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In March 1979 Bowie joined Philip Glass, Steve Reich and John Cale on stage at New York's Carnegie Hall, in an event billed as "The First Concert Of The Eighties". In an unusual instrumental departure David played viola on Cale's "Sabotage" (interestingly he mimed with a violin on The Kenny Everett Video Show only a month later). This rare performance does not, however, feature on Cale's 1979 live LP Sabotage.


  • Album: Tin Machine

  • B-Side: June 1989

  • Download: May 2007

  • Live Video: Oy Vey, Baby - Tin Machine Live At The Docks

There are enticing hints here that Bowie is indulging in some cathartic career-analysis ("twenty-five years pass him like an evening at the circus", and later "Wham bam, thank you Charlie!"), but there's little else of interest in this messy thrash, during which even the most dedicated listener begins to feel that Tin Machine is outstaying its welcome. Included only on the CD version of the album but also released as a B-side, "Sacrifice Yourself" was performed live on both Tin Machine tours. Amusingly, the lyric includes the very nearly prophetic line "married to a Klingon": it would be another eighteen months before David met his future wife Iman, later a shape-shifting alien in Star Trek VI.


SAFE (Bowie/Gabrels)

  • B-Side: September 2002

  • Bonus: Heathen (SACD)

Originally recorded under the title "(Safe In This) Sky Life", this little-known recording is of immense historic interest in the Bowie canon. Written in early 1998, "(Safe In This) Sky Life" was originally destined for inclusion in the soundtrack of the Rugrats movie. Having recorded an initial version with Reeves Gabrels, Bowie decided that a second attempt would benefit from the expertise of Tony Visconti, with whom he hadn't shared a studio since the Baal sessions in 1981. According to Visconti the film's producers had requested a classic Bowie sound, "a little bit of "Space Oddity", "Heroes" and "Absolute Beginners" all rolled into one. I don't know whose idea it was to get me, but I got the phone call from David." On Radio 2's Golden Years documentary in 2000, Visconti revealed that the reunion was a success on every level: "We still have a great affection for each other. That's become obvious lately. He really did make amends, and he sought me out...we're back together again as friends."

     In August 1998 the long-awaited reunion spawned a new version of "Safe". Multi-tracked backing vocals were provided by Richard Barone of The Bongos (who had covered "The Man Who Sold The World" on their 1987 album Cool Blue Halo), and other contributors included Blondie drummer Clem Burke, sometime Prefab Sprout keyboardist Jordan Ruddess and, in classic Tony Visconti tradition, a 24-piece string section.

    Bowie and Visconti next went on to collaborate on David's cover of John Lennon's "Mother", but sadly "Safe" disappeared from the Rugrats project when the scene containing it was cut altogether. "I have always wanted to work with David Bowie and I finally had my chance," the film's music coordinator Karyn Rachtman said afterwards. "He delivered a song far beyond my wildest dreams and now I can't even use it! The song is beautiful." For his part, Bowie indicated in 1999 that a release was now unlikely: "Unfortunately, it doesn't really fit in with what I'm doing at the moment. A shame really, as it was quite sweet for what it was."

     In 2001 David reworked the lyrics for a third version of "Safe" which was cut during the Heathen sessions. This recording was initially made available online to purchasers of the enhanced Heathen CD in June 2002 before reappearing in more conventional form three months later as one of the "Everyone Says 'Hi'" B-sides, while the subsequent SACD release of Heathen carried a 5.1 remix which is over a minute longer than the B-side version. Powered throughout by an acoustic strum familiar from much of the 'hours...' material, "Safe" is a soaring Eastern-tinged rock ballad dripping with strings and keyboards. The new lyric covers the same themes of spiritual uncertainty found throughout  'hours...' and, more particularly, Heathen ("Tomorrow's really on my mind / Sure to pick up from now on / Things will move more slowly / But the air is thin and chance is slim / Sometimes we all have these dreams...Are things getting better now? / Are things getting worse?"). In 2009 Tony Visconti explained that "Almost everything was replaced for "Safe" on Heathen - it was not a remix. It was easy to do as we had Matt Chamberlain all miked up and a studio full of instruments to play. The only thing that survived the original recording was the string section - a big one."


Originally demoed for The Velvet Underground's 1970 album Loaded, one of Lou Reed's loveliest compositions was reinvented for Transformer with co-production by Bowie and a superb Mick Ronson arrangement, matching the melody to a dainty piano line and snappy finger-clicks of the kind familiar from Bowie's recordings of the time. David's backing vocals are unmistakable, particularly in the "Memory Of A Free Festival"-style playout. "David Bowie's background vocals," wrote Lou Reed in the liner notes of his 2003 compilation album NYC Man, "I love them on his records, I love them when he did them on my record. It's not the kind of part I would have ever come up with if you left me alone with a computer program for a year. But David hears those parts. Plus he's got a freaky voice and he can go up that high and do that. It's very, very beautiful. And he's a great singer."

     "Satellite Of Love" is the only directly Bowie-related track to feature in Todd Haynes's film Velvet Goldmine, and it later appeared in the soundtrack of the 2009 comedy Adventureland. In July 2004 a Dab Hands dance remix entitled "Satellite Of Love '04", with Bowie's vocals very much to the fore, reached number 10 in the UK chart.


St Louis-born singer-songwriter Kristeen Young's 2000 album Enemy brought her to the attention of Tony Visconti, who introduced her to David Bowie, who in turn invited her to record some vocal and piano overdubs for Heathen. Not long afterwards, Bowie duetted with Young on "Saviour", one of the Visconti-produced solo tracks recorded in 2002 which were released the following year on her splendidly titled album Breasticles.

     Kristeen Young was evidently delighted to be working with Bowie, and promptly incorporated several of his songs, including "Boys Keep Swinging", "Conversation Piece" and "The Man Who Sold The World", into her live repertoire. At a gig in London in 2003, she explained that "Saviour" was inspired by her friendship with Tony Visconti, its lyric celebrating the redemptive qualities of a relationship that had helped them both to overcome hard times: "We could rise up from this grave / We could prepare to ascend / We could walk on water / Be my reciprocal saviour." Both instrumentally and vocally, Kristeen Young's work bears a striking resemblance to the mighty Kate Bush at her most uncompromisingly intense, and nowhere more so than on this track, which recalls some of the more left-field offerings on The Dreaming. Bowie rises to the occasion with a committed, anguished vocal performance on a song which, like the rest of the album, is original, unapologetically avant-garde, and absolutely superb.

     A promo CD-R of Breasticles, privately distributed by Young prior to the official release of the album, features a different track-listing and an alternative version of "Saviour" known as the "Bowie Mix". This is more or less identical to the track that eventually appeared on the album with the exception of David's vocal itself, which is a different recording. The vocals for the released version were added in February 2003: "We re-did some things to it," explained Young, "which included David re-singing some of his parts."


  • Album: The Man Who Sold The World

With its lush, almost big-band arrangement and cinematic fade-in opening, "Saviour Machine" is poised somewhere between the protest-song sensibilities of Space Oddity and the totalitarian sci-fi of Diamond Dogs. In an interview for Music Now! at the end of 1969 Bowie had voiced his distaste for the dangerous gullibility of those who are "happy to be able to follow other people", and here he spins a parabalic yarn about "President Joe" (note the childlike nomenclature, a direct descendant of "Major Tom") who sweeps to power but abdicates responsibility to a utopian super-computer which turns on its human creators: "A plague seems quite feasible...or maybe a war, or I may kill you all!" One inspiration is likely to be Joseph Sargent's 1969 film thriller The Forbin Project (publicity tag line: "We built a super computer with a mind of its own and now we must fight it for the world!"), which opened in the UK in early 1970. Another possible influence is Jon Pertwee's debut series of Doctor Who, which began airing in January 1970 and was popular viewing at Haddon Hall: among the adventures airing that spring were The Silurians, in which a plague is unleashed on mankind, and Inferno, in which the dire warnings of a computer are foolishly ignored as the world faces destruction.

     Once again Bowie is dabbling in his pet themes of leadership's dangerous glamour, and the secular's usurpation of the spiritual (the computer is called "The Prayer") - themes which would go on to fashion much of his most successful and controversial 1970s work. It's all the more surprising, then, that the lyric of "Saviour Machine" was hastily written at the last minute after repeated prompting from Tony Visconti (Angela Bowie records David staying up into the early hours to complete it), while the guitar break is taken straight from the chorus of the whimsical folk number "Ching-A-Ling", discarded only a year earlier but already light years away musically.

     A further insight into the creative chaos of the 1970 sessions is offered by the fact that one of David's provisional titles for this song was "The Man Who Sold The World", but in the frenzy of writing and rewriting he discarded the phrase before bestowing it on another composition: the album's title track would be the last to receive lyrics.

     The main body of "Saviour Machine" was recorded at Trident on May 4th 1970. A reel-to-reel tape sold at Sotheby's in 1990 containing an early run-through of the song, labelled with the working title "The Invader" and featuring guide vocals which consist of David singing "la la las" punctuated by exclamations of "Jazz!" and "Off!" (The backing track's jazz-waltz inflection includes, as Visconti pointed out, "a little nod to Dave Brubeck".) The rare original German release of The Man Who Sold The World featured a reprise of the "Saviour Machine" intro at the end of the album, cross-faded with the end of "The Supermen".


This unknown Bowie composition was registered at Essex Music on February 28th 1967.


  • Album: Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

  • A-Side: January 1981

  • Live: SNL25 - Volume 1/Glass Spider (2007 CD/DVD Release)

  • Compilation: Best Of Bowie

  • Live Video: Serious Moonlight

The title track and third single from Scary Monsters is an aggressive, guitar-driven piece in which Bowie, in a heavily distorted rendering of his fruitiest cockney whine, revisits the brutalised inner world of claustrophobic romance etched out to such memorable effect on Iggy Pop's two Berlin albums. This time David's girlfriend has "a horror of rooms" and is "stupid in the street and she can't socialise"; and not unlike Iggy's China Girl, "she asked for my love and I gave her a dangerous mind". It's a cryptic and disturbing return to the "monster" who had plagued David in "The Width Of A Circle" a decade earlier, and just like Mick Ronson on that classic track, Robert Fripp delivers a frenzied masterclass in how to go heroically over the top without a shred of hard-rock machismo.

     Like most of its parent album, "Scary Monsters" underwent a prolonged gestation. In 2016 Iggy Pop revealed that David had played him a version of the song, then called "Running Scared", in Los Angeles as early as 1974. "He was playing it on the guitar and wanted to know if I could do something with it," Iggy recalled. "I couldn't. He kept it and worked it up." During a radio interview on WNYC in March 2009, Tony Visconti played a 50-second extract of an early version from the Scary Monsters sessions, more polished than the average demo and featuring quite different lyrics: here David sings, "Scary monsters, super creeps, too many people with too many teeth". In his autobiography, Visconti revealed that "the barking dog" in the intro, the solo and the ending come from a little flat plastic keyboard that was made by EMS, the same manufacturer as Brian Eno's briefcase keyboard. It was called The Wasp. I programmed a descending bass line and fed the snare drum into the trigger circuit of the keyboard."

     "Scary Monsters" was performed live on the Serious Moonlight, Glass Spider, Outside and Earthling tours, while Frank Black duetted on the number at the fiftieth birthday concert. The song made regular appearances on television and radio spots during 1997, including Saturday Night Live on February 8th (later released on the show's 1999 compilation SNL25 - Volume 1), and The Jack Docherty Show on April 18th. An unlikely Johnny Cash-style "Country" version was included in several of the two-man acoustic sessions Bowie recorded with Reeves Gabrels for American and Canadian radio stations at around the same time. The original recording appeared in the soundtrack of the 1988 film Alien Nation, while in 1998 a remastered version of the album cut appeared in the PlayStation game Gran Turismo and its accompanying soundtrack CD. The original 7" edit made its CD debut on the UK, US/Canada and Greek formats of Best Of Bowie.

     A 2009 episode of the ABC science-fiction series FlashForward, entitled Scary Monsters And Super Creeps, featured a cover version by Sea Wolf.


  • Album: Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)

  • B-Side: October 1980

Once again Bowie recycles obscure early 1970s material for inclusion on Scary Monsters, in this case the basic melody of "I Am A Laser", written for The Astronettes and recorded at Olympic in 1973. Otherwise "Scream Like A Baby" is every inch a Scary Monsters track, its ultra-modern new wave guitar/synth sound instantly identifiable with contemporaneous autumn 1980 releases like Hazel O'Connor's "Eighth Day" (produced by Tony Visconti during the gap between the New York and London sessions for Scary Monsters) and OMD's "Enola Gay". Bowie's fantastically accomplished vocal bristles with bizarre techniques, notably the extraordinary vari-speed segment in which two parallel vocal lines are simultaneously raised and lowered in pitch while maintaining the same tempo, raising the ghost of the split-personality themes prevalent on The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory. The lyric bears out such comparisons, offering a brutal story of mental instability and Clockwork Orange-style totalitarianism. In a direct echo of his 1973 description of "The Supermen", Bowie described the setting as "future nostalgia...a past look at something that hasn't happened yet."

     As with most of Scary Monsters, the lyrics were not written until after the initial recording sessions: on Tony Visconti's early 1980 track-listing the song is still called "Laser". A 3'17" demo has appeared on bootlegs, featuring a simpler, synthesizer-free arrangement, slightly different lyrics and a more cautious vocal performance: notably, Bowie sings "I'm learning to be an integrated part of society", and doesn't stammer the final word as he does to such memorable effect on the album. "Scream Like A Baby" was rehearsed for the Glass Spider tour, but was dropped before the show opened; like most of Scary Monsters, Bowie never performed it live.

SEA DIVER (Hunter)

Produced by Bowie, the closing track on Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes also features the album's only contribution from Mick Ronson, who wrote and conducted the string and brass arrangements. When asked by Ian Hunter how much he wanted for his work, Ronson apparently replied, "Just give us twenty quid." Hunter, whose long friendship with Ronson was forged during the session, later remarked that it was the best £20 he had ever spent.


Mixed by Bowie for Iggy And The Stooges' Raw Power, "Search And Destroy" was performed during Iggy Pop's 1977 tour; live recordings featuring Bowie appear on various Iggy releases.



  • Album: "Heroes"

The unjustly overlooked final track of "Heroes" is probably the most conventional song in the entire "Berlin" trilogy. A complex multi-tracked vocal counterpoints David's baritone with outrageous extremes of bass and falsetto, while his saxophone, Dennis Davis's brilliant drumming and Carlos Alomar's funk guitar conspire to create a commercial, almost disco-rap sound (from 1'50" onward, the rhythm track provides a virtual template for The Gap Band's 1979 smash "Oops Up Side Your Head"). The lyric returns once again to Bowie's predilection for casting himself as an actor trapped in a film: this time he becomes a torrid Rudolph Valentino in The Sheik or perhaps John Boles in Desert Song ("You must see the movie, the sand in my eyes / I walk through a desert song when the heroine dies").

     The  superb 1981 cover version by Heaven 17 spin-off The British Electric Foundation, with Billy MacKenzie of The Associates on lead vocal, was included on David Bowie Songbook.

SECTOR Z (Gutter/McNaboe/Zoidis/Albee/Roods/Ward)

Bowie provides guest vocals on this brilliant track from the Rustic Overtones' Viva Nueva, an archly spacey soul-pop confection with DJ-meets-sci-fi lyrics reminiscent of "Starman" and "Lady Stardust", described by Tony Visconti as "a humorous song about making contact with aliens". Bowie initially appears as a disc jockey interrupting lead singer Dave Gutter's verses with the repeated enquiry "Are you listening?", before taking over the lead vocal to create a call-and-response with himself for the "Starman"-esque chorus line ("Is your volume up, is your power on? / To your solar system at the speed of sound / Are you listening? Which way does your antenna go? / On your radio, this is rock'n'roll!"). Bowie's wildly exuberant, high-pitched vocal was described by a delighted Visconti as "nothing less than his Ziggy voice! I was thrilled to hear that tone and style again. Afterwards I said, 'You haven't used that voice for a while!' David waved a cigarette and said, 'There's a very good reason for that!'"


  • Album: Pin Ups

"I only met him on a couple of occasions," said David in 1973 of Syd Barrett, who had rather cruelly reviewed "Love You Till Tuesday" for Melody Maker back in 1967, "and then we didn't get on all that well. But I'm a great fan of his." Years later he went further, describing Barrett's as "probably one of the most languid, poignant voices in English popular music. I thought he was an absolutely superb poet and a stunning performer, which has not really been said about him, but he had a hypnotic, charismatic effect on stage. Also the first bloke I'd seen wearing make-up in a rock band to great effect. Me and Marc Bolan both noted that!" When Barrett died in July 2006, Bowie paid tribute to him as "a major inspiration for me", recalling that "along with Anthony Newley, he was the first guy I'd heard to sing pop or rock with a British accent. His impact on my thinking was enormous."

     Bowie's radical reworking of Pink Floyd's 1967 hit is one of the highlights of Pin Ups. From the opening tick-tock of guitar, via Mike Garson's manic quoting of Mozart's The Magic Flute, to the elaborate violin fade-out (an excerpt from Bach's Partita No. 3 in E), the psychedelic Sgt Pepper production is marvellous, displaying a lightness of touch unique on the album. Subtle lines on piano and synthesizer counterpoint the emotive guitar work, and there's a devastatingly effective use of Bowie's favourite trick of adding backing vocals an octave lower than the lead vocal, lending the whole a Hunky Dory-ish feel.

SEE-SAW (Cropper/Covay)

Don Covay's 1965 single was played live by The Buzz.

SEGUE - ALGERIA TOUCHSHRIEK (Bowie/Eno/Gabrels/Garson/Kizilcay/Campbell)

  • Album: 1.Outside

For the longest and best of 1.Outside's "segues" Bowie plays a 78-year-old dealer in "art-drugs and DNA prints". The unsettling Mr Touchshriek, who speaks in David's finest cockney, is considering renting a room to a fellow "broken man", because "We could have great conversations, looking through windows for demons and watching the young advancing all electric." The backing is a curious piece of cod-reggae lift music, midway between Tonight's version of "Don't Look Down" and Brian Eno's full-blown excursions into the weird.

SEGUE - BABY GRACE (A HORRID CASSETTE) (Bowie/Eno/Gabrels/Garson/Kizilcay/Campbell)

  • Album: 1.Outside

The first of the spoken "segues" on 1.Outside is supposedly a cassette-recording of the 14-year-old murder victim's last words, spoken as she slips from consciousness. Like much of the album, it treads a fine line between absurdity (Bowie's high-pitched vocal treatment wittering about "popular musics and aftershocks") and horror (the obvious echo of the Moors Murderers' tape-recordings). Backed by a slow, hallucinatory wall of guitar feedback and piano, Baby Grace reveals that "Ramona put me on these interest-drugs, so I'm thinking very, too, bit too fast, like a brain-patch," and concludes: "Now they just want me to be quiet, and I think something is going to be horrid." Bowie later joked that "I've gone from wearing dresses to being a 14-year-old girl," and described the "rather sad, poignant little cassette" as "delightful stuff."

SEGUE - NATHAN ADLER (Bowie/Eno/Gabrels/Garson/Kizilcay/Campbell)

  • Album: 1.Outside

Detective Professor Nathan Adler of Art-Crime Inc is granted two spoken interludes on 1.Outside, the first of which is credited to the album's six-man core band and the second to Bowie and Eno only. Both allow David to indulge in some cod private-eye narration straight out of a 1940s dime novel: against a funky rhythm guitar backdrop, Bowie affects a creditable Bogart to discuss the suspects in the case, describing his ex-girlfriend Ramona as "an update demon" and recounting how Leon Blank cut "a zero in the fabric of time itself."

SEGUE - RAMONA A. STONE (Bowie/Eno/Gabrels/Garson/Kizilcay/Campbell)

For the silliest of his 1.Outside segues, Bowie adopts a vocoder-treated alien voice for the character of body-parts jeweller Ramona, whose experiences sound amusingly (and surely intentionally) similar to those of her creator: "I was an artiste in a tunnel, and I've been having a mid-life crisis," she waspishly informs us, as the atmospheric textures of the next track, "I Am With Name", gather momentum in the background.


  • Album: David Bowie

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

  • Video: Love You Till Tuesday

This melancholy ballad employs standard Freudian imagery (summer as love and happiness, winter as loss and frigidity) in a tale of poisoned love. The opening line, "A winter's day," echoes that of Simon and Garfunkel's June 1966 hit "I Am A Rock", while the Gillmans propose in their biography that Bowie's fairytale metaphors ("Jack Frost ain't so cool...see my eyes, my window pane") bear striking similarities to a poem written a generation earlier by his grandmother ("Old Jack Frost has come again / He's busy on the window pane"). Initially pencilled in as the follow-up single to "Rubber Band", the track was recorded on December 8th and 9th 1966.

     David later performed "Sell Me A Coat" during the Lindsay Kemp show Pierrot In Turquoise, and the song was dusted down in 1969 for inclusion in the Love You Till Tuesday film. On January 25th some additional instrumentation and rather overpowering backing vocals from Hermione Farthingale and John Hutchinson were added to the original recording, but the poorly mixed result is by no means an improvement, swamping the delicacy of the arrangement and muffling David's lead vocal. The film sequence is worthier of attention as it includes a shot of Mr Fish, the London boutique that would later supply David with his Man Who Sold The World dresses. Like the film's rendition of "When I Live My Dream", the lyric's poignancy is given a twist by the knowledge that David and Hermione were parting company during the shoot.

     In 1968 "Sell Me A Coat" was offered without success to both Judy Collins and Peter, Paul and Mary, but it nonetheless became one of the earliest Bowie compositions to be covered by another artist: an acetate featuring a previously undocumented version by the short-lived UK band The Pudding, recorded in 1967 but apparently never released, was discovered in 2010. Meanwhile, an excellent cover version by the German duo Tarwater was released as a single in 2002.

SELL YOUR LOVE (Pop/Williamson) see MOVING ON


This otherwise unknown Bowie composition was registered with David's publisher Sparta in 1966.


  • Album: "Heroes"

  • B-Side: January 1978

  • Live: Stage

Created almost entirely by the "Oblique Strategies" cards used to generate random effects during the "Heroes" sessions, this doomy, minimalist instrumental is constructed around a simple four-note piano line and a bank of piping synthesizers of the kind familiar from Walter Carlos's A Clockwork Orange theme. "It was an organic sound set against a synthesised horn section, a trumpet fanfare," said Bowie in 1978. "It retains a human quality. [If] it becomes completely electronic, I think it misses the wish is to encapsulate what I see around me, the environment and the I can look back and see the seventies through my eyes like a series of paintings."

     "Sense Of Doubt" was one of the more high-profile "Heroes" tracks in its day, being performed on Italian television's L'Altra Domenica in 1977 and featuring throughout the Stage tour. Gerry Troyna's 1984 film Ricochet includes what is effectively a full-length video for "Sense Of Doubt", a sequence showing Bowie exploring a deserted shopping mall in Singapore, gliding up and down escalators and past fountains and Christmas trees.

     Philip Glass used "Sense Of Doubt" as the basis for the third movement of his 1977 "Heroes" Symphony.

SEVEN (Bowie/Gabrels)

  • Album: 'hours...'

  • B-Side: January 2000

  • A-Side: July 2000

  • Live: Bowie At The Beeb (Bonus Disc)/VH1 Storytellers

  • Bonus: 'hours...' (2004)

  • Live Video: VH1 Storytellers

Recorded under the working title "Seven Days", the second great throwback number on 'hours...' is delivered in the fragile acoustic style of Bowie's softer Hunky Dory recordings, blessed with a gorgeous melody and a weeping slide guitar of perfect, unadorned simplicity. "My God, it's like right out of the sixties, real hippy-dippy!" was David's observation. The appearance in the lyric of a mother, father and brother, the latter pictured weeping with the narrator "on a bridge of violent people", led to inevitable conclusions which Bowie was quick to play down: "They're not necessarily my mother, father and brother," he told Q, "it was the nuclear unit thing."

     "Seven" is clearly not concerned with specific remembrances: quite the contrary, in fact. Like many tracks on the album it addresses the poignant inconstancy of memory and concludes that the present is what matters. "Seven days to live, seven ways to die...I'd actually reduce that further to twenty-four hours to live," David told Q. "I'm very happy to deal and only deal with the existing twenty-four hours I'm going through. I'm not inclined to even think too heavily about the end of the week or the week I've just come through. The present is really the place to be." For VH1's Storytellers he introduced "Seven" as a "song of nowness", reflecting that "tomorrow isn't promised."

     Like "Thursday's Child", "Seven" uses the days of the week as an index of time, and it's worth considering that the medieval Book of Hours typically includes seven penitential psalms. But here the album's devotional imagery recedes into the Nietzschean probings of Bowie's early 1970s songs, realigning the famous proposition in Die Frohliche Wissenschaft that "God is dead": "The gods forgot they made me, so I forgot them too / I listen to their shadows, I play among their graves."

     "Seven" featured on most of the 1999-2000 dates; in addition to the performance later released on VH1 Storytellers, a live version recorded in Paris on October 14th 1999 was included on single formats of "Survive", while a recording from the BBC Radio Theatre concert on June 27th 2000 appears on the Bowie At The Beeb bonus disc. The July 2000 A-side release included Bowie's original demo, together with remixes by Beck and Marius de Vries (all of which later appeared as bonus tracks on the 2004 reissue of 'hours...', and another live version taped in New York on November 19th 1999. Yet another live version, recorded on November 22nd 1999 for Canada's Musique Plus channel, was later included as a QuickTime video on a CD cover-mounted on the August 2000 issue of Yahoo! Internet Life magazine, tying in with Bowie's appearance at the Yahoo! awards.

     A further studio version, similar to the demo, appeared in the Omikron computer game. A number of other mixes included on in-house Virgin CD-Rs remain unreleased, including one labelled with the working title "Seven Days", and a Marius de Vries remix which unexpectedly incorporates the opening lines of "Sorrow" into the final chorus.

SEVEN DAYS (Peacock)

Annette Peacock's ballad was produced by Bowie for The Astronettes in 1973, and eventually released on 1995's People From Bad Homes.


  • Album: Earthling

  • A-Side: August 1997

  • Live:

  • Bonus: Earthling (2004)

  • Video: Best Of Bowie

Inspired by Heinrich Harrer's autobiography of the same name, the gorgeously atmospheric "Seven Years In Tibet" was added to Bowie's live repertoire in September 1996 while the Earthling sessions were still in progress. "One thing I've learned about my writing is that I'm not a didactic writer," explained David, who had presumably learned a thing or two from "Crack City". "When I try and make a very strong point simply, I fall on my ass. I'm really bad at it so I stay away from that, but I wanted to say something about the Tibetan situation. When I was about nineteen...a very influential book for me was Seven Years In Tibet... and that book kind of stayed with me over the years. I wanted to relay what had been happening politically with Tibet through that book. And the subtext of the song is really some of the desperation and agony felt by young Tibetans who have had their families killed and themselves have been reduced to mere ciphers in their own country. I wouldn't explore it too thoroughly because it really works in more of an expressionistic level. It's a feeling that comes over in the song."

     The track was nearly abandoned during recording; beginning as a Reeves Gabrels composition called "Brussels" it was, Bowie recalled, "something we started that seemed incredibly hack, with a very predictable, self-serious quality. I said, 'Dump this one, Reeves,' but he worked on it during my absence and turned it into something absolutely magical. It went from being something I wanted off the album to almost my favourite song on the album."

     It was a narrow escape, for "Seven Years In Tibet" is one of Bowie's finest tracks of the 1990s, harnessing a slinky saxophone riff and the distant squeals of Reeves Gabrels' guitar to a superbly dark, lolloping rhythm for the softly sinister verses, before sledgehammering the listener into submission with a tidal wave of guitar for the shrieking chorus. Best of all are David's treated vocals and Mike Garson's dementedly wonky synthesizer line. Bowie described the backing as "the juxtaposition of a Stax influence with a late eighties Pixies style", while Gabrels claimed that for the verses "I deliberately evoked a Fleetwood Mac "Albatross" feeling, but mainly so I could oppose it to the ton-of-bricks chorus."

     The revival of Bowie's fascination with all things Tibetan coincided with a wave of high-profile American support for the country's plight during the mid-1990s. Major motion pictures like Kundun and Seven Years In Tibet (a 1997 dramatisation of Harrer's memoir which had no direct connection with the Bowie track) enshrined the subject as Hollywood's cause du jour. In the same year, Bowie contributed "Planet Of Dreams" exclusively to the Tibet House Trust's charity album Long Live Tibet, while in 2001, 2002 and 2003 he performed at the Trust's benefit concerts at Carnegie Hall.

     Bowie's Mandarin vocal version of "Seven Years In Tibet" sat at number 1 in the Hong Kong chart at the time of the Chinese takeover in June 1997. "I thought what a perfect time to release a single in Hong Kong, just as the Chinese take over," he said later. "It got super-popular but I'm not sure we'll be able to tour there now of course...I've probably fallen out with the Chinese now." (Some years later he would in fact play Hong Kong without incident on A Reality Tour.) With lyrics translated by Lin Xi, the Mandarin version was released in some territories under the title "A Fleeting Moment", appearing on the B-side of the UK single and later as a bonus track on the 2004 reissue of Earthling.

     "Seven Years In Tibet" was performed with Dave Grohl at Bowie's fiftieth birthday concert, and featured throughout the Earthling tour. Released in August 1997, the edited single did little chart business, and the video was seldom seen until its inclusion (in both English and Mandarin forms) on 2002's Best Of Bowie DVD. Directed by the "Torpedo Twins" of Tin Machine Live At The Docks fame, it interspersed live footage with images of Tibetan lamas, religious icons and our old friend the dancing Minotaur, the studio sequences being shot in Italy on July 9th. A live version recorded in New York on October 15th 1997 later appeared on


  • Album: The Buddha Of Suburbia

Sexuality and spirituality are key elements in Hanif Kureishi's The Buddha Of Suburbia, and "Sex And The Church" is Bowie's fugue on the confluence of the two themes. Against a club-friendly "Pallas Athena" beat, David mutters disjointed thoughts through a vocoder, demanding "Give me the freedom of the spirit and the joys of the flesh," and returning to a cyclical refrain of the track's title. After six surprisingly hypnotic minutes it comes to a sudden end with an insistent rhythmic build-up borrowed from "The Jean Genie".

SHADES (Pop/Bowie)

Co-written and co-produced by Bowie for Iggy Pop's Blah-Blah-Blah, the excellent "Shades" was remixed and released as a single without success in 1987.


European B-Side: June 2002

B-Side: September 2002

Resurrected with great success many years later, "Shadow Man" began life as one of many Bowie songs essayed and abandoned during the frenzied creativity of the early 1970s. An unfinished recording was made at Trident on November 15th 1971 in the initial stages of the Ziggy Stardust sessions, but it seems likely that the original composition dates from a year or two earlier. A reel tape auctioned at Sotheby's in 1990 contains three rough mixes of the version of "Shadow Man" which has long circulated among collectors: the fact that the same reel tape includes "Cyclops" and "The Invader", early try-outs from the sessions for The Man Who Sold The World, suggests that this particular "Shadow Man" take might also date from 1970. However, Tony Visconti, who would have worked on the song had it been taped during the earlier sessions, insisted that his first encounter with "Shadow Man" was when he arranged the strings for the Toy sessions thirty years later. "I love the song," he said in 2011, "and if I had heard it before I would've remembered it."

     Whatever its provenance, the fragile early version beloved by generations of collectors is one of the hidden gems of the Bowie archive. The lyric is a meditation on the future impact of our present lives, as disclosed by the mysterious Shadow Man himself: "He'll show you tomorrow / He'll show you the sorrows / Of what you did today." Ultimately it seems that he is a projection of the future self: "Look in his eyes and see your reflection...the Shadow Man is really you...He knows your eyes are drawn to the road ahead / And the Shadow Man is waiting round the bend." Clearly echoing other doppelganger lyrics like "The Man Who Sold The World" and "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" ("really you and really me..."), "Shadow Man" is a fascinating curiosity and a wonderful song - but, as a melancholy folk-ballad imbued with the introspective isolation of Space Oddity-era compositions like "Conversation Piece", it's hard to imagine how it might have fitted into the Ziggy Stardust concept.

     Like several of David's compositions of the time, "Shadow Man" tips its hat to Biff Rose's 1968 album The Thorn In Mrs Rose's Side. The closing track on Rose's album is a mournful, piano-led ballad called "The Man" whose images seem to prefigure some of Bowie's: "His name might be John, his name might be Christ...Let him know he's really you and me...See the reflection of where you've been before..." Few would disagree that Bowie's "Shadow Man" is a more complete, more sophisticated, more profound piece of songwriting, but the echoes are clear.

     In 2000 "Shadow Man" became one of the more surprising titles selected for re-recording during the Toy sessions. It eventually appeared on some formats of 2002's "Slow Burn" single, and later as a B-side of "Everyone Says 'Hi'". In 2006 Mike Garson posted on MySpace a subtly different mix of the Toy recording, featuring a more prominent acoustic guitar and some alternative vocal effects, and a further mix was leaked online in 2011. In all three versions, Bowie gives a magnificent vocal performance over a gorgeously evocative arrangement for piano and strings, and the result is outstanding: after thirty years in the wilderness, "Shadow Man" was brought to fruition in one of the most beautiful recordings of Bowie's career.

SHAKE (Cooke)

Sam Cooke's posthumous 1965 hit was played live by The Buzz.

SHAKE APPEAL (Pop/Williamson)

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


  • Album: Let's Dance

  • B-Side: May 1983

Let's Dance concludes with this likeable enough piece of fluff, topping a bassline almost identical to that of the title track with a dated synthesizer vibro-twang familiar from countless early 1980s hits like Chaka Khan's "I Feel For You" and Nik Kershaw's "I Won't Let The Sun Go Down On Me". Lyrically "Shake It" neatly wraps up the Let's Dance motif of partying as a bulwark against spiritual despair ("We're the kind of people who can shake it if we're feeling blue"), and draws on the images of moonlight and boxing which pervades the album's lyrics and sleeve artwork ("I duck and I sway, I shoot at a full moon"), but it's unlikely to be hailed as one of Bowie's more substantial achievements. An arguably superior 5'07" remix formed the B-side of the 12" version of "China Girl".


  • B-Side: August 1991

Johnny Kidd and the Pirates, later supported live by The Lower Third, enjoyed a number 1 hit in 1960 with "Shakin' All Over". Many years later the song was revived for the two Tin Machine tours, a live 1989 recording appearing as a B-side. At the Bradford concert on July 2nd 1989, Bowie dedicated "Shakin' All Over" to his former drummer John Cambridge, who had appeared out of the woodwork to attend the gig. Incidentally, the fact that Bowie occasionally announced the number by yelling "There's a whole lotta shakin' goin' on!" has given rise to an erroneous belief that Tin Machine also played Jerry Lee Lewis's 1957 hit of that name. They didn't. Another unreliable rumour has Bowie jamming on the number with Mott The Hoople in 1972: see "Sweet Jane".

SHAPES OF THINGS (Samwell-Smith/McCarty/Relf)

  • Album: Pin Ups

The second Yardbirds cover on Pin Ups was originally a number 3 hit in 1966. Bowie here gives a more convincing account of himself than on "I Wish You Would", with a declamatory vocal complemented by swaggering percussion and some pleasingly intricate production. Even so, in songs like "Five Years" and "Drive-In Saturday" David had already explored similar territory, arguably to far greater effect.


Bob Dylan's song (from 1965's Bringing It All Back Home) was among Bowie's live repertoire in 1969.

(SHE CAN) DO THAT (Bowie/Transeau)

  • Soundtrack: Stealth

Featured in the soundtrack of Rob Cohen's 2005 action thriller Stealth, "(She Can) Do That" marked Bowie's first studio work after the premature end of A Reality Tour in 2004. Credited to David Bowie And BT, the song initially took shape as a backing track recorded by the film's composer, Los Angeles-based Brian Transeau (BT), whose previous credits included a string of solo albums, film scores for Monster and The Fast And The Furious, and remixes for the likes of Tori Amos, Seal, Depeche Mode and Madonna. Bowie wrote the lyric and top melody, and recorded his vocals at New York's Looking Glass Studios with Tony Visconti in the producer's chair. Occasional Bowie/Visconti collaborator Kristeen Young provided backing vocals, while another familiar name, Reality veteran Mario McNulty, provided additional engineering. "I then sent the Pro-Tools parts back to BT in LA," Bowie explained mono-grammatically, "and he did the mix there." The result is a bouncy slice of techno, propelled along by stuttering percussive samples, phased effects and a crunchy guitar riff reminiscent of Duran Duran's "Girls On Film", topped by the hypnotic drone of Bowie's energised, mantric vocal; its nearest antecedents in the Bowie oeuvre are probably the more club-oriented tracks on Earthling. The rhythmic chant of "Keep going, don't stop now, keep going, drive onwards, keep going, take cover, keep going, be cool" reminds us of Bowie's perennial creative priorities. In August 2016 a previously unheard demo version, produced by Bowie, was posted online by Kristeen Young.


  • Album: The Man Who Sold The World

Tony Visconti once cited this track, recorded under the working title "Suck", as one of The Man Who Sold The World's "classic moments", confessing that parts of it left him "smiling from ear to ear", but his opinion is not universally shared. Given the well-documented apathy with which Bowie is said to have approached the sessions, it's tempting to conclude that this was a track on which he bestowed particular indifference. The lyric, with its obvious echoes of the blues standard "You Shook Me" (at the time recently covered by Led Zeppelin and Jeff Beck among others) and Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain" (lately recorded by The Rolling Stones on Let It Bleed), is little more than a swaggering rock'n'roll boast about a sexual conquest with a dash of occult nastiness thrown in: the line "she sucked my dormant will", together with the callous confession about "many young virgins", hint at the Crowley-inflected "Sexmagickal" overtones of "Holy Holy". Meanwhile the Cream-indebted prog-rock arrangement is undiluted Mick Ronson. In an interview he gave during his first visit to America in 1971, Bowie already appeared to be distancing himself from the song and intimating that it was a vehicle for Ronson and Woody Woodmansey: "They had a lot of trouble with my stuff 'cause they're blues freaks," he told John Swenson, "and it's all very hard and ultra-masculine stuff, so I thought I'd write one for them. And they loved it; they played their guts out on it!" They certainly did, but untempered by Bowie's more delicate touch - a combination that made classics out of the album's other rock numbers - Ronson's free-range meander through the contemporary landscapes of Beck, Page and Hendrix ("Voodoo Chile" is an obvious influence on the opening guitar lick) falls short of his brilliant arrangements on later albums. It's perfectly competent early 1970s rock, but it's hardly a David Bowie song at all. "I had to peel them apart to get David to listen to what the band had just done," Visconti later said of David and Angie's behaviour during the sessions. Here, it shows.


  • Album: Reality

  • Live Video: Reality (Tour Edition DVD)

Introducing "She'll Drive The Big Car" at the Riverside Studios concert in September 2003, Bowie explained that it is "a tragic little story about a lady and her family. And she lives in the wrong part of town, but she wants to live in an even badder, wronger part of town - but her would-be affair, her boyfriend, doesn't turn up."

     The resulting excursion into shattered illusions and thwarted fantasies must rank among the most affecting lyrics on Reality, and like many of them it is steeped in the mood and environs of downtown New York. The opening lines relate the protagonist's failed attempt to run away ("She waited by the moon / She was sick with fear and cold / She felt too old for all of this / Of course he never showed"), and thence her return to a disappointing marriage, where "love lies like a dead cloud on a shabby yellow lawn". The sense of dashed expectations is pressed home in the second verse: the line "Way back when 'millennium' meant racing to the light" reflects Bowie's oft-repeated comments at the time of Heathen regarding his sense of disappointment that the optimism with which the world ushered in the year 2000 had melted away within months. The only respite for the heroine in this song, not unlike the protagonist in "Fly", is to get into her car "and talk herself insane" as she drives "south along the Hudson" listening to "sad sad soul" on the radio. Like several of the Reality tracks, it's a mournful, disturbing window onto a wretchedly disappointed life.

     "All her plans have been disassembled by her thoughtless boyfriend who didn't show up to take her back to the old bohemian life," David explained to Interview magazine, "so she's stuck with this middle-class family and absolutely, desperately unhappy as she's peeling along Riverside Drive. In my mind, she just swings it off to the left and takes the whole lot down. You know what I mean? I see it as a sad song, but I kind of left it open. She's turning the radio up high so she doesn't have to think any more when she makes her decision to go over the edge."

     Despite this overwhelming tone of suicidal melancholy, "She'll Drive The Big Car" is also one of the most infectious numbers on Reality, combining a funky backbeat with sophisticated, soulful backing vocals and a series of irresistibly catchy motifs, from Mike Garson's repetitive four-note piano figure to the appealing flourishes of Bowie's harmonica, and a series of rhythm guitar hooks, percussion trick-shots and handclaps in the choruses that recall that milestone of Bowie funk "Golden Years". The title harks back to a line from "Lady Grinning Soul" (She'll drive a Beetle car"), while the call-and-response of "Just a little bit louder now" is lifted lock, stock and barrel from "Louie, Louie Go Home", the Paul Revere & The Raiders number that David covered as his first ever B-side back in 1964. Bowie's lead vocal is masterful, moving from a bleak, emotionally burned-out and heavily distorted drone in the verses to a soulful, heartfelt croon in the choruses, even treating us to an exhilarating snatch of his Young Americans falsetto when he unexpectedly leaps an octave on the second "sad sad soul". That phrase admirably describes "She'll Drive The Big Car", which was performed live throughout A Reality Tour.


  • Album: David Bowie

Recorded on November 14th 1966, this knockabout novelty number has received some attention as the earliest lyrical evidence of Bowie's dalliance with gender-bending and cross-dressing. Taking as his starting point the various true accounts of women who joined the army in the guise of men (one of the best-known cases was that of Dorothy Lawrence, an English reporter who served as a man during the First World War and died in 1964, only two years before the song was written), Bowie weaves the tale of a transvestite tomboy who cheats death in a bombing raid by returning home as a woman. Equal parts Anthony Newley and Tony Hancock, David's vocal employs the same cheeky-chappie delivery as "Love You Till Tuesday": he delivers one of his most blatant Hancock impressions on "She went and joined the army, passed the medical - don't ask me how it's done!" The song's punning title refers not only to military decorations but to male genitals: in the 1960s, "medals" was still a familiar slang term for "balls", originally derived from the Bengal Medal's reputation for being so commonplace that soldiers would use them as fly-buttons.

     The arrangement, and in particular the bass guitar line, betray an obvious debt to the version of "Hey Joe" included by Love on their eponymous 1966 debut album (Love's "Hey Joe" pre-dated and reportedly inspired Jimi Hendrix's famous recording of a few months later). In 1967 "She's Got Medals" was offered by Bowie's American publisher to Big Brother & The Holding Company and to Jefferson Airplane; both turned it down. In 2013 an unlikely cover version was recorded by the Californian psychedelic outfit White Fence.


One of many out-takes from the Young Americans sessions, "Shilling The Rubes" was at one point mooted as a title for the album. The song itself remained in obscurity until 2009, when a minute-long excerpt from a Sigma Sound reel dated August 13th 1974 was leaked online; an extended version of the same clip later surfaced. On the evidence of the brief extract (introduced by Tony Visconti announcing, "Shilling The Rubes", take one"), it's a slow-burning soul number from the same musical ballpark as "Who Can I Be Now?", but the take is rough and ready, and David's strained vocal is clearly not the finished article.


  • Album: Never Let Me Down

  • Download: May 2007

After the flawed excellence of "Glass Spider", Never Let Me Down gets into trouble with this, the first in a series of insipid and featureless tracks which drag the album through its protracted demise. The arrangement is a flimsy, negligible combination of rhythm guitar and synthesized handclaps, but the real problem is the lyric. Bowie described it as "a strange little piece" which "reflects back-to-street situations, and how people are trying to get together in the face of so many disasters and catastrophes socially around them, never knowing if they're going to survive it themselves. The one thing they have got to cling on to is each other...It's just a little love song coming out of that environment." But whereas "Time Will Crawl" capitalises on Bowie's cut-up style to create some sinister images, and even "Day-In Day-Out" gets by on a bit of righteous anger, here the attempt to muster some kind of eschatological relevance smacks of desperation. Topical references to a "crack-house", "Sinn Fein" and "Chernobyl" were embarrassing even in 1987, particularly as Prince had only just ploughed the same furrow far more effectively with the laid-back rage of "Sign 'O' The Times", a top ten single immediately prior to the release of Never Let Me Down.

     David's high-register delivery is indebted to Smokey Robinson, one of several obvious vocal influences on the album. "I tried "Shining Star (Makin' My Love)" with another voice, and it just sounded wrong," he explained. "It needed a high, little voice, a bit Smokey Robinson. That never bothered me, changing voices to suit a song." The final nail in the coffin is the incongruous arrival of guest vocalist Mickey Rourke, who joins Bowie on what the credits refer to as a "mid-song rap".

     The song was rehearsed for the Glass Spider tour, but dropped before the opening date. A previously unreleased 12" remix was issued as a download on 2007's "Never Let Me Down" EP.

Sacrifice Yourself
Satellite Of Love
Saviour Machine
Say Goodbye To Mr Mind
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
Scream Like A Baby
Sea Diver
Search And Destroy
Season Folk
The Secret Life Of Arabia
Sector Z
See Emily Play
Segue - Algeria Touchshriek
Segue - Baby Grace (A Horrid Cassette)
Segue - Nathan Adler
Segue - Ramona A. Stone
Sell Me A Coat
Sell Your Love
Send Your Money
Sense Of Doubt
Seven Days
Seven Years In Tibet
Sex And The Church
Shadow Man
Shake Appeal
Shake It
Shakin' All Over
Shapes Of Things
She Belongs To Me
(She Can) Do That
She Shook Me Cold
She'll Drive The Big Car
She's Got Medals
Shilling The Rubes
Shining Star (Makin' My Love)
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