-Nicholas Pegg, THE COMPLETE DAVID BOWIE-
The murder of John Lennon in 1980 hurt David Bowie spiritually, mentally and artistically and by 1985 the man, who had given rock music some of its greatest and most experimental work, was releasing the lame and artistically corrupt TONIGHT album. It would take Bowie nearly a decade to recover fully from the creative low that hit him in the eighties, a period when ironically he would sell more than ever, but there are a handful of post SCARY MONSTERS eighties tracks that are among the best of his career. At the top of this list is his mind blowing Giorgio Moroder collaboration, the CAT PEOPLE theme.
The original version of CAT PEOPLE is one of the great lost David Bowie singles, a chilling and explosive number that could have fit easily on any one of his many great albums. In Moroder, Bowie met the man he probably should have continued working with at least for awhile. Imagine the polished sheen of Nile Roger's produced LET'S DANCE tracks erased in favor of Moroder's pulsating and propulsive style and you've got a very different decade for David Bowie.
It wasn't meant to be though and CAT PEOPLE remains a blazing one off collaboration between the two great men. Moroder had already delivered his score when Schrader had the idea to get Bowie to sing the title track. Bowie, a major film buff, was called in and quickly agreed. He came up with a set of lyrics that not only seem narrated by Kinski's Irena but also show his own paranoid and frantic state in the wake of Lennon's death.
The original version, with it's slow foreboding build up, is a real stunner and features one of the most explosive and cutting Bowie vocals on record. Moroder's propulsive beats and hypnotic production turn it into one of his great tracks as well, the equal of some of his finest revolutionary work from the seventies with Donna Summer. The slashing guitar work and background female singers would foreshadow some of the second wave of Goth rocker's that would begin filtering out through the early part of the decade, in much the same way Bowie had influenced all of the first batch with his material in the seventies.
The original track is available in several versions, including the soundtrack version, an alternate version for the film, and a handful of edited and extended single takes. It would be a relatively minor hit in The States and England but would have much more impact on Europe's charts. Bowie would soon after record the astonishing UNDER PRESSURE with Queen and CAT PEOPLE stands with that song as the last two reminders of the seventies, until his great comeback in the early nineties.
Bowie made an unfortunate decision with the song in 1983 when he re-cut it without Moroder for his massive LET'S DANCE album. The version used there is much more well known now and is completely inferior. All of the song's menace and intensity have been taken away and Bowie's undervaluing of the original would be a major sign that something was creatively wrong with him in the eighties. The song would become a major live staple for Bowie through his SERIOUS MOONLIGHT tour but unfortunately he didn't return to the Moroder's arrangement. The new version did work better live than on record but was still a long way from Moroder's original.
CAT PEOPLE is easily the best of any theme song for one of Nastassja's films and it is a perfect theme for this exciting portion of her career. The best place to find it is on Moroder's incredible soundtrack lp, which I will be covering later, or on the unfortunately small number of Bowie collections that contain it.