Final recording and mixing

With the Allaire Studios sessions over, work on Heathen continued in New York in the latter months of 2001 and into 2002.

Mixing and the bulk of the overdubs took place at Looking Glass Studios in Manhattan, where preliminary work for Heathen had been laid down in mid-2001. One song completed at this time was ‘Afraid’, which had been recorded for the aborted Toy album.

There were three notable guest guitarists on Heathen, all of whom had previously played with David Bowie. Carlos Alomar – a key figure in work from Young Americans to Scary Monsters – overdubbed guitar parts for ‘Everyone Says ‘Hi” in mid-October.

Bowie also recorded his vocals for the song in the same month, before the song was sent for completion by producers Gary Miller and Brian Rawling at London’s Sub Urban Studios.

Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl had played at Bowie’s 50th birthday concert in New York in 1997, and had collaborated with Bowie, Reeves Gabrels and Pixies’ Black Francis on the song ‘Jewel’, which appeared on Gabrels’ second solo album Ulysses (Della Notte).

For Heathen, Grohl contributed a guitar solo to Bowie’s version of ‘I’ve Been Waiting For You’.

He just called and asked if I’d play guitar on a song. And I said, yes sure; he sent me the copy of the songs, I played guitar and sent it back. I mean, I went and bought the album last week and it sounds pretty good.
Dave Grohl
Dotmusic, 9 October 2002

Perhaps the most celebrated guest spot, however, was taken by the Who’s Pete Townshend, who played on ‘Slow Burn’ in November 2001. Townshend had played on Scary Monsters‘Because You’re Young’, and Bowie had covered his ‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ and ‘I Can’t Explain’ on Pin Ups, and ‘Pictures Of Lily’ during the Toy sessions.

After rehearsals yesterday, which went very well, with Roger [Daltrey] falling right into form and nearly catching up with Zak, John and myself (Jon Carin is playing keyboards), I went to see David Bowie at a studio. He has asked me to work on a track of his new album. He played me a number of tracks. I can’t say too much, except it was surprising, moving, poetic (in a musical and visionary sense). I think real Bowie fans (and a few of Radiohead) will be able to walk tall soon in the knowledge that their hero can still break all the rules and remain cool…
Pete Townshend

As with Grohl, Townshend recorded his guitar part without Bowie being present. In a press statement, Bowie described the performance as “the most eccentric and aggressive guitar I’ve heard Pete play, quite unlike anything else he’s done recently.”

He came over to New York to do the Concert For New York, and I was on that too. But rehearsals kind of took everything over and we got no time to do any recording, so he had to go back to England. I sent him an MP3 of it, and then he sent his parts back on Pro-tools, so we just transferred it in the studio. So it was kind of done by mail, the entire thing.
David Bowie
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

One other guitarist who was reportedly invited to take part was Robert Fripp, who had appeared on “Heroes” and Scary Monsters. This apparently went no further than initial discussions, with Fripp’s wife Toyah Willcox writing on her blog in December 2000 that “Robert is in talks to possibly do some work with David Bowie”.

In addition to Pete Townshend’s lead guitar, ‘Slow Burn’ featured the sounds of saxophone trio the Borneo Horns. Lenny Pickett, Stan Harrison and Steve Elson had first played with Bowie on the Serious Moonlight tour, and also appeared on Tonight and Never Let Me Down.

The Borneo Horns’ overdub session for ‘Slow Burn’ took place on 29 January 2002. Steve Elson subsequently played on The Next Day, most notably on the song ‘Dirty Boys’.