The Next Day album coverWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 17 September 2011; 2012
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti
Engineers: Mario McNulty, Tony Visconti

Released: 8 March 2013

Available on:
The Next Day

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals
Gerry Leonard, Earl Slick, Tony Visconti: guitar
Tony Levin: bass guitar
Zachary Alford: drums
Steve Elson: baritone saxophone

‘Dirty Boys’ is the second song on The Next Day, David Bowie’s penultimate album.

The song is notable for its prominent baritone sax, played by Steve Elson – a veteran Bowie performer from Let’s Dance to Heathen, who also played on the Serious Moonlight Tour. In ‘Dirty Boys’ Elson trades licks with guitarist Earl Slick, creating the perfect dark, seedy backing for Bowie’s tale of teenage delinquency.

‘Dirty Boys’, the second song on the album, is very sleazy. It’s dark and it’s sexy.
Tony Visconti
Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013

Although Bowie made no media appearances for The Next Day, he did send a list of 42 words to novelist Rick Moody to explain the themes of the album. For ‘Dirty Boys’ the three words were: Violence; Chthonic; Intimidation.

‘Dirty Boys’ recalls the London of Bowie’s youth. Tobacco Road was a street in Bermondsey, close to the docks whose workers lived in the street’s tenements – known locally as ‘Dockers Mansions’. Finchley Fair, meanwhile, is an annual event held each year at Victoria Park, dating back to 1905.

In the studio

The backing track for ‘Dirty Boys’ was recorded on 17 September 2011. Elson’s sax overdub was added early the following year.

There’s a fantastic sax solo. You know, David plays baritone sax, but he invited his friend Steve Elson to do the baritone on this album. I think Steve was in the Saturday Night Live band. He’s a little guy, and he’s got a huge baritone sax, and he plays this dirty solo in it that sounds like stripper music from the 1950s. Old bump-and-grind stripper music… It wouldn’t be out of place on Young Americans.
Tony Visconti
Rolling Stone, 15 January 2013

David Bowie’s lead vocals were taped on 8 May 2012, and Slick’s guitar was added in July.

Lazarus

‘Dirty Boys’ was one of four songs from The Next Day included in David Bowie’s 2015 musical Lazarus. The others were ‘Love Is Lost’, ‘Where Are We Now?’, and ‘Valentine’s Day’.

‘Dirty Boys’ was performed by Michael Esper in the original production, and on the Lazarus (Original Cast Recording) album.

Previous song: ‘The Next Day’
Next song: ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’