December 1974: Record Plant Studios
David Bowie, Tony Visconti and Harry Maslin relocated to New York at the end of 1974, for recording and mixing sessions at Record Plant Studios. They worked on the songs ‘Win’, ‘Fascination’, ‘Right’, and ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’.
When I first met David, I suppose I was a bit of an outsider. I was called in as the engineer on Young Americans, and then took over the production when David started working with John Lennon [Tony Visconti had already been released from the project]. It was rather bizarre for me, as I came into a scene I wasn’t used to and I had people like Mick Jagger hanging out in the studio, and John Lennon in the control room, looking at what I was doing. It was a little disconcerting for the first week or so.
I was at home having a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with friends, blasted out of my mind – on alcohol, nothing heavier – when I got a phone call. It was David, and he said, ‘You have to do me a favour, my booking is up at Record Plant and I need additional time to continue my work.’ I replied by assuring him that I would do my best to get the additional time. He then hit me with the zinger: ‘You have to do me another favour, you have to produce the rest of Young Americans.’ And I kind of took the phone away from my ear and thought, Oh really? A favour? I said, ‘Well, David, I think I can do you this favour.’
The original reason why the Record Plant – where I was working at the time – put me on his project was because I was kinda the R&B guy, and Young Americans was an R&B-influenced album, so we started on the new songs, and he took me into the inner circle, so to speak. He was very kind. He knew that I was still walking on eggshells a little bit, but he also trusted me and my musical intent and my engineering prowess, for lack of a better word. I remember specifically mixing ‘Fame’ and being completely paranoid after the first mix, thinking that I could do a better one than the one I turned in to RCA, but then I had people like Carlos Alomar come up to me and tell me what a wonderful job I did on the mix, and I started to calm down a little bit.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
Also working at the Record Plant was John Lennon, whom Bowie had first met at a Beverly Hills party in September. Lennon was at the tail end of his Lost Weekend, an 18-month period of drunkenness in Los Angeles and New York, and was putting the finishing touches to his Rock ‘N’ Roll album.
Bowie and Visconti visited Lennon at the former Beatle’s hotel, the Sherry Netherlands, and the two singers became firm friends. Bowie sought advice about leaving his manager Tony Defries, at a time when Lennon was litigating against his own manager Allen Klein.
After meeting in some New York club, we’d spent quite a few nights talking and getting to know each other before we’d even gotten into the studio. That period in my life is none too clear, a lot of it is really blurry, but we spent endless hours talking about fame, and what it’s like not having a life of your own any more. How much you want to be known before you are, and then when you are, how much you want the reverse: ‘I don’t want to do these interviews! I don’t want to have these photographs taken!’ We wondered how that slow change takes place, and why it isn’t everything it should have been.
Musician magazine, May 1983
As 1974 gave way to 1975, Bowie was staying with his son Zowie at New York’s Pierre Hotel, where he created a clay model of the Diamond Dogs Tour set and created some silent films. There may have been some additional overdub and mixing sessions in late December 1974 at the Record Plant, with Bowie and Maslin co-producing.