35 Years Ago: David Bowie Continues an Impressive Run With ‘Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)’By Eduardo Rivadavia September 12, 2015 11:52 AM
No mainstream artist enjoyed a more eclectic and exciting rock and roll career throughout the ’70s than David Bowie. And as the chameleon-like singer delivered Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
, on Sept. 12, 1980, it seemed possible that the same would be true of Bowie’s next decade.
After completing his famed Berlin Trilogy of Low
, Bowie decided that his 14th studio album would be recorded at New York City’s Power Station, again with help from longtime producer Tony Visconti – but without Brian Eno. That meant Eno’s penchant for spontaneous songwriting and recording techniques were replaced by a more traditional, highly organized process focused more on delivering big hits than earning more critical plaudits for artistry.
In keeping, the advance single “Ashes to Ashes” – which resurrected his popular Major Tom character from “Space Oddity” – went to No. 1 in the U.K., while performing strongly in numerous countries. (In the U.S., the song had an entirely different fate, just missing the Billboard
Hot 100 and peaking at No. 101.) “Fashion,” a direct descendant from Station to Station
‘s “Golden Years,” following in short order, pushing Scary Monsters
to the top the charts in the U.K.; Bowie reached No. 12 in America.
Elsewhere, however, many of the songs on Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
were as challenging and unconventional as critics and discerning Bowie-philes could have asked for. The opening tune, “It’s No Game,” married a plodding dirge to Bowie’s intentionally strangled vocals and a female narration of the lyrics in Japanese. “Up the Hill Backwards” commented on the singer’s recent divorce over a lurching, 7/4 beat, and then the title track arose from a sinister Robert Fripp guitar figure, which was indicative of its subject’s descent into madness – all before the aforementioned singles made their entrances.
Bowie’s imagination continued to fly unchecked and unafraid on the second side, over the anthemic, “Heroes”-like march of “Teenage Wildlife,” the intriguing chord changes that made “Scream Like a Baby” half-new wave, half-hard rock, a lush interpretation of Tom Verlaine’s “Kingdom Come” complete with girl-group backing vocals, a densely arranged “Because You’re Young” boasting windmill power chords from Pete Townshend and concluding with a “civilized” reprise of “It’s No Game” that proved a Dr. Jeckyll to the opener’s Mr. Hyde...Ultimate Classic Rock