The David Bowie song James Williamson called “pretty lame”

It’s a marvel that The Stooges could produce three albums for their fans. From the beginning, the band was one of the most explosive forces in rock & roll music, taking the fundamentals of performers such as Chuck Berry and Little Richard and transforming them into the most savage sounds rock music had ever heard. Despite the fact that Iggy Pop was set for a solo career with the support of David Bowie, one of his greatest singles was never warmly received by one of his ex-bandmates.

Working with ‘The Thin White Duke’ gave Iggy Pop a huge boost when he was working on his first few solo LPs. Bowie, who had been one of the music industry’s titans for a few years, had been a huge admirer of The Stooges and was more than eager to collaborate with the leader to fine-tune his solo career on songs like Lust for Life and The Idiot.

While The Stooges’ common characteristics remained, the feeling of melodicism that emerged from songs like ‘The Passenger’ was enough to give pop a new lease of life. Pop may have had a few chart singles, but that didn’t mean he abandoned his experimental work.

Pop was known to dabble in some outrageous ideas on his solo ventures, creating songs alongside Bowie that were focused more on how bizarre they sounded rather than their commercial potential. While some of the tunes may have been regarded as off-putting at the time, a track like ‘Nightclubbing’ would become foundational for rock a few years later when Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails co-opted it for ‘Closer’.

‘Don’t Look Down’ was one of the tunes that both Bowie and Pop liked during their many attempts. The song was written by former Stooges guitarist James Williamson in his flat and recorded for Pop for the album New Values before being released by Bowie on Tonight.

In an interview with Songfacts, Williamson stated that the song was done and finished months before Pop had even heard it. “I wasn’t playing in the band or anything at that time, so it just laid dormant for a couple of years until Iggy asked me to produce his album, which would become New Values. During the pre-production, I showed him that song, and he immediately wrote the lyrics. I always loved the way it turned out.”

Despite being delighted to have contributed to Pop’s rendition of the song, Williamson was not impressed with what ‘The Starman’ performed with it, noting, “I always thought it was kind of lame. But I loved the royalties that started coming in from his recording.” However, this was the period in which Bowie began to embrace the mainstream in a broader sense.

While Pop would appear on numerous tracks from Tonight, the aftershock of Let’s Dance weighs big over the album, especially as Bowie didn’t provide nearly as many instrumental parts as he had previously. Despite Bowie’s lackluster production, ‘Don’t glimpse Down’ is a daring glimpse at what The Stooges may have looked like if they had lived to see the 1980s.


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