Monday, February 3, 1997

David Bowie Earthling released


David Bowie

Released: February 3, 1997

Peak: 39 US, 6 UK, 21 CN, 45 AU

Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.06 UK, 1.0 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: glam rock/classic rock veteran


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Little Wonder [6:02] (1/21/97, 14 UK, 94 AU)
  2. Looking for Satellites [5:20]
  3. Battle for Britain (The Letter) [4:48]
  4. Seven Years in Tibet (Bowie/Gabrels) [6:21] (8/18/97, 61 UK)
  5. Dead Man Walking (Bowie/Gabrels) [6:50] (4/26/97, 32 UK)
  6. Telling Lies (Bowie) [4:49] (11/4/96, 76 UK)
  7. The Last Thing You Should Do [4:57]
  8. I’m Afraid of Americans (Bowie, Brian Eno) [5:00] (10/14/97, 66 US, 29 MR)
  9. Law (Earthlings on Fire) (Bowie/Gabrels) [4:48]

Songs written by Bowie/Gabrels/Plati unless indicated otherwise.

Total Running Time: 48:57

The Players:

  • David Bowie (vocals, guitar, alto sax, samples, keyboards)
  • Reeves Gabrels (programming, synthesizers, guitar, vocals)
  • Mark Plati (programming, loops, samples, keyboards)
  • Gail Ann Dorsey (bass, vocals)
  • Zack Alford (drum loops, acoustic drums, electronic percussion)
  • Mike Garson (keyboards, piano)


3.349 out of 5.00 (average of 27 ratings)

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

Five days after finishing his tour for 1995’s Outside, David Bowie went right back into the studio and he and collaborator Reeves Gabrels immediately started writing new songs. WK Bowie considered the process similar to Scary Monsters, describing the goal was “to produce some really dynamic, aggressive-sounding material.” WK

“Jumping on the post-grunge industrial bandwagon with Outside didn’t successfully rejuvenate David Bowie’s credibility or sales, so he switched his allegiance to techno and jungle for the follow-up, Earthling.” AMG He was influenced by electronica acts like the Prodigy and Tricky. WK The new foray isn’t as dramatic a shift as one might think. Its “electronica-influenced sound [is] partly inspired by the industrial and drum and bass culture of the 1990s.” WK

“Though he often gets the sound of jungle right, the record frequently sounds as if the beats were simply grafted on top of pre-existing songs.” AMG Bowie said, however, “unlike most drum and bass things, we didn’t just take parts from other people’s records and sample them.” WK

“Songs like Little Wonder and Seven Years in Tibet are far stronger than the bulk of Outside,” AMG but “they are fairly conventional Bowie songs with fancy production.” AMG The former was an exercise in stream of consciousness. Bowie said he “picked Snow WHite and the Seven Dwarves and made a line for each of the dwarves’ names.” WK

For Battle of Britain, he challenged pianist Mike Garson to base his playing on a piece by Stravinsky called “Ragtime for Eleven Instruments.” WK On Looking for Satellites, Bowie told Gabrels that he “only wanted him to play on one string at a time…and that made his run-up most unorthodox.” WK The guitar riff on Dead Man Walking was based on a pattern guitarist Jimmy Page played for Bowie in the 1960s. WK

Originally Bowie didn’t think he’d have more than a few new songs and intended to rework some older material. One of those was I’m Afraid of Americans. He originally recorded a version for the soundtrack to the 1995 movie Showgirls. He also redid Telling Lies, which he’d written and released via the Internet the year before as the first ever downloadable single by a major artist. WK

Other songs he intended to rework for Earthling included “Dead Against It” from the 1993 soundtrack The Buddha of Suburbia, Tin Machine’s “I Can’t Read” and “Baby Universal,” and “Bring Me the Disco King,” which he’d first attempted during the recording of 1993’s Black Tie White Noise. The latter eventually surfaced in 2003 on the Reality album. The new version of “I Can’t Read” was released on the soundtrack for The Ice Storm and “Baby Universal” was released in 2020 on the Is It Any Wonder? EP.

Notes: The 2004 Columbia Records reissue adds remixes of “Little Wonder,” “I’m Afraid of Americans,” “Dead Man Walking,” and “Telling Lies.”

Resources and Related Links:

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First posted 2/20/2008; last updated 8/2/2021.

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