Released: 3 March 1986
David Bowie: vocals
Janet Armstrong: backing vocals
Kevin Armstrong: guitar
Rick Wakeman: piano
Steve Nieve: keyboards
Matthew Seligman: bass guitar
Neil Conti: drums
Luís Jardim: percussion
Mac Gollehon: trumpet
Don Weller, Gary Barnacle, Paul “Shilts” Weimar, Willie Garnett, Andy MacKintosh, Gordon Murphy: saxophones
One of David Bowie’s finest post-Scary Monsters works, ‘Absolute Beginners’ was a standalone single released in 1986. It was the title theme of Julien Temple’s adaptation of Colin MacInnes’s 1959 novel.
Temple’s film starred Eddie O’Connell, Patsy Kensit, James Fox, Edward Tudor-Pole, Anita Morris and David Bowie. It also had Paul Weller, Ray Davies, and Keith Richards in supporting roles.
I like to believe that it’s going through one hell of a shake-up. I think we’ve got some great young film-makers, I really do. I think the guy that I’m working with, Julien Temple, is really a very perceptive and ambitious young film-maker and I think he’s going to end up doing something quite remarkable. The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle wasn’t faultless by any means, but it was rejuvenating, and I think his plans for his own film Absolute Beginners should do a lot for young British film-making. It feels essentially London: but London not in a passé way. The excitement of London, which has never been featured properly.
For instance, he deals with the ’50s black riots in Notting Hill, and that’s an area which has never been treated on film. That’s an extraordinary thing to have even dug up; so few people remember that it even happened. He’s got a very good chance of carrying it off. I’d love to do a feature with him because we’ve enjoyed working together tremendously. I’ve never ever put so much into someone else’s hands in terms of making videos.
New Musical Express, 29 September 1984
Absolute Beginners was not a box office success, and was critically panned. Bowie appeared as advertising executive Vendice Partners in the film, although his theme song – which he continued to perform throughout his touring days – remained the more memorable contribution.
‘Absolute Beginners’ was one of three David Bowie songs to feature on the soundtrack. The others were ‘Volare’ and ‘That’s Motivation’ – to which, during the film, he memorably danced across a giant typewriter, ascended Mount Everest, and sang in the centre of a giant record player.