Released: 15 March 1993
David Bowie: vocals, saxophone
Nile Rodgers: guitar
Barry Campbell/John Regan: bass guitar
Richard Hilton, Dave Richards, Philippe Saisse, Richard Tee: keyboards
Lester Bowie: trumpet
‘Pallas Athena’ was a mostly-instrumental track on David Bowie’s 18th studio album Black Tie White Noise.
It was worked up in the studio for during the Black Tie White Noise sessions. The lyrics are few: “God is on top of it all, that’s all”, and “We are, we are, we are, we are praying”. Upon its release, Bowie told the NME: “I don’t know what the fuck it’s about.”
Athena was the Greek goddess of wisdom. The origins of the epithet Pallas are unclear and subject of debate, but may derive from πάλλω, meaning “to brandish”, or παλλακίς, meaning “young woman”. In versions of Greek mythology Athena accidentally killed her friend with Pallas, the daughter of sea god Triton, and took the name as part of her grief. In another myth, Athena killed Pallas, her abusive father, and took his skin and name as a trophy.
‘Pallas Athena’ was first released on a UK club promo in early 1993. The 12″ single contained three remixes by Jack Dangers: Don’t Stop Praying Remix No 2, Don’t Stop Praying Remix, and Gone Midnight Mix.
Bowie’s ‘Jump They Say’ single was released in March 1993, one month ahead of the Black Tie White Noise album, and contained the Don’t Stop Praying Mix of ‘Pallas Athena’.
The vinyl edition of Black Tie White Noise had a slightly different running order on side two, in that ‘Pallas Athena’ was inserted between ‘Don’t Let Me Down & Down’ and ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday’.
The Japanese edition of Black Tie White Noise contained ‘Pallas Athena’ (Don’t Stop Praying Remix No 2) as a bonus track. It was also included on the bonus disc which came with the 10th anniversary reissue of the album.
‘Pallas Athena’ was included on Bowie’s 1993 privately-pressed compilation All Saints. When the album went on general release in 2001 as All Saints: Collected Instrumentals 1977–1999, it omitted the track, along with ‘South Horizon’, ‘The Wedding’, and ‘Looking For Lester’.
Bowie performed ‘Pallas Athena’ on The Arsenio Hall Show on 6 May 1993, along with ‘Jump They Say’ and ‘Black Tie White Noise’.
The song was played during the Earthling Tour in 1997 in a drum and bass arrangement. A performance from Amsterdam on 10 June was released that August under the name Tao Jones Index, on 12″ vinyl limited to 2,000 copies.
The live recording was also included on the ‘Seven Years In Tibet’ single in August 1997, on the expanded edition of Earthling, the four-CD reissue of the Sound + Vision box set, and the Earthling In The City EP. The box set also contained the Gone Midnight remix.
In 2010 a digital EP was released which contained four versions of ‘Pallas Athena’: the Album Version, Don’t Stop Praying Remix, Don’t Stop Praying Remix No. 2, and Gone Midnight mix.