INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Uncut OCTOBER 2016 - by John Robinson
WHO CAN HE BE NOW?
A revelatory trip inside the David Bowie archives. As The Gouster is finally unveiled, forty-two years late, Tony Visconti tells John Robinson the whole story of a legend's lost album. Plus... What comes next? Lazarus? The Man Who Fell To Earth? The great unknown?
When imagining the David Bowie archive, says one of its more frequent visitors, it's helpful to have some kind of measure of scale. It's in a large facility outside a major city, he says, and it may be in the United States. Beyond that, he really couldn't say - other than to remark that it is in extremely good order.
The important thing to realise, though, he continues, is that the recent exhibition David Bowie Is... (which, you will remember, included Bowie's Berlin apartment keys, his stage costumes, scribbled ideas, drawings, his coke spoon, and a petrol and mileage log for the Spiders From Mars) was really just the tip of the iceberg. "It's quite astonishing," he says.
For someone putting together a box-set like the current Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976), a set extensively compiling material from Bowie's "American years", there was certainly no shortage of material to draw on. Drawings. Tracklistings. Even gestures towards a possible Young Americans screenplay...
"David was so in control in terms of the creative," says the archive intimate. "There is a piece of paper with very rough screenplay ideas on it. This is shortly after he had mapped out a complete Diamond Dogs film. The whole storyboard - reams and reams of it. We have illustrations, handwritten lyrics, mixing notes." This second box set is the first to be released since Bowie's passing in January this year, and has been put together mindful of the unique attitude which the artist had to his historic work. Bowie self-evidently made it a point of artistic principle to move forwards and as such wouldn't promote his own past work. however, he could see the fun in nodding to it obliquely on occasion.
"At Hammersmith Odeon in 2002, he went into the catalogue for two and a half hours, but if you pressed him on doing it, he'd say 'No, absolutely not'. he would say 'I'm not promoting the catalogue,' but then he'd go on TV, do a track from Hours... or Reality and then play something from the catalogue. Or you'd turn up on the Heathen tour and he would do Low."
Bowie catalogue releases are a long-term project - conversations about the first box began in 2006. "David was very much of the opinion that a finished album was a finished album, rather than with extra tracks and bits and pieces. So the original albums are exactly as they should be, with the artwork. To sweep up all these extra tracks, it became clear that the Past Masters route was a great way to go - it works for The Beatles and it works for this, too, with the Re:Call albums."
For the current set, the mission was to chart the evolution from the dystopian rock of Diamond Dogs to the sophisticated soul of Young Americans. In the absence of extensive film of the lengthy US tour on which some of the transformation took place, a missing link was found in the form of The Gouster, long-rumoured as the working title of Young Americans but in fact revealed, on closer examination, to be a standalone transitional work.
"We were looking at various tapes around 2000 marked up as Young Americans tracks. But when you get to them, it becomes very clear that they are two sides of an album called The Gouster and the tracklisting is different to Young Americans and you get to the point of 'Let's run these to see what these things are.' Then you go, 'Wow it does exist!'
"Or, it was going to exist. But history then took over: John Lennon came on board, and Young Americans came out of it. Something new happened and he moved on.
"In 2006 we were having conversations with David about The Gouster and in typical David fashion, he said, 'No, that was then.' Tony Visconti was adamant that this should come out, but he couldn't convince David. It's kind of time people heard it.
"David had a few things he didn't want out. At that time, The Gouster was one of those. There were a couple he was pretty firm on, and for others his vibe changed every now and again because he didn't think it was the right time.
"The remits of the box-sets is to keep within the scope of official material, but to leave the door open to other material as and when that will surface. Whatever material there may be will come at the right time, when everyone feels it's right. Which was very much David's take on it. If he felt it was the right time, you would very quickly get the nod, but you were aware that you very often wouldn't get that nod. Once you were told no, rarely did you go back.
"In the future, it'll be a case-by-case basis... we'll look at it all as it goes on. If it feels wrong at the time, we'll save it. If it feels wrong completely, then we'll park it and never go there again."
The Gouster, however, has been well worth a revisit. Here, Tony Visconti tells us in his own words the story of Bowie's lost soul album...
• • •
Philip Glass had a complex of studios in New York, and I had a new studio which I built in there. This would have been around 2005, 2006. I had been asked to remix Young Americans for 5.1 surround sound. David really distanced himself from his past recordings - he always looked forward to what he was going to do next. But for this one I called him and said, "You really have to hear this..."
What I played him was the Young Americans album, but also the extra tracks, like It's Gonna Be Me, and John, I'm Only Dancing (Again). With 5.1 there are two schools. One is that you should be a listener in a theatre, watching something onstage: you get reverbs sent behind you and the reverb gives the impression that the musicians are on the stage. If they really were, if it's a live album, then that's what I'll do - I did David Live like that.
But for a studio album, I think it's a privilege to sit in the middle of the room while the musicians are recording. David is standing about ten feet in front of you singing into a microphone. The piano is ten feet off to the left. Luther Vandross is over your left shoulder. [Saxophonist] David Sanborn is maybe in the right corner of the room. If my memory serves me well, this is where the musicians were when they were actually recording. I would do all kinds of trickery to make you feel as if you were in the room.
When we recorded, David insisted on singing live with the band in the room and he wanted to make sure I could use those vocals in case any of them were good enough. Some of them are actually those used on the record, recorded with him standing in the room. To do that is a nightmare for leakage, but I had a good solution to it. Aretha Franklin recorded a lot of her vocals at the piano, as she did with Respect - and I was privy to hearing some of those eight tracks. The point is this: an R&B band isn't as loud as a rock band. It's medium loud and everyone has a little wall in front of them. A lot of the instruments were isolated.
I put David in a corner of a room - against one wall I think - and gave him two microphones and asked him to sing into the top one. The other microphone was placed out of phase - if you hook up your stereo the wrong way, it sounds all empty and you can't hear the bass. You can do that with microphones, but the effect is to put the band out of phase. There was not a lot of leakage, consequently. It's a big technical trick.
David is good at understanding technology, and just sang into the top microphone so I could keep his voice. And if he wanted to replace a few lines, you could punch in a few lines - just as I had heard Aretha Franklin do. Like, if he was late or out of tune he could say, "Can you wind it back and punch me in there?" Then you keep everything.
We also had a microphone capturing the room sound, and because of the laws of physics you can detect the size of the room. I placed that behind your head and you could instinctively feel that this room is, say, eight hundred square feet. It's an intimate, spatial feeling.
When I was playing the mix to David, I played a few of the tracks right to the very end. I let "Fame" run out to the very end, because there's something you can only hear on the 5.1 mix - there's a little dialogue between him and John Lennon and Carlos Alomar, right at the end; he was chuckling about it. I can't remember what they were talking about exactly, maybe about messing up a chord. You could hear the exuberance in their voices. David said he felt as if he was back in the room, like being back in the studio. He said it was breathtaking.
I haven't made all of David's albums - maybe fourteen out of, what, thirty-five? I worked with him on The Man Who Sold The World and then he had done other things. Our only difference of opinion was over [Bowie's Ziggy-era manager, MainMan's] Tony Defries. I'd already had dealings with Defries and I didn't like him. And that's where David and I went our separate ways. Initially it brought him great success, but later on he lost almost all his money by being with that person. I just didn't trust him.
After a long period of silence, David phoned me as if nothing had happened and said, "I've been trying to mix my new album all over town and I can't get a decent mix anywhere. Could you recommend a studio?" I was in my new studio, which I built in my home [on Melrose Terrace in Hammersmith], it was virtually finished. I said, "Why don't you try this place out?" I was putting together a state-of-the-art studio with no vintage stuff, great microphones and all that - we just didn't have any studio furniture. So we sat down on a pair of carpenters' horses that were left over from the builders, and we mixed the first track of Diamond Dogs. He was thrilled with it.
So I mixed the album with him, did a few overdubs, wrote and conducted strings for 1984. It was really nice to get together and do something again. So we were back in touch. Then I was told we were going to make an R&B record, a soul album. He didn't need an excuse more than he just wanted to make an R&B album. Soul Train was a very popular TV show in the States and David enjoyed watching it. It probably planted the seed for him to make an R& record, which eventually led him to make an appearance on the show.
To me it sounded like a big adventure. David always prefaced each album saying it was an experiment, and if it didn't turn out well, he would be the first person to say it didn't work out and say, "Let's go on and do something else." It was what I expected from him.
For example, after Space Oddity he went on to do The Man Who Sold The World, and that's a very big change between those two styles. I saw him as a folk-rock guitarist, this twelve-string guitarist, and he wanted to go pretty damn heavy on that record. Then Ziggy threw me for a loop. I thought he'd lost his marbles. He'd dyed his hair red, shaved off his eyebrows. He was wearing platform boots! When I knew him he was wearing sweatshirts and baggy jeans, had scruffy hair... But, you know, I got it, once I got over the initial shock.
I understood what he was doing, which is something no-one else has really succeeded in doing - creating a persona for a few albums, and being someone else. But the songs were still clearly David Bowie songs. The adventurous chord changes that you wouldn't find in a normal pop song... the time signatures. Like in All The Young Dudes he manages to throw in a 3/4 bar. John Lennon used to do things like that a little bit. I knew from our first meeting that David's roots were in jazz. He loved jazz, and he brought a lot of his jazz sensibilities into his pop writing.
When I met him in person again, I had to squint and see the bone structure - Ziggy was a complete transformation. I liked those records musically, but I think I could have done a better job. They don't have the weight of a rock album; they sound a bit thin to me.
Now the goal was to make a kick-ass R&B record. I'd just come off working with Thin Lizzy, I think. I didn't know much about [Philadelphia recording studio] Sigma Sound, but I knew about the producers Gamble & Huff - the whole purpose of going there wasn't for the studio but for the musicians.
That changed at the eleventh hour - what I expected was a studio full of Philly musicians. I was going to sit in on the first day, because I'm not very good with jet lag. I came right off the plane and was driven straight to the studio.
The thing I found was there were no Philly musicians - instead there were all David's friends. Nobody there came from Philadelphia. My understanding is that the local musicians were distrustful of him - I don't think they were savvy about Ziggy, and other things he was famous for. To them it looked as if he wanted to capitalise on their sound. There was a kind of embargo on David by the people who played on all the Philadelphia records; that they didn't want any white boy stealing their sound. That had all gone down before I arrived and found all the musicians came from anywhere but Philly.
I walked in on the middle of a rehearsal of Young Americans. It wasn't completely structured yet, but we recorded it that night. I was pretty tired, but wide awake on the other hand, because it was so interesting. I think we recorded it properly the next afternoon. That afternoon three new people walked in whom I hadn't met the night before: Carlos Alomar, his wife, Robin Clark, and their friend Luther Vandross.
When Carlos sat down and played guitar, that's when it became the track that was recorded. It was very interesting, the way it was evolving very rapidly. David is very quick in the studio. He works out things the night before, he'll scribble things on a piece of paper, then we get it very quickly. The reason for that is that he hires the very best people. With David's music, you have to be on your toes. When you look at that band, they had their roots in jazz. Mike Garson [keyboards] at the end of that song played a masterpiece; his only problem is that the next day, he can't remember what he played! Andy Newmark on drums - very quick, very fast.
They were there about three days before I was. When I arrived, I looked around the room and asked who was the engineer, and a lovely man named Carl Paruolo [Sigma's in-house engineer] said, "You are." I am an engineer, but in a strange studio, really it's confrontational. I asked why and he said, "David doesn't dig my sounds. He wants you to engineer it." That's the way the session started.
I did hear that night some of the other songs they were working on. None of them was a master; they were just demos. When I work with David we record demos; we say, "We'll record this just for a lark," but sometimes it will end up as the master tape. So we want to make sure we have it on a professional format, not just on a cassette or something like that. We referred back to what they were working on prior to my arrival and some of the bits and pieces were there. We just had a general chat in the control room about what we would do differently. There were about three songs that were really sketched out.
So after that day, we started recording properly and after that new songs were being introduced. There is amazing singing. David liked Luther. Luther had this song called Funky Music, which became Fascination after he changed a word or two. Luther was fine with that.
David also really liked Luther's voice - he was the choirmaster. All of the vocal arrangements were really his. He could listen to Ava's [Cherry, backing singer] voice or Robin's or even David's and say, "You sing this... You sing this..." To this day I'm flabbergasted when I listen to those isolated tracks. With the 5.1 mix I've put Luther over your left shoulder so he can sing into your left ear. His blend is superb. He was the mastermind of the backing vocals. David would always yield to the expert: if he saw that was the way to go, he would let you do your thing.
The backing vocals that David actually composed were the ones to the song "Right" - it has a very complicated counterpoint, call and response. It was like clockwork. A pain to record. Most of the album was all one take, not a lot of punch-ins. "Right" had to be punched in, if the timing was a little off. You had to do it with professional people, and they had to be on their toes.
I knew David liked Bruce Springsteen, who was not well known, and we had started recording his song It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City. One afternoon before work at Sigma I was listening to a DJ in Philly, on the WMMR station, and he said Bruce Springsteen just dropped off a cassette of his new album and left. I phoned the station and talked to the DJ, Ed Sciaky, telling him I was producing Bowie at Sigma and I thought it would be great if he brought Springsteen to the studio.
He told me that Springsteen was living in a mobile caravan and he could be anywhere - he was unreachable by phone, as mobiles were not invented yet. Ed promised to drive around the Tri-State area to look for him after his shift. Later that evening, he walked in with Springsteen.
David was quite taken by meeting him. We played Saint... to him and he kept a poker face the whole time. He said nothing when it was finished. David took him into another room for a private chat. By the time he left he was more pleasant and said his goodbyes to the rest of us. David and I never worked on Saint... after that - although it was finished or re-recorded eventually with someone else.
The Gouster was a word for a hipster. David was kind of dressing like a gouster in the studio. He was wearing these baggy pants and had on red braces. He talked about it not as a concept, more in terms of "...the working title of the album is The Gouster." I'm an American and I'd never heard the word before. Another working title was Shilling The Rubes - we didn't make any big deal out of it. He informed me that was an Americanism, too, though I'd never heard that, either. It was a way of setting the tone that we were going to make a very hip album.
It was definitely not a British record. We had mostly Americans in the studio - no-one in the band was British, except David. We knew what we were doing. That music was in our upbringing - we heard music like this when we were babies. Regardless of what race you were, you were exposed to this beautiful music when you were young.
I don't really understand the chronology of the recording. We worked on it in Philadelphia [in August], then we moved to New York - pretty much right after. There we did "Win", and something else, and that's where we worked with Harry Maslin as engineer. [Bass guitarist] Willie Weeks and Andy Newmark weren't there. In New York, that was the first time that [drummer] Dennis Davis worked with David.
I was told the album was finished and it was called The Gouster. I was going to mix it in my studio in London - my studio was very trustworthy. He trusted me to mix it on my own. He sent me back with notes. Such as, "Listen to the drum sound on these records." They were R&B sounds for reference. "Listen to this Al Green record..." - this deep, deep snare that we already had on tape, but which he wanted me to emphasise. I also recorded strings for It's Gonna Be Me and Somebody Up There Likes Me, which was all done in London.
He gave me the green light. We were on the same page; he always trusted me. He said, "Go write some strings..." It's an R&B record, so there was going to be a touch of that classic Atlantic Records sound. When I write, if it's three songs then it's three days of writing, and one long day of recording - which was done at George Martin's Air Studios when it was at Oxford Circus. I remember that quite well. David was in New York, and I would probably have something like eighteen to twenty players, a big orchestra.
He didn't like the strings on It's Gonna Be Me so there are 'with' and 'without' strings versions of that one. Carlos likes the strings - because the cello picks out some of the guitar lines, so I flattered him with it. Over the years David has heard the string version.
I would work on the mixes and then send him, via UPS, a stereo reel-to-reel tape. He would get it overnight and then ring me. Pre-email and faxes, David was also fond of telegrams - during the mixing sessions I would get twenty-page telegrams from him. One telegram would say something like, "Can you make the snare drum like that", and name a Michael Jackson record.
Another was about the breakdown on Young Americans when the guitars and the drums go out and it's just a conga drum. He said, "Could you make the conga drum have a repeat echo?" When the conga player wet his finger on the skin of the drum, it made a "woo" sound. He said, "Could you make it go woo woo woo woo?" This was his preferred form of communication at the time. It was like that all the time. I would work on it in twenty-four hours. He did try out a few things with Harry Maslin, but it wasn't disrespectful. To fly me over to try something out wasn't practical.
The Gouster didn't have Across The Universe and Fame on it. It was all finished. We exhausted all the possibilities recording Win in New York. He said, "It's done. Go back to London and mix it..." It was September, probably. John, I'm Only Dancing, It's Gonna Be Me and Who Can I Be Now? - the mixes of those songs were mine. David had a little play around with one of them, but the mix didn't make it to the album. Most of the mixes on Young Americans are mine apart from Fame and Across The Universe. I've seen the credits for the album, and they're a little bit messy. I think when David submitted the credits he was unclear what was what - and quite rightly so. It had been through several hands.
In London I went to cut the master and delivered the lacquers to the record label. They make it into stampers, mothers for the manufacturing of the record. I supervise the mastering and that's where my involvement ends. Then I get a test pressing, a white label. They hand it to you through a letterbox and you sit down in the dark to listen to it. They're quite precious. David would have been sent one in New York. I thought the album was finished, delivered.
David met Lennon quite some time after I had delivered The Gouster. David phoned me and said, "I'm sorry, it was just spontaneous. We just decided to go into the studio, and recorded these two songs in one evening." He said, "I wrote this song on the spot with Carlos and John Lennon..." I said, "If you could only have waited eight hours, I would have taken the Concorde and been there..."
He's done this to me many times. But you can't hold him accountable for that kind of behaviour, because he's a great artist. Still, I wish I could have been there! It took me a few days to get over it. I thought Fame was going to be on the album, and Who Can I Be Now? could probably be taken off. I love Fame - it deserved to be on The Gouster. Across The Universe he probably did just to please John Lennon. I didn't like it. When I met Lennon afterwards he said, "I don't know why he did that - I don't like that song either." Lennon just went along with the programme; he was really proud of Fame, but he didn't think Across The Universe would make the album. So that was interesting.
David could probably have picked another song that would have pleased him better. And to leave off It's Gonna Be Me, which is the most beautiful possible closing track! To have it close with Fame - I'd have had it open with Fame. But you couldn't put more than forty-five minutes on a vinyl or it would be a shitty-sounding vinyl. It would be really quiet and the scratches would be louder than the music.
It's more about what isn't on there than what is. I was OK with Who Can I Be Now? going, but I was sad about John, I'm Only Dancing and It's Gonna Be Me - they weren't going to be heard for decades. There were no bonus tracks back then. Laser and Shilling The Rubes are only demos, they were tryouts that didn't work.
In a perfect world, I think The Gouster could have been a big hit. Fame was a great single. The change I would have made would be to swap Fame for Who Can I Be Now? and then it would be perfect. In hindsight, neither is the best version. The best one is the third option. For me, it was a great exercise. Years earlier, David and I discovered we adored early R&B from Etta James to Little Richard. It was so much fun to make a new R&B record with him, with great musicians we couldn't have found in London.
We had a great time. We started work at eight or nine in the evening and finished as late as ten the next morning. John, I'm Only Dancing (Again) sums up the fun we were having. It didn't take long to get things down on tape.
The collaboration was very fruitful - the British, the soul brothers and sisters knew something magic was going down. My expectation was that we would have a big hit. The atmosphere was thick with excitement...
THE PATH TO THE GOUSTER...
1979 John, I'm only Dancing (Again) (1975) released as a single. The first unreleased song from the 1974 Sigma sessions is released on twelve-inch single, backed with a version of the song from 1972.
1989 After Today is released A song from the 1974 Philadelphia sessions appears on the Sound + Vision box-set.
1991 Rykodisc reissues Young Americans with three additional tracks (Who Can I Be Now?, It's Gonna Be Me and John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)) from the Philadelphia sessions.
"He didn't exactly curate the EMI/Ryko reissues," says an archive intimate, "but there were good business reasons why he did what he did. Those extra tracks were more teasers than anything else. Like, "Let's give them this: a taster" and then he'd step back from it all."
2000 Research into The Gouster begins in earnest.
"We were looking through some tapes. It became very clear that they are two sides of an album called The Gouster and the tracklisting is different to Young Americans. You get to the point of 'Let's run the tapes, to see what these things are...'"
2006 Tony visconti mixes Young Americans for 5.1. The Gouster project is proposed to Bowie.
"We'd been working with Tony because he remixed Young Americans for 5.1 and at that point we were having conversations with David about The Gouster..."
2007 It's Gonna Be Me (the version with strings) is released on the Young Americans remaster.
"Previously he wouldn't have allowed that out, but had decided this was the right time."
2007 Discussions about the Five Years boxes begin.
"When you don't have a visual of the Diamond Dogs tour, you're looking for a missing link and it struck us that while you don't have a missing link between Diamond Dogs and Young Americans, you do have a transition explaining how this soul album came about.
"The fact that we could put It's Gonna Be Me with the strings out there in 2007, there was a feeling that maybe this is the right time to do something else and go further."
2014 Research into contemporary material continues. "The Gouster is a missing link and there is a lot of material from that time which talks about a soul album - and that album is The Gouster. There are articles about it. One is for Rolling Stone in October 1974, called Philly Stopover, Fans And Funk, and he talks about the playback to the sigma kids, and the album he's talking about is The Gouster. Clearly by the time Tony had taken it back to lLondon to mix, it was going to be called that."
2015 The Gouster is given the go-ahead A previously unseen image by photographer Eric Stephen Jacobs is selected for the cover.
2016 The second box-set Who Can I Be Now?
How Ava Cherry's dad gave rise to The Gouster
"My dad was a gouster," says Bowie's backing singer/sometime paramour Ava Cherry of her Chicago-based musician father. "He was a jazz musician from the '40s - he wore zoot suits, with a silk tie and a chain. That was the look my dad would call "gouster". They would slow dance with their girlfriends. David took that idea and ran with it. It was a romantic thing - the men dressed very well."
Ava's dad was generous with his historic finery.
"I showed one of these suits to David. I asked my dad if David could use one of the suits to shoot a photo session in, and my dad was like 'OK...' He was cool, like, no problem...
"David finished doing the tour with it and I asked him if I could have it back, and he said 'No.' I said, 'No?' And he said, 'No, it's mine, it's me.' I'm not worried any more, it doesn't matter - but it was kind of funny that he wouldn't give it back. It was funny.
"What I'm saying is - whatever he touched at that moment that he hadn't touched before, he owned it. He had to use it."
"HE REALLY THREW HIMSELF INTO IT"
How Toni Basil, 1940s Hollywood and photographer Eric Stephen Jacobs helped create the look of Young Americans and The Gouster
In the early 1970s, Eric Stephen Jacobs was a photographer for After Dark, a national entertainment magazine with a toe in both high art and the new York's blooming gay culture. After a spell as a model and jobbing lensman, he revolutionised his technique by hand-tinting black and white images in the style of '40s movie star headshots. In 1974 he was asked to shoot David Bowie's choreographer, Toni Basil, who knocked on his studio door in the summer. "I almost fell over," says Eric. "She was movie star gorgeous, with a hip, retro style of dress, and a huge mass of dark curly hair, as they wore in the old Hollywood era. She was perfect for my new style. We both had an appreciation for the whole hip, retro, classic sensibility. Toni was mighty hip - I could see why David would want to work with her. We got along famously.
"One day my phone rings, and a male voice says, 'Hello, this is David Bowie.'
"I was speechless, then finally blurted out a hesitant 'Hello, David. What can I do for you?' David explained he saw his choreographer Toni Basil on the cover of After Dark, and it was exactly the look that he wanted to use of himself on his next album cover, Young Americans.
"I would have expected his people to call my people, as they say. But there we were talking one on one! David was in LA. performing - so I made the trip to California to shoot him on what was an old movie studio sound stage. There wasn't much time, but I knew he wanted an image as similar to the Toni Basil After Dark cover as possible.
"It was a bit rushed for me... the car took me directly to the studio where we were to be doing the photo session before I'd checked into my hotel. We used the original old-fashioned studio klieg lights, which were a bit hard for me to control.
"David's makeup and hair man, Jack Collello did the prep, as his wardrobe people picked the Tattersall cotton shirt. Had I been older and wiser, I would have chosen something simpler like a plain black shirt. The pattern in the shirt did cause a problem for me.
"I was still tinting the photos with the translucent oil colours - which allowed me to make some more creative changes. For instance, the smoke coming from David's cigarette was completely painted in.
"There was a second session in my New York studio, after the LA cover session. The US flag, milk and flight jumpsuit concept were totally David's idea. These photos were to be used as PR as a tie in for Young Americans, which is why so many 'American' symbols were included. I don't think many from that New York session ended up being used.
"Had I more time, the flag would have been much bigger for more background coverage. I especially am fond of the full-face portrait, the one they used on the 2008 iSelect audio CD cover. I was not too keen on the milk concept, though David, I'm assuming, interpreted milk as an American symbol. I was just not brave enough to disagree with him.
"As the evening wore on (we shot for hours), we discussed Americana concepts which would relate to the album concept, and the 1930s Depression came up. That's how the using of his shoes as a pillow, and the newspaper as a blanket arose - and the pathos in the expression. I love this series as it tells a specific historical story - and David really put himself into it.
"The session was a very intimate experience. We spoke of music, art, architecture and film, and David's knowledge was most impressive. It kept us talking well into the night.
"We hung out now and then after. We once spent an evening with Mick Jagger at the Village club, Reno Sweeney. But it saddened me that David and I never got to work together again."
"WE WERE DEVASTATED"
Young Americans vs The Gouster. Carlos Alomar weighs the contenders...
"When we got the Young Americans LP, we were devastated. We're session musicians and we know this happens, that sometimes your favourite song is gone. I'd play parts and I wouldn't know if my part was going to be on there after I went home - or on the cutting-room floor. Then I hear the record in completed form and think, 'There's my part - I love it!' Or, 'That's my part, being played by a sax!' David uses his creativity to decide who David is, not who we are.
"In turn, we were so delighted when the reissue came and those songs [John, I'm Only Dancing, Who Can I Be Now?, It's Gonna Be Me] were included. I don't think David would have failed in including any one of those songs on the LP - I don't think it would have diminished the impact of Young Americans on David Bowie and on the culture. All of them were powerful examples of what at the time we'd call 'blue eyed soul' - of which at the time there were only a few examples, like The Righteous Brothers.
"He really did reflect on himself and open himself. I'm not saying that he purged himself, but he made himself vulnerable in expressing himself - not his observations about his life and times, but about himself as a person. I think his observations were not always outward, they were inward - and I think that takes a certain amount of courage, but also poetic licence.
"When you look at the process of doing that album, he's not only evaluating his own existence in relation to his life and times, but also the vehicle for that expression - and I think that having the right musicians around him and surrounding himself with the nuance of the studio created a vehicle that was pertinent for that particular time.
"The Gouster? I heard that phrase in the studio. But at the moment of Young Americans, the theatrics were not necessary. They're totally different animals. What he needed was heart and soul and that gives you what you're looking for. I think it was a case of, 'I'm looking for the soul of Bowie on this record. I don't need theatrics, I don't need a mask. I am able to say what I want, say who I am and be who I am.' Who Can I Be Now? There's no hidden meaning there..."