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D.J. (Bowie/Eno/Alomar)

  • Album: Lodger

  • A-Side: June 1979

  • Video: The Video Collection/Best Of Bowie

Recorded under the working title "I Bit You Back", and kicking off the cynical snapshots of Western consumerism that occupy side two of Lodger, "D.J." is Bowie's wry investigation of the vicarious celebrity and unreal lifestyle of that rising late-1970s icon, the disc jockey. "This is somewhat cynical but it's my natural response to disco," he said. "The DJ is the one who is having ulcers now, not the executives, because if you do the unthinkable thing of putting a record on in a disco not in time, that's it. If you have thirty seconds' silence, your whole career is over."

     Bowie was not alone in his distaste for the cult of the DJ. In October 1978 Elvis Costello's bitter diatribe "Radio Radio" ("radio is in the hands of such a lot fools trying to anaesthetise the way that you feel") led to all-out war when Tony Blackburn dismissed Costello on air as a "silly man". When Blackburn found himself introducing the song live on the following week's Top Of The Pops, Costello changed the line "such a lot of fools" to "lots of silly men" and pointed at the off-screen presenter. "D.J." is less confrontational but just as dramatic, featuring Bowie in top histrionic form ("You think this is easy, realism?") over a wonderfully queasy synthesizer backing and demented violin from Simon House. Adrian Belew's squalling guitar part is also of note, composited from numerous takes so that, as Belew explains in Strange Fascination, it "goes through a whole mismatch of different guitar sounds almost like you're changing channel on the radio and each channel has a different guitar solo on it."

     "D.J." was a boldly uncommercial choice as the follow-up single to "Boys Keep Swinging". Available initially on limited-edition green vinyl, the edited single only just made the top 30. David Mallet's fine video featured unrehearsed sequences filmed on the Earl's Court Road - Bowie nonchalantly strides along as genuinely surprised passers-by recognise and follow him, and there's a startling moment when he is passionately kissed by a burly man. These naturalistic reflections on celebrity are intercut with scenes of Bowie as a tortured DJ (the initials, of course, are also his own), who smashes up his studio and re-enacts the famous closing scene of David Lean's Great Expectations, ripping down the curtains to let the light come flooding in.

     "D.J." was played live for the first and only time on the 1995 Outside tour, while David's sometime collaborator Lenny Kravitz later included it in his live repertoire. In November 2005 the original track featured in a TV commercial for America's XM Satellite Radio which included Bowie among its all-star cast: Entitled Lost, the commercial involved Snoop Dogg's quest to find his missing necklace, encountering along the way comic actor Ellen DeGeneres, country music singer Martina McBride and baseball superstar Derek Jeter, before the punchline revealed that the necklace had been pilfered by a light-fingered David Bowie, seen at a mixing desk with "D.J." playing in the background.

     In 2009 an unlicensed remix by club producer Benny Benassi was given the all-clear by the Bowie camp, and was released as a download and in a variety of promo formats on the Positiva label.


"I don't think it's the Beach Boys song but one of mine," David wrote in a BowieNet post in 1999, having discovered that a mysterious number called "Dance, Dance, Dance" was in The Buzz's live repertoire in 1966.


DANCING IN THE STREET (Hunter/Stevenson/Gaye)

  • A-Side: August 1985

  • Compilation: Best Of Bowie/Nothing Has Changed

  • Download: May 2007

  • Video: The Video Collection/Best Of Bowie

"There was absolutely nothing premeditated about it," said Bowie of his celebrated duet with his old sparring partner Mick Jagger, which evolved from initial plans for a transatlantic conjuring trick at the Live Aid concert. "We had intended to do a live satellite thing where Mick would sing in New York and I would sing in England," he explained. "Then we found out that the half-second time delay really screwed that up. Technically there was no way around it." Instead it was decided to make a pre-recorded video for exclusive screening at Live Aid. The first choice, Bob Marley's "One Love", was dropped in favour of the 1964 Martha And The Vandellas classic.

     Bowie, who was working on the Absolute Beginners soundtrack at Abbey Road, recruited most of the same personnel for the session, which took place at the end of a recording day in June 1985. Co-producer Alan Winstanley recalls that band rehearsals began only an hour before Mick Jagger's arrival, and that the results were "fuckin' awful" until Jagger appeared - at which point "Suddenly the whole band picked up. We already had a mike set up in the booth next to Bowie. At this point Bowie was singing on his own. Jagger went into the booth, started singing with Bowie, and it was one take." Drummer Neil Conti recalled Jagger "being 'on' the whole time...strutting around and trying to upstage David. It was a huge ego-trip for him." Apparently Bowie was happy with the first takes, but Jagger wanted various instrumental re-dubs.

     Having completed the recording and a rough mix in barely four hours, Bowie and Jagger left with David Mallet to shoot the video in London's docklands. The entire session from studio recording to completion of the video was accomplished in just over twelve hours: "We started work at seven o'clock in the evening, and we finished the record by 11.30," said Bowie. "Then we rushed down to the docks and started work at about a quarter past twelve, and we rolled through to eight o'clock the next morning." The video is testament to the frantic and apparently alcohol-fuelled exuberance of the night's work: Jagger and Bowie send each other up relentlessly. Mick camply imitating David's favourite point-the-arm-and-drop-to-the-floor-manoeuvre.

     Jagger took the master tapes to New York, where overdubs were added by guitarists Earl Slick and G E Smith (the latter had previously appeared in Bowie's "Fashion" video and in 1980's Tonight Show performance), and member's of David's recent horn sections. Full credits for the track are: Kevin Armstrong (guitar); G E Smith (guitar); Earl Slick (guitar); Matthew Seligman (bass); John Regan (bass); Neil Conti (drums); Pedro Ortiz (percussion); Jimmy Maclean (percussion); Mac Gollehon (trumpet); Stan Harrison (saxophone); Lenny Pickett (saxophone); Steve Nieve (keyboards); Helena Springs, Tessa Niles (backing vocals).

     Although "Dancing In The Streets" was originally conceived as a one-off for the big day, plans soon changed. The video (at this point lacking the horn overdubs) was shown twice during Live Aid, the second time as a filler when The Who's reunion was beset with sound problems. The response was overwhelming and there was immediate talk of a Band Aid single release. Sure enough, "Dancing In The Street" was issued at the end of August, entering the chart at number 1 where it remained for four weeks - ironically, it was toppled by Band Aid's co-founder Midge Ure with "If I Was". The single version, later on Best Of Bowie and Nothing Has Changed, is half a minute longer than the original 2'50" video mix. Further remixes appeared on the single formats and were reissued as downloads in 2007. A delightful alternative edit of the video, incorporating behind-the-scenes footage of Mallet's camera crew capturing Bowie's and Jagger's antics, appeared online in 2015; it's so joyous that one almost wishes it had been the official video.

     On June 20th 1986, a year after Live Aid, Bowie and Jagger performed "Dancing In The Street" live at The Prince's Trust Concert at Wembley Arena. David never again reprised the song, although the trumpet intro was later worked into the Glass Spider tour arrangement of "Fashion". The original Bowie/Jagger recording was selected on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Disc by Tim Smit, founder of the Eden Project, in December 2000, by the Nobel Prize winner and Director-General of Science at Cancer Research, Sir Paul Nurse, in February 2002, and by EasyJet boss Carolyn McCall in October 2013. It was among the songs played during the Golden Jubilee fireworks display at Buckingham Palace on June 3rd 2002.


  • Album: The Next Day

More than one reviewer postulated that The Next Day's bounciest number might be a portrait of one of Bowie's contemporaries: one idea was that its subject was David's old dancing partner Mick Jagger. This peculiar theory, presumably fuelled by Tony Visconti's suggestion that "Dancing Out In Space" was "a song about another music artist, possibly a conglomeration of artists", is difficult to reconcile with the lyric. When Bowie subsequently provided a list of words descriptive of The Next Day, he offered up for this song the cryptic trio "funereal", "glide" and "trace", suggesting that initial analysis might be overlooking something.

     The song was tracked on May 4th and 7th 2011, and remained unfinished for over a year, Bowie finally recording his lead vocal on October 8th 2012. Featuring both Gerry Leonard and David Torn on guitar, "Dancing Out In Space" offers a chord structure and soundscape passingly reminiscent of the Heathen track "A Better Future", and yokes them to the old "You Can't Hurry Love" Motown beat that Bowie had famously borrowed for "Lust For Life" back in his Berlin days. Retro eighties synths build into the mix, Bowie's split-octave vocal is light and poppy, and the bass backing vocals are pure tongue-in-cheek corn, while the lyric appears to take a romantic dance-floor liaison and teleport it onto the astral plane. "It's got a Motown beat to it, but the rest of it is completely psychedelic," observed Tony Visconti. "It's got a very floaty vibe." It's only when Bowie lobs in the curveball of namedropping a nineteenth-century Belgian Symbolist that we begin to suspect that "Dancing Out In Space" is not the piece of inconsequential fluff it's pretending to be, and those three cryptic words begin to make sense. "Silent as Georges Rodenbach" sounds like a reference to the author's 1891 poetry collection Le Régne du Silence - but it might also conjure thoughts of Rodenbach's best-known work, the 1892 novel Bruges-la-Morte, in which a grieving widower, tormented by memories of his dead wife, becomes obsessed by a dancer at the Bruges opera who, in his mind at least, looks uncannily like here - and they embark on a disastrous relationship. Suddenly "Dancing Out In Space", whose narrator idolises a female dancer and makes repeated references to ghosts, dancing and death, begins to feel a little more substantial.

     A new English translation of Bruges-la-Morte, with an introduction by Booker prizewinner Alan Hollinghurst, was published in 2005, lending weight to the likelihood that it was among Bowie's reading in the lead-up to the sessions for The Next Day. And there's more: if the above plot summary of Bruges-la-Morte sounds at all familiar, that might be because it is also acknowledged as an inspiration for the 1954 French crime novel D'Entre Les Morts which, in its English translation The Living And The Dead, was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock as his psychological masterpiece Vertigo. Bowie's love of Hitchcock is well documented: among other things, the video of "Jump They Say" bristles with visual quotations from the likes of Vertigo and Rear Window. Indeed, it's not The Next Day's only distant reference to Hitch: the disturbed narrator of "If You Can See Me" has "a fear of rear windows and swinging doors". As usual, even the most seemingly lightweight of Bowie songs has surprises up its sleeve.


  • Album: Tonight

  • B-Side: September 1984

  • Download: May 2007

Tonight's final track offers a taste of things to come on the critically mauled Never Let Me Down. There's a tough bassline and a big, brassy arrangement for trumpets and saxes, while Bowie's vocal (augmented by a very audible Iggy Pop) is refreshingly rough-edged by comparison with the rest of the album. The "Ricochet"-esque lyric of societal meltdown is decent enough, but the lack of any strong melodic hook leaves an impression of overproduced meandering.

     Bowie cited the track as the best example of what he was striving for on Tonight. "There's a particular sound I'm after that I haven't really got yet and I probably won't drop this search until I get it," he said in 1984. "I'll either crack it on the next album or just retire from it. I think I got quite close to it on "Dancing With The Big Boys"...That was quite an adventurous bit of writing in the sense that we didn't look for any standards. I got very musical over the last couple of years; I stayed away from experimentation...but in "Big Boys" Iggy and I just broke away from all that for the one track. That came nearer to the sound I was looking for than anything. I'd like to try maybe one more set of pieces like that." Cue Never Let Me Down.

     "Dancing With The Big Boys" became the B-side of the "Blue Jean" single; two remixes, both employing the irksome stuttering effect that blighted so many extended tracks of the time, appeared on the 12" version and were reissued as downloads in 2007. The song was performed on the Glass Spider tour.



  • A-Side: March 1987

  • Album: Never Let Me Down

  • Download: May 2007

  • Live: Glass Spider (2007 CD/DVD Release)

  • Video: Day-In Day-Out/The Video Collection/Best Of Bowie

  • Live Video: Glass Spider


Everything that's initially promising but ultimately infuriating about Never Let Me Down is encapsulated in its opening track and debut single. Somewhere in there is a concerted attempt to reclaim Bowie's former territory of guitar-based rock'n'roll, but "Day-In Day-Out" suffers badly from over-elaboration: it's a slab of 1980s soft-rock which now sounds incredibly dated by comparison with much of Bowie's earlier work. Echo-laden Robert Palmer-esque power percussion, zapping trumpets and a distressing guitar solo seal its fate.

     What's frustrating is that "Day-In Day-Out" is actually a pretty fine song, announcing Never Let Me Down's serious-minded manifesto with an excoriating portrait of urban deprivation in Reagan's America - David explained that it was an "indictment of an uncaring society". The fragmentary narrative about a young woman drawn into prostitution and drug addiction is leavened by pleasing flashes of Bowie's traditional lyric-sampling habit, something prevalent throughout this album. Opening with a wink to Oscar Wilde ("She was born in a handbag!") he goes on to paraphrase a Beatles classic ("She's got a ticket to nowhere, she's gonna take a train ride..."). The overall impression of liberal rage carries more weight than the ponderous pronouncements later entrusted to Tin Machine.

     Although several previous singles had spawned 12" versions, "Day-In Day-Out" marked Bowie's first major incursion into the brave new world of multi-format releases and endless remixes. The single did middling business in both Britain (number 17) and America (number 21), notwithstanding the short-lived notoriety of Julien Temple's video. The new-look mullet-haired Bowie, resplendent in studded black leathers a good six months before Michael Jackson unveiled a similar and equally "Bad" image, was seen travelling through Los Angeles and its seedy Pacific Grand Hotel, gliding past on conveyor belts and roller-skates while harsh scenes unfolded around him. The task of teaching David to roller-skate fell to choreographer Tony Selznick, who wore a wig to double for Bowie in some shots, in one of which he came a cropper: "My wheels came off," Selznick later recalled. "I was bleeding everywhere, and David helped me clean up. He was so nice, normal." Most of the video's 200 extras were recruited from the city's homeless population and choreographed by members of the City Stage street theatre group. "There's an amazing amount of courage and dignity that they hold," said Bowie. "It's quite numbing that they're treated in such a shabby way - billions are spent on armaments, on getting a few guys back from the Middle East, when just a few dollars would help out so much. But I suppose that's the difference between social care and wanting to be re-elected."

     The resulting video is no classic, but worthy of attention as one of Bowie's most forthright statements: the elaborate climax as armoured police vehicles ram-raid the woman's home is remarkable. The video was censored by several television stations to remove the sequence in which the protagonist is dragged into a car and raped, while a scene showing her baby playing with building-bricks was shot in two different forms - in the proper version, the child spells out the words "Mom", "Food", and "Fuck", a bleak summation of its cycle of dependency, while in the bowdlerised version the bricks spell "Mom", "Look", and "Luck", which rather loses the point. Needless to say the latter version received the most airplay, but even this was banned by the BBC. "I've seen such a lot of banning going on," commented David at the time, "and it's coming up with quite a puritanical face at the moment. I was pissed off because it was for the wrong reasons." He pointed out that the clip for Madonna's number 1 "La Isla Bonita" passed without comment at the same time: "It's a mesmerising video, but basically seems to be about Madonna having an affair with Jesus...That video is being played on Top Of The Pops. Well, I don't understand how she can run her fingers over her pussy and in the next shot be clutching a crucifix, and then you see a shot of Jesus Christ on the street, and a church and an altar, and I don't know what - I find that has something a lot more perverse about it than anything in my video. Mine was very straight-ahead street violence and it was quite obvious. There's nothing titillating about what was happening on that screen. It certainly wasn't done for its sexual overtones, so I think that they have a morality problem at the BBC." Perhaps miffed that this aspect of the "La Isla Bonita" video went completely over the heads of everyone except David Bowie, Madonna would later make the headlines by pursuing the same idea with considerably less subtlety for 1989's "Like A Prayer". Meanwhile, the banning of the "Day-In Day-Out" video prompted its release as a video EP in 1987, while the censored version appears on The Video Collection and Best Of Bowie.

     "Day-In Day-Out" was performed live throughout the Glass Spider tour. To drum up publicity for his first ever Spanish concerts Bowie recorded a Spanish vocal version, variously referred to as "Al Alba" and "Dia Tras Dia", which received a one-off radio transmission in Spain before waiting two decades for its official release alongside the various single mixes as part of EMI's exhaustive series of 1980s downloads in 2007.


This whimsical standard about a childhood disappointment and the loss of innocence, popularised in the 1950s by Eartha Kitt (an occasional if oft-ignored influence throughout Bowie's career - see also "Just An Old Fashioned Girl", "Love You TIll Tuesday" and "Thursday's Child"), was included in David's 1968 cabaret show. A likely influence on Bowie's own Deram-era compositions, the song is incorrectly cited by Kenneth Pitt as "When The Circus Left Town".


  • Album: Reality

  • B-Side: June 2004

  • Download: January 2010

  • Live Video: Reality (Tour Edition DVD)

Among Reality's often oblique lyrics this beautifully melodic track stands as a surprisingly direct and uncomplicated love song, albeit one that maintains the album's prevailing air of weary retrospection and ageing regret. "Days" operates like a sadder, less rose-tinted variation on the famous Kinks song of the same name: where Ray Davies's lyric wistfully celebrates a past relationship, Bowie's nakedly brings to account the narrator's shortcomings and selfishness in a confessional apology for "all the days I owe you". The regret-laden line "All I've done, I've done for me" stands in diametric opposition to the swaggering boast of "Everything I've done, I've done for you" which Bowie had belted out in Labyrinth's self-deluding love song "Within You" seventeen years earlier. "Days" is a modest reversal of such sentiment: rather than a grandstanding imposition, it's a simple and poignant plea for forgiveness, appropriately delivered in the fragile, unadorned vocal style already showcased in "The Loneliest Guy".

     The arrangement and production are as sophisticated as the rest of Reality, but the chosen style is deliberately simple: a faux-naif arrangement of low-tech synthesizers and twanging guitars against a jogging beat, which conspire to give "Days" a charming retro ambience, recalling the early 1980s style of Soft Cell or Depeche Mode. Like the rest of the album, "Days" was performed throughout A Reality Tour, and a version recorded in Dublin on November 23rd 2003 was released as a download-only bonus track to accompany 2010's A Reality Tour album. In 2004 the studio version was included on the European 12" picture disc of "Rebel Never Gets Old".


  • Album: The Buddha Of Suburbia

  • B-Side: November 1993

Most of The Buddha Of Suburbia harks back to various points in the 1970s, and in this case it's the new wave pop that emerged at the end of that decade and went on to define the next. With a buzzing riff, tinny electronic percussion and zaps of space-age synthesizer reminiscent of early XTC, OMD or Depeche Mode, Bowie pays homage to a movement that had owed more than a little to Low in the first place. The track became the B-side of the "Buddha Of Suburbia" single.

DEAD MAN WALKING (Bowie/Gabrels)

  • Album: Earthling

  • A-Side: April 1997

  • Live: Live From 6A/99X Live XIV/WBCN: Naked Too

  • Bonus: Earthling (2004)

  • Video: Best Of Bowie

Just as "Seven Years In Tibet" has no direct connection with the 1997 movie adaptation, so "Dead Man Walking" shares only its title with the 1995 picture that netted an Oscar for Susan Sarandon. In 1982 Bowie had described Sarandon, then co-starring with him in The Hunger, as "pure dynamite", and was widely reported to be dating her during filming; two decades later, on May 5th 2003, David and Iman would be among the guests who gathered at New York's Lincoln Centre to honour Sarandon's career at The Film Society's Gala Tribute. During the Earthling sessions in 1996, "Dead Man Walking" began life as a tribute to the actress. "My initial idea was to write a paean to Susan Sarandon," David explained, "but then I went over to do Neil Young's benefit for The Bridge School, and watching Neil and Crazy Horse working on stage was really special. There's something sage-like about Young, this grand old man of American rock, a pioneer loaded with integrity, and disarmingly charming as a man; and watching him work with these, let's call them older men, there was a sense of grace and dignity about what they were doing, and also an incredible verve and energy. It was very moving..."

     Hence, in the lyric of "Dead Man Walking", "Three old men dancing under the lamplight / Shaking their sex in their bones, and the boys that they were." In common with the rest of Earthling the song is a cut-and-paste of impressionistic moments, but what emerges is the touching testimony of another grand old man of rock who finds himself at fifty ("And I'm gone, now I'm older than movies / Let me dance away, now I'm wiser than dreams"), but still eager to "fly while I'm touching tomorrow." "Dead Man Walking" is a confident, exuberant slice of modern rock, incorporating the programmed spangles of techno acts like Underworld, but based on a riff originally used in 1970's "The Supermen" - a song revived, almost certainly for this reason, on the Earthling tour. Mark Plati recalled that "Dead Man Walking" took five days to mix, working in a progression whereby "It begins completely programmed and by the time it's finished it's completely live."

     The track is probably Earthling's most commercial offering, and it came as no surprise when it followed "Little Wonder" as a single in April 1997. Across the various single formats there were no fewer than six official remixes. The seven-minute "Moby Mix", later included as a bonus track on the 2004 reissue of Earthling, marked the beginning of Bowie's association with the producer/performer Moby, later to achieve global success with his album Play. The video, shot in Toronto in March 1997 by Floria Sigismondi, pushed further into the mutant Eraserhead chic of her "Little Wonder" promo, featuring the same rapidly shifting focus and flailing choreography. Tod Browning-style extras dangle from puppet-strings and pull lumps of raw meat through the Dr. Caligari sets, while a straitjacketed Bowie dances with Gail Ann Dorsey, who is demonically attired with cloven hoofs, horns and tail (a costume designed by David himself). On April 25th the band mimed to the number on Top Of The Pops, Gail resplendent in her demon outfit and David in his Union Jack coat. The single went on to collect a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance.

     "Dead Man Walking" was performed in all its electric glory on the Earthling tour, and also underwent a radical acoustic reworking that became a feature of several television and radio appearances at the time. This version found a particular admirer in guitarist Ben Monder, who would play with Bowie on Blackstar nearly twenty years later: "I started playing it for him," Monder recalled. "He got a kick out of that, me wanting to learn this obscure version of the song." The performance on NBC's Late Night With Conan O'Brien on April 10th 1997 was given an American release on the compilation album Live From 6A, while the version recorded on April 8th for WNNX Atlanta was included on 99X Live XIV, a small-circulation release of the station's session recordings. Boston's WBCN released an album of live performances called WBCN: Naked Too, including yet another version recorded on the very same day. Meanwhile the original studio version appeared on the US soundtrack album of The Saint.


Michael Apted's 1997 documentary Inspirations includes a sequence filmed at Looking Glass Studios during preparations for Bowie's fiftieth birthday concert, in which David and the Earthling band improvise a short piece called "Dead Men Don't Talk (But They Do)". Apted's film examines different aspects of the creative process, and here he concentrates on Bowie assembling a lyric out of cut-ups from the New York Times.

DEATH TRIP (Pop/Williamson)

Mixed by Bowie for Iggy And The Stooges' 1973 album Raw Power.

DEBASER (Francis)

Boston's Pixies were often cited as an influence by Bowie during his Tin Machine period, and the opening track of their 1989 album Doolittle was performed live during the It's My Life tour.



  • Album: Diamond Dogs

  • A-Side: June 1974

  • Live: David Live/Live Nassau Coliseum '76 (included on 2010 Reissue of Station To Station)

  • Compilation: The Best Of Bowie

  • Bonus: Diamond Dogs (2004)/Re:Call 2

Consciously subverting Ziggy Stardust's swansong with an opening yell of "This ain't rock'n'roll - this is genocide!", the title track of Diamond Dogs introduces us to Bowie's new persona. Halloween Jack, "a real cool cat" who "lives on top of Manhattan Chase" in the urban wasteland of the album's dystopian future. From his rooftop hideout Halloween Jack rules the Diamond Dogs, a synthesis of the street-gangs Bowie had found so evocative in the works of writers like Burroughs, Burgess and Dickens: "I had in my mind this kind of half Wild Boys, Nineteen Eighty-Four world," David explained in 1993's The David Bowie Story, "and there were these ragamuffins, but they were a bit more violent than ragamuffins. I guess they staggered through from Clockwork Orange too. They'd taken over this barren city, this city that was falling apart. They'd been able to break into windows of jewellers and things, so they'd dressed themselves up in furs and diamonds, but they had snaggle teeth - really filthy, kind of like violent Oliver Twists. It was a take on, what if those guys had gone malicious? If Fagin's gang had gone absolutely ape-shit?"

     Bowie recalled that the Diamond Dogs' rooftop habitat was drawn in part from a story told to him by his father, who had worked for Dr Barnardo's, about Lord Shaftesbury's account of destitute children living on rooftops in London slums. "That always stayed in my mind as being an extraordinary image, all these kids living on the roofs of London," he explained, "So I had the Diamond Dogs as living on the streets. They were all little Johnny Rottens and Sid Viciouses really. And, in my mind, there was no means of transport, so they were all rolling around on these roller-skates with huge wheels on them, and they squeaked because they hadn't been oiled properly. So there were these gangs of squeaking, roller-skating, vicious hoods, with Bowie knives and furs on, and they were all skinny because they hadn't eaten enough, and they all had funny-coloured hair. In a way it was a precursor to the punk thing."

     The fractured lyric spreads its net wide, drawing in references to the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí (sometime lover of Amanda Lear, one of David's liaisons during the Diamond Dogs sessions), Tarzan (Halloween Jack is imaged as the vine-swinging hero, reaffirming Hunger City as the ultimate urban jungle), and most evocatively film director Tod Browning, the man behind the notorious 1932 exploitation shocker Freaks, in which a cast of genuine circus freaks wreak their revenge on the able-bodied villainess. Banned in several countries and disowned by MGM on grounds of taste, Freaks is a significant reference-point for David's growing interest in all manner of schlock, grotesquerie and gothic controversy - it clearly provides the basis for the Diamond Dogs sleeve artwork.

     The sound of a screaming audience at the beginning of "Diamond Dogs" was mixed in from The Faces' live album Coast To Coast - Overture And Beginners. If you listen carefully, the sample includes Rod Stewart shouting "Hey!" a couple of seconds after the guitar riff begins. This is the origin of the unsubstantiated rumour that Stewart actually plays uncredited somewhere on the album.

     Recording began on January 15th 1974 at Olympic Studios, the surviving paperwork revealing a working title of "Diamond Dawgs". The track provides a notable showcase for Bowie's lead guitar playing which, together with some excellent percussion, delivers a sophisticated and raunchy piece of garage rock. Both the riff and David's yodelling vocals clearly echo the Rolling Stones' "It's Only Rock'n'Roll", which was recorded at around the same time as the Diamond Dogs sessions, and not without input from David himself; two years later, he would occasionally add the line "It's only rock'n'roll but I like it" to the song during the Station To Station tour. Bowie's sax lines echo an earlier Stones number, 1971's "Brown Sugar", and another likely inspiration is The Stooges' 1969 single "I Wanna Be Your Dog", later covered on the Glass Spider tour.

     "Diamond Dogs" proved an unlikely single, limping to number 21 in Britain and failing to chart in America (not that the latter was anything unusual at the time), making it the most disappointing UK performance by a new Bowie single since his breakthrough with "Starman". The Australian single was a radically truncated 2'58" mix which later resurfaced on Re:Call 2. A different 4'37" edit appeared on the 1980 compilation The Best Of Bowie, whose Italian edition had a shorter 3'02" mix; the 4'37" version was included on the 2004 reissue of Diamond Dogs.

     Unsurprisingly the song formed a mainstay of the Diamond Dogs tour, and continued into the Soul and Station To Station shows. It was included in rehearsals for the Sound + Vision tour, the lyrics even appearing in the souvenir brochure, but the song was dropped before the concerts began and didn't appear until the 1996 Summer Festivals tour. In the same year an amusingly conversational cover version ("This ain't rock'n'roll, this is genocide, ladies and gentlemen") was included in the Mike Flowers Pops' "Bowie Medley", found on their CD single "Light My Fire". Duran Duran included a bonus version of "Diamond Dogs" on the Japanese edition of their 1995 covers album Thank You. A radical makeover was recorded by Beck for the soundtrack of Baz Luhrmann's 2001 film Moulin Rouge, making only a fleeting appearance in the film itself (in which the Parisian nightclub dancers are introduced as "the Diamond Dogs"). Beck later performed his version live, while the song returned to Bowie's own repertoire for a handful of dates in the closing weeks of A Reality Tour.


  • B-Side: July 1967

  • Compilation: The Deram Anthology 1966-1968/David Bowie: Deluxe Edition (2010)

Recorded on November 24th 1966 during the David Bowie sessions and originally slated to appear on the album, "Did You Ever Have A Dream" was relegated to B-side status before turning up on various repackages over the years. It's a mystery why this particularly jaunty number was left off an album whose commercial chances it might well have improved - even in America, a Cash Box review of the "Love You Till Tuesday" single made special mention of its "brilliant" B-side. It might be conjectured that the culprit was the undeniably superior "When I Live My Dream", which wasn't recorded until February 1967 and perhaps gave pause for thought about the wisdom of including two numbers with such similar titles.

     Typical of Bowie's Deram period, the lyric is a hymn to "the magic wings of astral flight" that unfetter the imagination in dreams, a playful fantasy juxtaposing wild ambition with suburban drudgery in the outrageous couplet: "It's a very special knowledge that you've got, my friend / You can walk around in New York while you sleep in Penge". The vaudeville banjo was provided by session player Big Jim Sullivan, while Derek Boyes's spiky bar-room piano includes a faint but unmistakable figure later repeated in Roy Bittan's play-out on "Station To Station".

     Bowie performed "Did You Ever Have A Dream" on the German TV show 4-3-2-1 Musik Fur Junge Leute in February 1968. The original version was included on 2010's David Bowie: Deluxe Edition, both in mono and in a previously unreleased stereo mix.

DIRT (The Stooges)

A Stooges number performed during the 1977 Iggy Pop tour with Bowie on keyboards. Live versions featuring Bowie can be heard on various Iggy releases.


Lou Reed's blistering exposé of urban degradation, originally from his 1989 album New York, was the only unfamiliar number to feature at Bowie's fiftieth birthday concert on January 9th 1997. David shared lead vocals with Lou for the song, considered by many to be one of Reed's finest; and it's one which chimes well with the sentiments more figuratively expressed in Bowie's "I'm Afraid Of Americans".


  • Album: The Next Day

After the furious opening salvo of the title track, The Next Day applies the brakes to slip into the dissolute world of "Dirty Boys", slow of tempo and brimming with gum-chewing attitude as Steve Elson's woozy baritone sax alternates with Earl Slick's scuzzy guitar over a ragged, lolloping beat, and Bowie turns in a stylised, almost Brechtian vocal. Tony Visconti considered the track "really dark and sleazy. Nobody does dark like Bowie." For his part, David offered up the three-word summary "violence", "chthonic" and "intimidation".

     The backing track was recorded on September 17th 2011, with Elson's and Slick's overdubs added the following year: Elson recalled Bowie telling him, "Don't even think about what key we're in," while Slick remarked, "If you're going to have a title like that, I have to be on it." Tony Visconti rightly praised Elson's "fantastic" saxophone solo: "He's a little guy, and he's got a huge baritone sax," Visconti told Rolling Stone, "and he plays this dirty solo in it that sounds like stripper music from the 1950s" Bowie recorded his lead vocal on May 8th 2012, a couple of months before Slick added his guitar part.

     Like a demonic descendant of some of Bowie's teenage songwriting. "Dirty Boys" spies on a delinquent street gang, as if relocating "The London Boys" in the dystopian future of Diamond Dogs or A Clockwork Orange. We drop into a setting that is "Something like Tobacco Road": it's uncertain whether Bowie has in mind the grimly melodramatic 1932 Erskine Caldwell novel set amid the privations of rural Georgia during the Great Depression, or its 1941 John Ford film adaptation, or the 1960 John Loudermilk song made famous by the Nashville Teens' cover version, a transatlantic hit in 1964. Of course, it wouldn't be at all surprising if he were thinking of all of them. Whatever the case, like some gangland Mr Big, Bowie loftily pledges that "I will pull you out of there / We will go to Finchley Fair", reviving that old penchant for infusing his lyrics with a flavour of Edwardian nursery rhyme. Held annually in London's Victoria Park since 1905, Finchley Fair offers a Brighton Rock-style playground where the gang can "steal a cricket bat, smash some windows, make a noise". On an album full of flashbacks, there are further echoes of "The London Boys" and its peer-pressure etiquette ("To let yourself down would be a big disgrace" here evolves into "You've got to learn to hold your tongue"), and also of an obscure 'hours...' B-side ("Me and the boys we all go through"): but perhaps the strongest echo is of "Tiny Girls" from Iggy Pop's The Idiot, which features very similar clipped rhythm guitar and saxophone, and whose title offers an obvious mirror. "Dirty Boys" was later performed in Bowie's musical Lazarus.

DIRTY OLD MAN (Sanders/Kupferberg)

The Fugs' 1966 number was played live by The Riot Squad.

THE DIRTY SONG (Brecht/Muldowney)

  • B-Side: February 1982

  • Download: January 2007

The last track on the Baal EP is a short, crude number in which Baal humiliates his lover Sophie on stage in a seedy cabaret. In the BBC version Bowie performed the song practically unaccompanied and drowned out by the jeering of the crowd; on the subsequent studio recording it is given a full German pit orchestra arrangement.


  • A-Side: April 1966

  • Compilation: Early On (1964-1966)/I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles

On February 22nd 1966 David and his new backing group The Buzz demoed his latest composition "Do Anything You Say" at Regent Sound Studios. At Pye on March 7th they recorded the finished track with producer Tony Hatch. Released on April 1st, it has the distinction of being the first record to be credited simply to "David Bowie". Sadly this is about all that distinguishes this unimaginative R&B jilted-love song, which betrays little promise by comparison with some of Bowie's other 1966 material. The call-and-response harmonies are blatantly nicked from The Who's 1965 hit "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", while the opening line ("Two by two they go walking by, hand in hand they watch me cry") would be echoed by David's later composition "Conversation Piece".

     The day after the single's release, Melody Maker printed the reaction of its guest reviewer Dusty Springfield, who was invited to comment on a selection of new singles. Upon reaching "Do Anything You Say", she said: "I haven't got a clue who this is either, but I can see the effort that has gone into this record. It's nice. The sound is a bit messy".

     The 1999 reissue package I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles (re-released in 2015 as 1966), features a different mix with identical vocals but less prominent piano. The track was performed live by The Buzz during 1966, but "Do Anything You Say" failed to perform any better than David's previous singles. Change, however, was in the air: two weeks after its release he met his future manager Kenneth Pitt, whose belief and investment would prove instrumental in helping the young singer take his next step forward.


In the Mirabelle diary dated December 21st 1974, "David" reveals that he has just recorded a demo for his friend Bette Midler, a supporter of his American career in the mid-1970s. "Can you believe it?" goggles the diary. "Me getting into the field of disco music! Well, anyway, I've done the demo and I've named it "Do The Ruby"! I'm counting on "The Ruby" to sweep all over the world as soon as Bette and I figure out what all the steps that go with it will be! Bette wants to record "Do The Ruby" and put it on one of her albums, too!" Presumably Mirabelle ghostwriter Cherry Vanilla hadn't bothered going to any of her employer's recent gigs if she was that amazed by the concept of Bowie getting involved in disco music, but it seems likely that there is some basis to the story. Even so, "Do The Ruby" was never heard of again.


  • Live Video: Live Aid

  • B-Side: November 2004

Famed as the fastest-selling single in British history (at least until a certain Elton John recording in 1997), Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" was recorded in London on November 25th 1984 as a reaction to the BBC's coverage of the Ethiopian famine. Bob Geldof rallied many of the hottest chart acts of the day, but among those unable to make the recording was Bowie, who was originally invited to sing the opening line. Instead, along with other unavailable artists like Paul McCartney and Holly Johnson, he recorded a spoken message for the instrumental B-side "Feed The World". His message ran: "This is David Bowie. It's Christmas 1984, and there are more starving folk on the planet than ever before. Please give a thought for them this season and do whatever you can, however small, to help them live. Have a peaceful New Year."

     At Live Aid the following year, David was able to take a more active involvement in the number. "I think you know the next song," deadpanned Bob Geldof to a deafening cheer as the Wembley stage filled with famous faces for the final encore. "It might be a bit of a cock-up, but if you're going to cock it up you may as well do it with two billion people watching you. So let's cock it up together." Bowie obliged with a slightly but forgivably fluff rendering of the opening line, before passing his microphone to George Michael and dancing his way through the rest of the number. The Live Aid performance was released as the B-side of the "Band Aid 20" version of "Do They Know It's Christmas?" that topped the UK chart in December 2004.


  • Compilation: Sound + Vision

  • Bonus: Diamond Dogs/Diamond Dogs (2004)

Originally entitled "You Didn't Hear It From Me", "Dodo" was composed and demoed in September 1973 for David's planned adaptation of Nineteen Eighty-Four. The jaunty melody is undercut by a darkly paranoid lyric in which, as per the fate of Winston Smith's neighbour Tom Parsons in Orwell's novel, brainwashed children inform on their parents in a totalitarian state: "Can you wipe your nose, my child, without them slotting in your file a photograph? / Will you sleep in fear tonight, wake to find the scorching light of neighbour Jim who's coming to turn you in?"

     The only official airing of "Dodo" came as part of a live medley with an embryonic version of "1984" in The 1980 Floor Show, recorded at the Marquee in October 1973. A more elaborate studio version of the medley was cut the same month at Trident, and this recording, eventually released on Sound + Vision and later on 2004's Diamond Dogs reissue, is by far the best extant version of the song.

     During the Diamond Dogs sessions at Olympic Studios, Bowie revamped "Dodo" with the intention of releasing it as a duet with Lulu. The bonus version included on the 1990 and 2004 reissues of Diamond Dogs is the subject of some dispute: it is either a guide vocal for Lulu (which would explain why Bowie's singing is rather lacklustre), or else it's the actual duet version with Lulu's contribution removed by Rykodisc. A longer 4'31" version featuring both David and Lulu has appeared on bootlegs, and despite some differences in the backing mix, Bowie's vocal is the same one that appears on the Diamond Dogs bonus track. Lulu's performance is also fairly non-committal, suggesting that this is another try-out rather than a finished track. Whatever the story, "Dodo" was destined to go no further.


  • Album: Blackstar

The only song on Blackstar that had no pre-recorded demo, "Dollar Days" was born on its feet during the second block of sessions on February 6th 2015. "One day, David just picked up a guitar," saxophonist Donny McCaslin told Rolling Stone. "He had this little idea, and we learned it right there in the studio. I didn't even remember it until months later when someone told me it was on the album." James Murphy, who played percussion on a couple of Blackstar's other tracks, was also present during the recording of "Dollar Days". "He really helped me craft the tom groove that appears in the verses," percussionist Mark Guiliana revealed. "He's a great drummer himself." According to bassist Tim Lefebvre, "We had to put on our pop hats and try to figure out that song. To me, it's pretty stunning how it came out."

     Tony Visconti described "Dollar Days" as "the lush track on the album", and lush it certainly is. Opening with the sound of fingers riffling through a wad of dollar bills, then taking flight on a dreamy intro of keyboard, bass and saxophone before swelling into a sumptuous production number awash with strings and backing vocals. "Dollar Days" pulls off the old "Life On Mars?" trick of managing to be both epic and intimate. Donny McCaslin plays another of his transcendently lovely sax solos, and Ben Monder underpins his electric guitar with a gentle acoustic strum that harkens back to the twelve-string parts so often played by Bowie himself on his early recordings. At the heart of it all is David's majestic vocal, recorded on April 27th 2015: a masterful performance of a lyric which, even by the standards of this album, trembles with fragile melancholy. As ever, autobiographical readings are to be treated with caution, but there can be no reasonable doubt that the narrator of this song is a man who knows that his days are numbered, and who is quietly coming to terms with the fact: "If I never see the English evergreens I'm running to, it's nothing to me, it's nothing to see" he sighs, that reiterated plea of "it's nothing to me" ringing through the song as though he's trying to convince himself that it's true. Another refrain, "I'm trying to, I'm dying to," requires us only to hear that last word as "too" for it to become the blackest of puns.

     There are other, more nebulous images buried in the lyric: while "oligarchs with foaming mouths phone now and then", Bowie is "dying to push their backs against the grain and fool them all again and again". Tempting though it might be to interpret these troublesome oligarchs over-literally (the intruding media? Importunate fans? Dollar-hungry record company executives?), their role is surely more figurative, like those "midwives to history" in "Teenage Wildlife" who, David once said, were "the ones who would not have you be fulfilled". Pursued by his old adversary, time, Bowie is once again confronting the inevitable: there is one tyrant that none of us can fool forever.


  • Album: Pin Ups


The second of two numbers on Pin Ups originally recorded by The Pretty Things, "Don't Bring Me Down" was the group's biggest hit, taking them to number 10 in 1964. Of all the Pin Ups tracks, "Don't Bring Me Down", with its pulsing bass and blues harmonica, represents the most spirited return to the rootsy R&B sound favoured by Bowie during his earliest recordings. Nowhere are his influences more clearly on show than here, and it's no coincidence that The Pretty Things' live repertoire included Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over" and Muddy Waters's "I'm A King Bee", two songs which exerted a similar influence on David: the first as an occasional live number, the second giving its name to one of his early bands.

DON'T LET ME DOWN & DOWN (Tarha/Valmont)

  • Album: Black Tie White Noise

  • Bonus: Black Tie White Noise (2003)


The most obscure of the four covers on Black Tie White Noise was brought to Bowie's attention by his wife Iman, who had heard the original recording by her friend Tarha, a Mauritanian princess, on a visit to Paris in 1992. Tarha composed both the music and the original Arabic lyrics, which had undergone a free English translation by her French producer Martine Valmont. According to a friend of Valmont, "You'd have to hear the original version to comprehend the immense input that Bowie put into the song!"

     "Don't Let Me Down & Down" provides one of the quieter moments on Black Tie White Noise, with breathy backing vocals and shimmering synth flourishes recalling the romantic balladeering of mid-1970s tracks like "Win" and "Can You Hear Me". In common with those numbers, the fragility of Bowie's strangely mannered vocal in the early minutes is blown away when he suddenly lets rip, reminding us what a great singer he really was.

     An edited 2'32" version appeared on a US promo CD in advance of the album. The track was briefly scheduled for release as an American single in 1993 until the bankruptcy of Savage Records put paid to the idea. In Singapore, the Black Tie White Noise CD included an Indonesian vocal version entitled "Jangan Susahkan Hatiku", which later appeared as a bonus track on the 2003 reissue of the album. On May 8th 1993 a mimed performance was filmed at the Hollywood Center Studios for the Black Tie White Noise promotional video, but failed to make the final edit.

DON'T LOOK DOWN (Pop/Williamson)

  • Album: Tonight

  • B-Side: May 1985

  • Download: May 2007


Iggy Pop's passing parade of New York life, originally featured on 1979's New Values, was reworked for Tonight with an unlikely but curiously convincing reggae treatment. After toying with reggae on "Yassassin" a few years earlier Bowie had intimated that he didn't intend trying it again, but changed his mind during the Tonight sessions almost by accident. "I think it was the drum machine," he explained. "I was trying to rearrange "Don't Look Down" and it wouldn't work. I tried it as a march, and then I just hit on an old ska-sounding beat, and it picked up life. Taking energy away from the musical side of things reinforced the lyrics and gave them their own energy. I think working with Derek Bramble really helped a lot, because he played proper reggae bass lines...where Derek can succeed is that he will leave a lot of spaces. He's not scared not to play a note." Bowie would go on to subject Iggy's "Tonight" to a similar reggae styling. "Don't Look Down" boasts the album's other trademarks of tricksy percussion and zappy brass interludes, but both are reined in with admirable restraint.

     An instrumental remix was used as background music in Julien Temple's film Jazzin' For Blue Jean. Further remixes later appeared on single formats of "Loving The Alien", and were reissued as downloads in 2007.


  • Album: Space Oddity


Anticipating the background chat later incorporated into various Hunky Dory tracks, this throwaway piece of studio tomfoolery consists of an unused snippet of the playout from the original backing track of "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed", over which Bowie sings the memorable lyric "Yeah yeah baby yeah" and a couple of "Don't sit downs", before dissolving into laughter. It was removed from the album's re-release in 1972 and remained absent until the Rykodisc reissue.


David sang Bob Dylan's 1963 song (from The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) live in 1969.


During his audition for The Manish Boys on July 19th 1964, David apparently gave an a cappella rendition of this self-penned number, which was soon incorporated into the band's live repertoire.


Paperwork from the Trident sessions for The Man Who Sold The World lists this as a working title for one of the tracks; precisely which one is unknown, but a process of elimination would suggest that it is likely to be either "Black Country Rock", "After All" or the title song.

THE DREAMERS (Bowie/Gabrels)

  • Album: 'hours...'

  • Bonus: 'hours...' (2004)


The final track on 'hours...' is melancholic even by this album's standards, with a Scott Walkeresque lyric conjuring up an ageing, forlorn traveller whose glory days are behind him in a world of "shallow men": "He's always in decline, no-one heals any more...Just a searcher, a lonely soul, the last of the dreamers." Links with the Nomad Soul computer game notwithstanding, this is heart-plucking stuff. Dreams are a constant theme in Bowie's work, while the opening line ("Black-eyed ravens they spiral down") seems to echo the lyric of "This Is Not America". The musical cues, too, hail from disparate pages in Bowie's songbook: the Eastern wind-chime intro recalls the second side of "Heroes", the techno-dance backing revisits "No Control" before shifting into a synthesised version of the Bo Diddley rhythms he had favoured in the early 1970s, and the rhythm break near the end is straight from his 1983 cover "Criminal World". Finally, "The Dreamers" builds to a classic Bowie chorus, its swooping guitars and vocal harmonies bringing 'hours...' to a stately conclusion. A so-called "easy-listening" version, slightly longer than the album cut, appeared in Omikron: The Nomad Soul and as a bonus track on the 2004 reissue of 'hours...'.


Dance, Dance, Dance
Dance Magic
Dancing In The Street
Dancing Out In Space
Dancing With The Big Boys
David Bowie's Revolutionary Song
Day-In Day-Out
The Day That The Circus Left Town
Dead Against It
Dead Man Walking
Dead Men Don't Talk (But They Do)
Death Trip
Dia Tras Dia
Diamond Dogs
Did You Ever Have A Dream
Dirty Blvd.
Dirty Boys
Dirty Old Man
The Dirty Song
Do Anything You Say
Do The Ruby
Do They Know It's Christmas?
Dollar Days
Don't Bring Me Down
Don't Let Me Down & Down
Don't Look Down
Don't Sit Down
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright
Don't Try To Stop Me
The Dreamers
Drink To Me
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