Scary Monsters… And Super Creeps album coverWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: February-April 1980
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 12 September 1980 (UK), 15 September 1980 (US)

Available on:
Scary Monsters… And Super Creeps

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, keyboards
Carlos Alomar, Pete Townshend: guitar
George Murray: bass guitar
Dennis Davis: drums, percussion
Andy Clark: synthesizer
Tony Visconti, Lynn Maitland, Chris Porter: backing vocals

Available on:
Scary Monsters… And Super Creeps

‘Because You’re Young’ is the penultimate song on David Bowie’s 14th studio album Scary Monsters… And Super Creeps. It features the Who’s Pete Townshend on guitar.

That was very kind of him. He came down and listened to it and decided he would like to play on it, so he did.

Oh that’s a love song. There you are. [laughs] Not much more I can say about that. I guess I’ve adopted the role of a sort of a old roué in that one, looking down on these two young mad things, and knowing that it’s all going to sort of fizzle out. God, I’m a depressive person, aren’t I? [laughs]

David Bowie, 1980
The David Bowie Interview promo album

During an interview with the New Musical Express to promote the album, Bowie suggested that his son Duncan partly inspired the song.

I don’t think I would try to revitalise the same area of energy and sensibilities that, say, Ziggy had. I wouldn’t attempt that again, because I haven’t got that same positivism within my make-up any more. I mean, the very juvenile sort of assertiveness and arrogance of that period. He said modestly (laughs). I can’t write young…

I think repeatedly that having got a nine-year-old son that’s an area where I can try and talk to an age group that I’ve been through.

David Bowie
NME, 13 September 1980

Bowie’s demo of the song, which had incomplete lyrics, was written in the first person and titled ‘Because I’m Young’. It begins with the lines “Look in my eyes, nobody home”, similar to ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’.

‘Because You’re Young’ contrasts the optimism of young love with the observations of a rather more worldly-wise narrator. It is hard not to trace an autobiographical element, knowing that Bowie’s divorce from Angela Barnett was finalised a week before the Scary Monsters sessions began in New York. He was granted custody of their son Duncan, and she received a settlement of £500,000, to be paid over ten years.

He punishes hard
Was loving her such a crime?
She took back everything she said
Left him nearly out of his mind

They’re people I know, people I love
They seem so unhappy
Dead or alive

It’s love back to front and no sides
These pieces are broken
These pieces are broken

Because you’re young
You’ll meet a stranger some night
Because you’re young
What could be nicer for you?
And it’ll makes me sad
So I’ll dance my life away
A million dreams, a million scars

‘Because You’re Young’

Bowie rehearsed ‘Because You’re Young’ ahead of the Glass Spider Tour in 1987, but it was never performed live in public.

In the studio

The backing track of ‘Because You’re Young’, like all the Scary Monsters songs, was recorded at New York’s Power Station in early 1980.

Overdubs including lead and backing vocals were recorded at Good Earth Studios in central London, owned by producer Tony Visconti.

Chris Porter was my chief engineer at Good Earth and was a lead singer in a Portsmouth band before I met him. He also helped with the construction of Good Earth. Sometimes when David wanted backing vocals, he couldn’t wait to phone around to see who was available. He would ask random people in the studio, ‘Can you sing?’ In some other cases, ‘Can you play guitar?’ I had just met singer Lynn Maitland, a friend of a band I had produced earlier, and she was in the studio as a guest. Lynn and Chris were enlisted! I joined them to sing the choir parts for ‘Up The Hill Backwards’, ‘Kingdom Come’, ‘Because You’re Young’ and ‘Teenage Wildlife’.
Tony Visconti, April 2017
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book

Also recorded at Good Earth was guitar by the Who’s Pete Townshend. Bowie was an avowed fan of the band, and had recorded their first two hits on Pin Ups in 1973.

We needed more muscle on these tracks and we were blessed to have musicians Pete Townshend and Robert Fripp living locally. They added British guitar zest to the New York potpourri of musical styles. With Pete Townshend we weren’t sure at first what we expected of him and he didn’t seem to know where to begin with ‘Because You’re Young’.
Tony Visconti, April 2017
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book

Townshend also performed on ‘Slow Burn’, on Bowie’s 2002 album Heathen, and Bowie had covered the Who’s ‘Pictures Of Lily’ during the Toy sessions.

I knew my place and my place was to aid the process and stay out of the way. You’re a moving part, not part of the creative process. Pete Townshend was an incredibly patient man. I set up his equipment, he chatted. He loved the story of how I got there. He does a bit of windmill guitaring on ‘Because You’re Young’. It’s a privilege to be able to say you’ve put some microphones up round Pete Townshend’s amp.
Chris Porter, engineer
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Townshend’s 1980 overdub session was not straightforward, owing to the guitarist’s alcoholism. Nonetheless, once he understood what Bowie and Visconti wanted for the track, his part was completed in less than an hour.

‘Townshend is coming to the studio today,’ announced David apprehensively. I had read how much Pete Townshend had been drinking and he was still busting up hotel rooms so I was apprehensive too. When he arrived he seemed to be in a foul, laconic mood. David asked if there was anything we could get for him and he asked for a bottle of wine. I asked if he wanted red or white and he snarled back, ‘There’s no such thing as white wine!’ Whoops. I was hoping he wouldn’t hurl the empty bottle through my studio window. He sort of settled in and asked what we wanted him to do on this track. David looked at me kind of puzzled and asked, ‘Chords?’ Townshend asked, ‘What kind of chords?’ I think both David and I were a little afraid to state the obvious, but I finally offered, ‘Er, Pete Townshend chords.’ Townshend shrugged, ‘Oh, windmills,’ and did a perfect windmill on his guitar, traditionally grazing his right-hand knuckles. Within 30 minutes the chords were laid on the track, the bottle of red wine was drained and Townshend exited onto Dean Street.
Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy

The release

The album Scary Monsters… And Super Creeps was released on 12 September 1980. ‘Because You’re Young’ was the ninth of its ten songs.

‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’ was released as a single in January 1981 in the UK, France, Germany, and Ireland. It was the third single taken from the album, after ‘Ashes To Ashes’ and ‘Fashion’.

In the UK, Ireland, and Germany the b-side was ‘Because You’re Young’, while in France it was ‘Up The Hill Backwards’.

Previous song: ‘Kingdom Come’
Next song: ‘It’s No Game (No. 2)’