Released: 23 June 1986
Kevin Armstrong: guitar
Nick Plytas: keyboards
Matthew Seligman: bass
Neil Conti: drums
‘Chilly Down’ was written by David Bowie for the soundtrack of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth.
One of the songs I composed for the film was ‘Chilly Down’, a little swamp-type number for the Chillies or Wild Things, strange woodland creatures who waylay Sarah on her travels:
they’re a bit cruel, but infectiously hilarious, and I think they’re going to prove to be very popular.
Of the five Bowie songs on the Labyrinth soundtrack, ‘Chilly Down’ is the only one not to feature Bowie on lead vocals. It was sung by actors Charles Augins, Richard Bodkin, Kevin Clash, and Danny John-Jules, who voiced the Fire Gang creatures – also known as the Fireys – in the film.
I had a great time, but I had to keep pinching myself because I never thought that I would be singing at Abbey Road Studios, where the Beatles once recorded! We were there until two in the morning with David Bowie, and Eric Idle from Monty Python, who was visiting. David directed us, because he was very hands-on with his songs.
Labyrinth: The Ultimate Visual History
The music for ‘Chilly Down’ was performed by some of the same musicians Bowie had used on ‘Absolute Beginners’: guitarist Kevin Armstrong, bassist Matthew Seligman, and drummer Neil Conti.
‘Chilly Down’ was the only Labyrinth song produced solely by Bowie, who also sang lead vocals on a demo of the song. Recorded in the spring of 1985, it leaked online in 2016.
In the demo’s lyrics the Fire Gang is known as the Wild Things – the name was changed to avoid a copyright claim from the estate of Where the Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak.
They came straight out of a drawing of Brian’s [Brian Froud, designer]. It was these characters going like this, ‘hiia!’, ‘ooowa!’, ‘hwwah!’ They were obviously sort of very wild things, you know. And I kind of just imagined they came in at one point when she was really lost, and they came up with really helpful things. But you’re not quite sure how wild they’re gonna get! Then they sing a song saying, ‘Lift your feet! Lift your head!’ And I thought, ‘Ooh!, it’d be a good idea if they lifted their heads up off their shoulders as they sang that.’ So, then they went on singing a bit more and the more they got into their song, they always ended up saying, ‘Ain’t nobody as wild as me!’ so then this one would lift his head up and sort of roll it down his shoulders and start tossing it around and playing it like a basketball and lobbing it around.
Inside the Labyrinth, 1986