Sunday, January 18, 2009

David Bowie -- "Cat People (Putting Out Fire With Gasoline") (1982)

David Bowie, like Elvis Costello, has a long career of "hit and run" collaborations with other talented artists. He dueted with Mick Jagger on the overblown cover of "Dancing In The Street," dropped into Queen's "Under Pressure," let Chic co-founder Nile Rodgers produce him on Let's Dance, and did a memorable turn with jazz guitarist Pat Matheny on "This Is Not America" from the soundtrack of The Falcon and The Snowman.

However, if there was one joint venture that I wish had extended to a full album was this one with pioneering disco synth producer/songwriter Giorgio Moroder, who is best known for his work with Donna Summer.

The theme song from director Paul Schrader's weird, kinky thriller, Cat People, blended the off-kilter lyrical and vocal touches of Bowie with the simple chords and pumping synths of Moroder, packaged in an arrangement straight out of the latter's playbook: start nice and slow (remember Summers' "Last Dance?"), and then kick it in full speed, layers of keyboards pouring down, female background vocalists tearing it up at the end.

Bowie always had a knack for turning a phrase, and he packs two: "You wouldn't believe what I've been through!" and "it's been so long!"

Schrader's movie was a modern update of Val Lewton's 1942 horror film, except he kicked up the sex and the violence. Schrader introduced the world to Natassja Kinski, as a peculiarly hot chick who may, just may, turn into panther after she has sex, and have an incestuous relationship with her brother, played by Malcolm McDowell.

So if you're going to have something as twisted as this, Bowie would have to be your man. The video clip below pretty much explains why Bowie, this song and the film were perfect: it's the opening of the film where you are introduced to this race of people who are somehow related to felines in a sexual way... lots of mist... a female led to a mystical sacrificial tree... and Bowie's croon, set to a tribal beat before jumping into the second faster part of the song.


capewood said...

I was always a big Bowie fan and, although I never saw the movie, I bought the single release of the song. Bowie redid the song on his album Let's Dance.

Anonymous said...

I picked up the 12" at Goodwill recently, since my wife is a Bowi 'completist' and it is very suprising how MUCH this song sounds like Sisters of Mercy. Andrew Eldritch basically swiped this entire sound, production-wise, when he dumped the band and became Sister Numero Uno (circa Floodland era).