“Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” is the title track from the 1980 album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps). It 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”.
Musically the track was notable for its lead guitar work by Robert Fripp and distinctive synthesized percussion. The lyrics, sung by Bowie in an exaggerated Cockney accent, charted a woman’s withdrawal from the world and descent into madness (“When I looked in her eyes they were blue but nobody home … Now she’s stupid in the street and she can’t socialise”). Thematically it has been compared to Joy Division’s “She’s Lost Control” (1979), and to the “claustrophobic romance” of Iggy Pop’s 1977 collaborations with Bowie, The Idiot and Lust for Life.
The edited single reached No. 20 in the UK charts. As well as 7″ vinyl, it was issued in Compact Cassette format. It has since been performed on a number of Bowie tours.
“Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)” (Bowie) – 3:27
“Because You’re Young” (Bowie) – 4:51
The French release of the single had “Up the Hill Backwards” as the B-side.
David Bowie: Vocals, Keyboards
Robert Fripp: Guitar
George Murray: Bass
Dennis Davis: Drums
Tony Visconti: Acoustic guitar on “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)”
A live performance filmed on 12 September 1983 was included on Serious Moonlight (1983 film).
Bowie performed the song on Saturday Night Live on 8 February 1997. This was later released on the album Saturday Night Live – 25 Years Volume 1.
Bowie and Reeves Gabrels performed an all-acoustic country and western version of the song for the radio station WRXT in Chicago Il on 16 October 1997.
Bowie performed the song with Nine Inch Nails numerous times during the Outside Tour.
The song appeared on the following compilations:
Golden Years (1983) – album version
The Singles Collection (1993) – album version
Best of Bowie (2002) – single edit
The Platinum Collection – single edit
The Best of David Bowie 1980/1987 (2007) – single edit
Nothing Has Changed (2014) (3-CD version) – single edit
It also appeared on the soundtrack of the PlayStation game Gran Turismo (1998).