This is how you disappear: Scott Walker RIP

For the second time in as many weeks, I delved into an artist’s work not long before his death. Savoring the mediation on medieval Provençe called The Mays of Ventadorn and thumbing through one of his final collections The Shadow of Sirius, I awoke to the news about poet W.S. Merwin. At the same time, I had acquired a rather expensive (for 2019) used copy of The Climate of Hunter. I’d heard it in dribs over the years. I relish uneven accommodations to mainstream taste; years after admiring Scott 4 (1969) and learning how to listen to Tilt (1995), I needed to catch up. Now I have all the time necessary.

Scott Walker was not a fringe artist in 1984; a scan of the credits reveals the names of Mark Knopfler and Billy Ocean, flashed like FBI badges, both having or about to have their greatest pop moments. If Walker intended The Climate of Hunter as his contribution to the MTV-indebted New Pop explosion, then it failed. On ballads “Rawhide” and “Sleepwalkers Woman” the climaxes don’t happen in the expected places if they happen at all. The squeezed plushness of the American-born Walker’s vocal approach, like Edith Evans singing through a paper towel roll, enforces a waiting game; with a voice this unusual, this mannered, there had to be a payoff. Meanwhile the rhythm section burbled and rumbled at a discreet, discrete remove, as if an engineer happened to record it. At all times the use of strings was unnerving: while Walker stayed in place, they screeched like a replay of Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho score; when Walker chose to keep up with the bass and drums, the strings hung fire. Similar dynamics applied to Tilt‘s “Manhattan,” in which sustained Bach-like organ chords keep up anxiety levels. Other instruments, unidentifiable or avoiding their usual functions, buzzed — “each instrument is locked into a hovering circle of vibrato, like bees moving in swarm formation,” in Derek Walmsley’s perfect description. When Pulp hired Walker to produce their final album We Love Life, it’s clear that the band wanted to organize “The Trees” around these tensions. On the title track Jarvis Cocker’s performance demonstrated why Pulp wasn’t Scott Walker: it does build to a climax, a glorious one. In Walker’s later music it would have been a principle betrayed, a concession to a mass taste he hadn’t courted since the sixties. Who needs a boring old guitar solo when a donkey’s bray will do?

About the Walker Brothers material and Nite Flights in particular I will cede insight and knowledge to Chris O’Leary, whose extensive writing on Walker’s influence on David Bowie (and Bowie’s own generosity acknowledging the influence) persuaded me to give Walker another chance. I have not much else to write about the albums released after Tilt except to note his needling score for The Childhood of a Leader, directed by Vox Lux‘s Brady Corbet, in 2015. But let me return to Scott 4, on which I’ve spent most of my time. Drenched in a chansonnier tradition that ran parallel to rock through the sixties and into the next decade, Scott 4 adduces Jacques Brel, Dionne Warwick, the Richard Harris of “MacArthur Park.” A stately collection, “classy” in the booboisie sense; also, louche and mildly decadent in the manner of fading European nobility persisting into the Nixon and Heath era. Walker rarely allowed him a couplet as plummy as the following in “Duchess”: “With your shimmering dress/It says no, it says yes.” Male chorales compete with strings in the perfumed air of “The Old Man’s Back Again,” in which, speaking of faded glory, the ghosts of Stalin, Dostoevsky, and Voznesensky insist on being remembered. Ian McCullough and Pet Shop Boys no doubt wore out their vinyl copies.

All this, plus, to use the Randall Jarrell method of listing praise, “Two Ragged Soldiers,” “Plastic Palace People,” “It’s Raining Today,” “Fat Mama Kick,” and cover material of marvelous fluency and vitality. To say Walker toyed with camp is to accuse water of being wet. Camp is irony at its most equable. When Walker unleashed that vibrato on an unsuspecting syllable, he called attention to a limited physical range that was determined to break through emotionally anyway. Sound – the suggestive possibilities of phonemes; the dynamic on those later albums whereby the spaces between instruments and voice had a disjunctive power – intoxicated him. In the songbooks of Bob Crewe and Leiber-Stoller he saw unexplored corners of weirdness: the weirdness of a David Lynch movie in which an old man drives a lawnmower across the verdant lawns of rural America and neighbors say howdy. Scott Walker’s corpus will continue to fascinate the devoted and to elude casual listeners. At his best he alerts listeners to how fluttering things, to quote a poet whose composed, cologned mien hid a musky imagination, have so distinct a shade.

Ranking Iggy Pop 1977-1991

I haven’t heard 1980’s Soldier, but I made do. Special thanks to Phil Freeman, whose rankings are his own but he had shrewd insights about all of them.

1. The Idiot (1977)

For a while Lust For Life sounded like the better album: it was faster, had loud guitars, and moved. Now I prefer his debut because it’s slower, has loud keyboards, and plods. In recent years accounted as a Bowie album in all but name, The Idiot has a humor of which only James Osterberg was capable (“Funtime”) and a literalness that was beyond Bowie: “Nightclubbing” is not a metaphor, it’s about nightclubbing. I blame Bowie for “China Girl,” a crummy arrangement. The rest of The Idiot reproduces the sensation of keeping your wits as your sobriety crumbles; often it’s better than that, as the concluding pair “Tiny Girls” and “Mass Production” demonstrate.

2. New Values (1978)

To show he didn’t need Bowie, Igs writes half the tunes himself. “An album whose punk genes,” I wrote five years ago, “are exposed not by the arrangements, which suggest Mott The Hoople wrestling with horn charts and percussion, but in in Iggy’s contrapuntal, staccato vocals and the way in which he comes at rhythm sideways; the guitar on “I”m Bored” even sounds like a pretzeled Captain Beefheart bit from the same era straightened and desalted.”

3. Lust For Life (1977)

Taking its cue from its zombie-smile sleeve, Lust For Life presents an Iggy nominally ready to pierce through the narcotic fog of his previous Bowie collaboration. When the splat of “Some Weird Sin” is happening and the call and response vocals of “Success” keep going beyond their abilities, it’s the most alert album in rock — no one has earned the right to be this buoyant for so long. I’ll take Siouxsie and the Banshees’ cover of “The Passenger,” though.

4. Blah-Blah-Blah (1986)

Chris O’Leary’s upcoming book will cover the history of Bowie’s reunion with Iggy in 1985-1986; his blog posts on Blah-Blah-Blah inspired me to reevaluate an album forgotten by history. Blah-Blah-Blah is no sellout: it’s an attempt to bring Iggy to an AOR landscape dominated by the Georgia Satellites and Steve Winwood; indeed, the zealous backup vocals on the wonderful “Hideaway” rebuke “Higher Love.” “Real Wild Child” was a deserved comeback — no chorus, just Kevin Armstrong’s light distortion. Closer “Winners and Losers is his most impressive since “Mass Production,” with Erdal Kizilcay’s Middle Eastern swirl and Kevin Armstrong hitting hard those strings.

5. Brick By Brick (1990)

Maybe the presence of white-hot B-52’s singer Kate Pierson helped Iggy get his only top forty hit in America to date. The rise of VH-1 and the commercial renaissance of boomer icons like the Stones, Dylan, et. al. explains the enthusiasm for Brick By Brick, produced by Don Was (who would also produce the mentioned icons) and on which the L.A. studio rock elite (Waddy Wachtel!) provide Igs with his most professional backing. Much of it is performative maturity (“I Won’t Crap Out”), signified by the choice of a John Hiatt cover, Hiatt himself the choice of many a Poppy Bush Interzone recording artist when they sought the comfort of roots rock maturity. “Starry Night is Iggy attempting John Mellencamp’s “Cherry Bomb” with Mellencamp’s drummer.

6. Zombie Birdhouse (1982)

In which Blondie’s Chris Stein settles into the Bowie spot. However, Blondie in 1982 had reached the sodden nadir of their genre experimentation, an approach that suite Iggy Pop like a bowler hat and spats. “Run Like A Villain,” a first draft of 1986’s “Real Wild Child,” kicks off this frustrating collection — the loopy country-influenced “The Ballad Of Cookie McBride” has Iggy trying a lugubrious southern accent over pedal steel, for example. “Platonic,” with its synthesizer line from the Berlin Trilogy period (think “Weeping Wall”) is a better “mature” song than what he’d essay on at least a third of Brick By Brick eight years later.

7. Instinct (1988)

The single was called “Cold Metal.” Apt album descriptor too.

 

Hit me like a flower: the best of Lou Reed

I don’t need to say much about Lou Reed that I didn’t in 2013. You won’t find his outré experiments here; he wasn’t good at them. He wanted to be “normal.” This drive inspired his weirdest moments.

I’m gay because of Lou Reed. David Bowie made me insouciant about it.

1. New Sensations (1984)

Like Reagan meeting with Gorbachev one year later, Lou could get away with what John Lydon called stepping over into re-enterprise because of two decades’ worth of accruing a reputation for doing the opposite. The title is descriptor and manifesto: without grandstanding, Reed puts himself in the company of fellow experts of the demotic, of men who make art after punching the clock. After writing about heroin, bondage, and putting jelly on your shoulder, Reed’s devotion to banality requires a similar accommodation on the part of the listener. He writes two valentines to male relationships. He loves Sam Shepard’s plays. He wants the principles of a timeless muse. So what if it sounds like he couldn’t afford Bob Clearmountain?

2. The Blue Mask (1982)

Unloved now, but, really, people, the blue filter? He’s (cheaply) rewriting Transformer a decade later — one of the first times a boomer icon used the eighties to rewire how we’d thought of him. Let’s face: most people, let alone critics, didn’t consider Lou Reed a boomer icon in the same breatha s Dylan, Fogerty, McCartney, and so on. I’m less offended by “Women” than most people — discovering the in the most literal chordal and lyric sense was for this put-jelly-on-my-shoulder guy a deeply weird phenomenon. The climax occurs at the title track’s 3:50 when Quine, as if reminded he’s Best Supporting Actor, steps back and lets Reed take his wildest solo since 1969.

3. Coney Island Baby (1976)

Lou’s James Taylor record without the L.A. pedigree. See? This is why he needed these musicians. When he wanted to write about crazy feelings for Charley’s girl and the football coach, he needed the cushion of soft rock guitars. His friendliest record — I just wanna bury my face in his Afro.

4. Ecstasy (2000)

Overpraised for Magic and Loss, ignored for the rest of the nineties, Lou needed a Major Statement. Set the Twilight Reeling wasn’t one, thank fucking Christ. Ecstasy was, and let’s call it his last functional record. “Paranoia Key of E,” “Mad,” and “Tatters” limn the shit that Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce do in The Wife, only less maturely. Had Lou died in 2000, the roar of “Big Sky” would’ve served as appropriate envoi.

5. Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal (1973)

A diva turn. Steve Hunter and Dick Wagner masturbate for three minutes before Lou Dietrich takes the stage. Boy, is it fun, though, boasting the scariest performance of “Heroin” on a Reed-associated live album. For years his only gold record.

6. Set the Twilight Reeling (1996)

A forgotten but vital part of his canon, this 1996 set combines the hooks-galore casualness of New Sensations with the let’s-get-serious-let’s-fall-in-love approach of The Blue Mask. Nothing knew for Lou; going home to Laurie Anderson was just another, as he points out, “fourteenth chance at this life.” STTR also boasts a vulgar-awesome anti-GOP rant called “Sex With Your Parents (Motherfucker),” a vulgar-cute ode to eating egg creams, many adult love songs (the title track, “Hang On to Your Emotions,” “Adventurer”) and lots of feedback, created by Reed himself.

7. Transformer (1972)

An important record more than a great one, but maybe it doesn’t matter. “Satellite of Love” is ground zero for “TCV 15,” Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom,” U2’s “Zooropa,” and every song, rock and R&B, in which the singer looks beyond the ugliness of Earth. Also, Transformer has “Vicious” and “Walk on the Wide Side.” For too many years I resented Lou for the performative coming out in “Make Up,” complete with tuba, but someone needed to cut through the Mott the Hoople/Alice Cooper bullshit.

Turn to erosion: Best of David Bowie

1. Queen Bitch
2. Sound and Vision
3. Moonage Daydream
4. Stay
5. Station to Station
6. Golden Years
7. Always Crashing in the Same Car
8. Fascination
9. Joe the Lion
10. Move On
11. Cracked Actor
12. Oh! You Pretty Things
13. Beauty and the Beast
14. Sweet Thing/Candidate
15. Young Americans
16. Panic in Detroit
17. Jump They Say
18. Quicksand
19. Speed of Life
20. Modern Love
21. Yassassin
22. Five Years
23. Aladdin Sane
24. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
25. Weeping Wall
26. Win
27. Rock and Roll Star
28. Lazarus
29. Ashes to Ashes
30. Strangers When We Meet
31. Fantastic Voyage
32. A New Career in a New Town
33. Up the Hill Backwards
35. I’m Deranged
37. Boys Keep Swinging
38. Can You Hear Me Now?
39. The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
40. Life on Mars?
41. I Can’t Give Everything Away
42. You’ve Been Around
43. Look Back in Anger
44. The Width of a Circle
45. 1984

‘We steal pieces of our emotional selves from the music we love’

When Bowie died in January, I mourned the death of a teacher who’d shaped my college years as much as a musician .He taught me to pose. He taught me to accept and flaunt my influences, most of whom were literary. It was okay to be affected. Rob Sheffield, in an interview promoting his new book on Bowie, gets at the same phenomenon:

That’s one thing about David Bowie: He was always upfront about being a fan in a way that was radical and unprecedented for rock stars in the ‘70s. He was very upfront about the fact that he was stealing ideas from everything he liked. In the book I talk about that interview with Dinah Shore on her morning talk show in 1976, where he says, I’m very flirty and very faddy and I get easily saturated by things. I’m a big fan of different artists and I just steal things from them. And Dinah Shore basically says, I can’t believe you’re admitting this on TV. His response was, I steal things. That’s what I do. That’s what it really means to be a fan. We steal pieces of our emotional selves from the music we love. There are aspects of my personality that I have modeled on Bowie and aspects that I based on Aretha Franklin and aspects that I modeled on Janet Jackson and Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney and Lou Reed—all these different artists who have been so inspiring to me in different ways. That’s the thing about being a fan: You steal things from the artists you love.

One of the more difficult tasks I assign myself as an instructor is to impress on students the importance of influence. So pounded is plagiarism into their heads that the good ones recoil and the bad ones look as if I gave them license to cut and paste Livejournal material into a story. Steal ideas about sentence structure, paragraph composition, the use of introductory phrases and clauses — whatever you think excites those sentences. A skilled synthesis of those thefts is the mark of a crafty writer.

Dame Meditation — In Memoriam

To commemorate The Man Who Died Last Sunday, The Singles Jukebox gathered its forces and published more than two score blurbs on his greatest moments. Below are my contributions:

“Move On” – 1979

Stuck for ideas? Play a great song, in this case “All The Young Dudes,” which you gave away, backwards. Voilà! And this assembly-line method worked for the song’s comical depiction of wanderlust. “Sometimes I feel the need to move on,” Bowie declares in his most serious quaver, doubling up with laughter. “So I pack a bag. And move on.” Meanwhile Carlos Alomar strums a continuous two-chord pattern — who said anything about moving on? But the music projects the emotion that Bowie can’t allow himself to express until the last verse: an overripe piano, ay-ya-ooh backing vocals rising to a fever pitch. It took a few years for me to notice “Move On.” If he had placed it at the end of Lodger, we’d have remembered it like the inferior “Rock ’n’ Roll Suicide.”

“Strangers When We Meet” – 1995

Originating on The Buddha of Suburbia as a husky-voiced plaint with the gingerly tread of a demo, “Strangers When We Meet” got the full band treatment on 1995’s 1. Outside. Thanks to its six-note bassline and one of Bowie’s most confident late-period vocals, it was a grand way to end an album wracked by an incoherent libretto about art crime. It’s a love song, no more than that, scattered with the broken images of a lifelong adherent to William Burroughs’ cut-up method: no sentence that a pair of Kmart scissors couldn’t rearrange, Bowie told himself. Betrayed by vendu. Slinky secrets hotter than the sun. But the images rearrange themselves into coherence for that key change that signaled the final chorus: Steely resolve is falling from me/My soul all bruised passivity. He lavishes the track with the full power of his baritone, the vibrato limited to last syllables. Meanwhile the keyboards and guitars swell in the last instance of that “’Heroes’”-esque, Eno-fied wall of sound. Struggling to find music apposite to the homosexual tumult in my heart, I settled in the fall of 1995 on “Strangers When We Meet,” a song whose title comes from a Kirk Douglas-Lana Turner schlock classic about adulterous lovers.

The church of man love: Bowie and queerness

I’ve been thinking about the late David Bowie’s influence on my sexuality. On Monday I wrote, “If I’m gay thanks to Lou Reed, I’m cavalier about it thanks to David Bowie.” In 1993, when I bought Changesbowie from Columbia House and played Suede’s debut all summer, I had an inkling of the terrible beauty within me powerless to be born, and Bowie awakened it. She’s not sure if you’re a boy or a girl. She love him, she love him, but just for a short while. The imitation of what he thinks is Etonian enunciation in “Ziggy played guiTARRR.” The rolling piano and Luther Vandross’ enthusiastic backing in “Young Americans.” Ziggy Stardust going down on Mick Ronson’s guitar and family jewels. When I ganked a copy of Bowie: The Video Collection on VHS I was shaken by the moment in “D.J.” when a dazed trenchcoated Bowie is accosted by a floppy-haired male fan in the crowd and pop-kissed. In “Miracle Goodnight,” he dances with himself, an image conjoining narcissism and homosexuality. More queer is the man himself in roped ballet sandals and tights.

These were fragments, to quote T.S. Eliot, I had shored up against my ruin. There was also the male mourner who squeezed a limb at the battered body of the immaculately groomed suicide Bowie played in the “Jump They Say” video. In a long interview for Rolling Stone magazine that summer promoting Black Tie White Noise in which the reporter followed the subject as he visited old haunts in London — an interview I can’t find online — Bowie admits to his reluctant bisexuality, “even going so far as to try things with other guys” or something. Less defensive, eschewing the locker room machismo of the 1983 Kurt Loder interview exactly ten years earlier (called “Straight Time” by a magazine whose editor was gay and probably suffered snickers about it behind his back), he presents himself as a man who sampled a rich spread and discovered he wasn’t long for cock. In 2003 he was up to his old tricks again, earning dumb laughs over an an interview’s ill-timed questions; it’s like asking Donald Trump during a debate if he’s read John Locke.

Bowie influenced my coming out by the way in which he traipsed through exultation and casualness. “The church of man love/is such a holy place to be” sung in that parched squawk in “Moonage Daydream and buttressed by Ronson’s magnificent solo in the coda is the “Be My Baby” of homosexual acknowledgement in rock. “When you’re a boy/Other boys check you out” sung in a bleary lower register after a chorus of guys in his backing band dully and heterosexually bleat the first line is in its way more subversive. That’s how things are. I got more queerness out of Bryan Ferry caterwauling about mountains and growing potatoes for the sake of a phantom female lover in “If There is Something” (covered by Tin Machine in 1991). This, I thought, was fucked up love.

The point of mentors is to train you well enough to slay them.

Pushing thru the market square: Ten great Bowie musical moments

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Many of us on the East coast wondered why our phones trembled non-stop in the pre-dawn hours. Then I heard the local anchor say “We’ll have more on the tragic death of David Bowie.” Click on my tag to read many years of Bowie-inspired writing. Today I wrote an obituary for SPIN that in its nattering, slipshod manner synthesizes what twenty-five years as a gay listener sounds like. I didn’t have space to include ten other marvelous moments in his vast oeuvre. Here they are in no order:

1. Mick Ronson piling on junk riff after riff over the “The Jean Genie” coda.

2. The is-he-fucking-with-us merger of castanets, a Bo Diddly rhythm, and Robert Fripp’s shriek guitar in “Up The Hill Backwards.” “The vacuum created by the arrival of freedom / And the possibilities it seems to offer,” and how.

3. Bowie mumbling through the most outre track on Let’s Dance, a sinister cover of Metro’s “Criminal World” that I wished more fans liked. The rhythm section assembled by Nile Rodgers (Carmine Rojas on bass, Chic’s Tony Thompson on drums) gives it a rubbery consistency to match the undertone of sexual ambiguity. Special props to Steve Elson’s flute.

4. Although he doesn’t get much attention for his instrumental prowess, Bowie can play distinctive parts on guitar, sax, and keyboards when he wants; his best records have him playing alongside the band. Let me praise the lead guitar on Iggy Pop’s The Idiot, particularly on “Dum Dum Girls” and “China Girl.”

5. The lighthearted stomp called “I Have Not Been in Oxford Town” on Outside.

6. The synth swells in “Heathen (The Rays),” inspired by Richard Strauss. I heard it in the summer of 2002 driving home from nightclubbing: Bowie’s vocal greets the end times with poise and no fear.

7. How “Jump They Say” keeps a lid on the tension until Lester Bowie (no relation) unleashes a trumpet solo.

8. Juxtaposing several yards of synth against harmonica, rhythm strums, and Dennis Davis’ motorik beat in “A New Career in a New Town.”

9. In A Year with Swollen Appendices, Brian Eno praises Bowie’s singing in “No Control.” I don’t have it in front of me; what I remember is his falling in love with Bowie’s embracing a manner that few singers do. To hear him switch from his low end on the “I can’t believe I’ve no control” to the elongation of the last couple of syllables in “It’s all deranged” is a master class in pitch.

10. The ooh ooh ooh ooh’s in “The Stars Are Out Tonight.”

My David Bowie story….and yours?

My parents owned the “Let’s Dance” 45 rpm. I was first aware of Bowie as some space fag in the late eighties when he was a standing joke. First contemporary song: the song he wrote for Adrian Belew called “Pretty Pink Rose.” I fell pretty hard for “Jump They Say,” which actually got college radio play in my part of town. I bought Black Tie White Noise, an album that even then sent confusing signals. I’ve figured out what baffled me about this album, the first Bowie album I bought at the time of release: it’s a much-deferred sophisti-pop mood. The doublebreasted suits, the perfect hair, Al B Sure!, Lester Bowie, the Sinatra moves in the sleeve photos. Nothing could’ve been more out of time in late spring ’93 than sophisti-pop.

His last attempt at a pop crossover, Black Tie White Noise looked dowdy for a while beside a non-linear Gothic hypercycle called Outside and a drums ‘n’ bass experiment called Earthling. If anyone wants to think Bowie stopped being Karma Chameleon in the nineties, play him the first singles of his solo albums: “Jump They Say,” “The Heart’s Filthy Lesson,” “Little Wonder,” “Thursday’s Child.” Hell, this might even be a strawman argument, for Bowie’s problem in the nineties was straining for relevance, engaging in mirror moves for its own sake because that’s what Being David Bowie required. But Black Tie White Noise possesses a stilted charm; I’ll still keep “Jump They Say,” “The Wedding,” “You’ve Been Around” (check out the bass run splitting the verse “I can’t pass you by too exchanging” in two), and “Pallas Athena.” Annie Zed’s tracing of the lineage connecting it and Blackstar is a shrewd reckoning of how the purported avant-garde lurks beneath a deluxe sheen.

Happy birthday, David Bowie.

Carlos Alomar: ‘Bowie’s finest collaborator’

The sparkling funk lick in “Golden Years.” The quilt of knitted riffs in “Fame.” The hook in “Sound and Vision.” Almost every interesting guitar part from 1975 to 1980 was played by Carlos Alomar. And beyond: the bit in 1995’s “I Have Not Been to Oxford Town” opens a curtain into a dark and formidable room. But fans still remember Mick Ronson as Bowie’s best guitar sidekick, maybe because he fits conventional notions of auteurism: producer and sessioneer in his own right. Alomar by contrast had a talent for recessiveness; he didn’t cause scenes or indulge in ego trips, he did his job and moved on. Chris O’Leary:

Having split with Mick Ronson, Bowie needed a new sous-chef. But he didn’t want another Ronson (if he had, he’d just have kept Ronson). He wanted someone who kept behind the scenes (no worries that Alomar would get more fan mail than Bowie) and who could handle new twists in Bowie’s songwriting. To Ronson, Bowie typically presented lyrics, top melodies and even guitar or basslines—at the least, Bowie would offer a complete chord sequence. Ronson’s role was to smooth, kick up, embellish and refine, to find counterpoints and add effects, to broaden and sweeten the song, to give it a public face.

By Station to Station and Low, Alomar was charged with creating the basics of a song. Bowie would offer some chords, a provisional title, some mood directions, and let Alomar take it from there. Bowie would monitor him rigorously and approve or discard whatever Alomar came up with, and much of the work was now in “post-production” (Alomar rarely heard Bowie’s vocals until the record came out). But essentially this was songwriting as delegation: Bowie as foreman/engineer, Alomar as shop steward. Scott Walker once described Bowie’s work as being something like a factory: He comes up with the goods and makes sure of delivery all down the line. Bowie couldn’t have done this without Alomar, who was his translator, research team, legwork man and studio engine.

Whether Chris is correct is quite beside the point. Someone had to write this.