Recording: Quicksand

David Bowie recorded the Hunky Dory track ‘Quicksand’ on 14 June 1971.

The session took place at London’s Trident Studios, with Bowie and Ken Scott producing.

I really put David through the ringer on this one. Five complete acoustic guitar tracks, one after the other, and then I set about editing them for dramatic effect. Then there’s Rick Wakeman’s Mellotron recorded through a DI.
Ken Scott, May 2015
Five Years (1969-1973) book

The basic track was completed in four takes, the last of which was judged to be the best. Bowie then overdubbed a further five guitar parts.

David put down the acoustic guitar part on ‘Quicksand’ and suddenly I had some ideas. I said to David, “Do you mind if we put it down again?” And he said, “What do you mean, I thought it was quite good.” I said, “No, I mean, can we double it?” Remember, this was also coming off of working on [George Harrison’s] All Things Must Pass, which had a big acoustic guitar sound. I finished up having David layer the guitar five times and he had no objections to it. It made me feel great that he had complete faith in me. It starts off with solo guitar and then at a certain point the guitars open up to either side. Because of the way I mixed, I managed to get completely different guitar feels during it.
Ken Scott
Kooks, Queen Bitches And Andy Warhol, Ken Sharp

Scott’s idea to use multiple acoustic guitars gave the sound a panoramic, expansive quality.

Though much of the recording of Hunky Dory is a blur, there were a few sessions that stood out for me. One is a track called ‘Quicksand’ where David originally put down a single acoustic guitar and vocal, and for whatever reason, I had this thought of the acoustics getting bigger and smaller throughout the song. I asked him to double-track it, then I asked him to double-track it again, eventually recording the same guitar part six times. When it came to the mix, I had it set up in my mind that it would start with the single acoustic in the middle of the stereo soundfield, then it would open out to a guitar on either side, then finally open to all the acoustic parts at the biggest part of the song, then diminish back down to one.

This was a way of making the song dynamic before any of the other instrumentation came in, and I think it worked.

Ken Scott
Abbey Road To Ziggy Stardust
Last updated: 5 April 2023
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