The Joup Friday Album: David Bowie – Black Tie White Noise

Black tie white noiseThis month it’s been two years since David Bowie left this Earth for parts unknown, and in honor I wanted to step in and cover Sonny on the Friday Album for a week so I could commemorate one of my favorite human being’s passing with ‘a very special edition of The Joup Friday Album. Sonny will be back next week, in the meantime let’s slide into the weekend together with an oft-neglected, sometimes maligned entry in Mr. Bowie’s catalogue. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Joup Friday Album: David Bowie’s Black Tie White Noise!

Shortly before David Bowie found a new niche by reinventing himself with the influence of the industrial music ‘revolution’ that moved from the underground trenches of Chicago’s Wax Trax into the mainstream when NIN’s ‘Closer’ burst into the mainstream – and what a weird f*&king single that was to storm the charts in the early 90s – David Bowie released his first collaboration with Nile Rodgers since Let’s Dance. When folks comb back through Bowie’s catalogue, this is often one of the records they skip; there’s a slightly dated, sometimes smaltzy sound to some of the songs because, like so many albums from the late 80s/early 90s, as they age, the fledgling synthesizers technology they employ fails to stand the test of time. You know, those forced horn-hit sounds, or the gated orchestral string samples – the tech just got better and left these textures behind. And perhaps looking back the obvious question for some would be why the iconic David Bowie, the man who put together one of the greatest Rock n Roll bands ever (Ziggy) or the man who worked with sonic pioneer electronic musician Brian Eno, or the man who reinvented himself over and over for the ages, why he would ever want to work in the realm of transient synthesizer faire to begin with. Well, the answer, according to Nile Rodgers, is:

“We both basically missed the same element, with what was happening with the new R&B, which is now hip-hop and house, and what we were missing was the strong melodic content that was apparent in the ’60s. I wanted to see if we could establish a new kind of melodic form of house.”1

And that makes all the difference to me, knowing that Bowie was trying to work within a modern style and improve it with what he felt was lacking. However, this is something I had to read about to understand. The main attraction for me when I first heard Black Tie White Noise was the fact that Bowie plays saxophone on a lot of the songs on the album. When I first realized this, it blew me away. Goddamn would I have loved to see David Bowie play the sax live. I mean, that would just blow my mind.

The single off the record, Jump They Say, is one of my favorite Bowie tracks, and it helped unlock the rest of the record for me. And it’s only been within the last few years that I’ve come to appreciate some of that 80s/90s R&B – I still use that word loosely and for lack of a better descriptor – and the main figure in that old scene I gravitate toward is Al B. Sure! – an artist whose work the Shawn in 1988 would have recoiled from. Go figure then that Bowie recruited Mr. B. Sure! for a duet on Black Tie White Noise, track 4.

Enjoy folks!

Back to you Sonny!


1. Sullivan, Jim (12 April 1993), “New wife, new album keep David Bowie in fine spirits”, The Boston Globe, by way of the wikipedia article here.

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

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