If you do a search for David Bowie on Joup you will find a total of 20 articles of or relating to him. I wanted to begin this article with that little tidbit in order to illustrate a little of what the man means to us here at Joup. This is also the only thing nearing an explanation you will get for the fact that all or most of our regular contributors have spent the days and, well, will probably spend the weeks after his death writing about him. Due to travel arrangements I missed my original turn for the Joup Friday Album last week but have come out in a better position to do what I had intended, as I spent the week visiting my co-publisher Shawn Baker in Los Angeles and had the rare opportunity to do this piece together, in person no less.
With that said…
I seem to be at an interesting crossroads in my life. Because of this I needed a break so I traveled from the cold depths of Chicago, Il to San Pedro, CA to visit Bakes. Just like old times. He picked me up at LAX and upon arrival at his pad I found myself absorbed into the Bowie party Bakes had planned to celebrate the artist’s life with something of a “David Bowie revelry party”. Song after song, album after album, video after video, culminating with a sing-a-long. Some guests dressed their parts, though this was not a requirement. Attire or no, everyone in attendance had a firm appreciation for one Mr. Davie Jones (AKA BOWIE) (AKA Ziggy Stardust) (AKA The Thin White Duke) (AKA Starman) (AKA The Man Who Fell to Earth); everyone had their favorite Bowie album, incarnation. Everyone had their Bowie. For me, one of the albums that hit me hardest during the party was Bowie’s mid-90s change-of-direction album, 1995’s Outside.
Recently I had an idea for a new Joup thread called “Remember that time when…“. This is not specifically a Bowie thread, but a thread for revelry, to be passed between contributors. In my inaugural edition of the new column I recall a story from the Outside tour; you can read the piece here. I bring this up because writing that post got me thinking about Outside again, a record Bakes also holds dear. Tuesday night in LA we sat down and listened to the record in full, remembering that it was with this album that Mr. Bowie brought back perhaps his best partner in crime, one Mr. Brian Eno, the man who helped Bowie change the landscape of Rock n Roll in the late 70s with three iconic, electro-influenced albums, the fabled “Berlin” period.
Outside begins with “Leon Takes Us Outside,” an esoteric intro that, in true Berlin-period fashion, mixes some odd ideas together and sets the tone for the rest of the opus right off the bat (Well isn’t that Bowie overall for that matter?). Check out the lyrics from the tune:
Valentines Day, 25, June, 16th, Wednesday, July 6th, 20, 0, 20, 15,
Martin Luther King Day, June 18th, June 6th, Wednesday,
August 18th, 9th, 1999, 12, Nicholas, August, Wednesday, 13th, Sunday, 5th,
March, October, January, October 13th,
Wednesday, Martin Luther King Day, afternoon, in view of nothing, 20, 0, 1,
late winter, Martin Luther King Day, 12, 16, August, Wednesday, 13th, Friday, 7, June.
Listening to it with a fresh perspective following David Bowie’s death, this track comes across particularly haunting. I swore I had to listen to it another ten times before writing this, because I was hung up on the idea that when he spoke the numbers 12 and 16 he was actually saying 2016. Which of course as we know would have been particularly prophetic and… well, it chilled me. However I obviously had drawn parallels that weren’t there. None-the-less, removing my own expectations did not take away from the effect of the track. This haunting, prophetic theme continues throughout the album. One could say this is Bowie’s “industrial” album but really it’s not. There are overtones, like in the tracks “Hallo Spaceboy”, “No Control”, “We Prick You”, and “I’m Deranged” But really I feel it is primarily a story album with the multiple segues and spoken word sections. Bowie is telling the story of the outside. Perhaps modern (at least in the 90’s), perhaps 20 years in the future (modern day) or perhaps postapocolyptic, but definitely Bowie. There is the polyrhythmic “A Small Plot of Land”, the down-tempo lounge “The Motel”, the meshing of multiple eras of his art in “The Hearts Filthy Lesson” (my personal favorite) and the fine pop closing track “Strangers When We Meet.” There is A LOT here and sometimes it can be difficult to digest. It took me a bit to get into this album upon its initial release, but boy how it grew on me. But Bowie will do that. And now listening again after years you can appreciate the true artistry.
Like the title track reads: “The music is outside.” Yes the music is life and is well everything. Somehow he captures that…again.
Almost every Saturday night some friends and I do a movie night. This has been an off-and-on tradition for sometime, but last spring it really took on a new purpose when our friend Alex told us he hadn’t really seen a lot of movies. Alex was really up for seeing everything we could throw at him so movie night became more of a curriculum at that point; we set about showing our friend everything we thought he should see. And it was very much to my joy that Alex expressed a particular interest in the films of David Lynch. Being that Lynch is my all-time favorite filmmaker, I was only too happy to careen through his filmography with my friends. We began by attending a viewing of Mulholland Drive last May, hosted by Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. A week later we did Lost Highway at my house and the viewing was so visceral for me that it catapulted me into something of a “Lost Highway Frenzy”. I re-read all the articles from the time of the film’s release published in the long-gone* Wrapped in Plastic magazine. I watched the movie a second time that week by myself. And I went on a week-long binge with the Lost Highway soundtrack, produced by one Trent Reznor. For those who know the record you know that like film itself, the LH soudntrack is a loop, book-ended by the David Bowie song, “I’m Deranged”, which was originally released on Bowie’s 1995 album Outside, his first collaboration with long-time friend Brian Eno since the legendary “Berlin” trilogy they did in the late 70s. When the obsession with the soundtrack wore off I seamlessly phased into one for Outside and in the intervening months I’ve found that I go back to it more and more, each time finding new elements to the music that I’d never picked up on before (a lot of this has to do with the fact that I now listen to music more on my headphones than at room volume, hence a more intricate and introspective relationship with a lot of records I’ve known only at room volume for years).
Outside is an amazing piece of music, start to finish. As Bowie is wont to do, the record is something of a reinvention for him. Music had changed drastically since his 1993 record Black Tie White Noise and Bowie jumped headlong into the idea of incorporating the elements of the ‘Industrial’ Zeitgeist into his music the same way he’d incorporated so many other styles and perspectives over the years. And while Outside definitely plays with elements of the Industrial sound, it tempers those elements with jazz, ambient and a generous smattering of both Bowie and Eno’s own historical palettes. The end result is, in a word, amazing. Physically and sonically challenging at times, Outside becomes something of a visual tableau due to the insane amount of nuance messieurs Bowie and Eno, who really went out of their way to craft a beautiful and often creepy as all hell album here. So if you dig it, buy it.
Tag Chester Whelks!
Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is an artist developer focusing online on front end development and keeping up with new techonolgies. Photography has been his most recent and strongest passion. He’s shot thousands of photos throughout the years only recently display a larger portion of his library here on Joup.