Black Tie White Noise album coverWritten by: David Bowie, Reeves Gabrels
Recorded: June-September 1992
Producers: David Bowie, Nile Rodgers

Released: 5 April 1993

Available on:
Black Tie White Noise

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, saxophone
Nile Rodgers, Reeves Gabrels: guitar
Barry Campbell/John Regan: bass guitar
Lester Bowie: trumpet
Richard Hilton, Dave Richards, Philippe Saisse, Richard Tee: keyboards
Poogie Bell/Sterling Campbell: drums
Gerardo Velez: percussion
Fonzi Thornton, Tawatha Agee, Curtis King Jr, Dennis Collins, Brenda White-King, Maryl Epps: backing vocals

‘You’ve Been Around’ is the second track on David Bowie’s 18th studio album Black Tie White Noise.

The music was written by Bowie and guitarist Reeves Gabrels for Tin Machine. Although Bowie occasionally spoke about recording a third studio album with the band, by 1992 the project was finished.

I’ve always been incredibly fortunate about the guitar players that I’ve worked with. Ronson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Earl Slick, and more recently Reeves Gabrels of the band Tin Machine.

We wrote a song together, initially to record with Tin Machine but it never worked out satisfactorily, so it got shelved. It was called ‘You’ve Been Around’. While I was putting my solo album together I resurrected that particular piece and rewrote it.

What I like about it is the fact that for the first half of the song there’s no harmonic reference. It is just drums, and the voice comes in out of nowhere. You’re not sure if it’s a melody line or a drone or whatever, and there’s a really ominous feel to it that I like a lot.

One of the most satisfying thing about making that particular track was working with Reeves on it, because I had the chance – as it was my album, not Tin Machine’s – to mix Reeves way into the background, so I knew that that would doubtlessly really irritate him. Which indeed it did.

David Bowie
Black Tie White Noise film

Tin Machine performed ‘You’ve Been Around’ live on just one occasion – on their very first tour date, 14 June 1989 at New York’s The World. Gabrels adapted the band’s 1988 studio demo for a new version of the song on his 1995 solo album The Sacred Squall Of Now, which featured additional vocals by Gary Oldman.

The song ‘You’ve Been Around’ was actually recorded for Tin Machine, and he redid it. I played on two more tracks, ‘I Feel Free’ and one other one, but I wasn’t credited.
Reeves Gabrels
radio.com, February 2017

While the album’s opening track ‘The Wedding’ may have suggested that Bowie had mellowed after his marriage to Iman, ‘You’ve Been Around’ showed that he was still keen to push sonic boundaries. Co-produced with Nile Rodgers, the song overlays distorted guitar, keyboards and trumpet and Bowie’s heavily processed vocals onto a dark funk-rock bed.

The song ‘You’ve Been Around’ starts with the ominous keyboard pad and at some point the groove kicks in really hard. That’s not how it had been. But one morning I came in and he was looking like he had given birth, he was so proud. He had come up with it and he just said, ‘Listen to this!’ I said, ‘Really?’ And he said, ‘Yeah man, it’s great – the vocals first.’ ‘OK, cool.’
Richard Hilton, keyboards
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Despite its modern setting, the song also contained a lyrical reference to 1971’s ‘Changes’ – “You’ve been around, but you’ve changed me/Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-change!”

The ‘Black Tie White Noise’ CD single contained the ‘You’ve Been Around’ (Dangers Remix) by Jack Dangers, an English electronic musician, DJ, and producer.

Previous song: ‘The Wedding’
Next song: ‘I Feel Free’