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


David Bowie: vocals, keyboards
Carlos Alomar, Robert Fripp: guitar
George Murray: bass guitar
Dennis Davis: drums, percussion

The final song on David Bowie’s Scary Monsters album, ‘It’s No Game (No. 2)’ was a reprise of the opening track.

On the album there are two versions of ‘It’s No Game’, the opening track and the closing track, both done in completely polarised styles. I think the reasoning behind that stemmed from wanting to not come out with one blatant, sort of, protesty song, that showed that feelings of anxiousness about society are expressed on different levels and with different intensities.

The course of the album takes you through a lot of the doubting and the dilemmas that I, myself, as a writer find myself in, and so you open with one kind of protest which gradually and insidiously becomes something less traumatic by the end of the album. Anyway that’s the way it was originally focused.

David Bowie, 1980
The David Bowie Interview promo album

The song originated as ‘Tired Of My Life’, an acoustic demo of which Bowie recorded at Haddon Hall around May 1970, when he was putting the finishing touches to The Man Who Sold The World. ‘Tired Of My Life’ appears to not have been in the running for that album or its successor, Hunky Dory.

Only in the middle eight of ‘Tired Of My Life’ did Bowie sing lines that – with minor variations – made it into ‘It’s No Game’:

Throw a rock upon a road and it breaks into pieces
Shake a branch upon the snow, the sun is defeated
Pull the curtains on yesterday and it seems so much later
Put a bullet in my brain and I’ll make all the papers
‘Tired Of My Life’

‘It’s No Game (No. 2)’ contains an additional verse not heard in ‘No. 1’:

Children round the world
Put camel shit on the walls
They’re making carpets on treadmills
Or garbage sorting
‘It’s No Game (No. 2)’

In the studio

The backing track was the same for both versions of ‘It’s No Game’. It was recorded in New York in early 1980, with different overdubs following in London later in the year.

I don’t know how intentional it was at this point, but like Sgt Pepper we reprised the opening song at the end of the album. This was actually the same exact backing track and a great example of how mixing and different overdubs can change the nature of a track completely. The opener version was a fiery affair, but as a closer it was now gentle and let the listener down easy. This version was completely in English, as it was originally conceived.
Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy

‘It’s No Game (No. 2)’ was far calmer than ‘No. 1’. Gone was Robert Fripp’s atonal guitar work, as were the vocal histrionics from Bowie and Japanese actor Michi Hirota.

The overall feeling of the way I worked with ‘It’s No Game’ at the end of the album was to… what happens when a protest or an angry statement is thrown against the wall so many times that the speaker finds that he has absolutely no more energy to give it any impact any more. And so it comes over in that very sort of lilting, very melodic kind of superficial level.

The sentiment is exactly the same as in the first one on the first side, but the ambience has changed. It’s a gentle sort of almost nostalgic kind of quality to it, rather than the very angry vehement statement on the beginning of the album. It’s the two sides of social protest.

David Bowie, 1980
The David Bowie Interview promo album

During the initial album sessions, ‘It’s No Game’ was the only song to have lyrics. It was also the only song on Scary Monsters to have the final vocals recorded in New York, and the first song to be completed.

We left The Power Station with some beautifully dense backing tracks. Only one song had a melody and lyrics, ‘It’s No Game’. David said he’d written it when he was sixteen.
Tony Visconti, April 2017
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book

The song ends with the sound of tape from a reel fluttering in producer Tony Visconti’s 24-track Lyrec machine.

As the album opened with a recording of my 24-track machine starting up, the album closes with the sound of the tape running out and the reel slowing down to a complete stop.
Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy

The release

‘It’s No Game (No. 1)’ was the tenth and final song on David Bowie’s Scary Monsters… And Super Creeps, which was released in the UK on 12 September 1980, and three days later in the US.

The 2012 book Speed Of Life was published by Genesis Publications in a limited edition of 2,000 copies signed by Bowie and photographer Masayoshi Sukita. It came with a 7″ vinyl picture disc single combining ‘It’s No Game (No. 1)’ and ‘It’s No Game (No. 2)’ for the first time.

Previous song: ‘Because You’re Young’
Next album: Let’s Dance
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