Black Tie White Noise

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Black Tie White Noise
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 5 April 1993 (1993-04-05)
Recorded 1992 at
Mountain Studios, Switzerland;
38 Fresh Recordings, Los Angeles;
the Hit Factory, NYC[1]
Genre Rock, soul, electronic
Length 68:16
Label Savage
Producer David Bowie and Nile Rodgers
David Bowie chronology
Never Let Me Down
(1987)
Black Tie White Noise
(1993)
The Buddha of Suburbia
(1993)
David Bowie video chronology
Bowie – The Video Collection
(1993)
Black Tie White Noise
(1993)
Best of Bowie
(2002)

Black Tie White Noise is the eighteenth studio album by David Bowie. Released in 1993, it was his first solo release in the 1990s after spending time with his hard rock band Tin Machine, retiring his old hits on his Sound+Vision Tour, and marrying supermodel Iman Abdulmajid. This album featured his old guitarist from the Ziggy Stardust era, Mick Ronson, who died of cancer later in the year. This album was inspired by his own wedding and includes tracks such as "The Wedding" and its reprise at the end of the album as a song reflecting the occasion.

The album is commonly viewed as the start of an artistic renaissance for Bowie, whose creative enthusiasm and career had suffered in the late 1980s after a series of poorly received albums.

The album debuted at number one in the UK album charts two weeks after its release, his last No. 1 UK album until 2013's The Next Day.

Album development[edit]

Bowie reconnected with Nile Rodgers in New York after a 1991 concert with his band Tin Machine.[2] Bowie had worked with Rodgers previously on the Let's Dance album in 1983. Bowie pointed out that he and Rodgers were not looking to do a rehash of their previous success. "If Nile and I wanted to do Let's Dance II, we would have done it years ago, when, perhaps, it would have made more sense. Working together again, we avoided falling into that trap at all costs." Nile Rodgers agreed, stating "Half the fun of working with David is that you never know what the fuck he's going to come up with."[1] Of wanting to work together again, Bowie continued, "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."[2]

Rodgers described Bowie's attitude during the recording of this album as "a lot more relaxed this time then he was at the Let's Dance sessions, a hell of a lot more philosophical and just in a state of mind where his music was really, really making him happy." Overall Rodgers said the album took "one year, more or less" to record, a long time compared to Let's Dance's three weeks.[3]

Bowie played a lot of saxophone on the album, which Rodgers found challenging. He said:

I think David would be the first to admit that he's not a saxophonist in the traditional sense. I mean, you wouldn't call him up to do gigs. He uses his playing as an artistic tool. He's a painter. He hears an idea, and he goes with it. But he absolutely knows where he's going, because he damn well plays the same thing over and over again until I say, 'Well, I guess he hears that.' It's what you might call accidentally deliberate.[3]

Of recording the album, Bowie said:

I think this album comes from a very different emotional place [than previous albums]. That's the passing of time, which has brought maturity and a willingness to relinquish full control over my emotions, let them go a bit, start relating to other people, which is something that's been happening to me slowly - and, my God, it's been uphill - over the last ten or twelve years. I feel a lot freer these days to be able to talk about myself and about what's happened to me, because I've been able to face it. For many years, everything was always blocked out. The day before was always blocked out. I never wanted to return to examine anything that I did particularly. But the stakes have changed. I feel alive, in a real sense.[3]

On the album's title, Bowie had this to say:

White noise itself is something that I first encountered on the synthesizer many years ago. There's black noise and white noise. I thought that much of what is said and done by the whites is white noise. 'Black ties' is because, for me, musically, the one thing that really turned me on to wanting to be a musician, wanting to write, was black music, American black music - Little Richard and John Coltrane in the 50s. The first artist I really sort of dug was Little Richard when I was about eight years old. I found it all very exciting - the feeling of aggression that came through the arrangements. It was like breaking up the sky - his ordinary voice. That's what triggered my interest in American black music. That led me to the blues, John Lee Hooker and all those guys, and for a number of years I worked with rhythm and blues bands, and my participation in them formed my own black ties in that area of music.[4]

Song development[edit]

Bowie and Iman, newly married,[1] had arrived in Los Angeles to look for a new home together on the day that the Rodney King verdict was read, which resulted in the riot in Los Angeles.[2] This inspired Bowie to write the track "Black Tie White Noise," which he recorded with a tough, edgy quality to avoid it ending up like "an 'Ebony and Ivory' for the Nineties."[1] Singer Al B. Sure! collaborated with Bowie on this track. Of landing in LA to the riots, Bowie said:

It was awesome and numbing and it was the most apocalyptic experience I've been through in my life. It was a feeling of the irreconcilable differences that seem to have been fabricated in America and how hard it will be to reconcile those differences, to heal the wound, which is quite gaping.[2]

The track "Jump They Say" is a loosely autobiographical track about Bowie's half-brother, Terry, who committed suicide after being hospitalised for schizophrenia in the 1980s. "It's the first time I've felt capable of addressing it, and, as always, when I'm taking the first step toward a situation I address it in terms of illusionistic images" Bowie said.[1][2]

Bowie and Gabrels had previously written the song "You've Been Around" together when they were with Tin Machine, but the track never came out satisfactorily, so Bowie revived it when working on this album. "What I like about it is the fact that for the first half of the song, there's no harmonic reference. It's just drums and the voice comes in out of nowhere and you're not sure if it's a melody line or a drone or whatever and there's a really ominous feel to it that I like a lot. But one of the most satisfying things about making that particular track was working with Reeves on it because I had the chance, because it was my album, not Tin Machine's, to mix Reeves way into the background, so I knew that that would doubtlessly really irritate him, which indeed it did." Bowie also appreciated the sexuality of the song, saying "It's the texture of a song, for me, that almost comes above the lyrical content. The sex is in the rhythm, and being a very sexual person, that's very important for me, that it moves me."[5]

Bowie had reconnected with Mick Ronson partly due to Ronson's involvement in Morrissey's most recent album Your Arsenal, which Bowie was impressed with enough that he recorded a "totally camp" cover of the album's Bowie-esque "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday." "It's me singing Morrissey singing me," Bowie said.[1]

Bowie also recorded the song "Bring Me the Disco King," which Bowie described as "a depressing song summing up the sad late Seventies with a Philip Glass refrain running through it."[1] This track would not end up on the album, however, and would remained buried in Bowie's vault until its release on Bowie's 2003 album, Reality.

Bowie had a personal reason for recording a new version of Cream's "I Feel Free," which Rolling Stone magazine later called a "wild, funked-up cover of a well-known Sixties FM chestnut":

One of the times I actually went out with my step-brother, I took him to see a Cream concert in Bromley, and about halfway through - and I'd like to think it was during "I Feel Free" - he started feeling very, very bad... He used to see visions a lot. And I remember I had to take him out of the club because it was really starting to affect him - he was swaying... He'd never heard anything so loud; he was ten years older than me and he'd never been to a rock club, because jazz was his thing when he was young. ... Anyway, we got out into the street and he collapsed on the ground and he said the ground was opening up and there was fire and stuff pouring out the pavement, and I could almost see it for him, because he was explaining it so articulately. So the two songs ["I Feel Free" and "Jump They Say"] are close together on the album for very personal reasons.[6]

Bowie, who had written 5 pieces of music for his wedding ceremony to Iman,[1][2] put two of them on the album: "Pallas Athena" and "The Wedding Song / The Wedding." Writing these songs is what triggered Bowie to make the album.[3] He said:

Writing [the music for the wedding] brought my mind around to, obviously, what commitment means and why I was getting married at this age and what my intentions were and were they honorable? [laughs] And what I really wanted from my life from now on. I guess it acted as a watershed to write a lot of quite personal things, putting together a collection of songs that illustrated what I'd been going through over the past three or four years.[2]

Bowie recorded Scott Walker's cult classic "Nite Flights" for the album introducing a whole new legion of fans to the American singer. Bowie claimed to have been jealous of Walker in the past because one of Bowie's former girlfriends (presumably in the late 60s) liked Walker's voice more than his. Bowie went on to produce the 2006 documentary film Scott Walker: 30 Century Man.

Album release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2.5/5 stars[7]
BBC (2011) Positive[8]
Blender 2/5 stars[9]
Chicago Tribune 2.5/4 stars[10]
Entertainment Weekly D[11]
Los Angeles Times 3/4 stars[12]
Robert Christgau B–[13]
Rolling Stone (1993) 4/5 stars[14]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004) 1/5 stars[15]

In interviews given prior to the album's release, Bowie was especially coy, refusing to divulge either the name of the album nor the tracks he was recording. Bowie was feeling good about the record, saying "I'm so proud of this record. At the risk of blowing my own horn, I don't think I've hit this peak before as a performer and a writer."[1]

Reviews of the album were generally positive, with one reviewer called this album "arguably his best since Scary Monsters".[2] Rolling Stone magazine called the album "one of the smartest records of a very smart career"[14] and called the album's resulting positive critical acclaim and public adulation "one of the great Houdini-like tricks in the history of Rock & Roll.",[3] A 2011 review of the album by the BBC credited the production quality and Bowie's "immense confidence" for an album that rose above its immediate predecessors.[8]

Entertainment Weekly found the album mostly "listless" and "tired" with two exceptions: the "dreamy" "Miracle Goodnight" and the "witty" "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday."[11] Robert Christgau, writing in The Village Voice, said that the music was Bowie's "most arresting" because of its dance beats and electronic textures, but reacted negatively towards Bowie's lyrics about race relations.[13]

The album reached the number one spot on the UK charts with singles such as "Jump They Say" and "Miracle Goodnight". However, until re-releases later in the 1990s, the album was extraordinarily rare after the fledgling Savage Records on which it had been released suddenly went bankrupt.[16]

Bowie intentionally did not tour in support of the album, saying "Heavens, no. I'd like to [tour], but it takes up so much time. ... I think I lost such a lot of my life through doing that."[4] Bowie would tour again in 1995 (for his Outside Tour).

Album legacy[edit]

After the poor reception of Bowie's previous few albums (Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987)) and Bowie's Glass Spider Tour (1987), Bowie's critical stature was at a career low.[17] This album, combined with Bowie's Sound+Vision Tour (1990) and participation in Tin Machine (1989-1992), marked the beginning of Bowie's commercial revival and improved critical standing,[3][18] with the BBC later calling the album a "perfect" way to begin the "next stage" of Bowie's career.[8]

It has been suggested by critics that it was Bowie's name rather than the music which prevented a bigger commercial success; to prove a point, in 1993, anonymous club remixes of the album track "Pallas Athena" were released to American dancefloors and became big hits.[2]

After finishing the album, Bowie said he planned to take some time off to spend with his wife as well as go back into the studio with Tin Machine for a third album in 1993,[1][2] but the Tin Machine project failed to come together and Bowie's next effort was to be his solo soundtrack effort, The Buddha of Suburbia.

Track listing[edit]

CD version[edit]

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "The Wedding"   David Bowie 5:04
2. "You've Been Around"   Bowie, Reeves Gabrels 4:45
3. "I Feel Free"   Jack Bruce, Pete Brown 4:52
4. "Black Tie White Noise" (Featuring Al B. Sure!) Bowie 4:52
5. "Jump They Say"   Bowie 4:22
6. "Nite Flights"   Noel Scott Engel 4:30
7. "Pallas Athena"   Bowie 4:40
8. "Miracle Goodnight"   Bowie 4:14
9. "Don't Let Me Down & Down"   Tahra, Martine Valmont 4:55
10. "Looking for Lester"   Bowie, Nile Rodgers 5:36
11. "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"   Morrissey, Mark Nevin 4:14
12. "The Wedding Song"   Bowie 4:29
Total length:
56:33

LP version[edit]

  • On the Indonesian release, Bowie sang "Don't Let Me Down & Down" in Indonesian.
  • Nile Rodgers was not given a co-writing credit for "Looking for Lester" on the original 1993 release, but his credit was added on the 2003 reissue.

Rereleases[edit]

To mark the album's 10th anniversary in 2003, a re-release consisting of the original album, a second disc of remixes and rarities and a bonus DVD of the Black Tie White Noise video was released. Songs like "Real Cool World" (a song from the Cool World film soundtrack released as a single in 1992) and "Lucy Can't Dance" (a bonus track on the original album) were included alongside dance mixes of many of the album tracks.

Bonus tracks on some versions[edit]

  1. "Jump They Say" (Alternate mix) – 3:58
  2. "Lucy Can't Dance" – 5:45
  • The Japanese release featured the "Don't Stop Praying" remix of "Pallas Athena" as an additional bonus track.

Disc 2 (Bonus tracks on 10th Anniversary version)[edit]

  1. "Real Cool World" – 5:27
  2. "Lucy Can't Dance" – 5:48
  3. "Jump They Say" (Rock Mix) – 4:30
  4. "Black Tie White Noise" (3rd Floor US radio mix) – 3:44
  5. "Miracle Goodnight" (Make Believe mix) – 4:30
  6. "Don't Let Me Down & Down" (Indonesian vocal version) – 4:56
  7. "You've Been Around" (Dangers 12" mix) – 7:40
  8. "Jump They Say" (Brothers in Rhythm 12" remix) – 8:26
  9. "Black Tie White Noise" (Here Come Da Jazz) – 5:33
  10. "Pallas Athena" (Don't Stop Praying remix no. 2) – 7:24
  11. "Nite Flights" (Moodswings Back to Basics Remix) – 10:01
  12. "Jump They Say" (Dub Oddity) – 6:18

Black Tie White Noise Video EP[edit]

Black Tie White Noise
The cover of the video collection, showing a 1993-era picture of David Bowie above his name and the title, "Black Tie White Noise" set on a black and white background
Original VHS Video Cover
Directed by David Mallet
Produced by Lana Topham & Paul Flattery
Starring David Bowie
Music by David Bowie
Edited by Lauren Harris
Production
  company
BMG Video
Release date(s) 1993
Running time 63 minutes

Released in 1993, this video collection was shows Bowie performing 6 of the tracks from his album Black Tie White Noise, recorded "on Saturday 8 May 1993, at the Hollywood Center Studios in Los Angeles."[19] The video includes additional new interview footage with David Bowie as well as 3 of his most recent full-length music videos.

Track listing (VHS (16622-3) / Laserdisc (16622-6))[edit]

  • Only major musical performances are given track numbers; interviews with Bowie are interspersed between the musical numbers.
  1. "You've Been Around"
  2. "Nite Flights"
  3. "Miracle Goodnight"
  4. "Black Tie White Noise"
  5. "I Feel Free"
  6. "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"
  7. "Miracle Goodnight" (music video)
  8. "Jump They Say" (music video)
  9. "Black Tie White Noise" (music video)

Track listing (DVD (72434-90726-9-5))[edit]

  • On the 2003 re-release DVD, the chapter stops were expanded to include the inter-song interviews
  1. "Introduction"
  2. "With Lester Bowie"
  3. "On Reeves Gabrels"
  4. "You've Been Around" *
  5. "Expanding and Experimenting"
  6. "Nite Flights" *
  7. "Otherness"
  8. "Miracle Goodnight" *
  9. "On Marriage"
  10. "Black Tie White Noise" *
  11. "With Mick Ronson"
  12. "I Feel Free" *
  13. "With Nile Rodgers"
  14. "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday" *
  15. "Miracle Goodnight (promo video)"
  16. "Jump They Say (promo video)"
  17. "Black Tie White Noise (promo video)"
  18. "Credits"
  • Tracks marked with an asterisk (*) are musical performances recorded at the Hollywood Center Studios, Los Angeles, 5/8/93
Jump - The David Bowie Interactive CD-ROM
David Bowie - Jump CDROM.jpg
Cover of the Jump Interactive CD-ROM for Windows, released in North America
Developer(s) ION
Distributor(s) BMG
Platform(s) Windows,Macintosh
Release date(s)
    Distribution CD-ROM

    Jump (The David Bowie interactive CD-ROM)[edit]

    To coincide with the album's release, Bowie commissioned an "interactive CD-ROM" be produced based on the album. Released in 1994, the Jump CD-ROM gave users a chance to remake Bowie's "Jump They Say" video, remix "Black Tie White Noise," and explore a virtual world based on the album (including "hidden animations, sounds, pictures and other surprises.") It also included four complete music videos and excerpts from interviews with David Bowie about the creation of the video and album.[20]

    The CD was not well received.[21] Initially Bowie was excited with the project, expecting it to be "fully interactive, and have a nonlinear storyline" and allowing listeners to play it over and over and "never go through the same experience."[22] The release did not live up to his expectations however, and Bowie was quoted in 1995 saying "I hated it. I absolutely loathed it. ... There were aspects of it I thought had potential, but then again, there was so much information on the disc itself that made the idea of anybody using it interactively a joke. Interactive, as far as I'm concerned, is when the person who's operating the computer has as much to say as what's on the screen. That is interactive. And at the moment, it's just the ABC options. Even the most sophisticated CD-ROMs are just 'Here's the hard information. Now, you can take one of these three steps.'"[23]

    Personnel[edit]

    • David Bowie – vocals, guitar, saxophone, production
    • Nile Rodgers – production, guitar
    • Pugi Bell, Sterling Campbell – drums
    • Barry Campbell, John Regan – bass
    • Richard Hilton, Dave Richards, Philippe Saisse, Richard Tee – keyboards
    • Michael Reisman – harp, tubular bells, string arrangement
    • Gerardo Velez – percussion
    • Fonzi Thornton, Tawatha Agee, Curtis King, Jr., Dennis Collins, Brenda White-King, Maryl Epps – background vocals
    • Al B. Sure! – vocal duet on "Black Tie White Noise"
    • Reeves Gabrels – lead guitar on "You've Been Around"
    • Mick Ronson – lead guitar on "I Feel Free"
    • Wild T. Springer – lead guitar on "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"
    • Mike Garson – piano on "Looking For Lester"
    • Lester Bowie – trumpet on "You've Been Around", "Jump They Say", "Pallas Athena", "Don't Let Me Down & Down", "Looking For Lester"
    • Fonzi Thornton, Tawatha Agee, Curtis King, Jr., Dennis Collins, Brenda White-King, Maryl Epps, Frank Simms, George Simms, David Spinner, Lamya Al-Mughiery, Connie Petruk, David Bowie, Nile Rodgers – choir on "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"
    • Jon Goldberger, Gary Tole, Andrew Grassi, Mike Greene, Louis Alfred III, Dale Schalow, Lee Anthony, Neal Perry, Andy Smith – engineering

    Charts[edit]

    Preceded by
    Suede by Suede
    UK number one album
    17 April 1993 – 23 April 1993
    Succeeded by
    Automatic for the People by R.E.M.

    References[edit]

    1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Wild, David (21 January 1993), "Bowie's Wedding Album", Rolling Stone magazine: 14 
    2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Sullivan, Jim (12 April 1993), "New wife, new album keep David Bowie in fine spirits", The Boston Globe 
    3. ^ a b c d e f Sinclair, David (1993), "Station to Station", Rolling Stone magazine, retrieved 24 May 2013 
    4. ^ a b Paytress, Mark (1993), "David Bowie Back in Black (and White)", Record Collector, retrieved 6 June 2013 
    5. ^ "Black Tie White Noise Video EP" by David Bowie, 1993
    6. ^ Sutherland, Steve (27 March 1993), "Bowie and Brett 'Alias Smith and Jones' Part 2", NME, retrieved 6 June 2013 
    7. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/r169348
    8. ^ a b c David Bowie Black Tie White Noise Review, retrieved 11 January 2013 
    9. ^ "Black Tie White Noise – Blender". Blender. Retrieved 16 June 2009. 
    10. ^ Kot, Greg (9 April 1993). "All Dressed Up . . .: Bowie's `Black Tie' Tries To Go Everywhere But Ends Up Nowhere". chicagotribune.com (Chicago Tribune). Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
    11. ^ a b "Black Tie White Noise Review", Entertainment Weekly, 16 April 1993, retrieved 8 January 2013 
    12. ^ Cromelin, Richard (4 April 1993). "Album Review". articles.latimes.com (Los Angeles Times). Retrieved 10 October 2011. 
    13. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (23 November 1993). "Turkey Shoot". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
    14. ^ a b Evans, Paul (29 April 1993), Black Tie White Noise Review (Rolling Stone magazine), retrieved 23 April 2013 
    15. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/david-bowie/albumguide
    16. ^ "David Bowie Interview" by David Sprague, Pulse magazine, February 1997, pp 34-37 & 72-73
    17. ^ Barton, David (8 June 1989), "David Bowie puts career on the line", Journal-American: D5 
    18. ^ Potter, Matt (11 January 2013), Hello Again, Spaceboy, retrieved 28 June 2013 
    19. ^ "Black Tie White Noise Video EP" Back cover, 1993
    20. ^ "Jump - The David Bowie Interactive CD-ROM" back cover, Ion, 1994
    21. ^ Burr, Ty (17 June 1994), "Jump: The David Bowie Interactive CD-ROM", Entertainment Weekly, retrieved 29 October 2013 
    22. ^ Strauss, Neil (28 July 1994), "The Pop Life", New York Times, retrieved 29 October 2013 
    23. ^ Paul, George A. (1995), "Bowie Outside Looking In", Axcess magazine 3 (5): 60–62 
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    28. ^ "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (PHP). infodisc.fr. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
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    30. ^ a b "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 1993" (in Italian). hitparadeitalia.it. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
    31. ^ デヴィッド・ボウイ-リリース-ORICON STYLE-ミュージック "Highest position and charting weeks of Black Tie White Noise by David Bowie". oricon.co.jp (in Japanese). Oricon Style. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
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    34. ^ Salaverri, Fernando (September 2005). Sólo éxitos: año a año, 1959–2002 (1st ed.). Spain: Fundación Autor-SGAE. ISBN 84-8048-639-2. 
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