Released: 18 May 1979
David Bowie: vocals, guitar, piano, synthesizer, Chamberlin keyboard
Carlos Alomar: guitar, drums
George Murray: bass guitar
Sean Mayes: piano
Dennis Davis: drums, percussion, bass guitar
Simon House: violin, mandolin
Adrian Belew: guitar, mandolin
Tony Visconti: backing vocals, guitar, bass guitar, mandolin
Brian Eno: synthesizer, ambient drone, prepared piano, cricket menace, guitar treatments, horse trumpets, eroica horn, piano, backing vocals
Roger Powell: synthesizer
Stan Harrison: saxophone
- ‘Fantastic Voyage’
- ‘African Night Flight’
- ‘Move On’
- ‘Red Sails’
- ‘Look Back In Anger’
- ‘Boys Keep Swinging’
- ‘Red Money’
David Bowie’s 13th studio album, Lodger was the final part of the so-called ‘Berlin trilogy’ of collaborations with Brian Eno. The album was recorded in Switzerland and New York City.
Of the ‘trilogy’ this is probably my favourite. I think the songs are amazing. They sound like Bowie classics and completely hide the fact that we were still experimenting. All we had learned from the first two ‘trilogy’ albums are lovingly summed up in Lodger. The two studios we used let us down and as a result Lodger wasn’t presented to the world as it was meant to be.
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Work on Lodger began shortly after the end of the European leg of Bowie’s Isolar II 1978 World Tour, which concluded on 1 July 1978 at Earls Court in London. In September, midway through a four-month break, members of Bowie’s touring band convened at Mountain Studios in Montreux, Switzerland.
The studio was situated on the shore of Lake Geneva, and the band stayed at the nearby Hotel Excelsior. Bowie lived in the nearby town Vevey.
Bowie retained the rhythm section from Low and “Heroes” – guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davies – and brought in keyboard players Sean Mayes and Roger Powell, violinist Simon House, and Frank Zappa’s former guitarist Adrian Belew.
Bowie’s previous album, “Heroes”, had been openly influenced by his time in Germany and Japan. Lodger took this a step further, going beyond the borders of its Swiss and American creation and establishing a rootless, cosmopolitan theme. The thread of displacement was present in the album’s title, and in the names of several songs: ‘Fantastic Voyage’, ‘African Night Flight’, ‘Move On’, ‘Yassassin’, ‘Red Sails’, ‘Move On’.
A year after its release, Bowie spoke to the New Musical Express about his tendency to appropriate ideas from other cultures.
NME: Obviously music continues to interest you, but you skim quite a bit across its surface – an African influence here, a Japanese influence there. Do you ever feel you’re in danger of misrepresenting some of the cultures you’re very fond of?
Bowie: I don’t think that by taking a Japanese or an African emblem or motif I try to represent them at all. I would have thought it was pretty transparent that it was me trying to relate to that particular culture; not in my wildest dreams would I think I was trying to represent them.
NME: But relating to what end? To your own satisfaction?
Bowie: Because I’ve been there. Because it was there, rather. It is no more than… it does get back onto the sketchpad basis for songs for me. Often. And I guess that Lodger was the sketchpad of all of them.
NME, 13 September 1980
In Switzerland Bowie experimented with new forms of songwriting, an extension of his ‘cut-up’ method of writing lyrics deployed to great extent on his earlier albums.
The songs ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ and ‘Fantastic Voyage’ were written in the same key with the same chords and structure, though with different tempos and instruments – with Bowie laying different melodies over the top. The musicians recorded a third song in this vein but it remained incomplete, and even considered recording the entire album based on those same chords.
‘Move On’ was inspired by playing the recording of ‘All The Young Dudes’ backwards and then everyone learning to play it that way. David and I flipped the new version’s tape over and played it backwards, and sang the melody of ‘All The Young Dudes’ forwards – I know I’ve lost most of you – and that became ‘Move On’.
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The album’s closing song, ‘Red Money’, was the only backing track not recorded in Switzerland. It was based on the backing track for Iggy Pop’s ‘Sister Midnight’, recorded in France in 1976. The track was slowed down with some instruments removed and others added. Another song, ‘African Night Flight’, emerged from the musicians jamming Dale Hawkins’ 1957 rockabilly hit ‘Susie Q’.
We decided to fuse Turkish music and reggae together, but as the rhythm section was American they were none too familiar with reggae. David and I coached Dennis in the art of putting the kick drum on the back beat, where the snare usually goes, and I played a Jamaican ‘up-chop’ rhythm guitar live with the band to keep the feel going. Simon House overdubbed a fantastic Arabic violin part and there we had it – ‘Yasassin’.
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