Absolute Beginners soundtrack reissued

David Bowie / Absolute Beginners

David Bowie led motion picture soundtrack returns

The soundtrack to Julien Temple’s 1986 film Absolute Beginners, which featured memorable contributions from a number of artists including David Bowie, Ray Davies, The Style Council and Sade, will be reissued in July and will appear on CD in its entirety for the first time.

Bowie’s title track (here in its full eight minute version) was an enormous hit in 1986, reaching number two in the UK of March of that year and providing the filmmakers with valuable publicity for what became a rather ill-fated project.

Producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley produced the album, working with not only the pop stars of the day (including Eighth Wonder and Smiley Culture) but also legendary jazz arranger Gil Evans.

The album features a number of tracks unavailable elsewhere. Bowie contributed three numbers, none of which appeared on any of his studio albums and likewise Sade’s ‘Killer Blow’ can only be found on the soundtrack. The full version of The Style Council’s ‘Have You Ever Had It Blue’ also features and in edited form was a top 20 UK hit.

Beyond these pop tracks, Absolute Beginners includes an eight-minute Jerry Dammers jazz instrumental called ‘Riot City’, ‘Ted Ain’t Dead’ by Tenpole Tudor and plenty of instrumentals from Gil Evans including ‘Absolute Beginners (Refrain)’ which closes the album.

Back in the day, most of side four of the 2LP vinyl never made it to CD, but this 2020 reissue offers Absolute Beginners as a 2CD set and comes with a 24-page booklet which features track-by-track analysis with annotations from a few key players, such as Clive Langer, Mick Talbot etc.

Langer and Temple had been school friends and travelled through Europe together as teenagers and the two men had stayed in touch. Speaking to SDE about the genesis of the project, Clive Langer remembers that “we were working on the second Elvis Costello album, Goodbye Cruel World, and Julien [Temple] wanted to meet Elvis to discuss him writing a song for the film. So we all went out and [after a while] Julien wanted me to go so he could speak to Elvis. And then I think it occurred to him, that he needed someone to oversee the whole project.”

Absolute Beginners will be released on 2CD, 2LP vinyl on 17 July 2020 via UMC/Virgin EMI. In interview with both Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley about Absolute Beginners will be published on SDE soon.

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Various Artists

Absolute Beginners - 2LP vinyl


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Various Artists

Absolute Beginners - 2CD edition


Absolute Beginners 2CD edition


Absolute Beginners – David Bowie
Killer Blow- Sade
Have You Ever Had It Blue? – The Style Council
Quiet Life – Ray Davies
Va Va Voom – Gil Evans
That’s Motivation – David Bowie
Having It All – Eighth Wonder ft Patsy Kensit
Rodrigo Bay – Working Week
Selling Out – Slim Gaillard
Riot City – Jerry Dammers


Boogie Stop Shuffle (Rough And The Smooth) – Gil Evans
Ted Ain’t Dead – Tenpole Tudor
Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu) – David Bowie
Napoli – Clive Langer
Little Cat (You Never Had It So Good) – Jonas (24)
Absolute Beginners (Slight Refrain) – Gil Evans
Better Git It In Your Soul (The Hot And The Cool) – Gil Evans
Landlords And Tenants – Laurel Aitken
Santa Lucia – Ekow Abban
Cool Napoli – Gil Evans
So What? (Lyric Version) – Smiley Culture
Absolute Beginners (Refrain) – Gil Evans

Absolute Beginners 2LP vinyl


Side A

Absolute Beginners – David Bowie
Killer Blow – Sade
Have You Ever Had It Blue? – The Style Council
Quiet Life – Ray Davies
Va Va Voom – Gil Evans

Side B

That’s Motivation – David Bowie
Having It All – Eighth Wonder ft Patsy Kensit
Rodrigo Bay – Working Week
Selling Out – Slim Gaillard
Riot City – Jerry Dammers


Side A

Boogie Stop Shuffle (Rough & The Smooth) – Gil Evans
Ted Ain’t Dead – Tenpole Tudor
Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu) – David Bowie
Napoli – Clive Langer
Little Cat (You Never Had It So Good) – Jonas (24)
Absolute Beginners (Slight Refrain) – Gil Evans

Side B

Better Git It In Your Soul (The Hot & The Cool) – Gil Evans
Landlords And Tenants – Laurel Aitken
Santa Lucia – Ekow Abban
Cool Napoli – Gil Evans
So What? (Lyric Version) – Smiley Culture
Absolute Beginners (Refrain) – Gil Evans


65 responses to Absolute Beginners soundtrack reissued

  1. JediJoker says:

    Is this going to be released domestically in the U.S.? Still not showing up on

  2. Wayne Klein says:

    So…do we know who is remastering this? I’m hoping it’s not a brick walled mess.

  3. CJ Feeney says:

    Elvis Costello must have passed up the opportunity to take part. In case anyone is wondering why Nick Lowe is part of the interview package, he wrote “Little Cat” on disc 2.

    Overall, its a much better soundtrack than the film deserved. If Amazon and Google existed in 1986, I’d have discovered Mingus and Miles a lot earlier than I eventually did.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      There’s a bit more information about Elvis Costello’s lack of involvement in the SDE interview with Langer/Winstanley which will be published in the near future.

      • John McCann' says:

        Look forward to that paul, big madness fan, seen them in Glasgow appolo in 83, when i was 14,took my 7year old son to Edinburgh last year,, ticket prices had changed somewhat,and not by inflation,wont be going again, bedders was the best,bass intro in our house fantastic!

  4. CJ Feeney says:

    A couple of years back I nominated this on a discussion about great LPs that havent had a CD release .

    Very pleased to see it. I may get the Japan SHM disc. I think this was Gil Evans last major project, though a couple of years later he collaborated with Robbie Robertson on the soundtrack of “The Colour of Money” (Paul Newman/Tom Cruise belated sequel to The Hustler). Thats a decent soundtrack album too, but only has two Evans/Robertson pieces.

  5. Andy B says:

    I saw the film on the cinema at the time on the strength of Bowie’s involvement. I thought it was dreadful. People were leaving the cinema throughout the film. Obviously many people had the same opinion as I. At least I stayed until the end. I do think the Bowie single is excellent though.

  6. gwynogue says:

    Never seen the film, but I love the song – for years I was convinced that the female backing vocal was Kate Bush. I only have the 10-track edition of the CD soundtrack so I’m very interested in this.

  7. Greg says:

    CD JAPAN just listed a SMH Japanese pressing, the IS shippable to the US and it is the same price as the non-Japanese version. The Japanese releases always are the best so buying it is a easy decision, especially if you live in the US.

    • CJ Feeney says:

      There’s no info on packaging, but I’m assuming it’s not mini lp packaging. Not sure now if I want to pay double and all the postage just for the SHM format.

  8. Keith Ahlstrom says:

    Amazon still not shipping to USA ;-(

  9. Wayne says:

    Just ordered the cd. Had the original album on vinyl, but only the single disc version. There are some great tracks on it. Absolute beginners is one of my favourite Bowie tracks. Love anything Style Council. And great to see Jerry Dammers track featured again, one of the most under rated artists around.

  10. Trash says:

    Hi Paul –

    Sorry if this is a stupid question but it wasn’t clear to me from reading the article – does the vinyl also come with the track by track annotation?

    Many thanks for any clarification

  11. Frank Sidebottom says:

    more Bowie tat…his name really has become the “cash cow” for his company

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Not sure how reissuing this soundtrack fits into your pre-determined ‘Bowie tat’ angle. In that case is it also Sade ‘tat’, or Style Council ‘tat’?

      • Mark says:

        Mark mine as firmly Tenpole Tudor “tat,” please and thank you, and very much welcomed as such!

      • frank says:

        People would complain if there were no reissues (“they don’t care about the fans!! boohoo)

        People complain if there are reissues. (“the estate is milking the legacy! shameful!” boohoo)

        What a sad lot moaning at literally anything.

        I for one welcome anything that comes out. I vote with my wallet usually. When it comes to Bowie, I’m happy to be getting anything at all!

        • CJ Feeney says:

          Didn’t the three Bowie tracks appear in the Loving The Alien box set? So completists will have them already.

  12. Shane says:

    Gotta love amazon’s stupid shipping policies. Already before the virus they picked randomly which titles would not ship to Switzerland, and now it’s even worse. The CD does not ship, but the vinyl does. Please try and make sense of that ridiculousness.
    They do ship to Italy though, strange, I mean, if anything, they should not know what to do with EU countries…

  13. Adolfo says:

    all the hearts for a remastered version of this soundtrack!

  14. Karl X. says:

    Have the original double LP, the 18-track CD from 1986 and a few related 12” singles. (Was always surprised “Killer Blow” wasn’t released as a related single but perhaps because Sade was signed to Epic) Will probably pick this up too for the booklet and additional Gil Evans tracks.
    Evans “Va Va Voom” and Slum Gaillard’s “Selling Out” are great. “Rodrigo Bay” is one of Working Week’s best tracks and nice to have the Style Counci’s full length “Have You Ever Had It Blue” with the lush Gil Evans arrangement.
    The film is worth a watch if you haven’t seen it. Don’t try to compare it to the classic novel – it’s not that deep – lol. It was 1986, height of MTV’s influence, and the film is like a series of glossy high-production music videos strung together.

  15. mattNYC says:

    dare i hope for a similar 2CD expanded soundtrack for Electric Dreams?

    • Steven Roberts says:

      If there was a David Bowie track on Electric Dreams, then I’d say the chances of a re-release at some point are good.

      If not, then…….who knows?

  16. Michael says:

    Such an unusual mix of artists on this soundtrack.

  17. Great to see this grow on CD! From ten tracks to eighteen to 22 now. It’s a stellar soundtrack. (The movie is fun too if you don’t set your expectations high – it was way overhyped.)

    I hope it’ll become available to us here in USA.

    I’d have loved a whole Luhrmann-esque collection that might have included the Ab. Beg. (dub mix), Having It All (ext.) Have You Ever Had It Blue? (cut and uncut) and full film cues and even The Jam’s Absolute Beginners and Miles Davis’ So What. LOL

  18. Steve W says:

    I’ve never seen the whole film but I do love the soundtrack although I only have the cd version so I’ll need pick this up. :)

  19. Reech says:

    Another no ship to USA

  20. Dean says:

    I have the original ‘edited’ single CD, was one of my first CDs! Will be great to get this complete version at last.

  21. Musicneil66 says:

    One of my favourite music films from the 80’s, got the film just needed the cd thanks Paul

  22. Andrew Mills says:

    I’d like to see the film again. All I remember about it is the opening sequence which appears to be an incredibly long tracking shot that just goes on and on.

  23. Brian Smith says:

    In New Zealand it came out as a single LP with less tracks and different artwork.

    • Karl X. says:

      In some markets there were two versions Released; the full double LP soundtrack and a “Music from…” with the scooter cover artwork.

    • David Bly says:

      Brian Smith…

      It also came out as only one disc in the US and Canada, and in Germany it came out in both 2-disc and 1-disc versions, the latter one having the alternate cover design.

  24. Alain Lacasse says:

    The Bowie’s songs are already available on the David Bowie’s “Loving the Alien” box set on the RE:CALL4 CD.

  25. Paul H says:

    I bought this when it was first released and loved it. Didn’t see the film until a couple of years ago. I think I got it the right way round!

    What kept Absolute Beginners from No 1?

  26. RichardAnvil says:

    In high points of the film were Bowie performing ‘Thats Motivation’ on a huge typewriter and Sade’s performance of ‘Killer Blow’ as a chanteuse. Of course it wasn’t written and recorded by ‘Sade’ the band but by Sade the singer with the band Working Week, who also recorded exclusive track Rodrigo Bay for the soundtrack.

  27. Jan says:

    No Bowie dub version of the title track?

    and is the 12″ version the same as track 1, I doubt it. :(

    Probably sacrilege, but it’s my favourite single by him.

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      The 12″ version is the full version which is the same as what is on this soundtrack

    • Thilo says:

      I do argee, it is a fantastic track! One of his Best singles!
      I got the original cd for the songs of David, I will not Bus this.

      • SimonP says:

        Not as good as the Jam’s version, though, is it? ;-)

        • CJ Feeney says:

          I had to stop listening o Bowie while running, as I kept finding myself singing along to the title song. Its a fabulous chorus, and the long instruemental section at the end is beautiful.

  28. Matt A says:

    Good to see Jerry Dammers track included

  29. Mr P says:

    apart from the title track, i still listen to (and enjoy) Ray Davies “Quiet Life” – no not a reworking of the Japan track, just a typical slice of life song by Ray.

    the video for it is also from the film and is just as much fun!

  30. Dave says:

    Ordered. Release date is 19th June for the cd. Thanks for the heads-up.

  31. Dave Nash says:

    At last! Been wanting this on CD for a LONG time. I had all but forgotten about it, but then St.Etienne started doing a cover of Absolute Beginners in their live set, circa 94, complete with “South Bronx. South South Bronx” sample…which incredibly worked! Incidentally, I still consider the Bowie version to be up there with his very best.

  32. Philip John Birtwistle says:

    A great soundtrack to a “fun” film, can’t wait for the full version…..

  33. David B says:

    Bowie singing “Volare” .. can’t wait . pre-ordered .. and a great price .. thanks for the post ..
    Stay safe people .. cheers.

    • Catweazle says:

      Oh dear… IMO, ‘Volare’ is the most embarrassing thing in Bowie’s whole career – how on earth could he do that?

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