this despite a desperate attempt at chart-rigging. Using £250 borrowed from Cook, Ralph Horton contrived to push "Can't Help Thinking About Me" into the Melody Maker chart at number 34. Notwithstanding a curt review in Record Retailer ("Original song about teenage trouble. Words worth listening to but arrangement not all that original"), it failed to appear in that periodical's chart or in any other. A forthcoming booking on Associated Rediffusion's Ready, Steady, Go! wasn't enough to keep the band together, and the failure of the single spelled the end of David's association with The Lower Third. Heavily in debt, the group elected to disband - not without acrimony if some accounts are to be believed - before a gig at the Bromel Club on January 29th.
The performance of "Can't Help Thinking About Me" on Ready, Steady, Go! went ahead on March 4th, with Bowie's new outfit The Buzz miming along to a backing track they had pre-recorded the day before. David, who sang live vocals, wore a white suit designed by Mod trendsetter John Stephen which caused problems for the cameras, bathing him in an unearthly glow. Appearing in the same edition were The Yardbirds and The Small Faces, whose vocalist Steve Marriott apparently disrupted proceedings by shouting to David, "Leap about, you're on TV!"
In May 1966 "Can't Help Thinking About Me" became David's first US release, issued on the Warner Brothers label. Needless to say this too was a flop. Later the same year the track appeared on a Pye compilation called Hitmakers Volume 4, making it the first Bowie recording to be released on an album.
More than 30 years later David unexpectedly launched into a snatch of the number during a 1997 gig in San Francisco. Even then, few were prepared for its full-scale revival on the 'hours...' tour. Unveiling "Can't Help Thinking About Me" at his VH1 Storytellers concert in August 1999, David grinningly proclaimed that the "Hi, Dave" section amounted to "two of the worst lines I've ever written." The revival was executed with real gusto: a superb version was included in Bowie's BBC session two months later, and a new studio recording was made during the following year's Toy sessions.
CAN'T NOBODY LOVE YOU (Burke)
The Solomon Burke number was among David's live repertoire with The Manish Boys.
CASUAL BOP see MADMAN
CAT PEOPLE (PUTTING OUT FIRE) (Bowie/Moroder)
A-Side: April 1982
B-Side: March 1983
Album: Let's Dance
Live Video: Serious Moonlight/Best Of Bowie
In 1981 Bowie was approached by Paul Schrader, the screenwriter-turned-director whose previous credits included writing Taxi Driver and directing American Gigolo, with a view to collaborating on his remake of Jacques Tourneur's 1942 thriller Cat People. Giorgio Moroder had already composed the music, and Bowie was invited to provide and sing the lyrics for the title song. The result, co-produced by Bowie and Moroder (who had first met in 1976 during the recording of Iggy Pop's The Idiot), was recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux in July 1981. It was during this session that Bowie bumped into Queen, a meeting that resulted in "Under Pressure".
Among the finest of Bowie's recordings of the 1980s, the original cut of "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" is a brooding monolith of a song that finds Bowie in fine vocal fettle; the pure adrenaline rush as the sepulchral intro detonates on the line "I've been putting out fire - with gasoline!" is among the most thrilling moments he ever committed to tape. The lyric is quintessential Bowie material, drawing on imagery previously explored in "Sound And Vision" and "It's No Game": "Those who feel me near / Pull the blinds and change their minds" (a line paraphrased by Suede's 1999 track "Down"). The relevance to Schrader's movie is fleeting at best, although the opening "See those eyes so green / I can stare for a thousand years" evokes the ancient line of feline lycanthropes.
Running to nearly seven minutes, the full-length soundtrack album recording (issued on 12" and later on the US release The Singles 1969 To 1993) remains the best of the various different versions. The 7" edit, which took the single to number 26 in the UK chart (and number 67 in America), later appeared on several non-UK editions of 2002's Best Of Bowie and on 2005's The Platinum Collection. Both single formats were originally backed by "Paul's Theme" from Moroder's Cat People soundtrack. The single, incidentally, was released on MCA records for contractual reasons relating to Moroder; Bowie, whose relationship with his own label had reached rock bottom, was doubtless happy with the arrangement.
Completists should note that a 3'18" edit appeared on US and German promos, while a longer 9'20" remix, with added saxophone and synthesizer, featured on the Australian 12". Further unique edits include a 3'08" Dutch promo and a 5'32" version on a 12" from the US DJ subscription label Disconet. The version in the movie itself is a 4'55" mix with added panther roars. The opening titles feature an instrumental version of the intro, over which Bowie hums the melody; this appears on the soundtrack album as "The Myth".
Unfortunately "Cat People" was later subjected to a decidedly wet re-recording for inclusion on Let's Dance, the massive sales of which guaranteed that this drastically inferior take has since become the better-known version. It was supposedly re-recorded because David felt the original lacked punch, which is ironic: the subtle menace and pulsing synthesizers of Moroder's arrangement are usurped by an irritating keyboard motif, Stevie Ray Vaughan contributes an alarmingly middle-of-the-road guitar solo, and the slow, chugging intro is dispensed with altogether. This version became the B-side of the "Let's Dance" single.
The Let's Dance version was performed throughout the Serious Moonlight tour, while Bowie's ubiquitous mid-1980s mucker Tina Turner gave a live performance on Channel 4's The Tube in 1984, sticking to the preferred Moroder-type arrangement. A cover by Waldeck, from his album The Night Garden Reflowered, was released as a single in 2003, while Glenn Danzig included a version on his 2007 rarities collection The Lost Tracks Of Danzig, and Sharleen Spiteri covered the number on her 2010 album The Movie Songbook. Bowie's original recording featured in the soundtrack of the 1998 action movie Firestorm, and also cropped up in a 2009 episode of the US version of The Office. In the same year it formed the backdrop to one of the most memorable sequences in Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, leading to the release of a limited edition 7" single in July 2009, offered exclusively to customers who pre-ordered the film's soundtrack from HMV stores.
C'EST LA VIE
Bowie demoed this number in early October 1967, and it was offered without success to Chris Montez (best known, amusingly enough, for a song called "Let's Dance"). Nothing more was heard of the song until 1993, when an acetate of Bowie's demo sold to a German collector at Christie's.
The quarter-inch master tape contains as many as eight takes of "C'est La Vie" in varying stages of development, including a 2'54" instrumental and a 2'33" version with vocals. They reveal a pleasant but unremarkable number from the same wistful drawer as other 1967 cast-offs like "A Social Kind Of Girl" and "Silver Treetop School For Boys", and like both of those compositions it betrays a debt to an altogether more familiar song: the verse melody of "C'est La Vie" carries an obvious echo of The Beatles' 1963 classic "All My Loving". Of greater interest is the fact that both melody and lyric also bear unmistakable similarities to Bowie's later song "Shadow Man", albeit taken here at a pluckier, jauntier tempo: in particular, the "show me tomorrow" line in the bridge section is practically identical. The pivotal line, "I don't want to go through the burning flames of time", flags up a preoccupation that would haunt Bowie's lyrics for decades.
Album: Hunky Dory
A-Side: January 1972
B-Side: September 1975
Soundtrack: Shrek 2
Live: David Live/Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture/Sound + Vision/Santa Monica '72/Bowie At The Beeb (Bonus Disc)/A Reality Tour/Live Nassau Coliseum '76 (included on 2010 Reissue of Station To Station)
Live Video: Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars/A Reality Tour
Regarded by many as Bowie's musical manifesto, "Changes" has become one of his pivotal recordings, seldom omitted from greatest hits compilations even though it never charted in its own right. Released in January 1972 as Bowie's first single for RCA it was an unmitigated flop, despite becoming (apparently to David's distress) Tony Blackburn's record of the week. When the pleasures of Hunky Dory were belatedly discovered in the wake of its follow-up's success, "Changes" rapidly became a turntable favourite, embedding itself deep in the pop-culture psyche.
Although every clapped-out rock hack has at one time or another churned out a Bowie retrospective called "Changes", only at the most superficial level does the song truly set the template for Bowie's own role-hopping. Stripped of its retrospective resonance the lyric seems rather to be a meditation on the twentysomething Bowie's frustrated attempts to create work of lasting value, set against the relentless march of time and the incursions of younger minds; in this respect it's very much of a piece with its bedfellows "Quicksand" and "Oh! You Pretty Things". As early as 1972, Bowie described the lyric as "very neurotic".
The song's lurching fluctuations in tempo and key neatly reflect its theme. While time is "running wild" and all around is "impermanence" (a crucial word in Bowie's vocabulary at the time, cropping up on the previous album and reappearing in several interviews of the period), Bowie reflects that his career has taken him down "a million dead-end streets, and every time I thought I'd got it made it seemed the taste was not so sweet." He ponders his familiar 1970s preoccupations about identity and the perception of the artist by his followers: the line "I turned myself to face me" echoes David's encounter with himself in "The Width Of A Circle", while his anxiety about being perceived as a "faker" is tempered by the knowledge that he is "much too fast" to be affected by how others perceive him. For a seemingly innocuous piece of pop, "Changes" advances a sophisticated thought process: Bowie appears to be holding a mirror to his face on the eve of his own stardom. Time for self-confrontation; time to "turn and face the strange".
"I guess it was me being sort of arrogant," David mused in 2002. "It's sort of baiting an audience, isn't it? It's saying, 'Look, I'm going to be so fast you're not going to be able to keep up with me.' It's that kind of perky arrogance of youth. You think you can get away with anything when you're young."
The famous stammering chorus conflates The Who's "My Generation" (for "hope I die before I get old", read "pretty soon now you're gonna get older") with Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin" ("time may change me, but I can't trace time"), as Bowie speaks up for his own generation, angrily berating his elders and demanding to know "Where's your shame? You've left us up to our necks in it!" It's a sentiment that can be traced back to an interview he gave in 1968: "We feel our parents' generation has lost control, given up, they're scared of the future," he told The Times. "I feel it's basically their fault that things are so bad."
A rough demo, featuring Bowie accompanying himself on piano with more enthusiasm than accuracy and adding some breathy "hah's" to a marginally different lyric ("now I place myself to face me...the weeks still seem the same"), has appeared on bootlegs. The Hunky Dory version, recorded at Trident, substitutes a superb Rick Wakeman piano performance alongside one of David's earliest saxophone solos - recorded, he later said, "when I was still going through ideas of using melodic saxophone." A further rendition was taped for a BBC radio session on May 22nd 1972, and was later included on Bowie At The Beeb.
In 2004 a new recording, credited to Butterfly Boucher Featuring David Bowie, appeared on the soundtrack of the animated blockbuster Shrek 2. Bowie later explained that during A Reality Tour's sojourn to the Bahamas in December 2003 the Australian artist Butterfly Boucher had "sent her recording of "Changes" over to me at the Paradise Island gig. She had already been commissioned by Shrek 2 to provide a song. They then asked me if I would be willing to sing it with her. I went into the local studio there at the end of December 2003 - the famous Compass Point where I incidentally recorded once with Tin Machine - with Tony Visconti, and I put down a vocal harmony against Boucher's vocal." The result is an unusual and beguiling revision of a familiar song: against a lush arrangement awash with piano, saxophone and strings, Bowie takes lead vocal on the second verse in a marvellously unrestrained demonstration of the sophisticated grasp of contrapuntal melody that distinguishes so many of his later recordings.
Bowie performed "Changes" on the Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs, Station To Station, Sound + Vision, 1999-2000, Heathen and A Reality tours, and on November 9th 2006 he duetted with Alicia Keys on the number at the Black Ball charity event in New York, his final in-concert appearance. A live version recorded in Boston on October 1st 1972 appeared on the Sound + Vision Plus CD, and on the 2003 reissue of Aladdin Sane.
John Hughes's 1985 brat-pack film The Breakfast Club - a cinematic anthem for a new generation of young dudes - opened with a quotation from "Changes", and it was even sung by Homer in a 2000 episode of The Simpsons. In 2007 Neil Tennant selected "Changes" as one of his Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4, and in the same year the song featured prominently in the final episode of the BBC drama Life On Mars. It was one of several Bowie numbers included in the soundtracks of the 1993 BBC serial The Buddha Of Suburbia and the 2009 film Bandslam. In 2010 it cropped up in Dexter, and the following year it was used in a US commercial for BMW's Advanced Diesel vehicles; a Toyota commercial followed in 2016. Among the artists who have covered "Changes" are Ian McCulloch, Sharleen Spiteri, Seu Jorge, Shawn Mullins in the soundtrack of the 1998 film The Faculty, Tony Hadley on ITV's 2003 talent show Reborn In The USA, and Lindsay Lohan in the soundtrack of 2004's Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen. Released in September 2009 was a particularly memorable cover version by Lewes New School in East Sussex, showcasing the collaborative vocal and instrumental talents of pupils and staff, with a little help from Bowie's sometime bass guitarist Herbie Flowers, who had two grandchildren at the school at the time of recording.
In March 2010 the comedian and broadcaster Adam Buxton recorded a spoof version of "Changes" which became a focal point in the public campaign to dissuade the BBC from its decision to close the highly regarded digital radio station 6 Music, whose most popular DJs included Buxton and his broadcasting partner Joe Cornish. Bowie himself had already added his support to the campaign, and Buxton's "Changes (For 6 Music)" rapidly became a YouTube hit with the help of an animated Lego video courtesy of regular Adam & Joe contributor Chris Salt. Buxton's affectionate Bowie impersonation and his angrily satirical lyric touched a nerve ("Still don't know why they are closing it, cos there's loads of other things in the BBC that are much more shit"), and there's little doubt that the song was instrumental in influencing the Corporation's subsequent U-turn. An altogether less plausible appropriation of "Changes" came the following month when David Cameron's Conservative Party used the song in its 2010 general election campaign. Bowie maintained a discreet silence about this turn of events, but nobody acquainted with his views would have had any great difficulty in imagining his opinion. Another entertaining parody of "Changes" was the "Natural Selection" song performed by Matthew Baynton in the guise of Charles Darwin for a 2012 episode of Horrible Histories. Three years later, "Changes" was radically rearranged by Bowie and his musical director Henry Hey for inclusion in Lazarus.
CHANT OF THE EVER CIRCLING SKELETAL FAMILY
Album: Diamond Dogs
Live: David Live
Diamond Dogs reaches its apocalyptic climax with Bowie's variation on the "Two Minutes Hate" of Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the death-throes of "Big Brother" melt into a hypnotic guitar loop in a repeating six-bar pattern alternating between 5/4 and 6/4 time, backed by sinister swishing maracas and a relentless chant that culminates in a stuck-needle effect as the first syllable of "brother" repeats over and over until it echoes into silence. "That was an accident," explained Bowie many years later. "I wanted to have the machine say "Brother", but it got stuck and kept repeating "Bro-" which sounded much better!" The effect is, of course, indebted to the end of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, but here the tone is nightmarish rather than playful; it's difficult to imagine a darker conclusion to this bleakest of albums. In giving such a stark piece of music an almost absurdly melodramatic title, Bowie deftly sketches in the final image of an emaciated tribe dancing around a fire in some post-holocaust wasteland.
The song was recreated on stage during the Diamond Dogs tour, augmented by a skittering saxophone solo from David Sanborn, and appears at the end of "Big Brother" on David Live despite being uncredited on the track-listing. The backing-tape providing the stuck-needle effect on stage was unreliable, as witnessed in Cracked Actor when it makes an unscheduled reappearance during "Time". The song returned on the Glass Spider tour.
One of the unlikeliest Bowie tracks ever to have been covered by another artist, "Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family" was recorded by The Wedding Present as the B-side of "Loveslave", the September release in their one-single-a-month gimmick of 1992.
CHER MEDLEY see YOUNG AMERICANS
This is the least engaging of Bowie's Labyrinth songs, but sparing his blushes is the fact that he doesn't actually sing lead vocals. In the film, "Chilly Down" is performed by The Fire Gang, five ultra-hip, jive-talking Muppet creations who enjoy dismantling their bodies to play football with their own heads and limbs, but fail to understand that young Sarah can't do the same. It's every bit as daft as it sounds and is probably the movie's weakest sequence. The song, which revisits the Gospel styling of "Underground", is within a whisker of being a grotesque retread of Iggy Pop's "Success". Lead vocals are by voice artists Charles Augins, Richard Bodkin, Keven Clash (best known as the voice of Elmo in Sesame Street) and Danny John-Jules (later to find fame as Red Dwarf's Cat). The 1986 documentary Into The Labyrinth features footage of the puppeteers rehearsing to a different mix of the song, in which Bowie's backing vocals are more prominent. Both the song and the creatures were originally called "The Wild Things", a nod to Maurice Sendak's classic children's book Where The Wild Things Are, but copyright considerations prompted a rethink. In 2016 a previously unknown version, dating from before the change and thus featuring "The Wild Things" instead of "The Fire Gang" throughout the lyric, was leaked online. Its most striking feature is that the lead vocal is sung by David, suggesting that this was a guide demo for the soundtrack singers. It's worth a listen; he improves the song immeasurably.
CHIM CHIM CHEREE (R M Sherman/R B Sherman)
A popular number in Bowie's live repertoire with The Lower Third in late 1965 was the Sherman brothers' Oscar-winning song "Chim Chim Cheree" from the previous year's Walt Disney movie Mary Poppins; the band's adoption of the number was perhaps prompted by John Coltrane's version included on The John Coltrane Quartet Plays, released that August. The song was among those played by The Lower Third at their unsuccessful BBC audition on November 2nd. "A cockney type, but not outstanding," was one of the comments recorded by the talent selection group, which makes one wonder what they thought of Dick Van Dyke. "The treatment of "Chim Chim Cheree" kills the song completely," the report continued. "Instead of being bright and gay, the song becomes a sad ballad, contrary to the lyric." The BBC audition was recorded (the talent selection group didn't listen to it until November 16th), and some of The Lower Third's Saturday concerts at the Marquee were broadcast live by the pirate station Radio London, so it's just possible that tapes might exist. If so, they'd blow "The Laughing Gnome" out of the water.
CHINA GIRL (Pop/Bowie)
Album: Let's Dance
A-Side: May 1983
Live: Glass Spider/VH1 Storytellers/A Reality Tour
Compilation: Club Bowie
Download: February 2006
Video: Video EP/The Video Collection/Best Of Bowie
Live Video: Serious Moonlight/Ricochet (Extended Version)/Glass Spider/VH1 Storytellers
Originally produced and co-written by Bowie for Iggy Pop's The Idiot, "China Girl" would go on to become a huge international hit for David when re-recorded for Let's Dance six years later. During the making of The Idiot the track was initially referred to as "Borderline", until Iggy's lyric emerged from the aftermath of his brief but passionate fling with Kuelan Nguyen, the girlfriend of the French actor-singer Jazcques Higelin, who visited the Chateau d'Hérouville during the sessions. Iggy's original recording, a flop single in May 1977, later appeared on David Bowie Songbook. It's markedly tougher and less poppy than Bowie's version, and Iggy's angrily growling vocal makes better sense of the lyric's forebodings about cultural imperialism and despoliation. "My little China Girl, you shouldn't mess with me, I'll ruin everything you are," Iggy warns, before raising the old 1976 Bowie/Pop chestnut of Nazi delusion: "I stumble into town just like a sacred cow, visions of swastikas in my head, plans for everyone..."
All these elements are there in Bowie's Let's Dance version, but the addition of an Asian guitar motif and cute backing vocals (the original has none of that "oh-oh-oh-oh, little China girl" stuff) softens the sinister side. It was Nile Rodgers who devised the guitar riff, and he told David Buckley that playing it to Bowie was "the most nervous moment I had in my entire career...I thought I was putting some bubblegum over some great artistic heavy record. I was terrified. I thought he was going to tell me that I'd blasphemed, that I didn't get the record and that I didn't get him, and that I'd be fired. But it was exactly the opposite. He said it was great!" It's a testament to Rodger's judgement, and to the sheer melodrama of Bowie's bellowing vocal, that the Let's Dance version remains a tremendously effective slice of hardcore pop, delivered with gusto and forming a cornerstone for the album's underlying themes of cultural identity and desperate love.
The lengthy album cut was edited for release as the second Let's Dance single, peaking at number 2 in June 1983 while The Police held the top spot with "Every Breath You Take". In America it made number 10. The great talking point of "China Girl" was David Mallet's MTV-award-winning video, shot back-to-back with the "Let's Dance" clip in Australia in February, and featuring a New Zealand actress called Geeling Ng, who was working as a waitress when she was chosen as David's co-star. "She was a lovely girl," Bowie said later. "I went out with her for a while. After that shoot she became a girlfriend of mine." Of the video itself, he explained that it was "a vignette of my continuing fascination with all things Asian. One thing that I'd been surprised by when I was in Australia was the large Chinese population...so I based this whole piece of work around that particular community."
The video plays up the theme of clashing cultural perspectives, juxtaposing the couple's playful frolics with a sequence in which Geeling Ng is transformed into a Westerner's vision of an exotic Chinese goddess, while the animated flashes of barbed wire that frame the shots press home the totalitarian undertones. But at the time, any such subtleties were overshadowed by the closing sequence in which David and Geeling recreated From Here To Eternity's famous Burt Lancaster/Deborak Kerr beach scene, only this time without recourse to bathing suits. Predictably, the press foamed at the mouth with excitement (one tabloid weighed in with the classic headline "MY ROMP WITH NAKED BOWIE IN SURF"). Top Of The Pops initially banned the video, and subsequently played an expurgated version that kept everything in wide-shot and clumsily inserted slow-motion edits to spare us the sight of David's enviably well-toned bottom. Irritatingly, it was this bowdlerised cut that later appeared on Best Of Bowie.
"Can I point out, contrary to popular belief, David and I did not have sex on the beach!" Geeling Ng told Q magazine in 2009. "It was shot at 5.00am, the water was freezing and wasn't a great lubricant, and we were being watched by a film crew and joggers passing by. Not very romantic." Another moment of unexpected intimacy occurred in the bedroom sequence: "There's a scene where I sit up suddenly, as if woken from a dream, and David leaps on top of me," Geeling Ng told The Guardian in 2013, "and I sat up and gave him a full Liverpool kiss in the face. 'Oh my God, I've just killed David Bowie!' But he laughed and said, 'I've got a hard head'." She also recalled that "David was unfailingly polite, charming and a gentleman...After the shoot, I got a call: 'Do you want to come to Europe with me?' I became a bit of a groupie for two weeks. I knew it was a passing phase. I was 23, we lived in different worlds, but he gave me an experience that I'll never forget."
Long before recording his own version, Bowie had played keyboards on "China Girl" during Iggy Pop's 1977 tour: live recordings can be found on various Iggy releases. Bowie latterly included the song in many of his own live sets, performing it on the Serious Moonlight, Glass Spider and Sound + Vision tours, an audio mix of the Serious Moonlight recording later appearing as a download to promote the concert's DVD release in 2006. A semi-acoustic version featured in Bowie's Bridge School benefit set on October 20th 1996. The following year he was taken to task by the host of The Rosie O'Donnell Show because he never played the number any more; he responded with an impromptu acoustic rendition, suitably re-titled "Rosie Girl". The song returned to the live repertoire in the 'hours...', 2000, Heathen and A Reality tours, with Mike Garson occasionally adding a sentimental cabaret-style opening which gave way to a bass-heavy version more reminiscent of Iggy Pop's original. A live version recorded on August 23rd 1999 appears on VH1 Storytellers, while 2010's A Reality Tour CD includes a recording which was omitted from the DVD release of the same name.
In 1998, Bowie's original version appeared in the soundtrack of The Wedding Singer, while an uncredited cover version provided the backing in trailers for the same year's animated Disney feature Mulan. Notable cover artists include Nick Cave's early band Boys Next Door, who added the song to their live act as early as 1978, while a live version by James was included on the 1998 reissue of their anthemic hit "Sit Down".
In 2003 a radical Far Eastern reworking of Bowie's original appeared in the form of "China Girl (Club Mix)", which overlaid Chinese instrumentation including the plaintive ehru, a two-stringed bowed instrument. The track accompanied the more widely heard "Let's Dance (Club Bolly Mix)", later appearing on Club Bowie and the 2003 reissue of Best Of Bowie; for further information on the Asian remixes, see "Let's Dance".
Compilation: Love You Till Tuesday/The Deram Anthology 1966-1968/
Album: David Bowie : Deluxe Edition (2010)
Video: Love You Till Tuesday
The whimsical acoustic piece, the closest Bowie ever came to Marc Bolan's elves-and-unicorns phase, was a staple in the 1968 Turquoise/Feathers repertoire. Although it would rapidly be consigned to history, the play-out riff was to come in handy a couple of years later when Bowie recycled it to greater effect on "Saviour Machine".
Initially mooted as a single, the studio version was recorded on October 24th 1968 with Tony Visconti in the producer's chair. Financed by Essex Music in the aftermath of Bowie's split from Decca, the session marked David's first recording at Trident Studios in Wardour Street, later the birthplace of Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust among others. Trident's reputation as a state-of-the-art venue was growing rapidly; the previous July it had become the first studio in London to boast eight-track recording, and its reputation as the venue for The Beatles' recent number 1 "Hey Jude" was a badge it wore with pride.
The full-length "Ching-A-Ling" featured three verses sung in turn by Bowie, Hermione Farthingale and Tony Hill, but following the latter's departure from the group soon after the studio sessions, a replacement vocal was overdubbed on November 27th by his successor John Hutchinson. Hutch did not enjoy the experience: "Visconti wanted me to sing much higher, in a way I wasn't used to," he recalled. "I found him very awkward and didn't get on with him very well." For many years the original version featuring Tony Hill was believed lost, until a reel tape and acetate of "Ching-A-Ling" and its proposed B-side, "Back To Where You've Never Been", were discovered in the archives of Onward Music.
The proposed single was initially to be credited to Turquoise, although a second acetate dated November 27th 1968 sees the name crossed out and replaced by a handwritten "Feathers". In the end nothing came of the plans for a single, but an edited version of the recording, excising Bowie's opening verse (and thus sadly removing the reference to "the doo-dah horn"), was used for the 1969 film Love You Till Tuesday. It was this truncated edit which later appeared on the Love You Till Tuesday LP and on The Deram Anthology 1966-1968. For many years the full-length version was available only on the 1992 CD of the Love You Till Tuesday soundtrack, until a previously unreleased stereo mix was included in all its full-length glory on 2010's David Bowie: Deluxe Edition.
"Ching-A-Ling" was not a great favourite with Hermione Farthingale. "David was trying to find a nonsense song that you could build up sound with, like Marc Bolan's. You know, there are numerous ditties of Marc Bolan's which really have very little content, but there's this build-up of the sound. If it carried on building up you might have something but it didn't work and it was a rubbish song. Everybody knew it. But for some reason Tony Visconti liked it, so it got recorded." As Hermione indicated, the excision of Bowie's first verse made a further nonsense of an already nonsensical number, given that the whole idea was the accumulation of the three chorus lines: David's "doo-dah-doo" joining Hermione's "ching-a-ling" and finally Hutch's "na-na-na". "It was just garbage," laughed Hermione. "It's so misrepresentative of what we were actually up to. And that's what's left! My children and my nieces and nephews can see this video, and I cringe!"
The video in question, featuring the three singers cross-legged on cushions strumming at their guitars, was shot at Clarence Studios on February 1st 1969 for Love You Till Tuesday. After Hermione's separation from David he and Hutch recorded a further, rather ponderous 3'02" acoustic demo around April 1969. "This is a duo version," David explains apologetically on the tape, before digressing to reveal that Hermione has departed for America. An extract from an earlier and equally galumphing demo, pre-dating the Trident session and featuring the original Turquoise line-up of David, Hermione and Tony Hill, was posted on the website of Onward Music/Fly Records in 2006.
In May 1973 "Ching-A-Ling" became the subject of a copyright dispute with Essex Music (see "April's Tooth Of Gold").
The working title of an unfinished track begun during sessions for The Next Day.
CIGARETTE LIGHTER LOVE SONG (Walker/Bowie) see ALL THE YOUNG DUDES
THE CIRCLING SPONGE
In her book Psychedelic Suburbia, Mary Finnigan recalls that this was the title of a song that David began writing at Foxgrove Road in 1969 to entertain her young son Richard.
COBBLED STREETS AND BAGGY TROUSERS
This elusive Bowie composition was apparently offered in November 1966 to Love Affair, stablemates of David on his new label Decca. Love Affair, who would enjoy a number 1 hit with "Everlasting Love" a little over a year later, are understood to have rehearsed the number before deciding against recording it.
COLOUR ME (Ronson/Morris)
Together with Def Leppard's Joe Elliott, Bowie provides backing vocals for this track on Mick Ronson's posthumously released Heaven And Hull.
Video: The Looking Glass Murders (included on the Love You Till Tuesday DVD)
Written and performed by David for Lindsay Kemp's 1970 TV production The Looking Glass Murders, "Columbine" recycles elements of a more familiar number from the previous year's Space Oddity album: both the acoustic guitar intro and lyrical tag of "I see you see me" had already been heard in "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed". Like its companion pieces "Threepenny Pierrot" and "The Mirror", the song concerns the eternal triangle of the commedia dell'arte figures of Harlequin, Pierrot and Columbine.
COME AND BUY MY TOYS
Album: David Bowie
Of a piece with "There Is A Happy Land", this Blakeian evocation of innocence taps into the nostalgia for an illusory Edwardian childhood that was an essential ingredient in the British psychedelia scene. To the accompaniment of a folksy twelve-string guitar played by John Renbourn (later of Pentangle, whose drummer Terry Cox would play on the Space Oddity album), Bowie paints a bucolic idyll of "smiling girls and rosy boys" with "golden hair and mud of many acres on their shoes", whose carefree years will soon be over: "you shall work your father's land, but now you shall play in the market square till you be a man." This, incidentally, is the first of several market squares that crop up in Bowie's lyrics: he would revisit the same location in "Five Years" and "It's Gonna Rain Again".
David was evidently inspired by a traditional nursery rhyme whose opening lines are identical to those of the song, while a sentimental poem entitled "A Toyman's Address", published in 1816, offers the alternative opening stanza: "Smiling girls, rosy boys, / Here, come buy my little toys, / Mighty men of gingerbread / Crowd my stall, with faces red." The subsequent references to "a cambric shirt", "a ram's horn", "parsley" and "peppercorn" derive from another nursery rhyme, variously known as "Can You Make Me A Cambric Shirt?" and, in its better-known variant, "Scarborough Fair" (whose second verse begins: "Tell her to make me a cambric shirt / Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme"). Simon and Garfunkel's famous recording of "Scarborough Fair" first appeared on their album Parsley Sage Rosemary And Thyme in October 1966, just a couple of months before "Come And Buy My Toys" was recorded; and David was certainly aware of an earlier version by Marianne Faithfull which appeared on her April 1966 album North Country Maid, engineered by Gus Dudgeon and released by Decca. A copy of that album, intriguingly autographed the same year by David and members of The Buzz, exists in a private collection.
Also worth noting is that, consciously or otherwise, Bowie's lyric misappropriates the sense of the original nursery rhyme. In the "Cambric Shirt" / "Scarborough Fair" poem, a boy and girl set each other a series of lovers' tasks which range from the Herculean to the downright impossible: ploughing the land with a ram's horn, furrowing it with a bramble thorn, sowing an acre of land with a single peppercorn, making a cambric shirt without using any seams or needlework, and so on. Charmingly, Bowie's lyric ignores the impossibility of the various challenges and appears to present them at face value.
The song was offered without success to Judy Collins and to Peter, Paul and Mary, already legendary for their version of "Blowing In The Wind". Bowie's version was recorded on December 12th 1966, and a year later the song was among those he performed on stage during Lindsay Kemp's mime production Pierrot In Turquoise.
COME BACK MY BABY see IT'S GONNA BE ME
COME SEE ABOUT ME (Holland/Dozier/Holland)
The Supremes' 1965 hit was played live by The Buzz in 1966.
COMFORTABLY NUMB (Gilmour/Waters)
Promo: September 2007
Live Video: Remember That Night (David Gilmour)
At the Royal Albert Hall on May 29th 2006 Bowie duetted with David Gilmour on an encore of the Pink Floyd classic, originally from their 1979 album The Wall. Re-popularised in 2004 by the Scissor Sisters' unlikely cover version, "Comfortably Numb" echoes the mood of depressive withdrawal found in many of Bowie's own compositions of the late 1970s, and sure enough the two Davids were splendidly matched, Bowie singing the verses before melting into the shadows as Gilmour embarked on the song's famous guitar solo. The performance was later released on Gilmour's 2007 DVD Remember That Night, and was also included on promo CDs in Europe and America.
COMME D'HABITUDE (Francois/Thibault/Revaux) see EVEN A FOOL LEARNS TO LOVE
In 1995 Bowie licenced a piece of music for use in a Kodak Advantix television commercial screened in various countries the following year. A brief, wordless excerpt of synth, vocals, drums and guitar, the track's provenance is unclear, although some evidence points to the possibility of its being a reworked version of an unreleased piece from the Lodger sessions. Although also referred to as "Kodak", it appears that "Commercial" is the track's thrilling official title.
COMPANIES OF COCAINE NIGHTS see MADMAN
B-Side: March 1970
Bonus: Space Oddity/Heathen/Heathen (SACD)/Space Oddity (2009)/Re:Call 1
This overlooked and melancholy 1969 number features a lovely melody and an emotive lyric addressing familiar Bowie topics of alienation and social exclusion. The self-portrait of a misunderstood and unappreciated young writer struggling to achieve something worthwhile from his London bedsit ("I'm invisible and dumb, and no-one will recall me") acutely matches the image, suggested by many contemporary accounts, of David himself on the eve of his first success. But "Conversation Piece" did not spring fully-formed from David's brow: it echoes the bruised emotional landscape of Simon and Garfunkel's "I Am A Rock", and it owes a clear debt to a track on Biff Rose's 1968 album The Thorn In Mrs Rose's Side, in which Rose tales a similarly self-absorbed walk into town - the song is called "What's Gnawing At Me", a line poached by Bowie's lyric.
An early demo, difficult to date, opens with a strummed intro identical to that of "Starman", and finds David correcting himself at the end of the first chorus after singing "the rain in my hair" instead of "the rain in my eyes". A second acoustic demo, recorded with John Hutchinson around April 1969, is introduced on the tape by Bowie as "a new one". This, together with a fumbled start and an apologetic closing mutter of "A bit rough, but there you are," certainly suggests that the composition is recent. The finished studio cut, recorded at Trident during the Space Oddity album sessions, was later released as the B-side of the 1970 single "The Prettiest Star". Kenneth Pitt considered "Conversation Piece" "one of David's most underrated and little-known compositions", citing the line "my essays lying scattered on the floor fulfil their needs just by being there" as a perfect evocation of "the atmosphere of his room at [my] flat and perhaps every room he has lived and worked in."
The delayed release of "Conversation Piece" has led to erroneous conclusions that it might hail from a later session, but its unmistakable Tim Renwick guitar line places it firmly with the Space Oddity recordings, and it is only the subsequent pairing with "The Prettiest Star" that gave rise to the false rumour that Marc Bolan plays guitar on the track. According to producer Tony Visconti, "Conversation Piece" was "meant for inclusion on the album but was dropped at the last minute." Visconti, who also played bass on the recording, recalls that it was cut during the same session as "An Occasional Dream", and that the drummer on both tracks was not Space Oddity's credited percussionist John Cambridge but "a forgotten session drummer - a really old-school Brit jazzer who cracked us up with his army-style count-in." Making its debut on the 2009 reissue of Space Oddity was a stereo mix created by Tris Penna at Chappell Studios in 1987. This mix is free of the slight tape drag heard on the mono version, and also reinstates an opening note which was previously absent.
Tales of a 1972 re-recording are almost certainly untrue, but thirty years later the song was revived during 2000's Toy sessions. This stately recording, taken at a slower pace, sung an octave lower and much benefiting from a sumptuous string arrangement by Tony Visconti, was later included on the bonus disc issued with initial pressings of Heathen - whose liner notes claimed erroneously that it was recorded in 2002. A subtly different mix of the Toy session was leaked online in 2011.
COOL CAT (Mercury/Deacon/Taylor/May)
Recorded alongside "Under Pressure" during the brief Bowie/Queen collaboration in Montreux in July 1981, an early version of "Cool Cat" (subsequently remixed for Queen's Hot Space) features some rudimentary backing vocals from Bowie. Often incorrectly described as a demo, this version is in fact an early mix of the album recording and appeared on some early promo pressings. Bowie is understood to have requested at a later stage that his vocals be removed. A different take, also featuring David, surfaced online in 2013.
The performing rights organisation BMI lists a further three song titles credited to David Bowie and various members of Queen: these are "Ali", "It's Alright" and "Knowledge". Other than their titles, these songs remain a mystery.
COSMIC DANCER (Bolan)
On February 6th 1991 Bowie made a surprise appearance during the encores of a Morrissey concert in Los Angeles to duet on Marc Bolan's "Cosmic Dancer", originally from the 1971 T Rex album Electric Warrior. A clip from this performance appeared on Channel 4's 2003 documentary The Importance Of Being Morrissey.
COUNTRY BUS STOP see BUS STOP
Album: Tin Machine
B-Side: October 1989
Download: May 2007
Live Video: Oy Vey, Baby - Tin Machine Live At The Docks
With a drum figure and guitar riff blatantly borrowed from Jimi Hendrix's reading of The Troggs' classic "Wild Thing", and a lyric of unabashed finger-wagging didacticism, "Crack City" epitomises the Tin Machine paradigm - so direct as to be verging on the crass, but somehow pulling off a touch of visceral excitement all the same. The subject (and hence, clearly, the adoption of the Hendrix setting) is the urban drug apocalypse blighting America and elsewhere, with the newcomer of the late 1980s - crack cocaine - taking centre stage. Fifteen years on from his own descent into the maelstrom, Bowie rages with unmitigated disgust on "Crack City", perhaps the most unambiguous song he ever wrote. He dismisses rock stars who glorify drug abuse as "icon monsters" who are "corrupt with shaky visions," and lays a curse on "the master dealer".
Nobody could doubt the integrity of the intention, but "Crack City" is ill served by its hoary rock 'n' roll pretensions and a ridiculous outburst of swearing ( you can hear David Bowie shouting "piss", "assholes", "buttholes" and "fuckheads" - the cumulative effect is sadly not the desired result of appearing mature and serious). There are leaden attempts at drug-related puns: "They'll bury you in velvet and place you underground," he sings at one point. "This is not a slight on Lou because Lou is clean," Bowie explained to Q at the time. "The sound that one associates with that particular lifestyle is very much personified by the early Velvets. I had hoped that I gave that away in those two lines." But despite its one-dimensional rage, "Crack City" does its work. The evocation of Hendrix and the memory of Bowie's own past make for a powerful enough ride, and it's not as if Bowie was under any illusions that this was a multi-faceted work of art: "I don't wanna go on preaching but I've only heard a couple of anti-drug songs," he told Melody Maker. "Frankly, I don't think many people are writing them, but I've not heard one that's effective because they're all intellectual, they're all literate, and they're written for other writers."
A "Crack City" excerpt was included in Julien Temple's 1989 Tin Machine film, and the song was performed on both of the band's tours. A live version recorded in Paris appeared on extended formats of the "Prisoner Of Love" single and was later reissued as a download, while in 1996 a cover version was released by Spacehog.