My how the time flies…
Twenty five years ago, in 1995, David Bowie released 1. Outside (as it was designated, though the album does seem to have different titles, including leaving off the “1.”).
When it was released, I recall purchasing the CD -that’s the way music was being sold back then, what with the internet in its infancy and MP3s either not yet available or in the process of becoming.
It’s admittedly difficult as the years pass to recall specifics of a time so very long ago, but I do recall eagerly picking the album up -as I did with every new Bowie album- and finding it at first difficult to get into but, after a couple of listens, finding myself really loving it.
Alas, critics -again if my memory is right- weren’t quite as enamored. Many felt the album was simply too much, bursting to the rim as it was. Indeed, the album runs dangerously close to the maximum 75 minutes a CD allows, and a subsequent re-release of the album, featuring the song Get Real, allowed quite literally only a minute or so of time to spare on the CD!
Over at popmatters.com, Adam Trainer offers a very in depth retrospective of this album, which I found very intriguing and, if you’re a David Bowie music fan as I am, might find intriguing too:
I’ve said it before ’round these parts and I’ll repeat it: I feel that of all of David Bowie’s later albums, 1. Outside is my favorite, with Blackstar, his final work, coming in a close second.
Outside (I’ll refer to the album by this designation… It’s easier to type this than putting that damn “1.” in front of!) is, IMHO, a terrific work, one that flows through so many different musical styles and themes and… its mind-blowing. So mind-blowing and so filled to the brim with material that I totally understand why some people may find it just too damn much to take.
This is an album that demands you give it your attention and time and, if you’re unable or uninterested in doing so, then you likely won’t care for it.
Ah, but if you do have that patience and do give it a look-see, there is plenty here to love.
In his article, Mr. Trainer correctly notes that The Buddha of Suburbia, the album that preceded Outside, is almost like a dry run and does indeed feature an early version of the song Strangers When We Meet, which would close out both albums in their original forms. Worth checking out as well, even if many don’t consider it a “true” Bowie album. It is, even if it is a “soundtrack” to a BBC miniseries.
Anyway, I don’t disagree with some of the criticism Mr. Trainer also levels against the album: Perhaps if Mr. Bowie had whittled the material down to, say, 40 minutes, we might have had something many would have considered a spectacular album. Further, I wouldn’t argue with the fact that some of the album’s “segues”, which are snippets of dialogue that tell the story of various characters involved in the songs, may be disposable…
…and yet, I love the album as it is, start to end.
And when it soars, as it does with songs like The Heart’s Filthy Lesson, The Motel, I Have Not Been to Oxford Town (in my opinion one of the cleverest of the songs on the album, taken from the point of view of someone who’s been accused of a murder they didn’t commit, and realizing while sitting in jail they’re about to take the fall for the crime), I’m Deranged, Thru These Architect Eyes, and, yes indeed, Strangers When We Meet.
The album, frankly, is bursting with so much good stuff and, as time passes, I’m more and more impressed with it.
So often people compared the latest Bowie album and wondered if it was as good as Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, which many considered the last great Bowie album.
Sorry folks, much as I love Scary Monsters, and I do love it, I think Outside is overall even better.