Something really fishy: Leon

David Bowie’s 1994 sessions produced anything up to 30 hours of recordings, most of which has never been released either officially or unofficially. Three segments totalling about 70 minutes have been leaked, under the fan-assigned name “The ‘Leon’ Suites”; some elements of this are familiar, having been reworked and incorporated into 1. Outside, but most – the great majority – isn’t. This, in fact, is the missing link (or one of them) between Eno’s multilingual future space-jam and Bowie’s pre-millennial art-ritual murder plot. Among other things.

Here (as far as I can tell) are the lyrics to the Leon Suites. Apart from regularising the spelling and punctuation, and correcting mishearings in a couple of places, I’ve only made a couple of departures from the texts a couple of people have put online. There are no breaks or track titles in the leaked material, so I’m treating the whole thing as a single piece of work. I haven’t incorporated the (sometimes speculative) character names, for similar reasons. I have set most of the spoken-word passages as prose (no line-breaks) and in quotation marks. I also admitted defeat on the final song of the third suite, which rapidly degenerates into what may be patois – or indeed Wolof – but is probably just nonsense syllables. (Phonetic transcriptions are available, but they’re not very enlightening.) Rather than spend half an hour deciding what to put down – for example, whether Bowie was singing “sun-dressed Cecil” or “sun-drenched shizzle” (neither of which makes any sense at all) – I’ve just labelled the whole passage as “[incomprehensible]”. This does mean that the Suites end on a bit of an unsatisfactory note – but then, they do. The running order of the Suites comes courtesy of an unknown bootlegger; nobody knows, or indeed ever will know, what Bowie would have preferred – other than what he did prefer, which was to forget about the whole thing and work on something new instead. Which was, after all, his established approach, ever since the time that Tony Hatch failed to make him a star with a song that sounded a lot like “Downtown”, and he decided to model himself on Anthony Newley instead. But he left some intriguing material behind as a result and a few outright mysteries – and there isn’t much more mysterious in his catalogue than the “Leon” suites.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.

THE “LEON” SUITES

“25th June, 16th, Wednesday, July 6th, 2001 midwinter, June 6th, Wednesday, August 18th, 9th, 1999, 12th, Michaelmas, August, 13th, October 13th, afternoon, in view of nothing, 2001, Martin Luther King Day, 12th, August 13th, 17th June. 19th January, midwinter”

The first time that I felt your grace
A tear [pronounced ‘tare’] ran down my cheek
The first time that I saw the boil
Put it on the neck…

“I never see English anymore. Last time I saw him he was standing by a pile of cantaloupes under the lamplight. I look up at the blood-red sky and I saw the words ‘Ramona A. Stone’. As sure as you can see the nose on my face, or the graze on my arm, or the boil on my neck, or the foot on my ankle, or the car in my garage, or the wife in my kitchen, or a cloud in the sky, or a cow in a field, or the sun and the moon. Holy sun!”

We go through the crowd,
In Oxford Town
Moving on the sidewalk,
Faces to the ground

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Oxford Town, Oxford Town…

“You got a breath-filled crowd here tonight, Eli!”

“Someone once said that beauty is only a deep skin. Why, it’s always been a stone in my flesh, I’ll tell you that for nothing. You’re better off without it. I mean, who eats the hard skin now? It ain’t Ramona A. Stone, that’s for sure. That don’t-wanna bitch is hanging around with cannibals, producing shots of white babies fastened to the arms of blind heifers.”

All the babies left home
The babies left home
And the sky’s made of chrome
A breath-filled sky and it’s made of chrome

It was the night of an OK riot
She swanned along the street
With her waving hair and her research grants

OK riot, OK riot
It was an OK riot
With waving hair
OK riot
It was an OK riot
OK riot
With waving hair

Choc-a-bloc babies in the heart
A block of black decay in the room
O what a room it was, O what a room
What a womb, what a tomb it became
I’d rather be an OK riot
I’d rather be chrome
Yeah I’d rather be chrome
I’d rather be chrome
Yeah I’d rather be chrome
Yeah I’d rather be chrome
Than stay here at home

Don’t go near the bones
Leon can you hear?
Get away Julie, don’t go there,
There’s really a lot to fear

A breath-filled crowd
They might be super loud
They eat the hard skin and they sit on lamplight
They’re white and black and loud

I’d rather be chrome
Yeah, I’d rather be chrome
I’d rather be sitting on a cloud
I’d rather be eight foot loud
I’d rather be chrome
I’d rather be chrome

Well, I’ll bitch slap her home
I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be
Gonna, gonna, gonna be chrome
Gonna be chrome
Beauty is a stone
I wanna be chrome
I wanna be, wanna be chrome

“Friends of the Trust, you’ve been a breath-filled crowd tonight. You’ve been positively fly boys. We are surely on our way upon that superhighway of information. As far I’m concerned, you are all number one packet sniffers! So sing with me:”

We’ll creep together, you and I
Under a bloodless chrome sky
We’ll creep together, we’ll creep together,
We’ll creep together, you and I

We’ll find the small things, you and I
We’ll just have small friends, you and I
We’ll be small together, we’ll be small together
We’ll be small together, you and I

We’ll end together, you and I
We’ll end together, you and I
We’ll end together, we’ll end together
We’ll end together, you and I

“Huh! As far as I was concerned, There was always the slime end of the silicone chip biz. It seems that Ramona and Leon had just spiralled down into the cesspool. Like I always say, a person who loses a name feels anxiety descending. But hey, if I heard it right, she was always behaving like some don’t-wanna bitch. She was a well-blind woman, he was a well-intentioned man; this makes for a bad end. As I always said, it would end in chrome. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.”

O Ramona, can you hear me?
O Ramona

I am with name, I am with name
I am Ramona A. Stone
A night fear female
Good timing drone
I am with name, I am with name

I am with name, I am with name
I am Ramona A. Stone

“And she should say:”

Twitch and scream, It’ll end in chrome
The night of the female good time drone
I am with name,
I am Ramona A. Stone

“And she should say:”

“A person who loses a name feels anxiety descending – left at the crossroads between the centuries, a millennium fetish.”

I am with name, I am with name,
I am Ramona A Stone
I am with name
Night fear female
Good timing drone
I am with name
I am Ramona A Stone

“And she should say:”

I am with name
I am Ramona A Stone

“Anxiety descending, anxiety descending…”

I won’t eat me, it will hide me
He should take them, I won’t tell it
She can’t take them, it will do less
He said tell it, he said smell this
He should do this, he should be there

She can’t hide me, he said do less
He said tell it, I won’t take them
She can’t eat me, he said kill that
He said take them, he said be there
I won’t kill that, it will be there
She can’t eat me, I won’t hide me

It will tell me, he said hide me
I won’t be there, he said hide me
He said be there, I won’t hide me
They won’t smell this, he should hide me
I won’t kill that, it will take them
They won’t tell it, she can’t be there
They won’t hide me, he should hide me

They won’t hide me, she can’t be there
It will hide me, he should eat me
He should take them, he should take them
I won’t kill that, they won’t be there

They won’t tell it, I won’t take them
I won’t eat me, I won’t eat me, I won’t eat me

They won’t do less, he said tell it
They won’t take them, it will hide me

It will smell this!

They won’t kill that, he should hide me
I won’t hide me, she can’t be there

I won’t tell it, I won’t eat me
They won’t tell it, he should smell this,
He said be there, he should kill that
I will take them, they won’t eat me

She can’t eat me, I won’t hide me
They won’t do less, he should eat me
He should hide me

They won’t smell this!
She can’t tell it!
I won’t be there!
He should eat me!
He said tell it!
He said tell it!
He said tell it!

Smell this…
Smell this…

“Old Touchschriek was a domain name server, suspected of being a shoulder surfer or finger hacker. This old guy didn’t know from shit about challenge response systems – he was way back in the age of cellular clones. We knew that Ramona A. Stone was selling interest drugs and magic cookies; she got males all hung up on her mind filters. She was a router and a swapper – she was, if you don’t mind me saying so, a fuckin’ update demon. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me take you back to when it all began.”

“I was Ramona A. Stone. I started with – with no enemies of my own; I was an artiste in a tunnel. But I’ve been having a MIDI-life crisis and I’ve been dreaming of sleep and apemen with metal parts. I’ve spat upon deeply-felt age – come to life, goddess! I’ve hid my hearts in under a freckham sky. I’ll get the funny-coloured English… Oh… we’ll creep together, you and I. We know who the small friends are. My, this is a crazy world. At this time, you could think of me as a ‘syllannibal’: someone who eats their own words.”

We’ll creep together
We’ll creep together, you and I
We’ll creep together, you and I
Just a trip of the tongue
From a slump male
A mumble slouch unreal

“Maybe a true remark”

We’ll creep together, you and I
Way back in the Laugh Hotel
I’ll reel out the window
You die for diamonds
But you won’t live for love

She’s a don’t-wanna bitch
Behaves like a don’t-wanna bitch
She’s a don’t-wanna bitch
But she is all I’ve got
I am with rose, I am with babies
I am with chrome
I am Ramona A. Stone
I am Ramona A. Stone
It’ll end in chrome
This is the chrome, this is the chrome
My friends, the chrome

“Then there was nothing left to do but to bring on the Nut Soldiers, round up the packet sniffers and clear up what remained of that sensational mouth. It’s sensational, her mouth – just a little untight. Excuse me while I wax poetic. The ashes that ran, fleshy debris and silicone chip-bits, electrocutes the evil and smells. Thank you. For me, it’s like plain chaos, and I am the fixer.”

“Thank you very much… Well, thank you very much… Well, you asked for them, so here they are – The Leek Soldiers!”

Twist, fly boy, twist, fly boy,
Brace for me, twist, fly boy
Wrecked, flexed, heaven erect,
Brace for ready,
Twist, fly boy, twist, fly boy!

Twist hardware, twist hardware,
Push the ziplock, twist hardware,
Melt them, wreck them, break through
Melt them, go for the flare
Fly boy, fly boy, fly boy, fly boy…

“At this time, before you could say boo to the goose, Leon was up on that oh-so-heavy party stage, with a kris-kris machete. He could not wait for 12 o’clock midnight. He slashes around, cuts a zero in everything – I mean, a zero in the fabric of time itself. I says to myself, Whoa! Quelle courage! What nerve!”

They won’t kill that, it will hide me
He should take them, I won’t tell it
She can’t take them, it will do this
He said tell it, he said smell this

He should do less!

He should be there, she can’t hide me,
He said do this, he said tell it,
I won’t take them, she can’t eat me,
He said kill that, he said take them,
He should be there!

He should do less!

“Some day the Internet may become an information superhighway. Some day, some day. Some day the Internet may become an information superhighway. Don’t make me laugh! A 19th century railroad that passes through the badlands of the Old West. Someday the Internet may become an information superhighway. Do not make me laugh!”

“It was a great conversation.”

“Hey Bunny, say goodnight”
– Say goodnight
“Say goodnight Bunny”
– Goodnight Bunny
“Say ‘goodnight’, Bunny”
– Say ‘goodnight’, Bunny
“No no, say ‘Goodnight’, Bunny”
– Say ‘Goodnight, Bunny’
Say ‘goodnight’, Bunny’
– Goodnight, Bunny
Say goodnight, Bunny
– Say ‘goodnight Bunny’

“Hey hey, here we are back at the Laugh Hotel! I was sittin’ there at the Laugh Hotel the other night looking for window demons, when in comes this Leon in a jungle weed, a mumble slouch unreal, maybe a triple-lock, a trip of the tongue from the slump male…”

“I’m Mr. Touchshriek of Touchshriek Mail Over and Fantasy, and I sell egg shells off the she-sore and empty females. I met Leon once. Bit of a dark spiral with no end, I thought. Sunday mail-over with his deeply felt grace.”

“What are you in terror of? Life needn’t step on baby fingers. The minutes fall, and the demons find their ways unencumbered, half dead, poisoned by their own fatal art. Each dirty tune produces its own nobility of form; each pays a different piper – a daft pauper. O machine, how did we fail thee? I guess I feel like a machine that cannot be cranked any more. My gathers are broken and bent, like a wall strangled by ivy -”

“I remember a dame called Ivy – drove around in a hearse. Some way south on Oxford Town, near the mosque. Graffiti, cappuccino, you name it – they had it all. Those were the days. In those days everyone was psycho-balletic – not the humbug packet sniffers they are now. Take Leon… please!”

“I think we’re stuck in a web. A sort of… nerve net, as it were; a sort of… nerve Internet, as it were.”

Red dog, red dog, scum, red dog, scum, red dog, red dog, scum, red dog, scum

“We might be here for quite a long time – here in this web… or Internet, as it were”

And, and, and, and, and, red dog

Got to get away, get away, got to get away
Got to get away, get away, got to get away
Got to get away, get away, got to get away

“The editors have done an excellent job. The selections are generous, the notations are scrupulously scholarly. To believe that the quality of a CD-ROM can be conveyed through translation may seem presumptuous, but I believe the enterprise is greatly successful.”

“This is a magnificent achievement, a major triumph of Wolof music; a truly precious addition to the sum total of Wolof in English.”

“The editorial apparatus of this CD-ROM leaves nothing to be desired”

“The editorial apparatus of the CD leaves nothing to be desired”

It leaves nothing to be desired
Nothing to be desired!
Nothing to be desired!
Nothing to be desired!

Mind changing
Mind changing
Change your
Mind changing
Mind changing
Change your mind changing
Mind changing
Stand by
Mind changing
Mind changing
Stand by
Mind changing
Mind changing
And there’s nothing to be desired!
Nothing to be desired!
Nothing
If not dishy

Nothing to be desired!
Nothing!
Nothing to be desired!
It’s your mind changing
Mind changing
Change your mind changing
Mind changing
Change your mind changing
Mind changing
Change your mind changing
Mind changing
Change your mind changing

“In far off California, there is no natural plan. Its mighty branching and its preponderant boughs weigh heavy on a Sontag morning.”

“Test, testing, testing. This… Grace is my name. And, and there was… It was a phot… a fading photograph of a patch, a patchwork quilt. And they’ve put me on these… Ramona put me on these interest drugs, so I’m thinking very, too, bit too fast like a brain patch, like I’ve got this… this soul brain patch, and it’s got… I got the shakers on it with this neuro-transmitter. And… they won’t let me see anybody except the breeders in the enclave and the check players, and I can still hear some…. if I want to sometimes and I ask I can still hear some pop… popular musics and aftershocks. And they say what… they say what were… what were you doing? what was I doing when I saw the small friends? And I said that I’ve been watching a television of, a television of Jeffreys In the Press, about the British revolution and something about the second Protector, who was a news coaster in the homelands – yes, the new homelands. And then I recognized the small friends because one of them was a very infamous, and he was a grand visionary, he was the grand visionary, the one who was on a television, who made soul patches the law, and… that’s all I can remember. And now they just want me to be quiet and to worship the lot, and I think something is going to be horrid.”

“Hello Leon. Would you like something really fishy? Hello Leon. Would you like something really fishy? I gave up flogging in Oxford.”

The enemy is fragile!
The enemy is fragile!
Who has seen this furious man? Who will rid me of this shaking head?

“Hello Leon. Would you like something really fishy?”

“It was just a fading photograph, slumped on the black leather sofa, glass fronted, forgotten by the last tenant.”

Who will rid me of this shaking head? Who has seen this furious man?
The enemy is fragile!
But he has no, has no
The enemy is fragile!
The enemy has always been here.

“You could have been fighting to the death, but no! Well, wrap up and we’ll go dancing, Leon! Dance fishing?”

Something in her mouth.
There’s something in her mouth,
Something mysterious.
There’s something in her mouth
Between patois and Beckett.
I bet it is a speech.

“Sample techniques, exponents of the greatest Wolof band of the 21st century. Phase techniques, and rich 21st century Spanish incantations.”

You are – a permutation
You are – a patois
You are – Chinese poetry
You are – something mysterious
You are – speed through delay
You are – patois and Beckett
You are – fighting to the death
You are – flogging
You are – something really fishy
You are – whispering
You are – warning

“My name is Mr Touchshriek, of Touchshriek Mail Over and Fantasy. I sell egg shells off the shesores and empty females. I’m thinking of leasing the room above my shop to a Mr Wolof Bomberg, a reject from the world-wide Internet. He is a broken man; I am also a broken man. It will be nice to have company; we could have great conversations. Possibly, just maybe, after a nice cup of tea, from a trip of the tongue we’ll creep together down a memory lane, and then we’ll be young and full of bubbly ambition, instead of the slump males that we are. Looking through windows for demons, watching the young advancing, all electric… A small shop on the corner is really no more than a dark spiral with no end. I’m in a street behind the Museum of Modern Parts. The buildings are close together, no more than ten feet between one side of the street and the other. There’s not much in the way of daylight, but at least we don’t get the rain, which is a blessing. Some of the houses still have inhabitants in them; I’m not sure if they’re from this country or not. I don’t get to speak much to anyone, or that sort of thing. If I had another broken man – oh, I dream of something like that. Not sure if they’re from this country or not…”

“I mean, who am I supposed to be driving?”

“A snapper with a foetal heart who resents all stupid questions, Ramona A. Stone put her arms around a boy – the golden boy with a lion’s heart, the boy who lives outside, an urchin among immortals. Leon! Lift up your eyes! The very stars are calling! Your name is Leon, Leon is your name! Murder you will do!”

Leon, lift up your eyes!
[incomprehensible]

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