Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) is the fourteenth studio album by David Bowie, released in September 1980 by RCA Records. It was his final studio album for the label and his first following the so-called Berlin Trilogy of Low, “Heroes” and Lodger (1977–79). Though considered very significant in artistic terms, the trilogy had proved less successful commercially. With Scary Monsters, however, Bowie achieved what biographer David Buckley called “the perfect balance”; as well as earning critical acclaim, the album peaked at No. 1 in the UK and restored Bowie’s commercial standing in the US.
All songs written by David Bowie, except where noted.
1. “It’s No Game (Part 1)” 4:20
2. “Up the Hill Backwards” 3:15
3. “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” 5:12
4. “Ashes to Ashes” 4:25
5. “Fashion” 4:49
6. “Teenage Wildlife” 6:56
7. “Scream Like a Baby” 3:35
8. “Kingdom Come” (music and lyrics by Tom Verlaine) 3:45
9. “Because You’re Young” 4:54
10. “It’s No Game (Part 2)” 4:22
The album has been rereleased four times to date on CD, the first being in 1984 by RCA, the second in 1992 by Rykodisc (containing four bonus tracks), the third in 1999 by EMI (featuring 24-bit digitally-remastered sound and no bonus tracks) and the last in 2003 by EMI as a SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc).
1992 reissue bonus tracks
“Space Oddity” (Single B-side, re-recorded acoustic version, 1979) – 4:47
“Panic in Detroit” (Re-recorded version, 1979, previously unreleased) – 3:00
“Crystal Japan” (Japanese single A-side, 1979) – 3:08
“Alabama Song” (Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weill) (UK single A-side, recorded 1978) – 3:51
David Bowie – vocals, keyboards, backing vocals, saxophone
Dennis Davis – percussion
George Murray – bass guitar
Carlos Alomar – guitars
Chuck Hammer – guitar synthesizer on “Ashes to Ashes” and “Teenage Wildlife”
Robert Fripp – guitar on “Fashion”, “It’s No Game”, “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)”, “Kingdom Come”, “Up the Hill Backwards”, and “Teenage Wildlife”
Roy Bittan – piano on “Teenage Wildlife”, “Ashes to Ashes” and “Up the Hill Backwards”
Andy Clark – synthesizer on “Fashion”, “Scream Like a Baby”, “Ashes to Ashes” and “Because You’re Young”
Pete Townshend – guitar on “Because You’re Young”
Tony Visconti – acoustic guitar on “Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)” and “Up the Hill Backwards”, backing vocals
Lynn Maitland – backing vocals
Chris Porter – backing vocals
Michi Hirota – voice on “It’s No Game (No. 1)”
David Bowie, Tony Visconti – production and engineering
Larry Alexander, Jeff Hendrickson – engineering assistance
Peter Mew, Nigel Reeve – mastering
Bowie returns to New York to start work on Scary Monsters album at New York’s Power Station. After two and a half weeks only It’s No Game No.2 was entirely complete.
The rest of the tracks were left as instrumental and shelved until Bowie had a chance to revisit them with fresh ideas for lyrics.
Also recorded during the sessions was Crystal Japan, intended to close the album before the It’s No Game No.2 reprise took its place.
The album was completed in London at Visconti’s Good Earth Studios. The LP marked the return to a more conventional style of writing as Tony Visconti had witnessed.
Bowie and Tony Visconti
“He actually sat down and wrote the songs for a change, for David, this is good form.”
Final production touches in London.
Art by Edward Bell and Duffy
The sleeve, commissioned by Bowie, began with a photo session with photographer/designer Duffy (who designed the iconic Aladdin Sane sleeve) which he took to Edward Bell who developed the sleeve design using cut outs of old Bowie album sleeves, whitewashing them to symbolise the discarding of Bowie’s old personae.
Bowie was sufficiently pleased with the result that he commissioned Bell for a further portrait from the session which was included on the cover of the 1982 Bowie calendar and entitled Glamour.
The make-up for the clown/Pierrot image created for the ‘Scary Monster’ concept was designed by specialist Richard Sharah:
David came to me and said he wanted a Pierrot look, and he let me design from there. Most of the time I draw up some ideas and then work with the subject around those. The preparation for David’s make-up took one and a half hours.
The clown costume was designed by Natasha Kornilof, friendly with Bowie since his days with Lindsay Kemp. She also designed the white sailor’s outfit Bowie wore on the 1978 world tour.
Ashes to Ashes / Move On single was released in three different covers, the first 100,000 copies containing one of a series of four sheets of nine stamps, designed by Bowie.
Ashes to Ashes / It’s No Game (part 1)
“Ashes to Ashes” was the lead single from the 1980 album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and became Bowie’s second UK No. 1 single. It is also known for its innovative video, directed by Bowie and David Mallet, which at the time was the most expensive music video ever made.
“Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” was also issued as the third single from that album in January 1981. Coming as it did in the wake of two earlier singles from Scary Monsters, “Ashes to Ashes” in August 1980 and “Fashion” in October the same year, NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray labelled its release another instance “in the fine old tradition of milking albums for as much as they could possibly be worth”
“Up the Hill Backwards” was also issued as the fourth and final single from the album in March 1981. This was due to be the last David Bowie single on RCA and to commemorate this fact RCA in the UK pressed some of the records with the old style orange RCA label instead of the normal black label
OTHER SINGLE RELEASES
Fashion 7″ single
Scary Monsters 7″ single
Scary Monsters 12″ single (Germany)
Up The Hill Backwards 12″ single with bonus sheet of stamps
The Continuing Story of Major Tom
12-inch promo single issued by RCA in US featuring:
Space Oddity (original version segued into Ashes to Ashes – edited version) / Ashes to Ashes (LP version)
7-inch promo single issued by RCA in US featuring:
Ashes to Ashes – edited version [RCA JH12078]
Promo LP issued in the US featuring the complete Scary Monsters LP and Space Oddity (1979 version) (RCA DJLI-3829A).
Scary Monsters interview 12-inch promotional album
“In which David discuss songs on his new album, Scary Monsters. You are the interviewer.”
REVIEW >Martin Aston/Q Magazine – 1990
After the Brian Eno-assisted trilogy of Low, “Heroes” and Lodger, 1980’s Scary Monsters proved David Bowie could survive without the former’s studious ingenuity while retaining a futurist brief and injecting a more essentially rock’n’pop brief, which paid off greater commercial dividends. A more confrontational, audacious set than Lodger, the success rate is constant – ‘It’s No Game’’s jarring, visceral rock, ‘Up The Hill Backwards’ off-kilter poppiness, the title track’s helter-skeltery spin, ‘Ashes To Ashes’ divine dream-pop melancholy (and David Bowie’s second Number 1) and ‘Fashion’s merciless funk riffing. Throughout, Bowie is in superb voice, and lyrically candid and increasingly politicised to boot. The drawback is the extra tracks-only one is new, a surprisingly mild and frankly unfunky restoration of ‘Panic In Detroit’ from 1979, although the instrumental prettiness of the 1980 Japanese-only single ‘Crystal Japan’ makes for a tranquil conclusion.
Q Rating: ****