The video

The promotional video for ‘Time Will Crawl’ was directed by Tim Pope. It was his only one for David Bowie, although he did direct the filming of the 50th birthday concert in 1997.

The video was made during Glass Spider Tour rehearsals, and contained some of the routines that would appear during performances of ‘Sons Of The Silent Age’, ‘Fashion’, and ‘Loving The Alien’.

Appearing alongside Bowie were guitarists Carlos Alomar and Peter Frampton, and dancers Melissa Hurley, Constance Marie, Craig Allen Rothwell, Viktor Manoel, and Stephen Nichols. It was choreographed by Toni Basil.

The video was later included in The Video Collection (1993), Best of Bowie (2002), and The Best of David Bowie 1980–1987 (2007).

In June 1987, during the UK leg of the Glass Spider Tour, Bowie filmed an appearance for the BBC’s Top Of The Pops to promote the single. It was his first appearance on the show in a decade.

The show’s policy of only featuring chart climbers or non-movers, however, meant that it was pulled. Part of it was eventually shown on the retrospective Eighties on BBC 2 on New Year’s Eve 1989.

Remixes, reissues, remasters

A remix of ‘Time Will Crawl’ was included on the iSelect compilation in 2008, which was given away with the Mail on Sunday in the UK.

The new version, named the MM Remix, was produced by Mario J McNulty.

There were three major changes that David was specifically looking for when we redid ‘Time Will Crawl’. One was replacing the cold, badly programmed drum machines with real acoustic drums. He also wanted to have a very modern string arrangement, in the style of Philip Glass or Steve Reich. And the other thing was to make a new arrangement, getting rid of most of what was there, then taking bits and looping them. He was getting creative with the existing track.
Mario McNulty
Uncut, November 2018

McNulty removed the original drum part, replacing it with a new recording by Sterling Campbell. Further new instrumentation was added, including a string quartet arranged by Gregor Kitzis. It featured Krista Bennion Feeney and Robert Chausow on violin, Martha Mooke on viola, and Matthew Goeke on cello.

There are a host of songs that I’ve recorded over the years that for one reason or another (clenched teeth) I’ve often wanted to re-record some time in the future. This track from Never Let Me Down is one of those.

I’ve replaced the drum machine with true drums and added some crickety strings and remixed. I’m very fond of this new version with its Neil Young of Shortlands accents. Oh, to redo the rest of that album.

David Bowie
Mail Online

The 2018 box set Loving The Alien (1983–1988) contained Never Let Me Down 2018, on which Bowie’s original vocals were given a fresh backing track by Campbell, guitarist Reeves Gabrels, and bassist Tim Lefebvre. It was again produced by McNulty, who also played percussion.

‘Time Will Crawl’ was the only song on Never Let Me Down 2018 not to be re-recorded. Instead it featured a new mix of the iSelect version.

When I received the masters, the journey began. I started a methodical process of stripping away the recordings, leaving just David’s lead vocal and a bare bones drum machine track. From there, the idea was to build organically, using mostly music played live in the studio. Thus, I needed to figure out what each song needed and who would be involved to create it.

I also needed a band. I hired Sterling Campbell, on drums, who played on ‘Time Will Crawl’. David was enthusiastic about his playing and felt it worked perfectly for this material. I added Tim Lefebvre, who was in the Blackstar band, playing bass guitar. I knew I needed something specific from the guitars, so I called Reeves Gabrels and David Torn. These wonderful musicians all had a history with David so they were a perfect fit for what would seem like brand new songs. After some decision making, I needed some very distinct programming on two songs, so I called world-renowned programmer Steven Wolf. Lastly, I needed to record strings on several songs. David spent so much time talking to me about Scott Walker, Steve Reich and Philip Glass, not just in general, but in regards to ‘Time Will Crawl’. I needed someone who could converse on this level. I called my old friend, master composer Nico Muhly, whom I met when we were both interns working for Philip Glass in 2001. The band was complete.

Mario J McNulty, May 2018
Loving The Alien (1983-1988) book
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