Released: 4 October 1999
Reeves Gabrels: guitar, synthesizer, drum programming
Mark Plati: bass guitar
Mike Levesque: drums
‘Something In The Air’ is the second song on David Bowie’s 22nd studio album ‘hours…’.
Many of the songs on ‘hours…’ involve a protagonist looking back at his past. Bowie always maintained that the songs were not autobiographical, though did concede that a past relationship – presumably with Hermione Farthingale – helped inform the writing.
This man, this narrator, definitely isn’t you?
No, no – because there’s one song where I’m talking about how we’ve got to break this relationship up, y’know – and please don’t read things into that! My wife and I are extremely happy; I’d like to state quite publicly – haw, haw. But there was a time in my life where I was desperately in love with a girl – and I met her, as it happens, quite a number of years later. And boy, was the flame dead! So in this case on the album the guy’s thinking about a girl he knew many years ago, and she was ‘the great mistake he never made’. See, I know how that feels, but it’s not part of my current situation. I’m much too jolly. I’m inwardly jolly.
So this isn’t you probing your heart and soul?
God, right, let it pour out – aaargghh! No, not at all. But it doesn’t mean I don’t take it seriously. I have friends who are in similar situations; I draw from people I know. I see what they’re going through, and think, God, if I could help them… but you can’t ever help somebody sort out their internal life. Never. Even if you know what’s wrong, you can’t tell ’em. You can give support, but they’ve got to do it themselves.
Uncut, October 1999
— reeves gabrels (@reevesgabrels) September 4, 2020
‘Something In The Air’ was one of eight songs by Bowie and Reeves Gabrels to appear in the 1999 computer game Omikron: The Nomad Soul. The others were ‘Thursday’s Child’, ‘Survive’, ‘Seven’, ‘The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell’, ‘New Angels Of Promise’, ‘The Dreamers’, and the b-side ‘We All Go Through’.
Bowie’s vocals were processed through an Electro-Harmonix ring modulator towards the end of the song.
David pulled out the ring modulator once again for this one, making his vocal nearly unrecognisable in the outro. It’s a wonderful record in general, very tortured. Great guitar work from Reeves, not what you’d expect from a man the press calls ‘Mr Noisemeister’. Sometimes he’d remind me of the Eagles’ ‘Hotel California’ with some of his lines!
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The ending of ‘Something In The Air’ was a conscious echo of the title track of Annette Peacock’s 1972 album I’m The One, a key influence on Bowie. He had hoped to use her on Aladdin Sane, but she steered him instead towards pianist Mike Garson, who had also performed on the album.
It was during our first few days in New York that musician and writer Annette Peacock introduced me to Mike Garson. Always a gentle soul, he fitted into our band remarkably well considering his background was in the more ‘outside’ fringe of jazz.
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‘Seven’ was released in July 2000 as the final single from ‘hours…’. One of the b-sides on the numerous formats was a live recording of ‘Something In The Air’ from New York City on 19 November 1999.
A remix of ‘Something In The Air’ by Mark Plati was used over the closing credits of the film American Psycho, directed by Mary Harron and starring Christian Bale.
He did ‘hours…’, and I didn’t play on that, although there was a song that got used for the American Psycho movie called ‘Something In The Air’, and he sent that to me in California, and I recorded a piano part on top of it for that movie. So I did get to play on [‘hours…’] in a bizarre sort of way.
‘Something In The Air’ (American Psycho remix appeared on the American Psycho soundtrack album, which was released on 14 April 2000. It was also included on the 2004 double-disc reissue of ‘hours…’, and on Re:Call 5, part of the 2021 box set Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001).
The album version was also used over the closing credits of Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Memento.
‘Something In The Air’ was performed at the majority of the Hours Tour dates in 1999. It was only absent from Bowie’s performances on VH1 Storytellers, at NetAid at Wembley Stadium, and the HQ in Dublin.
The song lent its name to the 2020 live album Something In The Air (Live Paris 99), recorded on 14 October 1999. That was the live debut of the song.
Bowie also performed ‘Something In The Air’ for BBC Radio 1 on 25 October 1999 at London’s Maida Vale Studios. It was one of five songs performed; the others were ‘Survive’, ‘Drive-In Saturday’, ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’, and ‘Repetition’.