Released: 8 May 1990
David Bowie: vocals
Adrian Belew: vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, drum machine
Written by David Bowie, ‘Pretty Pink Rose’ was recorded with Adrian Belew for the latter’s Young Lions album.
Bowie had demoed the song in Los Angeles in early 1988. Following the Glass Spider Tour he teamed up with producer Bruce Fairbairn and members of Bryan Adams’ band – guitarist Keith Scott, keyboard player John Webster, bassist Rene Wurst, and drummer Mark Curry – to record song ideas. The session also yielded versions of ‘Lucy Can’t Dance’ – then titled ‘Lucille Can’t Dance’ – and Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.
‘Pretty Pink Rose’ was also considered, and ultimately rejected, by Tin Machine. Following the band’s first album and tour, Bowie embarked upon the lengthy solo Sound+Vision Tour, on which Adrian Belew played guitar.
Prior to the tour, Belew was working on Young Lions, his fifth solo album.
I sent him five tracks that didn’t have any vocals, and he sent me back a song called ‘Pretty Pink Rose’ that he hadn’t used but thought it might fit in with my album. We went to record that in New York and because we’d been rehearsing for the tour, his voice was shot. He said, ‘I’m sorry, but I can’t sing it today.’ I said okay, I’d work on another song that hadn’t got vocals and he could go home and rest. But he said, ‘Let me hear that.’ He began writing lyrics and about half an hour later, he’d finished a song called ‘Gunman’. I was amazed. He then went in and sang it two or three times and that was it.
‘Pretty Pink Rose’ and ‘Gunman’ both appeared on Young Lions, which was released in May 1990. At that time the Sound+Vision Tour was in full swing, and ‘Pretty Pink Rose’ was performed throughout.
‘Pretty Pink Rose’ was also issued as a single, which peaked at number 24 on the
Belew’s 2007 album Dust contained a mostly instrumental version which contained Bowie’s spoken intro, which was left off the original version: “She had tits like melons; it was love in the rain”.
It was David’s very generous idea that since we would be touring together for a year he would do something on my record to help promote it. He sent me a demo of ‘Pretty Pink Rose’. It presented me with quite a dilemma at first because I didn’t like the demo! (I never told him) but I liked the song, so I went about recording an entirely different version of it and thankfully he loved it!
David and I recorded the vocals with a stereo mic; him on one side, me on the other. it gave me chills. we started recording and while the intro began, in a dramatic voice David said into the mic, ‘she had tits like melons, it was love in the rain!’ – of course, it had to be left off the single.
The same evening we recorded the vocals for ‘Pretty Pink Rose’ we also recorded David’s vocals for ‘Gunman’. I had asked him to consider helping me finish the track. he sat in the studio control room with a legal yellow pad and in half an hour’s time he wrote the lyrics. I was amazed! I still have the original of his lyrics. Somewhere. It’s another track where I doubt I could replicate the guitar playing.
The video for ‘Pretty Pink Rose’ was directed by Tim Pope, and featured Bowie and Belew with actor Julie T Wallace.
We were doing the Sound+Vision world tour when we filmed the video for ‘Pretty Pink Rose’. We filmed it on a day off in Germany in an old abandoned building with the windows broken out. And it was freezing!