Released: 8 March 2013
The Next Day
Gerry Leonard: guitar
Tony Levin: Chapman Stick
Zachary Alford: drums
Steve Elson: baritone saxophone
Tony Visconti: recorder
Gail Ann Dorsey, Janice Pendarvis: vocals
‘Boss Of Me’ is the ninth song on The Next Day, David Bowie’s 24th and penultimate studio album.
That is one of the slower, funky ones. It’s really solid. There’s a little Young Americans in there. But that’s really not proper… It’s a new kind of direction for him, melodically. Doesn’t sound like typical Bowie, that track. But it’s a very good track.
Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013
Bowie granted no interviews to promote The Next Day, instead allowing his collaborators to reveal the creation process and act as his proxy mouthpieces. His silence was broken on just one occasion, when he answered a request from novelist Rick Moody for a list of words to help elucidate the album’s themes.
I persuaded Bowie, somehow, to give me a sort of a work flow diagram for The Next Day, because I wanted to think about it in light of what he was thinking about it, I wanted to understand the lexicon of The Next Day, and so I simply asked if he would provide this list of words about his album, assuming, like everyone else waving madly trying to get his attention, that there was not a chance in hell that I would get this list, because who the fuck am I, some novelist killing time writing occasionally about music, and yet astonishingly the list appeared, and it appeared without further comment, which is really excellent, and exactly in the spirit of this album, and the list is far better than I could ever have hoped, and it’s exactly like Bowie, at least in my understanding of him, impulsive, intuitive, haunted, astringent, and incredibly ambitious in the matter of the arts; Bowie is a conceptual artist, it seems to me, who just happens to work in the popular song, and he wants to make work that goes somewhere new, and this is amply demonstrated by the list.
The list of 42 words was widely interpreted as three representing each song. Those for ‘Boss Of Me’ were: Displaced, Flight, Resettlement.
The song is widely held to be one of the weakest on The Next Day, with uninspired title and lyrics, and lazy rhymes which included sad/bad and lips/hips. At his peak Bowie was an endlessly fascinating lyricist, able to move forward the lexicon of rock, to beguile and intrigue. But at his worst, as on much of his 1980s output, he was disengaged and prone to putting out filler content. ‘Boss Of Me’ is a rare example of late-period banality from Bowie, and unworthy of its parent album.
In the studio
‘Boss Of Me’ was one of two songs from the album co-credited to Gerry Leonard; the other was ‘I’ll Take You There’, released as a bonus track on the deluxe edition, and on The Next Day Extra.
The songs were written in the summer of 2011, following the first set of recording sessions at New York’s Magic Shop studio.
He came up to visit me in Woodstock. He asked me if I had a drum machine. He said, ‘Okay, I’ll come over for coffee and maybe we’ll do a little more writing.’ I didn’t actually have a drum machine, so I ran over to my friend’s house. He has a nice old Roland TR-808. I said, ‘Ed, I’m borrowing your drum machine. I can’t tell you what for, but I need to take it right now.’ David came over and we wrote a couple of songs together. Then we went back into the studio and did two of those songs. It was such an honor. This session was over two weeks in September of 2011.
Rolling Stone, 20 February 2013
The backing track for ‘Boss Of Me’ was recorded at the Magic Shop on 14 September 2011, and Bowie’s lead vocals were overdubbed on 26 November.
Bass player Tony Levin performed on the track, but used a Chapman Stick, a guitar-like instrument played by tapping the wide fretboard.
I remember ‘Boss of Me’. We cut that with Tony Levin on bass. I remember specifically thinking, ‘Oh, this one sounds kind of funky. Wouldn’t it be great if he played the Stick?’ I suggested that, and Tony wasn’t thrilled with that, because there were a lot of chord changes. He doesn’t like to do songs with chord changes on the Stick, but everybody thought it sounded great. That sounded almost Peter Gabriel-like, like something from the ‘Big Time’ era.
Rolling Stone, 1 February 2013