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David Bowie’s Newly Shoed Dark Horse Lives In A Criminal World

Buried under an avalanche of mega hits on David Bowie’s Let’s Dance album, this week’s “Lost Tracks” investigates the Criminal World, a widely forgotten gem of a song that has been slumbering, and waiting to be rediscovered to receive the credit it deserves
By subcomtom

June 7, 2018

 

Criminal World is a song originally written by Duncan BrownePeter Godwin, and Sean Lyons of the British band Metro and was released on their self-titled debut album in 1977.

 

 

 

 

 

The Metro version of Criminal World was banned at the time from airplay due to the suggestive sexual content of the lyrics. The song, together with the album, was somehow forgotten.

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Metro’s Criminal World is also one of the most sinister pop songs ever with a stunning baseline that might have even influenced Daft Punk when they wrote their mega-hit “Get Lucky” more than 30 years later.

 

 

"Criminal World" is a song originally written by Duncan Browne, Peter Godwin, and Sean Lyons of the British band Metro and was released on their self-titled debut album in 1977.

The back cover of the Metro Album from 1977

 

 

Metro disbanded shortly after the release of the album. Their version of Criminal World is one of those little-known pleasures showcasing this unique funk driven musical vibe of the late Seventies, already foretelling the “cold sound” of the Eighties.

A couple of years later David Bowie was determined to breathe new life into Criminal World and introduce it to a broader audience, however, not without giving the song a slightly different spin.

 

In 1982, David Bowie recorded Criminal World for his blockbuster Let’s Dance album.

 

After having released Scary Monsters in 1980, Bowie took another significant shift in style and was about to present the most commercial album of his still burgeoning career.

And, of course, Bowie did it in style and in the most sophisticated and elaborate way, by hiring the most unlikely guitarist to play on an album which defined clever Eighties pop, and helped position MTV as a market leader by producing classy but also very controversial videos. (check out the videos to “Let’s Dance” and “China Girl”)

 

 

David Bowie was determined to breathe new life into Criminal World and introduce it to a wider audience, however not without giving the song a slightly different spin.

The back cover of Let’s Dance

 

 

With the Blues Rock prodigy Stevie Ray Vaughan, Bowie brought in a genius lead guitarist, whose guitar parts proved to be a perfect fit to the rest of the funky, and for Bowie standards, very accessible production of the album.

Let’s Dance quickly became a transatlantic number 1 album, and most people who bought the record because of its heavy rotation on MTV probably weren’t bothered if they listened to the B side of the album very often, and therefore missed out on Criminal World, which today is widely forgotten.

 

Bowie’s version of Criminal World was also released as the B-side of the single “Without You” in November 1983.

 

 

 

 

 

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s guitar work fits perfectly with Carmine Rojas’ low bass and makes sure that Criminal World is the mysterious and cool dark horse, which was subversively sneaked into the album by Bowie.

But Bowie also compromised significantly to please his new mainstream audience by rewriting some of the lyrics of Criminal World, something in massive contrast to his rebellious, non-compliant image of the Seventies.

Bowie eliminated lines like:

I’m not the queen, so there’s no need to bow,
I think I see beneath your mink coat.
I’ll take your dress, and we can truck on out

Bowie also replaced “I saw you kneeling at my brother’s door” to “you caught me kneeling at your sister’s door.” And somehow he turned some gay-themed lyrics into a still subversive, but more heterosexual theme.

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While a decade before, Bowie played a lot with androgyny and bi-sexuality, wearing dresses on album covers, he was now changing the lyrics of Criminal World, taking away much of the original message and vibe of the song.

 

I’m gay and always have been, even when I was David Jones.

David Bowie, Melody Maker, 1972

 

The biggest mistake I ever made [was saying] that I was bisexual. Christ, I was so young then. I was experimenting.

David Bowie, Rolling Stone, 1983

 

This shift towards a much more conservative and heterosexual image fit nicely into the conservatism of the Reagan/Thatcher era together with the rising fear of AIDS  in the early Eighties and is one example of a musician who played with bi-sexuality in the Seventies, transforming into a ladies man in the early Eighties.

 

 

While some might say that the change of lyrics for David Bowie was just a commercial decision, it could have been another provocation by creating a character diametrically opposed to Ziggy Stardust; a ladies guy posing in his boxing gloves on the cover of Let’s Dance, ready to take a few punches.

A photo shoot outtake for the cover of Let’s Dance

 

 

While some might say that the change of lyrics for David Bowie was just a commercial decision, it could have been another provocation by creating a character diametrically opposed to Ziggy Stardust; a ladies guy posing in his boxing gloves on the cover of Let’s Dance, ready to take a few punches.

Unfortunately, we cannot ask David Bowie.

 

Criminal World Lyrics (Original Metro Version)

 

You never told me of your other faces

You were the widow of the wildcat

And now I know about your special kisses

And I know you know where that’s at

I’m not the queen so there’s no need to bow

I think I see beneath your make-up

I’ll take your dress and we can truck on out

This is no ordinary

This is no ordinary

Oh what a criminal world

The boys are like baby-faced girls

What a criminal world

She’ll show you where to shoot your gun.

What a typical mother’s son

The only thing that she enjoys is a criminal world

Where the girls are like baby-faced boys

You’ve got a very heavy reputation

But no-one knows about your low-life

I know the way to find the situation

And hold a candle up to your high-life disguise

I saw you kneeling at my brother’s door

That was no ordinary stick-up

I’m well aware just what you’re looking for

I am no ordinary I am no ordinary

Oh what a criminal world

The boys are like baby-faced girls

What a criminal world

He’ll show you where to shoot your gun

What a typical mother’s son

The only thing that she enjoys is a criminal world

Where the girls are like baby-faced boys

 

 

Do you like what you’re reading? See the other “Lost Tracks” articles from the archive below. Be sure to check back next Thursday when RTN dives into another “Lost Tracks.”

 

© 2018 rockingthenet.com

RTN’s “Lost Tracks” is a weekly feature of Rock’s hidden gems and little-known bands.

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The Lost Tracks Archive

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Ween: Two Longtime Friends And A DAT Machine = Eclectic Music

Beasts Of Bourbon Redefined Guitar-Based Rock’N’Roll

Wet Pussycat And The Unreleased Riff That Describes Stoner Rock

Stepping Stone Finds Its Way Through More Than 50 Years

An Obscure Rolling Stones Song Mick Jagger Wrote In Prison

Hank Williams III: Generation Spanning Sadness, Depression, and Solitude

Lucifer’s Friend Makes Their Mark In “Lost Tracks” With Ride The Sky

Woods Of Ypres Takes Us On A Spiritual Journey In “Lost Tracks”

Old Men’s Desire For War, Seen By Mudhoney, The Founders Of Grunge

Budgie: An Early Influencer Of The Heavy Metal Bands To Come

Aphrodite’s Child: Two Unexpected Greek Titans Of Progressive Rock