Time Will Crawl

Last updated

"Time Will Crawl"
Bowie TimeWillCrawl.jpg
Single by David Bowie
from the album Never Let Me Down
B-side "Girls"
ReleasedJune 1987 [1]
RecordedAutumn 1986
Studio Mountain (Montreux, Switzerland)
Length4:18 (album version)
4:54 (2008 remix)
Label EMI
Songwriter(s) David Bowie
David Bowie singles chronology
"Day-In Day-Out"
"Time Will Crawl"
"Never Let Me Down"
Music video
"Time Will Crawl (Single Version)" on YouTube

"Time Will Crawl" is a song recorded by the English singer David Bowie, serving as the second single for his seventeenth album, Never Let Me Down (1987). It was written by Bowie and produced by him and David Richards. Released in 1987 by EMI, the recording addresses the destruction of the planet by pollution and industry; the Chernobyl disaster was a direct influence on the lyrics. The accompanying video served as a teaser to Bowie's Glass Spider Tour (1987). Music critics reviewed "Time Will Crawl" positively, commending its lyrics and production, and describing it one of Bowie's best efforts of the mid– to late–1980s. Additionally, Bowie later called the song one of his favorites from his entire career. Commercially, the single peaked at number 33 on the UK Singles Chart and at number seven on Billboard 's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.


Background and release

"Time Will Crawl" was written and recorded by Bowie in mid– to late–1986 at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland. He produced the recording alongside David Richards. [2] Initially the track was titled "How We War", but Bowie changed the name prior to the album's release. [3] Lyrically, the song addresses the pollution and destruction of the planet by industry. Bowie has cited hearing of the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 as the genesis of the lyrics, and was in Switzerland at the time of the accident. He said, "I was taking a break from recording [...] it was a beautiful day and we were outside on a small piece of lawn facing the Alps and the lake. Our engineer, who had been listening to the radio, shot out of the studio and shouted: 'There's a whole lot of shit going down in Russia.' The Swiss news had picked up a Norwegian radio station that was screaming – to anyone who would listen – that huge billowing clouds were moving over from the Motherland and they weren't rain clouds." [1] In another contemporary interview, Bowie said that the song "deals with the idea that someone in one's own community could be the one responsible for blowing up the world." [4] At the time, he also stated that it was his favorite song from the album. [4]

"Time Will Crawl" was released in June 1987 by EMI, featuring a cover version Tina Turner's "Girls" (1987) as its B-side. [1]

In 2008, a newly remixed version of the song (the "MM Remix" produced by studio engineer Mario J. McNulty) was included on Bowie's iSelect compilation album, his list of all-time favorites. McNulty removed the original drum track, added new drum overdubs by drummer Sterling Campbell and included further new instrumentation, including a string quartet. At that time, Bowie indicated a desire to improve the rest of the songs from Never Let Me Down, [1] [5] [6] a project that came to fruition after Bowie's death with the release of Never Let Me Down 2018 in the Loving The Alien (1983-1988) (2018) box set. According to McNulty, Bowie had specific ideas of what he wanted to do to the song for the remix, calling his willingness to make such drastic changes to the song "fearless." McNulty said when they met to discuss the remix, Bowie was "sitting on his living room floor with a laptop, taking notes, just hanging out, [and said] 'I wanna do this to this, get rid of this, I wanna put drums on this, I wanna put string on this, all right … when can we do it?'" [7]

"Time Will Crawl" was added to the Les Amants du Pont-Neuf soundtrack (1991), [8] Bowie – The Video Collection (1993), [9] Best of Bowie (2002), [10] The Platinum Collection (2006), [11] and The Best of David Bowie 1980–1987 (2007), [12] while the 2008 remixed version appeared on iSelect (2008) [13] and Nothing Has Changed (2014). [14] An updated version of the 2008 "MM Remix", as well as remixes of the original single and its b-side "Girls" appear in the box set Loving the Alien (1983-1988). [3]


Bowie, middle, with the dance troupe in a video still from the official video. In the video, the troupe is seen practicing a variety of dance moves for the upcoming Glass Spider Tour David Bowie Time Will Crawl video still.png
Bowie, middle, with the dance troupe in a video still from the official video. In the video, the troupe is seen practicing a variety of dance moves for the upcoming Glass Spider Tour

An accompanying music video was directed by Tim Pope, directing his first and only Bowie video, though Pope later directed Bowie's 50th birthday celebration video in 1997. The clip was directed during rehearsals for Bowie’s Glass Spider Tour, and previewed some of the elaborate dance routines that would be used during performances of "Loving the Alien" (1985), "Fashion" (1980) and "Sons of the Silent Age" (1977). The dancers from the tour (Melissa Hurley, Constance Marie, Craig Allen Rothwell, Viktor Manoel, and Stephen Nichols) all featured in the video alongside tour guitarists Peter Frampton and Carlos Alomar. Toni Basil, Bowie's long-time friend, was responsible for the choreography. [1] The video was later released on Bowie – The Video Collection (1993), Best of Bowie (2002) and The Best of David Bowie 1980–1987 (2007); the limited edition 12" single featured a still from the video on its cover.

"Time Will Crawl" was performed live in 1987 on all dates of his Glass Spider Tour, later released on the deluxe edition of Glass Spider (2007). [15] That same year, Bowie also made an appearance during BBC's "Top of the Pops", but his performance was ultimately not aired on television due to the song leaving the top 40 of the UK Singles Chart at that time. However, his performance was later uploaded onto YouTube. [1]

Critical reception

Generally, music critics considered this song to be one of the best of Bowie's mid– to late–1980s efforts. [1] [16] [17] Bowie biographer Nicholas Pegg praised both the track's production and lyrical content, saying, "the lyric, too, is among the album's best, a pleasing return to a non-linear approach that paints a desolate landscape of poisoned rivers, nuclear devastation and genetic mutation reminiscent of Diamond Dogs ." [1] AllMusic critic Dave Thompson praised the song for its "ecologically inclined lyric, a tremendously buoyant vocal, and a fabulous Sid McGinnis guitar solo [that] make Bowie sound like he's really enjoying himself", which he considered a "rarity" for Bowie in the late 1980s. [16]

Entertainment Weekly included the video for "Time Will Crawl" in their list of top 20 Bowie videos after he died in 2016, and praised Bowie's performance, saying "...just pay attention to the way Bowie moves in this clip. There's no wasted motion, and every hair flip and tumble recovery has real meaning. Even when not dressed as Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane, you still couldn't take your eyes off of him." [18] In a 2016 list ranking every Bowie single from worst to best, Ultimate Classic Rock placed "Time Will Crawl" at number 74, calling it one of the better tracks on Never Let Me Down, but "there's not a whole lot there to salvage the project". [19]

Track listing

"Time Will Crawl" was written solely by Bowie. The B-side, "Girls", has lyrics and production done by the singer and Erdal Kızılçay. A limited 7" single was issued in some territories whose sleeve folded out to a double-sided poster. The "Extended dance mix" was remixed by co-producer Richards, and the "Dance Crew Mix" by Chris Lord-Alge. For the Japanese version of "Girls" (sung by Bowie in Japanese), Kiri Teshigahara was the language coach and Hiro Hozumi translated the lyrics. [2] [20] [21] All tracks were made available for digital download in 2007. [1]

Credits and personnel

Credits adapted from the liner notes of Never Let Me Down. [22]

Chart performance

Ireland (IRMA) [23] 18
Netherlands (Single Top 100) [24] 71
UK Singles (OCC) [25] 33
US Mainstream Rock ( Billboard ) [26] 7
West Germany (Official German Charts) [27] 57

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Life on Mars (song)</span> 1971 song by David Bowie

"Life on Mars?" is a song by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie, first released on his 1971 album Hunky Dory. Bowie wrote the song as a parody of Frank Sinatra's "My Way". "Life on Mars?" was recorded on 6 August 1971 at Trident Studios in London, and was co-produced by Bowie and Ken Scott. Bowie's backing band consisted of guitarist and string arranger Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder, drummer Mick Woodmansey and Strawbs member Rick Wakeman on piano. "Life on Mars?" is primarily a glam rock ballad, with elements of cabaret and art rock; it has a complex structure that includes chord changes throughout. The lyrics are about a girl who goes to a cinema to escape reality, and include surreal images that reflect optimism and the effects of Hollywood.

<i>Lets Dance</i> (David Bowie album) 1983 studio album by David Bowie

Let's Dance is the 15th studio album by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on 14 April 1983 through EMI America Records. After the release of Scary Monsters (1980), Bowie began a period of numerous musical collaborations and film appearances. By 1982, he left RCA Records out of dissatisfaction and signed with EMI America. Wanting a fresh start, he chose Nile Rodgers of the band Chic to co-produce his next record.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Blue Jean</span> Song by David Bowie

"Blue Jean" is a song written and recorded by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie for his sixteenth studio album Tonight (1984). One of only two tracks on the album to be written entirely by Bowie, it was released as a single ahead of the album and charted in the United States, peaking at No. 8, becoming his 5th and last top 10 hit with no features. The song is loosely inspired by Eddie Cochran.

<i>Tonight</i> (David Bowie album) 1984 studio album by David Bowie

Tonight is the 16th studio album by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on 24 September 1984 through EMI America Records. The follow-up to his most commercially successful album Let's Dance, it was written and recorded in mid-1984 at Le Studio in Morin-Heights, Canada, following the conclusion of the Serious Moonlight Tour. Bowie, Derek Bramble and Hugh Padgham co-produced the album. Many of the same personnel from Let's Dance and the accompanying tour returned for Tonight, with a few additions. Much of Bowie's creative process was the same as he used on Let's Dance, similarly playing no instruments and offering little creative input to the musicians.

<i>Never Let Me Down</i> 1987 studio album by David Bowie

Never Let Me Down is the 17th studio album by the English musician David Bowie, released on 21 April 1987 through EMI America Records. Co-produced by Bowie and David Richards and featuring guitarist Peter Frampton, the album was recorded in Switzerland and New York City from September to November 1986. Bowie's goal for the project was to record it differently following his disappointment with 1984's Tonight. Musically, Never Let Me Down has been characterised as pop rock, art rock and hard rock; Bowie himself considered the record a return to rock and roll music. The cover artwork features Bowie surrounded by numerous elements from the songs.

<i>Tin Machine</i> (album) 1989 studio album by Tin Machine

Tin Machine is the debut studio album by Anglo-American hard rock band Tin Machine, released on 22 May 1989 through EMI America Records. The band consisted of English singer-songwriter David Bowie, American guitarist Reeves Gabrels and brothers Tony Fox and Hunt Sales on bass and drums, respectively, while Englishman Kevin Armstrong acted as an additional guitarist. The project was spearheaded by Bowie, who felt disconnected in his career by 1987 and looked to reinvent himself. After meeting Gabrels through his Glass Spider Tour, the two agreed to work together and would collaborate frequently for the next decade. Bowie hired the Sales brothers, neither of whom he had worked with since the 1970s, after a meeting in Los Angeles, while English producer Tim Palmer was hired to co-produce.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fame (David Bowie song)</span> 1975 single by David Bowie

"Fame" is a song recorded by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie. It was released on his 1975 album Young Americans and was later issued as the album's second single by RCA Records in June 1975. Written by Bowie, Carlos Alomar and John Lennon, it was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City in January 1975. It is a funk rock song that represents Bowie's dissatisfaction with the troubles of fame and stardom.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (song)</span> 1980 song by David Bowie

"Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)" is a song by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released as the title track of his 1980 album Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). It was also issued as the third single from that album in January 1981. Coming as it did in the wake of two earlier singles from Scary Monsters, "Ashes to Ashes" in August 1980 and "Fashion" in October the same year, NME critics Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray labelled its release another instance "in the fine old tradition of milking albums for as much as they could possibly be worth". The song was subsequently performed on a number of Bowie tours.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cat People (Putting Out Fire)</span> 1982 song by David Bowie

"Cat People (Putting Out Fire)" is a song recorded by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie as the title track of the 1982 erotic horror film Cat People. Bowie became involved with the track after director Paul Schrader reached out to him about collaborating. The song was recorded at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland in July 1981. Bowie wrote the lyrics, which reflected the film, while the Italian producer Giorgio Moroder composed the music, which is built around only two chord changes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Let's Dance (David Bowie song)</span> 1983 single by David Bowie

"Let's Dance" is a song by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie, originally included as the title track of his 1983 album of the same name. Co-produced by Nile Rodgers of Chic, it was recorded in late 1982 at the Power Station in New York City. With the assistance of engineer Bob Clearmountain, Rodgers transformed the song from its folk origins to a dance number through studio effects and new musicians Bowie had yet to work with. Bowie hired then-unknown Texas guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan, who added a blues-edge.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">China Girl (song)</span> Song by David Bowie and Iggy Pop

"China Girl" is a song written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie in 1976, and first released by Pop on his debut solo album, The Idiot (1977). Inspired by an affair Pop had with a Vietnamese woman, the lyrics tell a story of unrequited love for the protagonist's Asian girlfriend, realizing by the end that his Western influences are corrupting her. Like the rest of The Idiot, Bowie wrote the music and Pop improvised the lyrics while standing at the microphone. The song was released as a single in May 1977 and failed to chart.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Modern Love (song)</span> 1983 song by David Bowie

"Modern Love" is a song written by the English singer-songwriter David Bowie. It was released as the opening track on his 1983 album Let's Dance and issued as the third single from the album later in the year. Co-produced by Bowie and Nile Rodgers of the American band Chic, it is a rock song that contains elements of new wave music. It was recorded at the Power Station in Manhattan and was one of the first tracks recorded for the album. It was performed by Bowie on the Serious Moonlight Tour, where it often closed the shows. A music video for the song, directed by Jim Yukich and featuring a performance of the song during the tour, was released in 1983 and played frequently on MTV.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Loving the Alien</span> Song by David Bowie

"Loving the Alien" is a song written and recorded by David Bowie. It was the opening track to his sixteenth studio album Tonight. One of two tracks on the album written solely by Bowie, an edited version of the song was released as a single in May 1985, nine months after the release of lead single "Blue Jean" and eight months after the release of the album. "Loving the Alien" peaked at No. 19 in the UK Singles Chart. "Loving the Alien" inspired the title of Christopher Sandford's 1997 biography of Bowie and the 2018 Bowie box set release, Loving the Alien (1983–1988).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">When the Wind Blows (song)</span> Song by David Bowie

"When the Wind Blows" is a 1986 song from the soundtrack of the film of the same name, performed by David Bowie and written by Bowie and Erdal Kızılçay. It was released as a single in October 1986 and released digitally in 2007.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Day-In Day-Out</span> Song by David Bowie

"Day-In Day-Out" is a song recorded by the English singer David Bowie, serving as the opening track for his seventeenth studio album, Never Let Me Down (1987). It was issued as a single on 23 March 1987 ahead of the record's release. The recording was solely written by Bowie, while production was handled by him along with David Richards. An R&B track, "Day-In Day-Out" criticizes the treatment of the homeless in the United States at that time, and deals with the depths to which a young mother sinks to feed her child.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Never Let Me Down (David Bowie song)</span> Song by David Bowie

"Never Let Me Down" is a song recorded by the English singer David Bowie, serving as the title track for his 1987 studio album of the same name. It was released as the third and final single from the record in 1987, and served as his last solo single until 1992's "Real Cool World". "Never Let Me Down" was written by the singer himself and Carlos Alomar, while production was handled by Bowie along with David Richards.

<i>Glass Spider</i> 1988 video by David Bowie

Glass Spider is a concert film by English singer David Bowie. The release was sourced from eight shows during the first two weeks of November 1987 at the Sydney Entertainment Centre in Australia during the last month of the Glass Spider Tour. The 86-show tour, which also visited Europe, North America and New Zealand, was in support of Bowie's album Never Let Me Down (1987). Originally released in 1988 on VHS, the tour was choreographed by Toni Basil, directed by David Mallet, and produced by Anthony Eaton. The VHS was released by MPI Home Video in the US and by Video Collection International in the UK.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Girls (Tina Turner song)</span> 1987 single by Tina Turner

"Girls" is a song written by David Bowie and originally recorded by Tina Turner for her 1986 album Break Every Rule. It was released as a single the same year, where it became a top 20 hit in the Netherlands. Bowie recorded his own studio version of the track during his 1987 Never Let Me Down recording sessions, and released the track as the B-side to his 1987 single "Time Will Crawl".

<i>Loving the Alien (1983–1988)</i> 2018 box set by David Bowie

Loving the Alien (1983–1988) is a box set by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released on 12 October 2018. A follow-up to the compilations Five Years (1969–1973), Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976), and A New Career in a New Town (1977–1982), the set covers the period of Bowie's career from 1983 to 1988, his most commercially successful period, and includes eleven compact discs or fifteen LPs.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Pegg, Nicholas (October 2016). The Complete David Bowie New Edition: Expanded and Updated. Titan Books.
  2. 1 2 3 Time Will Crawl (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: 5099920189273). 1987.
  3. 1 2 Loving the Alien (1983-1988) (Media notes). Parlophone. 2018.
  4. 1 2 David Bowie – The Interview (vinyl). EMI America. 1987.
  5. Neyland, Nick. "David Bowie chooses his own favorite songs". Prefixmag. Archived from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  6. Askenase, Julia (11 July 2008). "David Bowie looks back on his favorite David Bowie". Paste . Archived from the original on 2 November 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  7. Slate, Jeff (12 October 2018). "Inside the David Bowie 'Loving the Alien (1983-1988)' Box Set with Reeves Gabrels and Mario McNulty". RockCellarMagazine.com. Retrieved 21 October 2018.
  8. Les Amants du Pont-Neu' (Liner notes). 1991.
  9. Bowie – The Video Collection (Liner notes). 1993.
  10. Best of Bowie (Liner notes). 1991.
  11. The Platinum Collection (Liner notes). 2006.
  12. The Best of David Bowie 1980–1987 (Liner notes). 2007.
  13. iSelect (Liner notes). 2008.
  14. Nothing Has Changed (Liner notes). 2014.
  15. Glass Spider (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: 00946-3-91265-2-1). 2007.
  16. 1 2 Thompson, Dave. "David Bowie "Time Will Crawl" Review". Allmusic.com. Archived from the original on 6 February 2017. Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  17. Buckley, David (24 April 2012). Strange Fascination: David Bowie: The Definitive Story. Virgin Books. p. 547. ISBN   9781448132478 . Retrieved 28 October 2013.
  18. Anderson, Kyle (11 January 2016). "David Bowie's 20 best music videos". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on 25 January 2021. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  19. "Every David Bowie Single Ranked". Ultimate Classic Rock. 14 January 2016. Archived from the original on 24 July 2021. Retrieved 19 September 2021.
  20. 1 2 Time Will Crawl (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: 5099920188368). 1987.
  21. 1 2 Time Will Crawl (Liner notes). EMI (Barcode: 5099920194567). 1987.
  22. Never Let Me Down (Liner notes/ CD booklet). EMI. 1987.
  23. "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Time Will Crawl". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  24. "David Bowie – Time Will Crawl" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  25. "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  26. "David Bowie Chart History (Mainstream Rock)". Billboard. Retrieved 8 January 2017.
  27. "Offiziellecharts.de – David Bowie – Time Will Crawl" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts. Retrieved 8 January 2017.