September 2011

In the summer of 2011, David Bowie visited Gerry Leonard at the guitarist’s home in Woodstock, New York.

They recorded demos together, and wrote new songs, including ‘Boss Of Me’ and ‘I’ll Take You There’. These were Bowie’s only co-credits on the album, apart from ‘How Does The Grass Grow?’, the chorus of which contained elements of The Shadows’ 1960 hit ‘Apache’, and was co-credited to Jerry Lordan.

That summer [2011], he came up to visit me in Woodstock. He asked me if I had a drum machine. He said, “Okay, I’ll come over for coffee and maybe we’ll do a little more writing.” I didn’t actually have a drum machine, so I ran over to my friend’s house. He has a nice old Roland TR-808. I said, “Ed, I’m borrowing your drum machine. I can’t tell you what for, but I need to take it right now.” David came over and we wrote a couple of songs together. Then we went back into the studio and did two of those songs. It was such an honor. This session was over two weeks in September of 2011.

I heard they were doing vocals and a little bit of strings or saxophone or piano. He would disappear for a few months and then call up Tony Visconti to book another couple of weeks. I went back in March of 2012 for a couple of days to do more guitar over drums.

Gerry Leonard
Rolling Stone, 20 February 2013

Recording sessions resumed at the Magic Shop in September 2011 with Leonard, Zachary Alford on drums, and Heathen alumnus Tony Levin on bass guitar.

Backing tracks for at least eight songs were recorded in this period. ‘I’ll Take You There’ and ‘God Bless The Girl’ were laid down on 12 September, with ‘Love Is Lost’ and ‘Where Are We Now?’ recorded the following day.

‘The Informer’ and ‘Boss Of Me’ were recorded on 14 September, followed by ‘I’d Rather Be High’ on 15 September, and ‘Dirty Boys’ on 17 September.

Vocals and overdubs

Most of the lead and backing vocals, and additional overdubs, were recorded at Human World Wide, the New York studio owned by Tony Visconti’s son Morgan.

The overdub sessions were sporadic, and lasted from September 2011 through to the new year. Bowie recorded lead vocals for ‘The Informer’ on 21 September 2011, followed by ‘Where Are We Now?’ on 22 October and ‘The Stars (Are Out Tonight)’ on 26 October.

Vocals for ‘God Bless The Girl’ were added on 2 November, followed by ‘Heat’ on 5 November, ‘Love Is Lost’ on 19 November, and ‘Boss Of Me’ on 26 November.

Bowie then took a break in recording, resuming on 16 January 2012 to record his lead vocals for ‘How Does The Grass Grow?’. The instrumental ‘Plan’ was recorded on 19 and 20 January, with Bowie handling all the instruments apart from drums, which were played by Zachary Alford.

Other overdubs recorded during this period include performances by saxophonist Steve Elson, whose baritone sax on ‘Dirty Boys’ was a particular standout, and pianist Henry Hey.

The piano overdubs took place at the Magic Shop and Human, on songs including ‘Where Are We Now?’, ‘You Feel So Lonely You Could Die’, ‘The Informer’, and ‘God Bless The Girl’. Bowie was impressed enough by Hey’s work to invite him to become the musical director of the Lazarus musical.

David was always interested to hear what a particular musician might do on a song before he gave any guidance. It’s a great way to work as it allows people to put forth their most prominent instinct on a passage. After that, he might mention parts of what you played that he liked, or in some cases maybe something that he’d rather that you avoid – yet he was always such a gentleman about it.
Henry Hey
The Complete David Bowie, Nicholas Pegg

Gerry Leonard was brought back to the Magic Shop in March 2012 for more guitar overdubs.

He would disappear for a few months and then call up Tony Visconti to book another couple of weeks. I went back in March of 2012 for a couple of days to do more guitar over drums…

When I went back in 2012 they played me some partially mixed stuff. I’m always the one who fears the worst, but at that point I realized it was actually going to happen. Before that I was thinking, ‘Maybe he’s going to scrap it, or maybe he’s going down to Zimbabwe and make a record with people down there.’

Gerry Leonard
Rolling Stone, 20 February 2013

That month also saw Bowie record lead vocals for a number of songs. On 2 March he added vocals to ‘You Feel So Lonely You Could Die’, ‘Like A Rocket Man’, and part of ‘I’ll Take You There’. The latter song had additional vocals recorded on 5 and 14 March.

Bowie also laid down vocals for ‘The Next Day’ on 16 March, ‘If You Can See Me’ on 4 April, ‘Dirty Boys’ on 8 May, and ‘I’d Rather Be High’ on 9 May.

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