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  1. Contracts and agreements were ending. Bowie’s deal with RCA was at an end. Most importantly the agreement Bowie had signed in 1975 to free himself from the management deal with Tony De Fries and Mainman was at an end. That deal had given De Fries 50% of Bowie’s earnings for 7 years, until 1982 ! Bear in mind all Bowie’s expenses were coming out of his 50% and you realise he hadn’t been making much money for the past 7 years. I’ve often wondered if that’s the reason the records he made in that period were some of his most challenging, he wasn’t really bothered if they sold millions as he wasn’t making any money anyway so why not make records that he really wanted to rather than ones that would appease the record company and shift units (“Young Americans II” anyone ?).

    It’s probably no surprise then that almost as soon as the Mainman agreement and the RCA contract ended Bowie signed a multi-million $$$ recording deal with EMI America and announced his most overtly commercial album and his biggest ever world tour. The opportunity now existed for him to make some Dollar.

    Chic’s Nile Rodgers was hired as producer. Nile Rodgers made multi-million selling records and had done for Chic, Sister Sledge and Diana Ross. He had the touch. A band was assembled including the Chic rhythm section of Bernard Edwards and Tony Thompson alongside Rodgers. Bowie found himself a new guitar slinging sidekick in Blues wonderkid Stevie Ray Vaughn. The record was mastered by Bob Ludwig (Queen, McCartney, Springsteen) and mixed by Bob Clearmountain (Talking Heads, Rolling Stones, Bryan Adams). Bowie was going for it, recruiting the heavyweights to make sure this one SOLD.

    I still vividly remember the press conference at Claridge’s in March 1983 to announce the album and tour. Bowie swept into the room in a fabulous suit, all blonde hair and tan, perching himself on the edge of a table as the seat supplied was too low for him to reach the microphones. He exuded cool. The lead single and title track of the album was out, the album was to be released a month later, the “Serious Moonlight” tour was set to begin in Brussels on 18th May running until December, eventually taking in 96 shows, visiting 15 countries and selling over 2.5 million tickets.

    As for the album, well I can take it or leave it. The title track is something of a classic, “Modern Love”, the take on Iggy’s “China Girl” and “Without You” are nice pop songs, “Ricochet” is OK, the cover of Metro’s “Criminal World” is utterly forgettable (here we go again), the re-recording of “Cat People (Putting Out Fire)” isn’t a patch on the original recorded for the “Cat People” movie soundtrack and “Shake It” is a nice dance tune. 

    It’s not an album I return to often BUT, it served its purpose. “Let’s Dance” is, to this day, Bowie’s biggest selling album, the four singles taken from the album were hits, the album and “Serious Moonlight” tour were critical and financial successes. Bowie made his money.

    I only saw Bowie live 3 times, 2 of those occasions on the Serious Moonlight tour. I almost left before he came on the first night. Couldn’t believe I was going to be in the same room as this guy I’d obsessed about for the past 3 or so years, I was actually shaking. He, again, swept onto the stage and looked fantastic, he looked happy. The shows were great at the time, in hindsight maybe not the greatest tour to have seen him on but it’s a gig that I still vividly remember.

    Let’s Dance - https://youtu.be/VbD_kBJc_gI

  2. A compilation released by RCA in 1982. I guess by now they knew he was leaving so decided to make some money out of him. In fairness when this was initially released it was chock full of stuff that many of us had never heard before or had been released before. 

    I’m not going to go through it track by track (if you want to know everything that’s here and where it came from have a look in the comments here https://www.45worlds.com/vinyl/album/pl45406) but I do want to highlight a couple of things. 

    The record opens with “Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola” an Italian language song sung over the backing track to “Space Oddity”. It is not, as you might think, a translation of the Major Tom story but a completely new lyric written by Italian lyricist Mogol (real name Giulio Rapetti) with lines that translate back to English as:

     My mind has took flight, A thought, just one

    I walk while the city sleeps, Her eyes in the night

    White lights in the night, A voice which speaks to me, who will be?

    Tell me, alone boy, where are you going,

    Why so much pain?

    You have lost a great love, no doubt

    But the city is filled with love

    The title itself translates as “Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl” and is the story of a lonely boy and girl who meet on a mountain top !

    The other great track one “Rare” is “Helden”, an English/German version of the full length album version of “Heroes”. It works perfectly and actually adds something to the song. The lyric “We can be heroes, just for one day” is sung as “Wir sind dann helden, Für einen tag” and sounds perfectly right. There is also a French translation single “Heros” which is just wrong ! It sounds like the vocal was tacked on as a complete afterthought and it sits very obtrusively in the mix, whereas “Helden” just fits.

    An album for the Bowie nerds (raises hand and nods).

    Helden - https://youtu.be/0PsWL6u_P6s

  3. Journalist Gary Mulholland wrote two fantastic books that kept me company when I was laid up at home with a broken ankle. “This Is Uncool: The 500 Greatest Singles Since Punk And Disco” and “Fear Of Music: The Greatest 261 Albums Since Punk and Disco”. In “Fear Of Music” on the subject of “Scary Monsters” he opines that this album is Bowie saying “right, that’s enough…I’ve shown you the way for the last 10 years, it’s your turn now”. Effectively he’s making one last great statement and handing off the baton to a younger generation who have grown up hanging on his every note.

    And here it is, the last in a run of 11 consecutive studio albums (as I’ve said before I’m not counting “PinUps”) over 9 years where he barely put a foot wrong musically. In just 9 years he went from “the sun machine is coming down and we’re gonna have a party” hippy-dom to “ashes to ashes, funk to funky, we know Major Tom’s a junkie”.

    There’s a school of thought that thinks, with “Scary Monsters”, Bowie invents the 80’s. The New Romantics hadn’t really happened yet. The Blitz kids had their little scene going (originally advertised as Bowie & Roxy nights) and Bowie had visited The Blitz and caused quite the commotion. Let’s not forget that the first time most of us saw New Romantics was when Steve Strange and some of the other Blitz kids were invited to appear in the “Ashes To Ashes” video. 

    “It’s No Game” bookends the album starting out with Michi Hirota sounding very angry in Japanese, I have no idea what she’s saying. It even seems Bowie has had enough of it all in the end screaming “Shut Up…SHUT UP!”. That’s followed by 4 songs that were all released as singles “Up The Hill Backwards” and “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” see the return of some old friends with Roy Bittan on the former and Robert Fripp on both.

    That brings us to one of Bowie’s great songs, “Ashes To Ashes”. The video for “Ashes To Ashes” reveals much about the song, priests, a girl in a pretty dress, a bulldozer, a Pierrot, all in a funeral procession. It could all be the hallucinations of a guy in a padded cell. Was Major Tom flying out in space all those years ago or did we all really know “Major Tom’s a junkie” who was imagining it all ? “Space Oddity” was David Bowie’s beginning point, so was “Ashes To Ashes” meant as his end ? We all know that wasn’t the way things worked out now but things were happening behind the scenes that point to a metaphorical ”end” for David Bowie.

    And you all know about “Fashion” don’t ya ? The last song finished for this album and one that, although Bowie went to great lengths to tell that it wasn’t about Neo-facism, certainly has that feel about it lyrically…“we are the goon squad and we’re coming to town,” and “turn to the left, turn to the right”…

    Side 2 contains a trio of songs not often mentioned. I’m gonna gloss over the cover of Tom Verlaine’s “Kingdom Come”, it’s not bad but I’m sure he had better somewhere. Cos “Teenage Wildlife”, “Scream Like A Baby” and “Because You’re Young” (featuring Pete Townshend) show that Bowie was on a roll in the songwriting department.

    10 years after this album Bowie said

    Scary Monsters for me has always been some kind of purge. It was me eradicating the feelings within myself that I was uncomfortable with…You have to accommodate your pasts within your persona. You have to understand why you went through them. That’s the major thing. You cannot just ignore them or put them out of your mind or pretend they didn’t happen or just say “Oh I was different then.” David Bowie, Musician, July 1990

    As a closer on this period there’s a story from the making of the “Ashes To Ashes” video (at that point in time the most expensive promo video that had been made) that makes me chuckle. As they were filming at Pett Level beach near Hastings an old fella started walking his dog (as apparently he did every day) along the beach. One of the production crew rushed over to him and told him he couldn’t walk through there as they were making a video and “don’t you know who that is ?”. The old chap looked Bowie, resplendent in his Pierrot costume, up and down and responded “It’s some c*nt in a clown suit”. Bowie continued to tell himself after that, when he got a bit full of himself or drunk on his own self importance, “You’re just a c*nt in a clown suit”…

    Teenage Wildlife - https://youtu.be/1hIwB97p3r0