Beauty and the Beast (David Bowie song)

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"Beauty and the Beast"
Single by David Bowie
from the album "Heroes"
B-side "Sense of Doubt"
Released 6 January 1978
Format 7" single
12" single (US promo, Spain)
Recorded Hansa Studio by the Wall, West Berlin
July–August 1977
Genre Art rock
Length 3:32
5:18 (12" extended version)
Label RCA Records
PB 1190
PC 1204 (12" Spain)
JD 11204 (12" US promo)
Producer(s) David Bowie, Tony Visconti
David Bowie singles chronology
""Heroes""
(1977)
"Beauty and the Beast"
(1978)
"Breaking Glass"
(1978)
"Heroes" track listing
"Beauty and the Beast"
(1)
"Joe the Lion"
(2)

"Beauty and the Beast" is a song by David Bowie, the first track on his 1977 album "Heroes". It was issued as the second single from the album in January 1978, becoming a minor UK hit, peaking at No. 39 on the UK Singles Chart.

Music and lyrics[edit]

The opening music, a disjointed combination of piano, guitar, electronics and voice rising steadily to a crescendo, has been described as sounding like "Bowie is about to turn into The Incredible Hulk before your very ears".[1] The song proper features Robert Fripp on lead guitar, with treatments and synthesizer work by Brian Eno. Fripp has stated that his guitar work on the track is a first take made straight upon arrival at the studio.[2]

The lyrics have been interpreted as a look back at Bowie's severe mood swings during his cocaine addiction while living in Los Angeles from 1975 to 1976, with the line "Thank God Heaven left us standing on our feet" suggesting the singer's gratitude for making it through that period.[3] The phrase "someone fetch a priest" alludes not to a desire for religious succour but to co-producer Tony Visconti's frequent expletive during the recording sessions for "Heroes", "someone fuck a priest".[3]

In another interpretation, James E. Perone wrote:

"'Beauty and the Beast' is one of those David Bowie songs with lyrics that can leave the listener scratching his or her head and wondering just what they mean. Bowie establishes a basic of feeling of evil in the air through his impressionistic and non-linear lyrics. Bowie's references allow the listener to read the Beauty and the Beast characters two possible ways. Either they are two entities, or perhaps, two sides of a single entity. In either case, the fact remains that the dark side—which Bowie paints as unavoidable—rules the situation he constructs. The listener must keep in mind that Bowie has created images based on the good-evil dialectic throughout his career: it is not unique to 'Beauty and the Beast'. However, it is interesting to consider the possible influence of Berlin on Bowie at this point in his career. Certainly, the East Berlin-West Berlin, Communism-Democracy dialectics fit conveniently in the listener's possible understanding of the song."[4]

Release and aftermath[edit]

The follow-up single to ""Heroes"", "Beauty and the Beast" was considered an unconventional choice for release,[3] reflected in it just scraping into the UK Top 40. NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray remarked that its "jarring, threatening edge (and it was one of the most menacing singles of a menacing year) obviously put off a great many of the floating singles buyers attracted by the intoxicating romanticism of its immediate predecessor".[1] The US release failed to chart, despite being augmented by a promo 12" single featuring Bowie's earlier US No. 1 hit "Fame" on the B-side.

Bowie has only performed the song live on his 1978 tour, with a version appearing on Stage.

Track listing[edit]

7" single[edit]

  1. "Beauty and the Beast" (David Bowie) – 3:32
  2. "Sense of Doubt" (Bowie) – 3:57

12" single[edit]

  1. "Beauty and the Beast" (Bowie) – 5:18
  2. "Fame" (Bowie, John Lennon, Carlos Alomar) – 3:30

Production credits[edit]

Live versions[edit]

  • A concert performance recorded in the spring of 1978 was released on the live album Stage.

Cover versions[edit]

Other releases[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: pp.91-93
  2. ^ Preston, Andrew. "David Bowie's biggest fans reveal all". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: p.35
  4. ^ James E. Perone, The words and music of David Bowie, p.66. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007. ISBN 0-275-99245-4

References[edit]