Recording: Young Americans

The third recording session for David Bowie’s Young Americans album took place on 13 August 1974.

The initial sessions ran from 1122 August 1974 at Sigma Sound Studios, at 212 North 12th Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Bowie’s band during these sessions was Carlos Alomar on guitar, Mike Garson on piano and keyboards, Andy Newmark on drums, Willie Weeks on bass guitar, David Sanborn on saxophone, and Pablo Rosario and Larry Washington on percussion. The backing singers were Ava Cherry, Luther Vandross, Robin Clark, Diane Sumler, Antony Hinton, and Geoff MacCormack.

Producer Tony Visconti arrived from England on this day, and began work at 8pm. Bowie had asked Sigma’s chief engineer Carl Paruolo to engineer the initial sessions, but was unhappy with the results. At the time, US studios tended to record instruments and vocals dry, without effects or treatments, and Bowie was not used to the results.

Visconti had recently worked on the David Live album, and had produced two of Bowie’s earlier albums, but was not expecting to be in charge of the Young Americans sessions.

I had just finished an album in London [Nightlife by Thin Lizzy] and flew to Philadelphia the very next day. All I wanted was to hit the bed in my hotel room but I was taken, under orders, to Sigma Sound Studios instead. My friend and colleague David Bowie, who seemed abnormally very pale and thin, greeted me. He had amassed a band consisting of Mike Garson, Andy Newmark, Willie Weeks and Dave Sanborn. They had been there a few days prior to my arrival and they were going through a new song called ‘Young Americans’. I asked the house engineer, Carl Parulow [sic], if he was the engineer and he said, ‘No, you are!’ I wasn’t expecting this at all. I already felt jet lagged prior to really being jet lagged (really, I was suffering from sleep deprivation) and all I expected to do that night was to let someone else do that job, the engineering. David took me aside and said he wasn’t pleased with the sounds and I simply had to do the engineering. Okay, how could I refuse my dear friend?
Tony Visconti, May 2015
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) book

The Sigma songs recorded in August were, in their original titles: ‘The Young American’; ‘Shilling The Rubes’; ‘Lazer’, a reworking of ‘I Am A Laser’; ‘After Today’; ‘I’m Only Dancing’, later retitled ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’; ‘Never No Turnin’ Back’, later re-recorded as ‘Right’; ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me‘; ‘Who Can I Be Now?’; ‘Come Back My Baby’, eventually released as ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’; and ‘Can You Hear Me’, sometimes known as ‘Take It In, Right’.

Last updated: 31 May 2023
Recording: Young Americans
Recording: Young Americans
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