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SCARY MONSTERS (AND SUPER CREEPS)

David Bowie

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David Bowie Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) album cover
4.08 | 395 ratings | 15 reviews | 36% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1980

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. It's No Game (No. 1) (4:15)
2. Up The Hill Backwards (3:13)
3. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (5:10)
4. Ashes To Ashes (4:23)
5. Fashion (4:46)
6. Teenage Wildlife (6:51)
7. Scream Like A Baby (3:35)
8. Kingdom Come (Tom Verlaine) (3:42)
9. Because You're Young (4:51)
10. It's No Game (No. 2) (4:22)

Total time 45:08

Bonus tracks on 1992 remaster:
11. Space Oddity (4:57)
12. Panic In Detroit (3:00)
13. Crystal Japan (3:08)
14. Alabama Song (3:51)

Line-up / Musicians

- David Bowie / lead & backing vocals, keyboards, co-producer

With:
- Carlos Alomar / guitars
- Tony Visconti / acoustic guitar (2,3), backing vocals, co-producer
- Chuck Hammer / guitar (3,6)
- Robert Fripp / guitar (1-3,5,6,8,10)
- Pete Townshend / guitar (9)
- Roy Bittan / piano (2,4,6)
- Andy Clark / synthesizer (4,5,7,9)
- George Murray / bass
- Dennis Davis / drums, percussion
- Lynn Maitland / backing vocals
- Chris Porter / backing vocals
- Michi Hirota / voice (1)

Releases information

Artwork: Edward Bell with Duffy (photo)

LP RCA ‎- PL 13647 (1980, UK)

CD RCA ‎- PD83647 (1984, Europe)
CD EMI - CDEMD 1029 (1992, Europe) Remastered by Toby Mountain with 4 bonus tracks
CD EMI ‎- 521 8950 (1999, Europe) 24-bit remaster by Nigel Reeve & Peter Mew

Thanks to micky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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DAVID BOWIE Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) ratings distribution


4.08
(395 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(36%)
36%
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(40%)
40%
Good, but non-essential (17%)
17%
Collectors/fans only (5%)
5%
Poor. Only for completionists (2%)
2%

DAVID BOWIE Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars SHINBUN WA KAKI TATERU

During almost two years, Bowie took a break (at least in terms of a true solo album). But he will be active in the theater business. In December 79, he will attend a representation of "The Elephant Man" in New York. The producer, Jack Hofsiss will ask David if he would like to act as the main character. And he accepted.

It was apparently a true tour de force. No make-up was used (on the contrary of the movie). It was true his miming skills that David had to suggest the monstrous deformity of the (elephant) man. The play will be a great success. Both commercially and artistically.

David will be unanimously acclaimed for his brilliant acting. Of course, his previous miming experiences were of great assistance. But apart from that, Bowie is very discreet. Almost anonymous. We are far from Ziggy's fame and glitters.

For this album, Fripp is back on the guitar and one can immediately feel his phenomenal influence on the opening track. The hard "It's No Game, Part 1". Partially sung by a female Japanese, it combines English lyrics as well. The finale is brilliantly Crimsonesque. The guitar making some jolly good and disjointed noises. So strong that David can only stop it by shouting: "Shut Up" at the end of this great opener.

And even if "Up The Hill Backwards" is somewhat lighter, it also ends up in a kind of Fripp frenzy. Distorted and raw guitar sounds. Still, I consider it as one of the two weakest song from this superb album. Because David is extremely performing here. Lyrically and musically.

The tile track is another brilliant song. IMHHO, it is fully dedicated to "The Elephant Man" but I couldn't find any confirmation of this. So, it's only my interpretation. The lyrics anyway don't mention this at all. The song is again on the hard side and Fripp does have a lot of pleasure, apparently. Throughout the album its cold and metallic guitar sound will definitely mark this album. A highlight.

Would you believe? Major Tom is back after having wandering into space for over eleven years! Ground control has finally got the contact. "Do you remember a guy that's been in such an early song, I heard a rumour from ground control Oh no, don't say it's true; they got a message from the action man".

In the meantime our dear old Major Tom has been through several experiences and is pretty much a bad guy. "You'd better not mess with Major Tom". A funny wink and a great video clip, Bowie himself wrote the script and at the end one can see his mother while the lyrics say: "My mama said to get things done, you'd better not to mess with Major Tom". It will be number one in the UK. Another highlight.

Side one ends up on "Fashion". My least favourite of the whole album. Too funky. Too "Young Americans" oriented.

B-side opens on the fantastic "Teenage Wildlife". So reminiscent of "Heroes". A catchy melody, great backing vocals, complex guitar of course and powerful lyrics. David being some sort of a godfather giving advices to a young man: "You'll take me aside, and say Well, David, what shall I do? They wait for me in the hallway I'll say Don't ask me, I don't know any hallways.

Seven minutes of pure happiness. Another highlight of course.

The next song "Scream Like A Baby" is not a new one. David had already written parts of it as soon as .1973 and will finalize the project now. Great vocal effects, fine synth. Do I need to talk about the guitar parts?

The next song is somewhat weaker and more straight forward. "Kingdom Comes" is the only song from the album not written by David. It was composed by Tom Verlaine. The leader of the great "Television" (whom I saw in 78 at the Brussels University. A great souvenir).

A very special guest is playing the guitar on the next song: Pete Townsend himself! The beat is again wild, the bass play very effective. It appears to be a song written to the attention of Zowie (David's son who had just celebrated his tenth birthday).

And we close as we opened. "It's No Game, Part 2". Much softer than part one, the lyrics are all in English this time; actually the English section of Part one (only the last phrase is new). The loop has been looped.

"Scary Monsters" is a fantastic rock album. IMHHO it is David's last masterpiece.

The remastered CD edition (1992) features several bonus tracks of which a stripped down version of "Space Oditty" without the great Wakeman keys. It might give an another angle to it, but it is not coming close of the fantastic original. The speeded up version of "Panic In Detroit" is also somewhat weird. As if David was in hurry. Again, the original sounds miles better.

The next one is an instrumental track. "Crystal Japan" had been recorded as a single in 1980 but only as a Japanese imported stuff. It was backed up with "Alabama Song". It should have closed the album but was pushed out by "It's No Game, Part two".

It is a wonderful and ambient song which reminds instantly the great atmosphere of "Low" ("Warszawa", "Subterraneans"). Since the fans had to pay lots of money to get this, David insisted to have it on this new CD version).

The last number is a strange piece of "music". Original composed by Bertold Brecht and was already covered by "The Doors" under the name of "Alabama Song" (on their debut album). It is frankly pretty much uninteresting.

I've said masterpiece already. Five stars.

What a great album! What a fabulous emotion while I discovered it! Thanks David.

Review by Dobermensch
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Quite definitely the best Bowie record of all. Every track is a winner on this recording. He's helped out by Robert Fripp on guitar who stamps his personality all over this album. 'It's No Game pt1' is the first, hardest and most discordant song on the LP and Bowie sounds berserk on it!. Things calm down a bit with 'Up the Hill Backwards' but it's an odd little tune and a strange choice as a single. The title track is fantastic, particularly with the vocoded Dalek sounding vocals. We all know how great the two hit singles are so I'll skip them.

Side two opens with 'Teenage Wildlife' , a tune that sounds all over the place with seemingly random notes sprouting about everywhere but after a few listens becomes immensely enjoyable. 'Scream Like a Baby' sounds a bit 'Rocky Horror' to me but still a very unusual Bowie track. 'Kingdom Come' is dominated by Fripp's King Crimson like guitar loudness with Bowie hitting some screechingly high notes that he is now incapable of doing. 'Because You're Young' is probably the most 'Bowie' sounding track on the album - and that's no bad thing in my book. The outro is the lazy sounding version of 'It's No Game'. Who knows what on Earth the man is babbling on about? Nah, me neither.

Brilliant artwork with Bowie at his peak (he was 33 when this was released!). It's got just the right amount of experimentalism and it's raw and loud. The rest of his career will be forever judged on this 1980 Meisterwerk which set the benchmark for all further Bowie releases, which unfortunately he was never quite able to replicate. (Maybe with the exception of 'Outside' from '95) Not at all 'proggy' - but one of my all time favourite albums.

A great big 5 Star Award for this one!

Review by fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars It seems to me this is the one Bowie album no self-respecting progger can do without. Not because the Thin White Duke hasn't made better albums, far from it (ZIGGY STARDUST, DIAMOND DOGS, STATION TO STATION and "HEROES" all are stronger artistic statements than the album under review) but because it contains quite a bit of Robert Fripp's best ever guitar playing! If I remember it well, Bowie had his songs recorded and he then asked Fripp to come to the studio and pour some truly UNHINGED electric solos all over them. Which is exactly what happened. As a consequence, the original A-side of SCARY MONSTERS contains one of the most riveting sequences of songs Bowie has ever committed to vinyl. Of course it helps that the tunes are strong. On the other hand, most of the lyrics seem rather obscure, but I remember when this album came out how relieved we all were that Bowie finally seemed to be making a stand against fascist tendencies.

SCARY MONSTERS' B-side is noticeably more bombastic and less convincing than the A-side, in spite of a brief guest appearance by Pete Townshend. Only "Teenage Wildlife" really convinces. Why is this side so much weaker? Well, you guessed it. The tunes sound less inspired, and there aren't any great Fripp Moments! I don't want to give the impression of being a Frippadorer (I really am not) but let's just give praise where praise is due.

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Bowie's gift to write exceptional pop & rock anthems had always been impressive but it rarely managed to deliver albums of a listenable consistency. The albums with Eno were much of a hit and miss for me, but the collaboration with Fripp on Scary Monsters gives creative fireworks. At least on the first side.

The first half of the album is so strong it would almost deserve 5 stars on its own. The first three tracks present art-rock similar to that on Heroes, but Fripp takes a much bigger portion of the cake and gives the songs an unexpected edge. Ashes to Ashes and Fashion are two of the finest mainstream songs ever crafted. Up there with the Police for me.

The second side is more something for Bowie die-hards and it makes me wonder how many people bothered to flip this album to that side back in the vinyl days. I sure didn't. Again we find Bowie assuming his most affected and pretentious pose in the hope of hiding the average song material. None of the songs are bad, but they are sure inferior to what preceded, having too few hooks on offer and each of them indulging poor choruses and badly aged glam-rock. Every experiment that worked so effortless on the first side comes off forced here.

I think I'll need to borrow the higher math logic from another member to reach a conclusion here.

***** star songs : Scary Monsters, Ashes to Ashes, Fashion

**** star songs: It's no Game, Up the Hill Backwards

*** star songs: Scream Like A Baby, Kingdom Come

** star songs: Teenage Wildlife, Because You're Young

That's like 3.6666 stars.

Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I don't quite love this album, but it has many things in common with albums that I do love, if that makes sense. This is often referred to as a "consolidation" or "encapsulation" album for Bowie, summarizing many of the aspects of his career to that point, but this seems like a stretch given that the only clear callbacks to previous albums are (a) the resurrection of the Major Tom character (as well what sounds like a mellotron, even though I know it's not) in "Ashes to Ashes" and (b) the way "Teenage Wildlife" is a fairly obvious rewrite of ""Heroes"." What stands out most about the album for me (and maybe this is kinda what people mean with the "encapsulation" angle, though I still don't buy it even with this justification) is that it shows Bowie once again striking an effective balance between music that's eccentric and challenging, on one hand, and music that's shiny and glossy and accessible to a wide audience, on the other. The last few albums (including Lodger) had definitely skewed the balance towards the former (not that that exactly bothered me), and the next few albums tried WAY TOO HARD to skew the balance towards the latter, but this album is a pretty nice meeting point of the two.

Whereas Low was roughly the "Bowie/Eno" album, and "Heroes" was roughly the "Bowie/Eno/Fripp" album, and Lodger was roughly the "Bowie/Eno/Belew" album, Scary Monsters is roughly the "Bowie/Fripp" album, and the combination is often extremely entertaining. Fripp is the undeniable star of a few of the tracks: the title track, for instance, would be a mildly interesting up-tempo rocker with distorted vocals in the chorus, but Fripp's alternation between soaring discordant lines and growling riffage is enough to make the track into a borderline classic. Even better is "Fashion," which would be a decent enough disco-ish commentary on pop culture (with a fantastic hook in the "We are the goon squad and we're coming to town, beep beep"), but Fripp's guitar, so unexpectedly harsh and incongruously ugly (in a good way), makes this into a definite Bowie classic. "It's No Game (Part 1)" makes for a great song on its own (the closing "It's No Game (Part 2)" is done in a relaxed, stripped-down manner and sounds very nice), both in the melody and in the over-the-top agonized screaming of the vocals (in between a Japanese woman reciting the lyrics in that language), but the effect wouldn't be quite the same without that nagging set of lines that prompts Bowie to scream "SHUT UP!!!!" repeatedly at the end before the song stops.

Fripp makes three other appearances on the album, the first in "Up the Hill Backwards," a decent song that alternates between a pleasant shuffle and a combination of the Bo Diddley riff played on acoustic and a bunch of Fripp's patented riffage on electric. The second Fripp appearance happens in "Teenage Wildlife" (the ""Heroes" rewrite), where Bowie gets unexpectedly personal sounding in what (I guess) is a kissoff to his days as a glam days and what came from his influence. The song is significantly overlong (especially, again, for SUCH a blatant remake of a classic from only a couple of years previous), and I don't get quite the emotional catharsis from it that's clearly intended, but there's definitely a lot of passion in it, and the guitar work from Fripp and whoever else is contributing lines is bright and vibrant and all sorts of terrific features. So yeah, I like it a lot. The third apperance happens in a cover of the solo Tom Verlaine song, "Kingdom Come," and Fripp's soaring line in the introduction and in some of the breaks is definitely the most interesting part (the rest of the song isn't especially notable).

The most famous track from the album, though, is the one that doesn't feature Robert Fripp but instead, as mentioned, brings back the beloved Major Tom. What fascinates me most isn't the infamous chorus ("Ashes to ashes/funk to funky/we all know Major Tom's a junkie/strung out in heaven's high/hitting an all-time low"), but the way the song is able to shift so effortlessly between a pretty ridiculous plinky synth/guitar/whatever line and those oh-so-majestic synth textures that sound straight out of "Space Oddity." And the last minute, with that great echo in Bowie's voice and more great synth textures that sound as timeless as anything coming out of 1980 could? Classic.

Anyway, there are two more tracks here, and they're not great, but they're okay. "Scream Like a Baby" was an updated version of an unreleased track Bowie had written years earlier (more fuel for the "encapsulation" description, I suppose), and while I don't find the verses very interesting, there's something intriguing in the rough layering of multiple Bowies on top of each other in the chorus. And finally, "Because You're Young," if nothing else, contains a solid rhythm guitar part from none other than Pete Townshend. It has a nice chorus too, I guess.

Basically, I feel like this is an album that a hardcore Bowie fan would especially adore, so if you think that might be you, this should probably be one of your very first purchases. For the rest of us, this is still a pretty remarkable album, and definitely the last great Bowie album for a good while.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Prog Metal Team
5 stars The '80s might not have be the best years in terms of Bowie's creativity but he definitely started the decade off on the right side of things with Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)! This is easily my favorite David Bowie album to date. The balance between Art Rock and commercially viable material is just flawless on pretty much every track here except possibly for Fashion. I also think that Robert Fripp's guitar is an important asset that can't be overlooked since it really brings out amazing new elements in Bowie's overall sound.

The album kicks off with the first part of the It's No Game duology and it's difficult to believe that we're actually listening to a David Bowie album. That is until we finally get the more subtile revisit of the track at the end of the album where it become apparent that Bowie was pretty much messing around the first time and this shock value is just priceless to me. Up The Hill Backwards reminds me of Frank Zappa music from around the same era, which I guess is good, but it's not really something that I would expect from Bowie. The album's title track is where the album finally reaches its biggest highlight. I guess that there is a punk vibe to the songs but Robert Fripp's guitar really makes this composition a spectacle that I really can't describe in words! This track has definitely managed to withstand the test of time for me and I don't hesitate calling it my favorite David Bowie composition!

Ashes To Ashes is another popular single that managed to captivate both the fans and critics. This is actually one of the few occasions where I can share their enthusiasm, something that can't be said about Fashion. It's not that it's a bad tune but it just doesn't really fit that well into the overall style that the album is going for. Teenage Wildlife returns the album onto much safer ground that partially reminds me of the title track from "Heroes", which seems to be what Bowie was going for here and Fripp's guitar definitely doesn't make it any less apparent.

After a few shaky tracks we finally reach the second biggest highlight - Scream Like A Baby! As I previously mentioned in my review of "Heroes", this is one of those tracks that has received undeservedly little attention from the audience. This song almost reaches an anthem-like level of intensity for me just due to its sheer raw power! After another likable but not essential cover of Kingdom Come, Because You're Young is where Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) transitions from being an excellent album to an essential such for me. I would have never guessed that it was Pete Townshend playing the guitar on this track since it sounds nothing like what I've heard from his contributions to the Who. It's an excellent performance nonetheless and shows once again that David Bowie was great at picking his guitarists.

Some critics have called Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) Bowie's last great album but I happen to disagree with that idea. Instead I consider it his best achievement which is a title that is hard to top, but that doesn't mean that wouldn't continue making great music even in the 21st century!

***** star songs: It's No Game (No. 1) (4:20) Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (5:13) Ashes To Ashes (4:25) Scream Like A Baby (3:36) Because You're Young (4:54) It's No Game (No. 2) (4:24)

**** star songs: Up The Hill Backwards (3:15) Fashion (4:49) Teenage Wildlife (6:56) Kingdom Come (3:46)

Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The last five-star Bowie album is an intriguing reflection on Bowie's transition from innovative outsider to fully-established member of the rock aristocracy, coupled with a rumination on the concerns of aging and seeing a new generation of artists take up the artistic themes and ideas he'd left behind (as explored on Teenage Wildlife). With a more cohesive and compelling lyrical theme than any album since Diamond Dogs (and perhaps his most erudite and thoughtful lyrics ever), Bowie musters a dream team of musicians to help him bring his songs to life.

Prog fans will rejoice at the regular guest appearances by Robert Fripp over the course of the album, and Pete Townshend also lends a hand, but for my money the absolute best song includes neither of them - the legendary Ashes to Ashes, with its otherworldly synthesiser backing and chanted lyrics, is both the culmination of all of Bowie's artistic endeavours since Space Oddity and an exorcism of them. The song - and the album surrounding it - probably represent Bowie's greatest artistic triumph.

Review by AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Symphonic Team
4 stars "My mother said to get things done you better not mess with Major Tom."

I like this album a lot and played it often during the 80s. The iconic front cover was an excellent statement of Bowie's power at the time. The thin white clown persona was essential to Bowie's new image and return to form and played a powerful image on the 'Ashes to Ashes' film clip. The fact that Bowie was cleverly tying in the image with the Major Tom character of the 70s was a master stroke. It was an ingenious throwback to the classic era and brought in new characters and a futuristic edge; as if Bowie was transported to a new age of synthesizers and space ships. The synthesizers came in the form of dynamic keyboard runs by Bowie himself. He is helped in the music department by the likes of prog hero Robert Fripp on guitar, and the great Pete Townshend on 'Because You're Young'.

The absolute best of Bowie is hidden on this album including 'Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)' with the monotone vocals and strange keyboards, and of course the brilliant 'Ashes to Ashes' and 'Fashion'. Not everything works on the album but it is always interesting and features excellent guitar from the hand of Fripp. It's No Game (No. 2) is one of Fripp's best guitar on this album but it is always creative and retro 80s never sounded better.

Review by BrufordFreak
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Other than his Columbia Record Club's "Selection of the Month", Changes, this was my first purchase of a David Bowie album. I just never liked his music. I thought his act, his persona, his shtick was cool, I just never felt any affinity to much less appreciation for his music. To my ears (and brain), It was just standard three chord rock with some lyrics that remained occluded from my comprehension by my disability (and, I must admit, lack of interest). Even with my love of "Space Oddity" I couldn't find myself even mildly interested in any of his albums--until Robert Fripp joined the band. Then I got interested.

The song "Ashes to Ashes" was all over the radio during my studies at the UEA in 1980, and I liked it. So, when I got home to America in the winter of 1981, I "took a chance" and picked it up. While it never won me over, it was at least interesting music. By this time I had become pretty much a devoté of M. Fripp, so therein lay my focus. I liked the transitional "growth" of Bowie's music (from the poppy stuff of the early 70s--though I did have a kind of perverse love for "Fame" despite the fact that it was played to death in my high school's lunchroom jukebox). In the end though, this is an album that I never go back to, can't name a single other song from (other than the hit), and, frankly, have little or no interest in ever doing so.

Latest members reviews

5 stars After the Berlin trilogy, Brian Eno went back to his home on the moon. Bowie was now off drugs and needed some new musical partners. So he decided to give Robert Fripp a call, and the rest is history. Ok, he didn't play on every song on the album, but I have to admit, his presence on this ... (read more)

Report this review (#1007473) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Sunday, July 28, 2013 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Probably the last David Bowie album that I really enjoy, SCARY MONSTER (and SUPER CREEPS) is very much a product of it's time (1980). It is not as good as ZIGGY STARDUST, DIAMOND DOGS, or HEROES, but it is still an ewssential album in David Bowie's history. Guests include Robert Fripp, Pete Townsend ... (read more)

Report this review (#749396) | Posted by mohaveman | Saturday, May 5, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars What's Inside a Dalek? You know there was a time when the Thin White Duke was considered a tangible threat to conventional mores from within the chattering front rooms of UK suburbia. To all intents and purposes, he practically had at his disposal, an entire weekly musical spreadsheet from whic ... (read more)

Report this review (#297587) | Posted by ExittheLemming | Monday, September 6, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I must admit David Bowie has a telent, a talent for penning some great pop/rock songs, this album prooves it that even in the 80's and indeed now David Bowie is an important icon in rock music in general. I feel this is a very underlooked album and really had some fantastic moments, not only that ... (read more)

Report this review (#283120) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I'm not a piece of teenage wildliiiiiiifee!! Bowie's last real classic is an chaotic, paranoid (even compared to his other works) and cold album. It certanly deserves some more attension here, cause it definitive has progressiva elements, not only but greatly in thanks to Robert Fripps long an ... (read more)

Report this review (#205625) | Posted by Eastvillage | Saturday, March 7, 2009 | Review Permanlink

3 stars At one point I would have told you that this was probably my all time favourite album. Things have changed. It now rests in my collection of CDs as a decent album, fukll of ambition, tainted by cheesiness, could have been a lot better. Inconsequentially I detest Bowie's clown-like image at this ... (read more)

Report this review (#175847) | Posted by burtonrulez | Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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