Detailed Pedia


Song by David Bowie
from the album Low
ReleasedJanuary 14, 1977
RecordedDecember 1975, Cherokee Studios, Los Angeles; September 1976,
Château d'Hérouville, France; October–November 1976,
Hansa Studio by the Wall, West Berlin, Germany[1][2]
Songwriter(s)David Bowie
Producer(s)David Bowie and Tony Visconti

"Subterraneans" is a song by David Bowie, the closing track of his 1977 album Low. As with most of Side 2, "Subterraneans" is mostly instrumental, with brief, obscure lyrics sung near the song's end.

"Subterraneans" was first recorded in 1975 and intended for the soundtrack to the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth.[1] It was later be revisited during the sessions for Low.[1]

Musical characteristics

After the Station to Station sessions ended in November 1975 at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles, David Bowie recorded "Subterraneans" within those studios in December 1975.[1] The song later received overdubs by Brian Eno.

The sleeve notes of Low credit "Peter and Paul with additional ARP synthesizer and piano". The "Peter and Paul" mentioned are Peter Robinson, who played Fender Rhodes, and Paul Buckmaster (the composer of the string arrangements for the Rolling Stones' "Moonlight Mile") who played the ARP Odyssey.[3] Peter Robinson and Paul Buckmaster worked with Bowie at Cherokee Studios in late 1975 on the aborted movie soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth.

"Subterraneans" was ultimately the most heavily edited song on Low, with David Bowie's saxophone, as well as multilayered synthesizers and reversed instrument sounds from Brian Eno, floating underneath a moaned vocal which is wordless until around the final ninety seconds. The soundscapes contain a cinematic quality which evokes the feel of Miles Davis' landmark album In a Silent Way.[1]

Bowie related the song to the misery of those in East Berlin during the Cold War. According to Bowie, people who "got caught in East Berlin after the separation - hence the faint jazz saxophones representing the memory of what it was."[4]


The lyrics are amongst Bowie's most inaccessible and obscure. Bowie reports[5] that during the recording of Low he was "intolerably bored" with conventional narrative rock and roll lyrics. The lyrics of "Subterraneans" utilize the "cut-up" technique which Bowie had previously used and expressed admiration for.

According to the liner notes to the 1999 Virgin Records rerelease of Low, the lyrics are:

Share bride failing star
care-line riding me
Shirley, Shirley, Shirley, own
Share bride failing star

Live versions

  • The song was used as an introduction to Bowie's set during the 1995 Outside Tour. It was different from the album version in that its lyrics and musical themes were merged from the song "Scary Monsters" (which would follow "Subterraneans" on the setlists). This version was performed alongside the co-headliners, Nine Inch Nails.


Cover versions


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Thomas Jerome Seabrook (2008). Bowie in Berlin: A New Career in a New Town: pp.131-132
  2. ^ Chris O'Leary (2019). Ashes to Ashes: The Songs of David Bowie 1976-2016: p.49
  3. ^ a b c Mojo (magazine). 60 Years of Bowie.
  4. ^ Griffin, R. "Low." Bowie Golden Years (Jan). 2005 Archived 2009-01-19 at the Wayback Machine retrieved 12 June 2007
  5. ^ Low "Low, The Alienation: A lyrical interpretation by Jonathan Greatorex (15-Apr-2000) URL retrieved 12 June 2007


External links

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