Black Tie White Noise
|Black Tie White Noise|
|Studio album by|
|Released||5 April 1993|
|Studio||Mountain Studios, Montreux|
38 Fresh Recordings, Los Angeles
the Hit Factory, NYC
|David Bowie chronology|
|David Bowie video chronology|
|Singles from Black Tie White Noise|
Black Tie White Noise is the 18th studio album by David Bowie. Released in 1993, it was his first solo release in the 1990s and his first solo album in nearly six years, after spending time with his hard rock band Tin Machine, retiring his old hits on his Sound+Vision Tour, and marrying supermodel Iman. This album was an attempt to make "a new kind of melodic form of house" music and featured his old guitarist from the Ziggy Stardust era, Mick Ronson, who died of cancer 24 days after the album's release. 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 mid-to-late 1980s after a series of poorly received projects.[n 1]
Bowie reconnected with Nile Rodgers in New York after a 1991 concert with his band Tin Machine. Bowie had worked with Rodgers previously on 1983's Let's Dance. 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." 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." 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."
Rodgers described Bowie's attitude during the recording of this album as "a lot more relaxed this time than 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.
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.
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.
On the album's title, Bowie said:
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.
Bowie and Iman, newly married, had arrived in Los Angeles to look for a new home together on the day that the Rodney King verdict was read, which was followed by a riot in Los Angeles. 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." Singer Al B. Sure! collaborated with Bowie on this track. Of landing in Los Angeles 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.
The track "Jump They Say" is a loosely autobiographical track about Bowie's step-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.
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."
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.
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." This track did not end up on the album, however, and remained buried in Bowie's vault until its release on Bowie's 2003 album Reality.
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.
Bowie, who had written five pieces of music for his wedding ceremony to Iman, 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. 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.
Release and reception
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|Los Angeles Times|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
In interviews given prior to the album's release, Bowie was especially coy, refusing to divulge either the name of the album or 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."
Reviews of the album were generally positive, with one reviewer called this album "arguably his best since Scary Monsters". Rolling Stone magazine called the album "one of the smartest records of a very smart career" 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." 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. 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". 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, e.g. about race relations in the title track.
The album reached the number one spot on the UK Albums Chart, supported by the singles "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.
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." Bowie would tour again in 1995 with his Outside Tour.
In March 2016, Nick Knight's original cover photo shoot for the album was revealed: a simple portrait of Bowie's face would be mirrored down the middle, with the two right hand sides as the front cover, and the two left hand sides as the back cover. The result would be "a slightly strange, disturbing vision that left the viewer feeling that something was not quite right." This concept was abandoned, and a different shot from the same photo session was used as the cover instead.
After the poor reception of the albums Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987), and the Glass Spider Tour (1987), Bowie's critical stature was at a career low. This album, combined with the Sound+Vision Tour (1990) and participation in Tin Machine (1989–1992), marked the beginning of his commercial revival and improved critical standing, with the BBC later calling the album a "perfect" way to begin the "next stage" of Bowie's career.
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 dance floors and became big hits.
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. The Tin Machine project failed to come together, however, and Bowie's next effort was to be his solo soundtrack, The Buddha of Suburbia.
All tracks written by David Bowie, except where noted.
|2.||"You've Been Around"||Bowie, Reeves Gabrels||4:45|
|3.||"I Feel Free" (featuring Mick Ronson)||Pete Brown||Jack Bruce||4:52|
|4.||"Black Tie White Noise" (featuring Al B. Sure!)||4:52|
|5.||"Jump They Say"||4:22|
|6.||"Nite Flights"||Noel Scott Engel||Engel||4:30|
|9.||"Don't Let Me Down & Down"||Tahra Mint Hembara, trans. Martine Valmont||Hembara||4:55|
|10.||"Looking for Lester"||instrumental||Bowie, Nile Rodgers||5:36|
|11.||"I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"||Morrissey||Mark E. Nevin||4:14|
|12.||"The Wedding Song"||4:29|
|Original CD issue bonus tracks|
|13.||"Jump They Say" (alternate mix)||JAE-E||3:58|
|14.||"Pallas Athena" (Don't Stop Praying mix)||Meat Beat Manifesto||5:37|
|15.||"Lucy Can't Dance"||5:45|
|10th anniversary version bonus disc|
|1.||"Real Cool World"||5:27|
|2.||"Lucy Can't Dance"||5:48|
|3.||"Jump They Say" (rock mix)||Randy Staub||4:30|
|4.||"Black Tie White Noise" (3rd Floor US radio mix)||Jeremy "DJ Digit" Cowan and Raul "DJ EFX" Recinos, Marc "Funkyman" Paley||3:44|
|5.||"Miracle Goodnight" (Make Believe mix)||Tony Maserati||4:30|
|6.||"Don't Let Me Down & Down (Jangan Susahkan Hatiku)" (Indonesian vocal version)||4:56|
|7.||"You've Been Around" (Dangers 12" mix)||Jack Dangers||7:40|
|8.||"Jump They Say" (12" remix)||Brothers in Rhythm||8:26|
|9.||"Black Tie White Noise" (Here Come da Jazz)||Nile Rodgers||5:33|
|10.||"Pallas Athena" (Don't Stop Praying remix no. 2)||Meat Beat Manifesto||7:24|
|11.||"Nite Flights" (Back to Basics remix)||Moodswings||10:01|
|12.||"Jump They Say" (Dub Oddity)||Leftfield||6:18|
|LP version — side one|
|1.||"You've Been Around"||4:45|
|2.||"I Feel Free"||4:52|
|3.||"Black Tie White Noise"||4:52|
|4.||"Jump They Say"||4:22|
|LP version — side two|
|2.||"Don't Let Me Down & Down"||4:55|
|4.||"I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"||4:14|
|5.||"The Wedding Song"||4:29|
- "Jangan Susahkan Hatiku" ("Don't Let Me Down & Down" with the first half sung in Indonesian) supplanted "Don't Let Me Down & Down" in the version of the album released in Indonesia.
- 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.
- The alternate mix of "Jump They Say" is the same as the "JAE-E edit" from "Jump They Say" EU CD single. It is the only bonus track appended to cassette issues of the album. This mix is not included on the 10th anniversary edition.
- The "Don't Stop Praying" remix of "Pallas Athena" is included only in the original Japanese release.
- "Real Cool World" was made for the soundtrack of the film Cool World. Both were released in 1992.
Black Tie White Noise Video EP
|Black Tie White Noise|
Original VHS Video Cover
|Directed by||David Mallet|
Matthew Rolston ("Miracle Goodnight")
Mark Romanek ("Jump They Say" & "Black Tie White Noise")
|Produced by||Lana Topham & Paul Flattery|
|Music by||David Bowie|
|Edited by||Lauren Harris|
Released in 1993, this video collection shows Bowie performing six Black Tie White Noise tracks and talking about its influences, recorded "on Saturday 8 May 1993, at the Hollywood Center Studios in Los Angeles". The video also includes the three full-length music videos filmed for the albums' singles.
- On the VHS/LD releases, only major musical performances are given track numbers; interviews with Bowie are interspersed between the musical numbers. On the 2003 re-release DVD, also part of the 10th anniversary version of the album, the chapter stops were expanded to include the inter-song interviews. The list below reflects the latest issue.
- "With Lester Bowie"
- "On Reeves Gabrels"
- "You've Been Around"
- "Expanding and Experimenting"
- "Nite Flights"
- "Miracle Goodnight"
- "On Marriage"
- "Black Tie White Noise"
- "With Mick Ronson"
- "I Feel Free"
- "With Nile Rodgers"
- "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"
- "Miracle Goodnight" (promo video)
- "Jump They Say" (promo video)
- "Black Tie White Noise" (promo video)
Jump (The David Bowie interactive CD-ROM)
|Operating system||Windows, Macintosh|
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.
The CD-ROM was not well received. 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." 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.'"
- David Bowie – vocals, guitar, saxophone, production
- Nile Rodgers – production, guitar
- Poogie 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" and "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, Michael Thompson, Neal Perry, Andy Smith – engineering
|Canada (Music Canada)||Gold||50,000^|
|France (SNEP)||none||81,000 *|
|United Kingdom (BPI)||Gold||100,000^|
^shipments figures based on certification alone
- Bowie's work from 1984 through 1987 was successful commercially but not critically. Tonight was seen as a weak follow-up to Let's Dance, and Never Let Me Down is regarded by critics and Bowie himself as his nadir. The tour that followed was likewise unfavorably received. Bowie credits the formation of Tin Machine in 1989 as the beginning of his artistic rejuvenation.
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