BOWIE GOLDEN YEARS

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Lodger

released May 18, 1979

RCA BOW LP1 (UK)
Chart peak UK 4 US 20

Side one
Fantastic Voyage (Bowie-Eno) 2:55
African Night Flight (Bowie-Eno) 2:54
Move On 3:16
Yassassin 4:10
Red Sails (Bowie-Eno) 3:43

Side two
DJ (Bowie-Eno-Alomar) 3:59
Look Back In Anger (Bowie-Eno) 3:08
Boys Keep Swinging (Bowie-Eno) 3:17
Repetition 2:59
Red Money (Bowie-Alomar) 4:17

David Bowie (vocals, piano, synthesiser, Chamberlin, guitar)
Adrian Belew (guitar, mandolin, rhythm guitar)
Carlos Alomar (guitar, rhythm guitar, drums, vocals)
Brian Eno (ambient drone, prepared piano, cricket menace, synthesisers, guitar treatments, horse trumpets, eroica horns, piano)
George Murray (bass, vocals)
Dennis Davis (drums, percussion, bass, vocals)
Sean Mayes (piano)
Roger Powell (synthesisers)
Simon House (violin, mandolins)
Tony Visconti (bass, mandolins, rhythm guitar, vocals)
Stan (saxophone)

Produced by David Bowie and Tony Visconti

Recorded at Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland
Engineers: Tony Visconti and David Richards
Assistant engineer: Eugene Chaplin
Mixed at Record Plant Studios, New York
Engineers: Tony Visconti and Rod O'Brien
Assistant engineer: Gregg Caruso
Mastered by Gregg Calbi at Sterling Sound Studios, New York

Selected reissues

October 1984 RCA CD

August 1991 Rykodisc/EMI CD
remastered with bonus tracks:
I Pray Olé [thought to be recorded 1979] 3:59
Look Back In Anger [recorded 1988] 6:59

September 1999 EMI remastered CD

February 2007 Toshiba EMI mini LP replica CD

Bowie (1979): Lodger is really a hodgepodge of styles that create a lovely sort of mix. The areas we’ve been working in are so undefined at the moment that I find them hard to analyse, but I think probably a classification you can give the album is that it incorporates just about every style that I’ve ever got involved in, apart from rock. There are three or four narrative songs, though, which is something I haven’t done in a long time, and two or three of what you might call Dada pop as opposed to rock. Now whether that’s the kind of pop that people expect, I don’t know. But it’s definitely Bowie pop. [311][Watts, Michael. David Bowie Introduces Lodger To An Awestruck World (RAM, 15 June 1979)]

Production

Low sessions

September 1978

Mountain Studios was located on the shore of Lake Geneva, part of the casino complex that had been rebuilt since the 1971 fire Deep Purple immortalised in Smoke On The Water. The band was staying a short walk away at the Hotel Excelsior.

They set up in the smaller of the two studios with in-house engineers David Richards and Bowie's neighbour in Vevey, Eugene Chaplin.

Visconti: It wasn't really a studio for recording a band at all but was used to record live concerts in the huge auditorium that was below us. It was small and really an overdub studio but the main auditorium was booked out for the summer.

Belew (2010): The control room of the studio was on the first floor, while the actual recording room was above it on the second floor. There was a camera in the recording room, which allowed David, Eno and Tony to see the players. [399][elephant-blog.blogspot.com – Planned Accidents (Adrian Belew, 23 March 2010)]

The album's working title was Planned Accidents, continuing the experimental spontaneous approach of its predecessors. With little in the way of specific song ideas, Bowie and Eno instead directed the musicians using the Oblique Strategies methodology that Eno developed with Peter Schmidt.

Mayes (1985): He and Brian were determining the direction everything should take. Basically we were getting down backing tracks. We'd be given a chord sequence and a rhythm and in one case, Brian would point to different chords with a baton. It seemed deliberately to make things difficult for us. If anyone was getting too comfortable with what they were playing, hed then change it and give them something else, so you were making mistakes all the time. [Juby, Kerry. In Other Words: David Bowie (Omnibus Press, 1986)]

Visconti (2006): Eno asked for a blackboard and wrote his eight favourite chords [B flat, F, C, E, G, E flat, A minor and C minor] in big block letters. He then said to Carlos, Dennis and George, “Okay, I'd like you to play a funky groove. I will point to a chord and you will change over to that chord after four beats.” I could see the rhythm section exchanging irritable looks as if to say “what an asshole.”

Bowie (2001): Brian and I did play a number of 'art pranks' on the band. They really didn't go down too well though. [105][Dalton, Stephen and Hughes, Rob. Trans-Europe Excess (Uncut, April 2001)]

Visconti (2003): He was telling these three black guys who came from the roughest part of New York, “Just play something funky.” [176][Kent, Nick. Into The Abyss (Mojo: Bowie, November 2003)]

Another strategy they devised for Boys Keep Swinging (originally called Lewis Reed) was to have the musicians swap instruments – Alomar on drums, Davis on bass and Murray on guitar, though only Alomar's drum part was kept.

Bowie (1979): What was extraordinary was the enthusiasm that came from musicians who weren't playing their usual instrument. They became kids discovering rock'n'roll for the first time again. [310][Watts, Michael. Bowie's Lodger: Where New Muzik Meets Errol Flynn (Melody Maker, 19 May 1979)]

Visconti (2002): Boys Keep Swinging and Fantastic Voyage are the same exact chord changes and structure, even in the same key, just the tempo and instrumentation are different. We even recorded a third song with the same structure, but it never got finished. [423][tonyvisconti.com – Lodger (2002)]

At one point they considered recording the entire album with these chord changes. In the two weeks at Mountain they tried various strategies – oblique and standard – to generate new song ideas. African Nightlife came from jamming on Suzie Q.

Others were the result of recycling. Bowie borrowed back Sister Midnight, which he had originally written with Alomar and given to Iggy. They slowed down the original backing track, removed some instruments and added others as well as new lyrics, which became Red Money.

Tony Visconti (2006): Move On was inspired by playing the recording of All The Young Dudes backwards and then everyone learning to play it that way.

Bowie (1999): I had put one of my reel to reel tapes on backwards by mistake and really quite liked the melody it created. So I played quite a few more in this fashion and chose five or six that were really quite compelling. Dudes was the only one to make the album, as I didn't want to abandon the 'normal' writing I was doing completely. But it was a worthwhile exercise in my mind. [106][Dalton, Stephen. David Bowie and Tony Visconti interviews (for Uncut, April 2001)]

At the end of each recording day Bowie and Visconti would run off a quarter inch tape of the recordings and review the takes. Then they looped the section with the mistakes to form song structures.

Sean Mayes (1985): Because the mistakes come up again each time, they cease to be mistakes – they become part of the music. Youd end up with the structure of a song in multi track made from the loops that you could continue adding to and it ceased to be obvious that it came from loops in the first place. [Juby, Kerry. In Other Words: David Bowie (Omnibus Press, 1986)]

With the backing tracks complete, Alomar, Davis and Murray flew home to New York. Mayes, House and Belew then alternated in the studio recording overdubs alone upstairs with Bowie running back and forth with his suggestions.

Tony Visconti (2001): Adrian Belew was a champion because he'd do whatever strange thing that was requested of him. [105][Dalton, Stephen and Hughes, Rob. Trans Europe excess (Uncut, April 2001)]

Adrian Belew (2010): The idea, in keeping with the theme "planned accidents", was to capture my accidental responses to the backing tracks they had already recorded. So they insisted I never hear the tracks beforehand, nor was I allowed to know the key of the songs. I simply heard a count-off and was instructed to play something along with the tracks as best I could. After no more than three tries, we would move on to the next song. (Just about the time I knew when to expect the chorus.) Later, David, Eno, and Tony chose their favourite bits from what I had played and made them into a single composite guitar part, a guitar part I never actually could or would have played. [399][elephant-blog.blogspot.com – Planned Accidents (Adrian Belew, 23 March 2010)]

After two weeks the musicians were sent home, to regroup in a month for the last leg of the tour. Bowie and Visconti made plans to finish the album – still untitled and without lyrics – in the new year.

February 1979

Lodger album cover production

Designer/illustrator: Derek Boshier
Photographer: Brian Duffy
Makeup and effects: Anthony Clavet

Derek Boshier (2003): I loved the resolution to the problem of David being photographed falling. Shooting him from above, on a specially made table built to match the falling form. The table was designed to be completely obscured by David's body. The wash hand basin was laid underneath the table on the floor. [395][derekboshier.com – DB David Bowie]

Anthony Clavet (left) and assistant applying prosthetics to Bowie's face. Lengths of nylon string, pulled from different directions, contorted his face. Bowie had burnt his hand in the morning, his bandage adding to his figure's distressed state • Photograph © The Duffy Archive

Original Polaroid © The Duffy Archive

 

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Bowie Golden Years v1.0 created and designed by Roger Griffin 2000
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this page updated June 1, 2021