TERROR TRACKS: Bowie Wrote The Song of 2018 in 1982

Welcome to 2018! A time to start fresh and have a hard reset on life after The Great Trash Fire of 2017! When I worked for a local gym in Austin, the beginning of the year was also the busiest with every person’s new years resolution being to get in shape and get healthy, which makes sense right? If 2017 made us sick, 2018 needs to be the road to recovery! But typically within 90 days those new faces slowly started to disappear, resolutions are broken, and we get into the rote routine of the work week. Hell, it’s day three and I STILL haven’t signed up for a new gym membership yet. But maybe it’s not that we are getting in our own way of our resolutions and positive proclamations, but rather the way we are going about it is wrong. Maybe trying to fight back the blaze of 2017 with water isn’t working. Maybe we need to think outside the box. Maybe we need to put out the fire...with gasoline.

Well, at least that’s what David Bowie and Giorgio Moroder thought we should do in 1982.

Val Lewton’s Cat People is a film that has stood the test of time by ducking just under the radar of popular culture, even more so than it’s 1982 neon erotic remake by Paul Schraeder and Alan Ormsby. But even less appreciated than that is the score to the ‘82 film by pioneering electronic music composer Georgio Moroder, and the title track with music and lyrics by David Bowie, “Cat People (Putting Out The Fire)”. I came across this track recently again when the art installation Slashback Video in Burbank, California created a Spotify playlist of the sickest and slickest Halloween jams you could ever think of. Nestled in their between Dokken and Bobby Pickett was this little gem of a tune.

See these eyes so green
I can stare for a thousand years
Colder than the moon
It's been so long
And I've been putting out fire
With gasoline

Now, the internet is in a little tizzy as to the origins of “putting out fire with gasoline”. While the phrase “add fuel to the fire” typically means worsening a situation, extinguishing a fire with gasoline is possible if added quickly enough to snuff out all of the oxygen before it can ignite the fumes. So though while possible, it’s a terrible idea.

Feel my blood enraged
It's just the fear of losing you
Don't you know my name
Well, you been so long

See these eyes so red
Red like jungle burning bright
Those who feel me near
Pull the blinds and change their minds
It's been so long
Still this pulsing night
A plague I call a heartbeat
Just be still with me
Ya wouldn't believe what I've been thru

I completely forgot that this song was used to marvelous effect in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. The legend goes that QT was so bummed that the powerful song was relegated to the end credits for Schraeders film that he let the entire track play out beautifully as survivor Shoshana Dreyfuss gears up for an all out war against the Nazi Party at her Cinematheque in the film. It’s B.O.S.S.

See these tears so blue
An ageless heart
that can never mend
These tears can never dry
A judgement made
can never bend
See these eyes so green
I can stare for a thousand years
Just be still with me
You wouldn't believe what I've been thru

You've been so long
Well, it's been so long
And I've been putting out fire
with gasoline
putting out fire with gasoline

Lyrically David Bowie is at the top of his game with "Cat People", his imagery some of the strongest of his career. Vocally too, Bowie opts to sing in his deeper baritone register than the alien sounds we are accustomed to which lead to richer than usual vocals that snarl and bite. I am still obsessed by the way he hits the sound “gas” in “gasoline”. Like, how did you even do these things Bowie?!

Bowie and Moroder gave us a gift back in 1982 and it feels as fresh and relevant as ever in 2018. Let’s continue to honor the memory of the Star Man himself by requesting this song at every karaoke night for the rest of the year. I already don’t regret it.

(Authors Note: Usually we accompany each Terror Tracks with the amusing music video that typically accompanies these promotional songs, but since the one that was made is a terrible assembly of scenes from the Schraders film Cat People, I am including a infinitely more thrilling live version [with back up dancers!] that Bowie performed on his Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983. As an added bonus also included is a cover version by Tina Turner because #TinaTurner.)



Jacob Trussell