Written by: Scott Engel
Recorded: June-September 1992
Producers: David Bowie, Nile Rodgers
Released: 5 April 1993
Black Tie White Noise
Ouvrez Le Chien (Live Dallas 95)
David Bowie: vocals, saxophone
Reeves Gabrels: guitar
Barry Campbell/John Regan: bass guitar
Richard Hilton, Dave Richards, Philippe Saisse, Richard Tee: keyboards
Poogie Bell/Sterling Campbell: drums
David Bowie recorded Scott Walker’s ‘Nite Flights’ for his 18th studio album Black Tie White Noise.
The song was originally recorded by the Walker Brothers in 1978 for their final album, also called Nite Flights. Bowie was entranced by the album, describing it as “extraordinary”.
I’ve been more of a fan of rock music than an actual participant sometimes. I’ve always covered other writers’ – singers’ – songs on my albums, whether it’s old Iggy Pop, or Ray Davies, Townshend, Bryan Ferry, John Lennon, et al, and on this album I cover a song by Scott Walker.
Scott Walker was part of a trio of ex-patriot Americans that came over the Europe and became a huge wow in probably the early Sixties. I went out with a girl who went out with Scott Walker. She preferred Scott Walker to me, and at night I had to listen to all his song, night after night. She wouldn’t play my music. But it did leave with me a great love for his voice.
Then in the late Seventies, after Eno and I had done Low and “Heroes”, around that time, must have been around ’79, Scott Walker brought out the most extraordinary album of his own songwriting, quite the most lovely songs that I’d heard in years. ‘Nite Flights’ is one of them, a remarkable voice and a remarkable songwriter.
Black Tie White Noise film
‘Nite Flights’ was a perfect fit for Bowie, with Walker’s original icy delivery not far removed from his own. Given a modern twist from producer Nile Rodgers, it was one of the album’s most effective moments.
David introduced me to Scott Walker and he told me that there were two singers who profoundly influenced the way he sings: Scott Walker and Johnny Ray. Whenever he goes [makes high keening vocal] he’d say, ‘I’m doing a Johnny Ray’, but when it was his baritone thing it was much more Scott Walker. It’s a combination of those guys and his own unique style.
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
Bowie performed ‘Nite Flights’ on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on 13 May 1993. The song was considered as a fourth single from Black Tie White Noise, but the plan was shelved after the poor commercial performance of ‘Miracle Goodnight’.
There was, however, a 12″ promotional single released in 1993, which contained the album version and a 10-minute Moodswings Back To Basics Remix. The remix was included on the bonus disc of the 2003 version of the album, and as a Radio Edit on the same year’s Sound + Vision box set reissue.
The three variations – album version, remix, and Radio Edit – also appeared on a 2010 digital EP titled Back To Basics.
There were a few covers that we did, songs that David liked, and some of the tunes on that album are just amazing. I love the song ‘Nite Flights’. Wow. Just incredible.
Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) book
Bowie performed ‘Nite Flights’ during his Outside Tour. A version from the Starplex Amphitheater in Dallas, Texas, on 13 October 1995, was released on the 2020 live album Ouvrez Le Chien (Live Dallas 95).
What I do play a lot of while driving are favourite tracks by three of my favourite artists from over the last 20 years or so: Pixies, Sonic Youth and Scott Walker. Their works never cease to enthral me. Call me old-fashioned. I would have loved to have written [Pixies’] ‘Debaser’, one of the greatest rock songs in my opinion, but how about [Sonic Youth’s] ‘Teen Age Riot’? It would also have been nice to have had Walker’s ‘Nite Flights’ in my catalogue and up my sleeve, too. But at least I can get to sing them, a pleasure in itself.
Q magazine, November 2006