Outside (David Bowie album)

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1. Outside
Studio album by David Bowie
Released25 September 1995 (1995-09-25)[1]
RecordedMarch – November 1994; January – February 1995
StudioMountain Studios,
(inside Montreux Casino),
Montreux Switzerland;[2]
additional treatments by
David Richards [3]
(assisted by Bowie);
Mastered by
David Richards and
Kevin Metcalfe [4] at the
TownHouse Digital Mastering Studios,[5]
West London, England
LabelBMG/Arista/RCA (Europe)
Virgin (US)
David Bowie chronology
The Buddha of Suburbia
1. Outside
Singles from 1. Outside
  1. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson"
    Released: 11 September 1995
  2. "Strangers When We Meet"
    Released: 20 November 1995
  3. "Hallo Spaceboy"
    Released: 19 February 1996

1. Outside (commonly referred to as Outside) is the 19th studio album by English musician David Bowie, released on 25 September 1995 on Virgin Records. The album was Bowie's reunion with Brian Eno, whom Bowie had worked with, among others, on his Berlin Trilogy in the 1970s.[8] Subtitled "The Nathan Adler Diaries: A Hyper-cycle", Outside centres on the characters of a dystopian world on the eve of the 21st century. The album put Bowie back into the mainstream scene of rock music with its singles "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", "Strangers When We Meet", and "Hallo Spaceboy" (remixed by the Pet Shop Boys).

History and development[edit]

Bowie had reconnected with Brian Eno at his wedding to Iman Abdulmajid in 1992. Bowie and Eno each played pieces of their own music at the wedding reception and delighted at the "ebb and flow" of couples on the dance floor. At that point, Bowie knew "we were both interested in nibbling at the periphery of the mainstream rather than jumping in. We sent each other long manifestoes about what was missing in music and what we should be doing. We decided to really experiment and go into the studio with not even a gnat of an idea."[9] Bowie and Eno visited the Gugging psychiatric hospital near Vienna, Austria in early 1994 and interviewed and photographed its patients, who were famous for their "Outsider art".[1] Bowie and Eno brought some of that art back with them into the studio[1] as they worked together in March 1994, coming up with a three-hour piece that was mostly dialogue. Late in 1994, Q magazine asked Bowie to write a diary for 10 days (to later be published in the magazine), but Bowie, fearful his diary would be boring ("...going to a studio, coming home and going to bed"), instead wrote a diary for one of the fictional characters (Nathan Adler) from his earlier improvisation with Eno. Bowie said "Rather than 10 days, it became 15 years in his life!" This became the basis for the story of 1. Outside.[10]

"Anything that I'd bought or used to go and see, or listen to, it was always stuff on the edge. I was always far more interested in the periphery of life's matters, than what was happening in the center. The center sort of seemed a simple vocabulary or something. It [the center] didn't catch my imagination."

David Bowie in 1995 on his fascination with things "outside" the mainstream[11]

As a result, unlike for some of Bowie's previous albums,[12] not a single song was written prior to the band going into the studio. Instead, Bowie wrote many songs alongside the band in improvised sessions.[13] Bowie and Eno also continued the experimental songwriting techniques they had started using back during the Berlin Trilogy. In 1995, while talking to the press about the album, Bowie said "What Brian did, which was really useful, is he provided everybody with flash cards at the beginning of the day. On each one, a character was written, like 'You are the disgruntled member of a South African rock band. Play the notes that were suppressed.' ... Because that set the tone for the day, the music would take on all those obscure areas. And it would very rarely lapse into the cliché."[13]

The "random cutups" from the Adler story that are part of the album's lyrics and liner notes were written by Bowie, who typed them into his Mac computer and then ran a custom program called the Verbasizer. The Verbasizer was a program written by Gracenote co-founder Ty Roberts,[14] the program would cut up and reassemble Bowie's words electronically, much like he had done with paper, scissors and glue back in the 1970s. He would then look at the lyrics while the band played a song and decide "whether I was going to sing, do a dialogue, or become a character. I would improvise with the band, really fast on my feet, getting from one line to another and seeing what worked." Bowie claimed that it took about three and a half hours using this method to create "virtually the entire genesis" of the album Outside.[13]

At nearly 75 minutes, the album is one of Bowie's longest. When it was released, Bowie knew that could be a problem. He said, "as soon as I released that I thought, 'It's much too fucking long. It's gonna die.' There's too much on it. I really should have made it two CDs."[15]

Concept and themes[edit]

The liner notes feature a short story by Bowie titled "The diary of Nathan Adler or the art-ritual murder of Baby Grace Blue: A non-linear Gothic Drama Hyper-cycle.", which outlines a somewhat dystopian version of the year 1999 in which the government, through its arts commission, had created a new bureau to investigate the phenomenon of Art Crime. In this future, murder and mutilation of bodies had become a new underground art craze. The main character, Nathan Adler, was in the business of deciding what of this was legally acceptable as art and what was, in a word, trash. The album is filled with references to characters and their lives as he investigates the complicated events leading up to the murder of a fourteen-year-old girl. One is meant to assume that Bowie's character, Nathan Adler, works for the British government due to several references to the cities of London and Oxford, but in the liner notes these are revealed to be, at least in some cases, London, Ontario and Oxford, New Jersey, indicating that the entire story may take place in North America—or, indeed, that the distinction between the two places has become blurred and indistinguishable.

Bowie would claim that the album has "strong smatterings of Diamond Dogs ... The idea of this post-apocalyptic situation is there, somehow. You can kind of feel it."[16] In interviews, Bowie remarked that the album was meant to reflect the anxiety of the last five years of the millennium, saying "Overall, a long-term ambition is to make it a series of albums extending to 1999—to try to capture, using this device, what the last five years of this millennium feel like. It's a diary within the diary. The narrative and the stories are not the content—the content is the spaces in between the linear bits. The queasy, strange, textures.... Oh, I've got the fondest hopes for the fin de siecle. I see it as a symbolic sacrificial rite. I see it as a deviance, a pagan wish to appease gods, so we can move on. There's a real spiritual starvation out there being filled by these mutations of what are barely remembered rites and rituals. To take the place of the void left by a non-authoritative church. We have this panic button telling us it's gonna be a colossal madness at the end of this century."[17]

In 1999, summing up his work since and including Outside, Bowie said "Perhaps the one through-line between some of the stuff in Outside and the coming millennium is this new Pagan worship, this whole search for a new spiritual life that's going on. Because of the way we've demolished the idea of God with that triumvirate at the beginning of the century, Nietzsche, Einstein, and Freud. They really demolished everything we believed. 'Time bends, God is dead, the inner-self is made of many personalities'... wow, where the fuck are we? [...] I wonder if we have realized that the only thing we could create as 'God' was the hydrogen bomb and that the fall-out from the realization that as gods we can only seem to produce disaster is people trying to find some spiritual bonding and universality with a real nurtured inner-life. But there is also this positivism that you find now which really wasn't there at the end of the last century. Then, the general catch phrase among the artistic and literary community was that it was the end of the world. They really felt that in 1899 there was nothing else, that only complete disaster could follow. It isn't like that now. We may be a little wary or jittery about what's around the corner, but there's no feeling of everything's going to end in the year 2000. Instead, there's almost a celebratory feeling of 'right, at least we can get cracking and really pull it all together.'"[18]


The album's cover is a close-up of a self-portrait (from a series of five) painted by David Bowie in 1995. The self-portrait's name is "The Dhead – Outside" and is a lithograph measuring 25.5 x 20 cm. The original portrait remains in Bowie's private collection.[19]

Follow-up albums[edit]

Bowie had considered writing an album every year or so through the end of the millennium to tell the story of how the end of the millennium felt.[1][16] He said, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance, by a narrative device, to chronicle the final five years of the millennium. The over-ambitious intention is to carry this through to the year 2000."[10] He felt he had recorded enough material during the 1. Outside sessions that he voiced his intention to continue the narrative through a 3-album set.[13] He suggested that he might release more albums that continued the story, saying "I quite foresee that, next year, we'll develop a whole new slew of other characters or maybe re-introduce some of these or even negate some of them. Maybe we'll never find Baby Grace. Maybe Adler will become the next victim. I don't know. And that's what's kind of interesting. Maybe we'll just get bored with murder as art and move into another area of our society. It's all up for grabs. So I'm quite interested in the future of this thing.[13] He intended to call the second follow-up album Contamination, and had sketched out the characters for the album (including some "17th century people") and had expected the album to be released in the spring of 1997.[20] Despite this, no direct follow-up to the album was ever produced, and Bowie's next album was his jungle and drum and bass-influenced work Earthling (1997).

Bowie also mentioned the possibility of releasing an album called Inside which would be a making-of about 1. Outside: "Our working method [will be] detailed on it, a couple of jams and more of those voices. The first monologue of Baby Grace was 15 minutes long and was very Twin Peaks."[21] Despite this claim, no such album was released.

On having over-recorded for the album, Bowie said "The one thing I can truly, seriously think about in the future that I would like to get my teeth into—it's just so daunting—is the rest of the work that [Brian] Eno and I did when we started to do the Outside album [in 1994]. We did improv for eight days, and we had something in the area of 20 hours' worth of stuff that I just cannot begin to get close to listening to. But there are some absolute gems in there..."[22]

In 2016, one day after Bowie's death, Eno recalled: "About a year ago we started talking about Outside – the last album we worked on together. We both liked that album a lot and felt that it had fallen through the cracks. We talked about revisiting it, taking it somewhere new. I was looking forward to that."[23]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic3/5 stars[24]
Blender3/5 stars[25]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music3/5 stars[26]
Entertainment WeeklyB-[27]
Q3/5 stars[28]
Rolling Stone3/5 stars[29]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide1/5 stars[30]
Select2/5 medals[31]

The album received generally favourable reviews.

Rolling Stone gave the album 3 out of 5 stars upon release, criticizing the interspersed narrative tracks, stating "It's the superfluous wordage – the intrusive spoken monologues, the jury-rigged cybernoir narrative, the overelaborate characterizations – that damn near sink the record."[8] However, they generally praised the music, saying that it's "arguably his best work since the '70s"[34] and that the music is "a potent collection of avant-garage riffs and rhythm notions." They went on to appreciate Bowie's lyrics as "smart," "effective," and "sly" especially on the songs "I Have Not Been to Oxford Town" and "A Small Plot of Land."[8]

"Regulars might feel short-changed on the tune front," observed Tom Doyle in Q, "and those legions who came in on Let's Dance will most certainly be left completely and utterly bewildered. Perhaps, though, that's entirely the point."[28]

Live! magazine called the album "risky" but considered it ultimately to be successful.[35] Following Bowie's death, Prog said that, "pilloried by some at the time for its perceived self-indulgence, Outside will be now be re-evaluated and be found to be one of his very best."[36] Consequence of Sound ranked Outside number seven on its ranking list of David Bowie's studio albums, even above acclaimed records like Blackstar or Station to Station, stating that the album "succeeded because Bowie bought in completely to its concept and strangeness."[37]

Live performances[edit]

Bowie considered performing Outside theatrically, but was not sure how. He said, "I'm not going to present the new album theatrically, it's far too ambitious a project. ... For me, it's attractive to be working with something which resembles Brecht's work, the pieces he did with Weill. The Rise & Fall of Mahagonny was always a tremendous influence on me. The idea of trying to recreate those kinds of situations in rock has always been attractive and I feel that is what I'm possibly moving back towards."[10]

Instead, Bowie took his music on a more conventional tour from late 1995 to early 1996. Bowie toured with Nine Inch Nails in support of his album, called the "Outside Tour".[34] Morrissey opened for Bowie in the UK in September peaking with three shows at the Wembley Arena in London. Morrissey was also supposed to be the support act during the European leg in October but he finally cancelled his commitments just before the beginning of the tour.[34]

Track listing[edit]

1."Leon Takes Us Outside"David Bowie, Brian Eno, Reeves Gabrels, Mike Garson, Erdal Kızılçay, Sterling Campbell1:25
2."Outside"Bowie, Kevin Armstrong4:04
3."The Hearts Filthy Lesson"Bowie, Eno, Gabrels, Garson, Kızılçay, Campbell4:57
4."A Small Plot Of Land"Bowie, Eno, Gabrels, Garson, Kızılçay, Campbell6:36
5."(Segue) – Baby Grace (A Horrid Cassette)"Bowie, Eno, Gabrels, Garson, Kızılçay, Campbell1:39
6."Hallo Spaceboy"Bowie, Eno5:14
7."The Motel"Bowie6:49
8."I Have Not Been to Oxford Town"Bowie, Eno3:47
9."No Control"Bowie, Eno4:33
10."(Segue) – Algeria Touchshriek"Bowie, Eno, Gabrels, Garson, Kızılçay, Campbell2:03
11."The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (as Beauty)"Bowie, Eno, Gabrels4:21
12."(Segue) – Ramona A. Stone/I Am with Name"Bowie, Eno, Gabrels, Garson, Kızılçay, Campbell4:01
13."Wishful Beginnings"Bowie, Eno5:08
14."We Prick You"Bowie, Eno4:33
15."(Segue) – Nathan Adler"Bowie, Eno, Gabrels, Garson, Kızılçay, Campbell1:00
16."I'm Deranged"Bowie, Eno4:31
17."Thru' These Architects Eyes"Bowie, Gabrels4:22
18."(Segue) – Nathan Adler"Bowie, Eno0:28
19."Strangers When We Meet"Bowie5:07

"I Am With Name" contains a sample from "The Brian May Band Live at Brixton Academy".[38]

Alternative versions[edit]

The Japanese release of the album had "Get Real" as an additional track, as did the 2004 Sony reissue.

An edited version called Excerpts from Outside was released as an LP in 1995. In 1996 the album was released as version 2, but with different versions of it being distributed in Australia, Japan and Europe. In Europe, the re-edition was released by BMG without "Wishful Beginnings", but with the Pet Shop Boys remix of "Hallo Spaceboy" as the last track. In Australia and Japan, version 2 was released as a double-disc album, with the first one being the untouched original disc of Outside, and the second one including remixes and live versions already released on the 1995–1996 singles. In 2004 the album was again released as a limited 2CD edition. In 2015 the full album was released on 2LP.

Excerpts from Outside – LP version[edit]

Side A

  1. "Leon Takes Us Outside (edit version)" – 0:24
  2. "Outside" – 4:04
  3. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" – 4:57
  4. "A Small Plot of Land" – 6:34
  5. "Segue – Baby Grace Blue (A Horrid Cassette)" – 1:39
  6. "Hallo Spaceboy" – 5:14

Side B

  1. "The Motel (edit)" – 5:03
  2. "I Have Not Been to Oxford Town" – 3:47
  3. "The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (as Beauty)" – 4:21
  4. "Segue – Ramona A. Stone / I am with Name" – 4:01
  5. "We Prick You" – 4:33
  6. "Segue – Nathan Adler" – 1:00
  7. "I'm Deranged" – 4:31

Australian bonus disc – version 2[edit]

  1. "Hallo Spaceboy (Pet Shop Boys remix)" – 4:26
  2. "Under Pressure (live version)" – 4:08
  3. "Moonage Daydream (live version)" – 5:29
  4. "The Man Who Sold the World (live version)" – 3:35
  5. "Strangers When We Meet (edit)" – 4:21
  6. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson (Bowie mix)" – 4:56

The Japanese version of the bonus disc had the "Rubber mix" of "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" instead of the "Bowie mix".

2004 limited 2CD-edition[edit]

  1. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson (Trent Reznor Alternative Mix)" – 5:20
  2. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson (Rubber Mix)" – 7:41
  3. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson (Simple Test Mix)" – 6:38
  4. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson (Filthy Mix)" – 5:51
  5. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson (Good Karma Mix by Tim Simenon)" – 5:00
  6. "A Small Plot of Land (Basquiat)" – 2:48
  7. "Hallo Spaceboy (12" Remix)" – 6:45
  8. "Hallo Spaceboy (Double Click Mix)" – 7:47
  9. "Hallo Spaceboy (Instrumental)" – 7:41
  10. "Hallo Spaceboy (Lost in Space Mix)" – 6:29
  11. "I am with Name (Album Version)" – 4:01
  12. "I'm Deranged (Jungle Mix)" – 7:00
  13. "Get Real" – 2:49
  14. "Nothing to be Desired" – 2:15

1. Outside – 2LP version[edit]

Side A

  1. "Leon Takes Us Outside" – 1:24
  2. "Outside" – 4:04
  3. "The Hearts Filthy Lesson" – 4:56
  4. "A Small Plot Of Land" – 6:33

Side B

  1. "Segue – Baby Grace (A Horrid Cassette)" – 1:40
  2. "Hallo Spaceboy" – 5:13
  3. "The Motel" – 6:49
  4. "I Have Not Been To Oxford Town" – 3:48

Side C

  1. "No Control" – 4:32
  2. "Segue – Algeria Touchshriek" – 2:02
  3. "The Voyeur Of Utter Destruction (As Beauty)" – 4:20
  4. "Segue – Ramona A. Stone / I Am With Name" – 4:01
  5. "Wishful Beginnings 5:08

Side D

  1. "We Prick You" – 4:34
  2. "Segue – Nathan Adler" – 1:00
  3. "I'm Deranged" – 4:29
  4. "Thru' These Architects Eyes" – 4:20
  5. "Segue – Nathan Adler (Version #2)" – 0:28
  6. "Strangers When We Meet" – 4:21




Year Chart Position
1995 Australian Albums Chart[39] 55
Danish Albums Chart[40] 10
Norwegian Albums Chart 15
UK Albums Chart 8
US Billboard 200 21


Country Certification Sales
UK (BPI) Silver[41] (>60,000)

In popular culture[edit]

"The Hearts Filthy Lesson" was used in the end credits for David Fincher's 1995 film Se7en.

An alternate version of the song "A Small Plot of Land" was used in the soundtrack of Julian Schnabel's 1996 film Basquiat, in which Bowie played Andy Warhol.

The song "I'm Deranged" was featured as the opening title and end credits music for David Lynch's 1997 film Lost Highway. For the end credits Bowie's vocals start a cappella for the first couple of lines, before the backing track fades up.

The song "I Have Not Been to Oxford Town" was slightly modified by replacing 'Oxford Town' with 'Paradise' and '20th Century' with '23rd century' and featured in Paul Verhoeven's 1997 film Starship Troopers. It was performed by Zoë Poledouris in her cameo appearance as the high school graduation party band's lead singer.

A modified version of "No Control," adapted by David Bowie and Brian Eno, is used in the stage musical adaptation of SpongeBob SquarePants.


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