1.Outside

1.Outside is a beast of a Bowie album, and it’s my favourite. Released in 1995, it was originally intended to be the first of a series of five albums (hence the “1” in the title) in a lead up to the new millennium. It should come as little surprise to those who follow the work of David Bowie that the follow-ups never materialised – this is a man with a very limited attention span! Apparently, over 20 hours of material was recorded in the original sessions with Brian Eno (their first collaboration since their Low, Heroes, Lodger Berlin trilogy) and Bowie has said on a number of occasions since that one day he intends to go through the tapes and put together the follow-up, 2.Contamination. However, it’s now over seven years since Bowie released a new album (and over 15 years since the release of 1.Outside) and if ever he was going to find time to go through these tapes and put together the sequel, you would have thought that this would have been it. For me, the fact that 1.Outside remains the only album of the planned series only makes it more interesting because of it.

The music on 1.Outside shows Bowie at this most experimental and daring. For the first time since The Thin White Duke on 1976’s Station to Station, he re-introduces characters – multiple characters. Sub-titled “The Nathan Adler Diaries – a non-linear hypercycle”,  the loose narrative of 1.Outside has Detective Nathan Adler investigating the ritual-art-murder of Baby Grace Blue, and in the process experiencing a variety of strange and sinister characters. Not to everyone’s taste, the album contains a variety of segues – spoken narratives with Bowie playing the part of each of the different characters. For me, these provide many of the albums great moments.

The album’s lead single was The Heart’s filthy Lesson – a minor top 40 hit – and which is the song which so effectively closes the 1995 film, Se7en. The rousing grand piano sections (performed by Mike Garson – a former member of Bowie’s band The Spiders (from Mars) and who began working with Bowie again on 1993’s excellent Black Tie White Noise) along with on others on songs such as The Motel, and are real highlights of the album.

At the time of release, critics gave this album a warm reception, declaring it (as they have done with all Bowie’s albums post-Tin Machine) his “greatest since Scary Monsters“. However, arguably, it is this album more than others from the 1990’s such as Black Tie White Noise and Earthling, which has achieved the greatest respect amongst critics and fans with the passing years. Every now and again the media conduct polls asking people to list their top 5 David Bowie albums (such as to celebrate his 60th birthday a few years ago) and increasingly 1.Outside features in these lists along with the better-known classics such as Hunky Dory, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars and Diamond Dogs.

1.Ouside is not an album which is immediately accessible and it’s subject matter is challenging. However, this is an album filled with spectacular moments, many of which display the same flashes of genius Bowie created in the 1970’s and early 80’s. It is an essential purchase for anyone interested in the music of David Bowie.

Songs to download:

  • Outside
  • The heart’s filthy lesson
  • Hallo spaceboy
  • The motel
  • I have not been to Oxford Town
  • The voyeur of utter destruction (as beauty)
  • Through these architect’s eyes
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