Absolute Beginners

Album: Absolute Beginners Soundtrack (1986)
Charted: 2 53
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Songfacts®:

  • This song is about love that is still in embryonic state. It was written for the 1986 film, Absolute Beginners. Bowie was in the movie, which is a musical based on a book by Colin MacInnes. The book is set in London in the late '50s and deal with the youth culture that would eventually become the Mod movement. The musical starred Patsy Kensit and was directed by Julien Temple, who had previously directed The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle - a mockumentary starring The Sex Pistols. Temple also directed this song's official video, which paid homage to the old British advertisements for Strand cigarettes.
  • The soundtrack version of this song runs 8:02, while the single version runs around 5:38. The various versions are available on the Best of Bowie anthology. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Justin - Felts Mills, NY, for above 2
  • The session musicians employed to play on this song were told they would be recording for an artist called "Mr. X." Only when they arrived at Abbey Road Studios in London did they find out this was Bowie.
  • This features former Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman on piano.
  • Contrary to popular belief, Kate Bush does not sing backing vocals on this track. You are actually hearing 22 year old Janet Armstrong. This was Armstrong's first-ever professional studio session - rather ironic considering the song title!

    Janet Armstrong's brother English rock guitarist and record producer Kevin Armstrong led the studio band when Bowie recorded the song. After helping create an arrangement in 20 minutes, Armstrong and the band then cut the demo. He recalled to Uncut:

    "David then mentions that when we do it for real, I want a girl singer who sounds like a shop girl. So I told him my sister sang it a bit and worked in Dorothy Perkins. He didn't even hesitate, he just went, 'right, get her in.' And that was it. Janet rolled up to the actual session and sang it."

Comments: 7

  • Mike from Queens, New YorkI love this song, especially the "Live at the BBC" version recorded in 2000. Part of it's magic is the interesting and unexpected chord changes, and Bowie's sparse but very effective lyrics. He is not afraid of empty space - he lets' us be in that moment of feeling. And not only is the song itself quite beautiful, powerful and moving, the band and recording are all superb, bringing that lucky audience to a standing ovation just after the incredible crescendo. The Bowie That moment - to me - is one of Bowie's finest live moments, and it brings me to tears almost every time. I'm no Bowie expert (though now, since his death one month ago, I am investigating more of his music), but - IMHO - this is incredible piece of music and recording.
  • Mark from Maesteg, United KingdomThe Jam recorded a song called "Absolute Beginners" in 1981 based on the same book.
  • Michael from Santa Cruz, CaJulien Temple's movie "Absolute Beginners"is britain's answer to "West Side Story",although there are some violent and racial imagry that exceeds WSS,the film is astounding.Each scene is a showstopper,but David Bowie's contribution brings tears to my eyes.Unforgettable.
  • Jl from French Guyana, -Are you sure he repeats "there's no reason" in the second chorus? I am not. And if indeed he changes for "if there's reason", it changes the meaning, doesn't it?
  • Jl from French Guyana, -Quoting Wikipedia :
    "The sessions, at Abbey Road Studios, were set up in a novel way, with a group of session musicians all receiving a card to work at the studio with "Mr X", who turned out to be Bowie. The sessions were completed rapidly, but the song was delayed due to the problems with completing the film. Virgin wanted the release to tie in with the film's opening. Shortly after the sessions wrapped, Mick Jagger flew in to record "Dancing in the Street", which used many of the same musicians. The song fused 1950s-style doo-wop with Bowie's 1980s sound.
    Temple also filmed the promotional clip, which fitted in with the 1950s style of the movie. The video was a homage to an old British advert for Strand cigarettes. Their ill-fated advertising tagline "You're never alone with a Strand." is quoted by Partners in the film. It also uses footage from the film."
  • Shirley from Ocean, NjI, too, love this song; the melody, the words; to me it's a very romantic song.
  • Charlotte from Norwich, United StatesMovie sadly lacked something (apart from DB of course!) for me but the song..... I could listen to it all day
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