Released: 11 September 1995
David Bowie: vocals, keyboards, synthesizer
Brian Eno: keyboards, synthesizer
Reeves Gabrels: guitar
Erdal Kızılçay: bass guitar
Mike Garson: piano, keyboards
Sterling Campbell: drums
It originated in the improvised sessions which took place over ten days in March 1994 at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland, during which the backing tracks for most of 1.Outside were recorded.
The groove-based piece begins with a fade-in, similar to ‘Speed Of Life’, giving the listener the sense that it was culled from a wider piece of music. And indeed it was: in 2003 a number of outtakes from the Montreux sessions were leaked as the Leon Suites. The recordings contained, in the section known as ‘Enemy Is Fragile’, a longer version of ‘Nothing To Be Desired’.
It was supposed to be a trilogy, and all that other stuff hasn’t been released, but there’s at least 25, 30 hours sitting in the vaults. Somebody put out some bootleg of it that they somehow got a copy from the studio, so they’re actually good quality, and there are some of the things we played. They’re kind of improvised. They’re not complete songs, but the quality is good. Somebody has sent me a bootleg of that, and it’s actually tremendous.
In the Leon version, Bowie speaks in a range of voices over a funk-rock bed. At one point, in an English professorial voice, he intones: “The editorial apparatus of this CD-ROM leaves nothing to be desired”, before repeating the final four words as a mantra.
In addition to the chanted vocals – the lyrics contain little other than the title phrase and “mind changing” – the b-side version contains, at the very end, lyrics which appear to be from the German-language “Helden”. Perhaps Brian Eno’s presence at the Montreux sessions led Bowie to think back to his groundbreaking albums of 1977.
‘The Hearts Filthy Lesson’ was the first single released from 1.Outside, in September 1995. ‘Nothing To Be Desired’ was a b-side only on the US and Canadian singles.
A promo cassette titled B-Sides, circulated internally at Virgin Records in 1995, also included the song, which was listed with the title ‘Mind Change’.
In September 2004 Columbia released a limited edition of 1.Outside, with a bonus disc containing 14 b-sides and remixes. ‘Nothing To Be Desired’ was the final song.