Reality (David Bowie album)

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David Bowie - Reality.jpg
Studio album by
Released15 September 2003 (2003-09-15)
RecordedJanuary–May 2003
StudioDavid Bowie's house, SoHo
the Looking Glass Studios, NoHo
Mike Garson's home studio, Bell Canyon
GenreAlternative rock[1]
David Bowie chronology
Best of Bowie
Live Santa Monica '72
Singles from Reality
  1. "New Killer Star"
    Released: 29 September 2003
  2. "Never Get Old"
    Released: 25 February 2004

Reality is the 23rd studio album by David Bowie. It was released on 15 September 2003 on his Iso Records label, in conjunction with Columbia Records.

Recording and production[edit]

Bowie started writing the songs for Reality as the production for his previous album Heathen was wrapping up. Some songs he wrote quickly: "Fall Dog Bombs the Moon" was written in 30 minutes. Other songs, such as "Bring Me the Disco King", was a song Bowie had tried his hand at as early as the 1970s and had tried again with 1993's Black Tie White Noise[2] as well as Earthling in 1997.[3][4] The album was recorded and produced in New York City's Looking Glass Studios and co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti. Bowie wrote four or five tracks at his home studio before coming to Looking Glass. Bowie and Visconti took those tracks and worked those into about 7 songs, before adding overdubs like rhythm guitars and keyboards. According to Visconti, they took care during this part of the process to record things properly, saying "we'd hardly redo anything. I always record things carefully in the first place, because I know we're not going to redo them, and so a lot of the demo parts ended up on the final version."[4] They then took "a short break" during which time Bowie wrote a few more songs, and then they started the overdub process over again with that new material.[4] Consisting mostly of original compositions, the album also includes two songs written by others, the Modern Lovers' "Pablo Picasso" and George Harrison's "Try Some, Buy Some". These two tracks were originally slated for Bowie's never-recorded Pin Ups 2 album from the early 1970s. Bowie and Visconti produced both the stereo and 5.1 mix in the studio as the album was recorded. Of the 5.1 mix, Visconti said "My approach to 5.1 is to be involved, to have instruments wrapped around you rather than in front of you. Rather than putting you in the audience seat I actually put you in the band, and so that's what I did with Reality. Also, I put a slap-back on the vocal in the rear speakers to again create space."[4]

Bowie usually recorded his vocals for songs in just one or two takes. Visconti remarked that Bowie had recently quit smoking, and as a result "he's recaptured some of his high range. He'd lost at least five semitones, and he's now gained most of them back. I mean, in the old days he used to sing 'Life on Mars?' in the key of C. Now he has to sing it in the key of G."[4]

Album title[edit]

Bowie chose 'Reality' as the album title because, "I feel that reality has become an abstract for so many people over the last 20 years. Things that they regarded as truths seem to have just melted away, and it's almost as if we're thinking post-philosophically now. There's nothing to rely on any more. No knowledge, only interpretation of those facts that we seem to be inundated with on a daily basis. Knowledge seems to have been left behind and there's a sense that we are adrift at sea. There's nothing more to hold on to, and of course political circumstances just push that boat further out.[4]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
AllMusic3.5/5 stars[6]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[7]
Entertainment WeeklyC+ [8]
The Guardian4/5 stars[9]
Mojo4/5 stars[10]
Rolling Stone3.5/5 stars[12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide3/5 stars[13]
Uncut4/5 stars[14]
USA Today3/4 stars[15]

A contemporary review of the album by the BBC called the album "a proper album, with a beginning, a middle and an end. It's direct, warm, emotional honest, even and the surfeit of pleasingly deceptive musical simplicity allows the irony of the central concept – that there is no such thing as reality anymore – an opportunity to filter through. It's also rather lively and convincing." The same review called this and his earlier album Earthling Bowie's "best album since Scary Monsters."[1]

Release history[edit]

Over the promotional period, the album was released in a variety of formats. The standard release was a single jewel case CD version, followed by the CD with a bonus CD of three tracks in digipak format as well as a European gatefold limited edition version with a bonus CD of eight tracks. The album was then released as a multichannel hybrid SACD, and then reissued with a bonus live DVD recorded in London.[16]

Live performances[edit]

Bowie took the album on tour in 2003 and 2004 on what was originally planned to be a 7-month tour.[4]

Track listing[edit]

All tracks are written by David Bowie, except where noted.

1."New Killer Star"4:40
2."Pablo Picasso" (Jonathan Richman)4:06
3."Never Get Old"4:25
4."The Loneliest Guy"4:11
5."Looking for Water"3:28
6."She'll Drive the Big Car"4:35
8."Fall Dog Bombs the Moon"4:04
9."Try Some, Buy Some" (George Harrison)4:24
11."Bring Me the Disco King"7:45

On the Japanese edition, a recording of the Kinks' song "Waterloo Sunset" appears as a bonus track.

Limited edition Digipak bonus disc
2."Queen of All the Tarts (Overture)"2:53
3."Rebel Rebel" (2002 re-recording)3:10
European limited edition gatefold bonus disc
1."Waterloo Sunset"Ray Davies3:28
2."Fly" 4:10
3."Queen of All the Tarts (Overture)" 2:53
4."Rebel Rebel" (2002 re-recording) 3:10
5."Love Missile F1 Eleven"Martin Degville, Tony James, Neal Whitmore4:15
6."Rebel Never Gets Old" (Radio mix) 3:27
7."Rebel Never Gets Old" (7th Heaven edit) 4:19
8."Rebel Never Gets Old" (7th Heaven mix) 7:23
Limited DVD tour edition

The DVD features a promotional concert where the whole album was played live track by track. It was recorded at the Riverside Studios, Hammersmith, London on 8 September 2003. On the Canadian reissue, the live DVD was truncated down to five tracks.

DualDisc edition

A DualDisc edition was released initially in the Boston and Seattle regions of the US only. The CD side contains the album, whereas the DVD side contains the album in 5.1 surround sound and bonus material (photo gallery, lyrics, biography, and discography). Of most interest is the otherwise unavailable Reality film featuring full-length videos of "Never Get Old", "The Loneliest Guy", "Bring Me the Disco King" and "New Killer Star" directed by Steven Lippman. About half a year later this edition was released nationwide in the US and Canada.

The original test marketed DualDisc version differs in packaging and in the design on the inlay card from the version that was later released nationwide.


Additional personnel


Chart performance[edit]


  1. ^ a b Easlea, Daryl (2002). "David Bowie Reality Review". BBC. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  2. ^ David Wild. "Bowie's Wedding Album". Rolling Stone (21 January 1993): 14.
  3. ^ O'Leary, Chris (2019). Ashes to Ashes The Songs of David Bowie 1976-2016. Repeater Books. ISBN 9781912248308.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Buskin, Richard (October 2003), "David Bowie & Tony Visconti Recording Reality", Sound on Sound, retrieved 1 August 2019
  5. ^ Reality (Review), metacritic, retrieved 16 January 2013
  6. ^ Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Reality – David Bowie". Allmusic. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  7. ^ Larkin, Colin (2011). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press.
  8. ^ "Reality". Entertainment Weekly: 85. 19 September 2003.
  9. ^ Caroline Sullivan (12 September 2003). "David Bowie, Reality". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  10. ^ Mojo Oct 2003, p.104
  11. ^ Eric Carr (16 September 2003). "David Bowie: Reality". Pitchfork. Retrieved 31 October 2011.
  12. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (10 September 2003). "David Bowie: Reality". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 12 September 2017.
  13. ^ The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. 2004. pp. 97–98.
  14. ^ Uncut Oct 2003, p.112
  15. ^ Edna Gundersen (15 September 2003). "Listen Up (David Bowie: Reality)". USA Today. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
  16. ^ Ivan Claudio (24 September 2003). "Jovialidade sem botox" (in Portuguese). Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2010.
  17. ^ "Mario J. McNulty". Joe D’Ambrosio Management.
  18. ^ "Eurochart". Billboard. 4 October 2003. p. 65.
  19. ^ " David Bowie – Reality" (ASP). Australian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  20. ^ "David Bowie – Reality –" (ASP). Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  21. ^ " — David Bowie – Reality" (ASP)., Hung Medien (in Dutch). Ultratop. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  22. ^ " — David Bowie – Reality" (ASP).,, Hung Medien (in French). Ultratop. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  24. ^ " David Bowie – Reality" (ASP). MegaCharts. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  25. ^ " David Bowie – Reality" (ASP). Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  26. ^ " David Bowie – Reality" (ASP). (in French). SNEP. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  27. ^ "Album Search: David Bowie – Reality" (ASP) (in German). Media Control. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  28. ^ "Top 75 Artist Album, Week Ending 18 September 2003". Irish Recorded Music Association. Chart-Track. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  29. ^ " David Bowie – Reality". Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  30. ^ "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 Reality by David Bowie]. (in Japanese). Oricon Style. Retrieved 10 October 2013.[verification needed]
  31. ^ " David Bowie – Earthling" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  32. ^ " David Bowie – Reality" (ASP). Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  33. ^ " David Bowie – Reality" (ASP). Hung Medien. Retrieved 29 July 2011.
  34. ^ " David Bowie – Reality" (ASP). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  35. ^ "David Bowie – Reality –" (ASP). Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  36. ^ "David Bowie > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Archived from the original on 3 November 2013. Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  37. ^ "allmusic ((( Reality > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 31 August 2011.
  38. ^ "Jaaroverzichten 2003". Ultratop (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 25 January 2014.
  39. ^ "Rapports annuels 2003". Ultratop (in French). Hung Medien. Retrieved 26 January 2014.
  40. ^ "Classement Albums - année 2003". Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique (in French). Archived from the original on 10 July 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2014.
  41. ^ "Hit Parade Italia – Gli album più venduti del 2003" (in Italian). Retrieved 10 October 2013.
  42. ^ "Les Albums Or". SNEP. Archived from the original on 28 August 2012. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  43. ^ "French album certifications – David Bowie – Reality" (in French). Syndicat National de l'Édition Phonographique. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
  44. ^ "British album certifications – David Bowie – Reality". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 10 October 2012. Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Reality in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.
  45. ^
  46. ^ "American album certifications – David Bowie – Reality". Recording Industry Association of America. If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Album, then click SEARCH. 

External links[edit]