New York, 1995
Brian Eno continued work on 1.Outside in January 1995 at his Brondesbury Villas studio in Kilburn, London. On 3 January he recorded “four new interlude pieces using samples of David’s voice”, followed the next day by “a sad ‘Touchshriek’ piece”.
On 5 January he recorded “more vocal support structures for David’s voice samples – picture frames”. These recordings were done without David Bowie being present.
New songs were recorded for 1.Outside in early 1995 at New York’s Hit Factory, and several older recordings were reworked. These were more conventional sessions, in contrast to the improvisations of the previous year.
During the first session, on 11 January, an early version of ‘I’m Afraid Of Americans’ was recorded. It then had the working titles ‘Dummy’ and ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ (it was intended for the film of that name, but was eventually destined for Showgirls).
A playback was also held that day of the Leon recordings, which Brian Eno considered unsatisfactory.
All very underdisciplined in my opinion – rambling, murky, over-and-overdubbed – things just left where they happened to fall. I suppose it’s an evolutionary approach – just setting up procedures that are semi-coherent and seeing what survives at the end of the evening. Unfortunately, since we’re working on 48-track (I hate that), far too much can survive. It’s a structural thing: when things are good, their structure – the balance of tension and release, light and dark, heaviness and lightness, earth and air, all those things – is obvious to me. If I’m not seeing that kind of structure, something’s wrong.
A Year (With Swollen Appendices)
‘We Prick You’ was started on 13 January, with the working title ‘Robot Punk’. “It’s a beginning,” Eno noted, “though the current vocal (‘We fuck you, we fuck you’) leaves something to be desired.” The song came together the following day. At this stage the only people in the studio were Bowie, Eno, producer David Richards, and assistant Andy Grassi.
The sessions continued on Monday 16 January, and saw the completion of ‘We Prick You’. Now present were veteran rhythm guitarist Carlos Alomar, and drummer Joey Baron – of whom Bowie told Modern Drummer magazine, ‘Metronomes shake in fear, he’s so steady.’
Bowie was late to the studio on 17 January, not arriving until 11.30am. In the meantime Eno led the other musicians through ‘I’m Deranged’ and an embryonic version of ‘I Have Not Been To Oxford Town’, then with the working title ‘Trio’.
In the afternoon, with Bowie, they began reworking ‘Moondust’, which became ‘Hallo Spaceboy’. The song came together quickly.
After lunch I suggested not trying to throw more overdubs at half formed songs in the hope they’d be rescued by sheer firepower, but instead start a new piece. So after that, and with total chaos in the studio (Carlos, David, myself, Dave Richards, Andy Grassi all in the control room; Joey smiling moonlike in the drum booth next door; loose cables everywhere; technical hitches; D. impatient to get going; me scribbling out structures and chord patterns; film directors calling) we went on to ‘Moondust’ – by stripping it right down to almost nothing. I wrote some lightning chords and spaces (knowing I wouldn’t get long to do it), and suddenly, miraculously, we had something, Carlos and Joey at their shining best. Instantly D. came up with a really great vocal strategy (something about a Spaceboy), delivered with total confidence and certainty. When he’s on, he’s really on. Perhaps I should accept that he’s the hunter to my pastoralist – he hangs round for a long time and then springs for the kill, whereas I get results by slower, semi-agricultural, processes. It seems to work every time when we use these rules.
A Year (With Swollen Appendices)
18 January saw work continue on ‘Hallo Spaceboy’. Eno, Alomar, and Baron continued work on ‘Trio’ that afternoon and the following day, and the song finally came together with Bowie’s input.
The thing I started last night really burst into life today when David heard it. Bizarre: he sat down and started writing the song on the first hearing, listened once more and said, ‘I’ll need five tracks.’ Then he went into the vocal booth and sang the most obscure thing imaginable – long spaces; little, incomplete lines. On track 2 he sang a companion part to that, on track 3 a ‘question’ to which tracks 1 and 2 had been the ‘answers’, and then, on the other two tracks, the lead lines! So he unfolded the whole thing in reverse, keeping us in suspense for the main song. Within half an hour he’d substantially finished what may be the most infectious song we’ve ever written together – currently called ‘Toll the Bell’. What’s fascinating is that he has glided over my careful structure, rambled around it in a fantastic way – so that you have two structures floating together, but not locked in an obvious way. This makes me think of two things: first, my recent evangelical buzzword, ‘unlocked’, and, second, those Peter Eisenmann buildings (of which I have been very suspicious) which utilize two different grid systems intersecting. There’s something lovely about the almost accidental relationship between these two strata – music and song – which share the same sonic space.
A Year (With Swollen Appendices)
‘No Control’ was assembled swiftly on 20 January. The song “was effectively finished in the hour, making five bull’s-eyes in five days,” noted Eno. “It’s funny that the song is called ‘No Control’, because this performance by him is a paradigm of control.”
Eno left New York later that day, but Bowie continued to work on 1.Outside into February 1995. Other songs recorded during this time were new versions of ‘Strangers When We Meet’, and ‘Thru’ These Architects Eyes’.
Not long after the Hit Factory sessions concluded, Bowie brought Eno and Kevin Armstrong to Westside Recording Studios in London. Armstrong had first worked with Bowie on ‘Absolute Beginners’, and appeared with him at Live Aid, on ‘Dancing In The Street’, and on Tin Machine’s two studio albums.
Armstrong’s song ‘Now’ had originally been performed by Tin Machine, and was reworked at Westside to become the song ‘Outside’. Armstrong also overdubbed guitar onto ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’ and ‘Thru’ These Architects Eyes’.
Present for the latter recording was socialite and television producer Sabrina Guinness, who was in the process of setting up a video creation workshop for underprivileged children. The children filmed the sessions, and were granted an interview by Eno. The children’s voices, in return, were used on ‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’.
This is really interesting, and very nicely written. I have a very minor quibble. That “Ikon” quote is slightly wrong. “It was important for this town, this locale, to have a populous…” says Bowie.
The correct noun is “populace” – “populous” is a homophonic adjective that isn’t appropriate here.