Released: 18 May 1979
Carlos Alomar: guitar
George Murray: bass guitar
Sean Mayes: piano
Dennis Davis: drums
Brian Eno: synthesizer, horse trumpets, eroica horn
Tony Visconti: vocals
‘Look Back In Anger’ was a single released from David Bowie’s Lodger album in the USA and Canada.
The song was recorded with the working title ‘Fury’, an approximation of the frenetic backing track. Producer Tony Visconti later singled out Dennis Davis’s frenetic drumming and conga playing, describing it as “amazing” and “killer”.
The song shares nothing more than a title with John Osborne’s 1956 play. Instead it is a Beckettian vignette in two parts: the song’s protagonist is firstly visited by an angel with crumpled wings, before the two figures leave for an unknown fate. The song’s second half is placed in the modern era, where a person idly flicks through a magazine, awaiting the arrival of an unidentified person.
I had this thought about angels and Angels of Death, which is the character that is most revered. But this one is about a tatty Angel of Death. We did one thing on this track which was a lot of fun but terribly frustrating for the musicians. Brian and I came up with a series of cards with chords on. We stuck them on a blackboard and we had all the musicians sitting on chairs in front of the blackboard. Then Brian and I just pointed at the one to play next. It got very intense, and the more intense it got the better it got. We did that for thirty minutes and kept yelling out the style to play in. Fortunately, I’m with guys who are very receptive to what I want to do. They get angry, of course, but only if they’re not fully aware of what is going on. Often I can’t help them much because I’m not sure what’s going to come out of it either.
Melody Maker, 19 May 1979
RCA in North America had chosen not to release ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ as the lead single from Lodger, unsure about the themes of sexual androgyny in the song and video. They did, however, release ‘DJ’ in June 1979.
‘Look Back In Anger’ was issued as a single in August 1979, only in the USA and Canada, and with minimal chart success. Its b-side was ‘Repetition’.
Despite being overlooked by many listeners, ‘Look Back In Anger’ was included on the compilations Golden Years (1983), Sound + Vision (1989), The Singles Collection (1993), The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979 (1998), and The Platinum Collection (2005/2006). It also appeared in the soundtrack of the film Christiane F. – Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo (1981).