Recording: Young Americans

The twelfth recording session for David Bowie’s Young Americans album took place on 22 August 1974.

The initial sessions ran from 11-22 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.

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’.

During Bowie’s time at Sigma, a group of fans waited outside for glimpses of their idol. They were nicknamed the Sigma Kids, and some would wait outside the Barclay Hotel, where Bowie was staying, take photographs as he left, then hurriedly drive to the studio to intercept him on arrival.

The Sigma Kids waited patiently night after night, occasionally hearing snatches of music through open windows. On the final night Bowie brought the ten dedicated fans inside to hear what he believed was the finished album.

Bowie played the album for the ten blissed-out, formerly camped-out, devotees, who’d been ushered into the studio, finally, at 5am by Stuart George. With wine, tears and adulation flowing around and from the blessed, Bowie was an affable host as he signed more autographs, apologised for the unfinished mix of the album and agreed to play it a second time, at which point the party erupted into dance. Bowie took centre floor with a foxy stomp.
Rolling Stone, 10 October 1974

David Bowie returned to the studio in Philadelphia for five days on 20-24 November 1974, to continue work on the album, with more following in December at New York’s Record Plant. The final sessions took place in mid-January 1975 in New York, at Electric Lady Studios on 52 West 8th Street, and featured John Lennon on vocals and guitar.

Last updated: 1 June 2023
Recording: Young Americans
Travel: Philadelphia to Los Angeles
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