It's No Game

Album: Scary Monsters and Super Creeps (1980)

Songfacts®:

  • This is a song written by David Bowie for the 1980 album Scary Monsters and Super Creeps, featuring lead guitar played by King Crimson's Robert Fripp. The song is in two parts, opening and closing the album.
  • "It's No Game (Part 1)" features a shouted Japanese female lyric, interspersed with Bowie singing the translation. The female Japanese singer is Michi Hirota, who was at the time a member of Japan's Red Buddha Theatre, which was performing in London. Bowie was looking for a strident female vocalist: "I wanted to break down a particular type of sexist attitude about women. I thought the [idea of] the 'Japanese girl' typifies it, where everyone pictures them as a geisha girl, very sweet, demure and non-thinking, when in fact that's the absolute opposite of what women are like. They think an awful lot, with quite as much strength as any man. I wanted to caricature that attitude by having a very forceful Japanese voice on it. So I had [Hirota] come out with a very samurai kind of thing."
  • Back in 1974, Hirota was one of the Japanese geisha girls (the one on the right), on the cover of Sparks' album Kimono My House.
  • "It's No Game (Part 2)" repeats the same tune as Part 1 and most of its lyrics, with some alterations. It was deliberately 'softer' in tone and features Bowie only, singing in English.
  • Both parts reworked lyrics from "Tired of My Life," the first song that David Bowie ever wrote.
  • Jack Hues of Wang Chung picks this as one of his top songs of the '80s. He explained to Songfacts: "David Bowie was such a massive influence on me, especially in the early '80s, that I wanted to include something by him. Listening to this opening track from Scary Monsters reminded me of everything I loved about his work at this time. His ear for the right vocal style for any given song was unerring and this vocal is extreme - the scream at the end of the first section he sings is naked, like Lennon's vocal on 'Mother.'

    But Bowie is always shining light, playing with light on the surface, and this vocal throughout makes me smile. I love too that he is wrestling with the whole boring task of writing lyrics for the verses - his solutions are many and varied, but Michi Hirota gives him all the attitude he needs! Robert Fripp creates a demented alter-ego to counterpoint the voices and everything is delivered in that big live room acoustic that made Low and Heroes so exciting and completely original.

    The structure of the song is linear, dictated by the poem that he uses for a lyric, so no chorus as such, but hooks are everywhere. Very much in the manner of songs on Blackstar. A song that reminds you that, as Miles Davis was keen to tell his more studious players, 'Attitude' is everything."

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