When I was going through my rock 45s here in self-isolation-ville, I came across David Bowie’s 45 for “Day-In Day-Out” from his 1987 album, Never Let Me Down. Coincidentally, “Day-In Day-Out” was also featured on Cottage Country Vol. 18, which thematically was all about getting through the (work)day to get to the weekend, so it was a perfect fit. Currently, now that we are all (mostly) under lockdown the song takes on a new meaning. As the title suggests, “Day-In Day-Out” is about the redundancy of the modern age but also the struggle between keeping up one’s public persona vs preserving your private life. This is a recurring theme for Bowie. For instance, “Modern Love” with his opening spoken lines: “I know when to go out and when to stay in and get things done.” Here, Bowie repeats the same sentiment in “Day-In Day-Out” with the chorus: “Day-In Day-Out, Stay-In Fade-Out”.
The song, narratively, follows a poor orphan girl who is strung out and looking for money for drugs, rent and ultimately some piece of mind:
Gonna find her some money honey
try to pay her rent
That’s the kind of protection everyone is shouting about
“Protection” seems to be the concern as of late. There are many who are wondering where their rent is going to come from during this crises for their families, homes and businesses. Although her problems are much worse they are seemingly the same. The repetition, the longing to find some solace in this time of uncertainty. Eventually, she scores but as the lyrics imply, it ends violently, as she goes down in a hail of bullets by the police, who are pictured as a chorus of angels (of death, of elation?)
The cover itself, is an alternate photograph by Greg Gorman from the full length album, Never Let Me Down. Bowie is portrayed as this part ringmaster, part raggedy clown (sans makeup), part acrobat (hence “Never Let Me Down”) in this surreal circus ring. Cartoonish ladders, flaming rings and a city landscape in the background in a sort of cubist-street style, Basquiat meets Braque are pictured. Bowie is the showman, so it works, not to mention he had a history with theatre and mime (ha its true) so its a bit autobiographical. The art, set and design was by Mick Haggerty, who designed among other things Supertramp’s Breakfast In America. Previously, Haggerty had worked on Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” cover and the cover for the full-length album, “Tonight.”
It is unclear in “Day-In Day-Out”, with its bubblegum pop chorus, whether Bowie is being genuine about his social commentary on the plight of the poor, or if it is just as the cover implies, all for show. A spectacle for the video cameras (like the one hidden on the right of the cover and also throughout the music video) and is simply a good story. However, I think in some ways it’s a glowing reminder that although we may be at present bored and restless, it is a reminder that there are people doing worse than us, at the moment, who are going through experiences we cannot fully understand.
David Bowie’s “Day-In Day-Out” is featured on Cottage Country Vol. 18!