Strangers When We Meet singleWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 1993-1995
Producers: David Bowie, David Richards, Brian Eno

Released: 8 November 1993

Available on:
The Buddha Of Suburbia
Nothing Has Changed
No Trendy Réchauffé (Live Birmingham 95)


David Bowie: vocals, guitar, synthesizer
Erdal Kızılçay: guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizer, drums

David Bowie: vocals
Carlos Alomar, Reeves Gabrels, Tom Frish: guitar
Erdal Kızılçay/Yossi Fine: bass guitar
Mike Garson: piano
Brian Eno: treatments
Sterling Campbell/Joey Baron: drums

David Bowie first released ‘Strangers When We Meet’ on his 1993 album The Buddha Of Suburbia. It was re-recorded for 1.Outside and released as a 1995 single.

He originally recorded a demo of the song with Modern Farmer, the band with which Reeves Gabrels played guitar after Tin Machine. The recording took place during the Black Tie White Noise sessions in New York.

During the Black Tie White Noise sessions, I was playing with the band I had [Modern Farmer], and David came to the gig. And afterwards we cut a version of ‘Strangers When We Meet’, which I guess he had already started writing. So he had it, a demo of it, but it was too American rock – it was so American rock even I was embarrassed about it.
Reeves Gabrels
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Bowie cut a second studio version in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1993 for The Buddha Of Suburbia, with all the instruments played by him and Erdal Kızılçay.

‘Strangers When We Meet’ was re-recorded for a final time in 1995 as a late addition to 1.Outside. The final song on the album, it had no discernible link to the murder mystery concept that runs through many of the other songs.

Listened to D. B. disc (after swimming and park and lunch). Strong, muddy, prolix, gritty, Garsonic, modern (self-consciously, ironically so). Every rhythm section superb (even mine). Some acceptable complexity merging into not-so-acceptable muddle; several really beautiful songs (‘Motel’, ‘Oxford Town’, ‘Strangers’, others). The only thing missing: space – the nerve to be very simple. But an indisputably ‘outside’ record.
Brian Eno, 18 June 1995
A Year with Swollen Appendices

The vinyl edition was titled Excerpts From 1.Outside. In addition to shorter edits of ‘Leon Takes Us Outside’ and ‘The Motel’, it omitted the songs ‘No Control’, ‘Wishful Beginnings’, ‘Thru’ These Architects Eyes’, and ‘Strangers When We Meet’, as well as the Algeria Touchshriek and second Nathan Adler segues.

I’m thinking [the 1.Outside] version might have been better. After about 20 live performances it was amazing. I love that song. That was not improvised. There were two songs that he had written when he came in – that one and ‘The Motel’. I helped with one very important chord that pushed the piece to another level. Erdal was playing with the fretless bass and he was very, very good on that.
Mike Garson
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

An edit of ‘Strangers When We Meet’ was issued as the second single from 1.Outside, on 20 November 1995. Sam Bayer directed the promotional video.

The 7″ single had a live version of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ on the b-side. A UK CD single added the album version, and the outtake ‘Get Real’ as the fourth track.

In the USA, the CD single combined the 1.Outside and The Buddha Of Suburbia versions, plus the live recording of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’.

This is in my top 10 of songs David ever wrote. We did this for the Buddha of Suburbia album and then again differently here for Outside.

I love this song. It’s using basslines from back in the Motown days. David was great at doing that – he’d take something from way back and make it current.

David was such a charming singer – like a crooner. You don’t hear that type of singing much in rock. You could tell he was heavily influenced by the likes of Anthony Newley. Of course, David had a deeper musical esthetic.

This one is such a catchy song – one of the only songs which David came into the session already having written. I’m glad he closed with this very catchy song. It moves me.

Mike Garson
Twitter, 5 July 2020

Bowie performed ‘Strangers When We Meet’ on 27 October 1995 on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He also played it on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops on 10 November 1995, and on Later… With Jools Holland on 2 December, and on Taratata for French television on 26 January 1996.

‘Strangers When We Meet’ was performed live throughout Bowie’s Outside and Earthling tours. He first performed it live on 21 October 1995 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California.

A performance from England on 13 December was released on the 2020 live album No Trendy Réchauffé (Live Birmingham 95). The album took its title from a line in the song.

Bowie’s final performance of ‘Strangers When We Meet’ came on 7 November 1997 at the Estadio Ferrocarril Oeste in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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Next song: ‘Dead Against It’
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