Throughout his career, Bowie has occasionally collaborated with various other musicians. Some of those musicians have been quite high-profile, others, rather less so.
One such collaboration – which probably is better known in England than in the US, since it produced a top-ten single – features pop singer and film star Lulu covering two Bowie songs, “The Man Who Sold the World” and “Watch That Man.” Bowie and his then-current band – Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder, and Woody Woodmansee a/k/a The Spiders from Mars – provide the music. “The Man Who Sold the World” is reconfigured into a sort of reggae rhythm, with Bowie providing a new tag on saxophone. The b-side, “Watch That Man,” is closer to the arrangement of the original, but its elements feel a little more integrated. This one benefits from the power of Lulu’s voice, particularly on the chorus, where she allows her voice to crack on the phrase “oh honey, watch that man.”
In between the two Tin Machine albums (see yesterday’s post), Bowie collaborated with his former guitarist Adrian Belew on Belew’s Young Lions album. The first collaboration on that album, “Pretty Pink Rose,” is written solely by Bowie and was released as a single. Bowie and Belew alternate lead vocal lines and, perhaps unsurprisingly (given certain similarities in Belew’s and Reeves Gabrels’ approaches to guitar), I could pretty readily imagine Tin Machine playing this one. Maybe it’s having listened to both of that band’s CDs over the last day or so, but “Gunman” to me sounds even more like a Tin Machine song (another way of putting it is that even though Belew receives a co-writing credit, this song sounds less like a Belew song than “Pretty Pink Rose” does). Perhaps there’s something in the rhythm and riff (and the fact that the title’s a two-syllable word ending in “-man” – like “Batman”), but I hear it as a sort of theme song for some hypothetical dystopian TV series. (The other TV-show theme song without a TV show, in my little musical world? The Soft Boys’ “You’ll Have to Go Sideways.” That one’s for a science-fiction series.) Belew’s solos are unmistakably his, of course, and his rhythm guitar track echoes his playing in the eighties version of King Crimson both structurally and in that candy-chorus sound.
Lulu “The Man Who Sold the World” (single, 1974)
Lulu “Watch That Man” (single, 1974)
Adrian Belew (ft. David Bowie) “Pretty Pink Rose” (Young Lions, 1990)
Adrian Belew (ft. David Bowie) “Gunman” (Young Lions, 1990)
(Tomorrow ends Bowie week – tricky URL hackers already know what’s coming!)