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SCARY MONSTERS (AND SUPER CREEPS)

WHILE THE NEW ROMANTICS WERE STILL LARGELY A SECRET TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, THEIR HERO WAS DREAMING UP A SOARING ROCK RECORD, A MULTI-LAYERED, DYSTOPIAN MASTERPIECE – A PERFECT SOUNDTRACK FOR THE DAWN OF THE FRIGHTENING 1980S…

DAVID BOWIE

The 70s were over. David Bowie had swung through the decade like Tarzan; beginning it as a glam rock superstar, conquering America with ‘plastic soul’, developing a near-lethal cocaine habit, recuperating in Berlin, making a trilogy of groundbreaking albums with Brian Eno, returning to painting.

In 1979, he divorced Angie, and that year’s Lodger was to be his last with Eno until 1995’s Outside. As the 80s began, his fingerprints were everywhere, from artists as disparate as Joy Division, Kate Bush and Gary Numan to the burgeoning New Romantic movement. Even a gruesome scene in William Friedkin’s film Cruising had emulated Lodger’s cover. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), its title inspired by a Kellogg’s cornflakes packet, would see Bowie re-examine and recycle his own past, a past everyone else was drawing from. It was an album of contradictions, raw emotions and glossy surfaces, grinding noise and slick production; glancing backwards, yet propelling Bowie into the 80s. It had the air of a cumulative work – supremely confident, but plagued with self-doubt. In 1990 Bowie described the record as a kind of ‘purge’; it’s haunted by the ghosts of past creations, spooked by its creator’s personal demons and those of the wider world.

Basic tracks were recorded at NYC’s Power Station in the early months of 1980. During these sessions Bowie only had one song completed, It’s No Game, which would bookend the album in radically different incarnations. During the sessions, rhythm guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis recorded grooves from which Bowie would later sculpt songs. Other visitors to the sessions included the E Street Band’s Roy Bittan, whose ivory-pounding provided the album with the ‘grit’ Alomar says the band were seeking, while Chuck Hammer’s guitar synth, a Roland GR-500, gave the album layers of cutting-edge polish referred to as ‘guitar-architecture’. Co-producer Visconti claimed the proviso for Scary Monsters was that it was to be a Sgt. Pepper’s, a state-of-the-art masterpiece with each track given its own sonic identity.

Recording then moved to London’s Good Earth studios for vocals and overdubbing. This was the first Bowie album to be partly made in the city since 1974’s Diamond Dogs. Situated in the heart of Soho, the area was full of memories for Bowie, from Lindsey Kemp’s Bateman Street apartment to the Marquee Club, where he had held gigs he called ‘Bowie Showboats’ in the mid-60s. In his time with Eno, Bowie had taken to devising lyrics spontaneously; on Scary Monsters he spent two months on the compositions. Crucial appearances at the Good Earth sessions came from guitarist Robert Fripp and synth player Andy Clark from Be-Bop Deluxe (on Minimoog and Yamaha CS-80). Even The Who’s Pete Townshend showed up, in a “foul laconic mood” according to Visconti, to add guitar to Because You’re Young.

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About Classic Pop Presents

In our latest Classic Pop Presents special, we immerse ourselves in the flamboyant world of the New Romantics. From the scene's origins as an underground movement born out of the Blitz Club in Soho through to the worldwide surge of popularity that led to mainstream success for some of the major players who made their musical mark, such as Boy George, Spandau Ballet, Visage and Duran Duran. Inside we tell the story of the Godfather of the scene, Steve Strange, and explore his pioneering band Visage with the help of Blitz DJ and band member Rusty Egan and fellow band-mate Midge Ure, who moved on to front Ultravox. We chat to Spandau Ballet's Steve Norman, who guides us through the making of their game-changing debut album Journeys To Glory, plus we head up to the Midlands to the Rum Runner club, which gave rise to another of the scene's major success stories, Duran Duran. This issue has plenty more to be enjoyed, including an exploration of David Bowie's influence on the movement plus eye-opening interviews with some of the scene's faces to get their side of this fascinating era, including Toyah, Princess Julia and Mark Shaw. Raconteur, author, DJ – and Soho's Wag Club founder – Chris Sullivan shares his hilarious memories of the times, and we strut the cat-walk with Blitz Kids, fashion designer Judith Franklin and photographer Graham Smith for our New Romantic fashion feature. Also inside, there's our Top 40 Essential New Romantic playlist, the design styles and artwork of the scene's many fine releases, and all with stunning photos throughout!