Released: 17 February 1975
Carlos Alomar: electric guitar
Mike Garson: piano
David Sanborn: alto saxophone
Willie Weeks: bass guitar
Andy Newmark: drums
Larry Washington: congas
Luther Vandross, Ava Cherry, Robin Clark: vocals
Unknown musicians: strings
David Bowie produced an early version of ‘Can You Hear Me’ with Scottish singer Lulu in March 1974, before re-recording it later that year for Young Americans.
‘Can You Hear Me’ was written for somebody but I’m not telling you who it is. That is a real love song. I kid you not.
New Musical Express, August 1975
The song began life under the working title ‘Take It In Right’. Bowie recorded a demo version at London’s Olympic Studios on 1 January 1974 during the sessions for Diamond Dogs.
‘Take It In Right’ did not easily fit the theme or mood of Diamond Dogs, so Bowie earmarked it for an album he intended to produce for Lulu. Her version was taped at Olympic on 25 March 1974, with Bowie producing and playing guitar, and Tony Newman on drums. Mick Ronson later added a string arrangement, which was recorded during an overdub session at RCA Studios in New York on 17 April.
The Herald, April 2015
The New York session was perhaps most notable for being Bowie’s first encounter with session guitarist Carlos Alomar, who subsequently became one of his key collaborators throughout the rest of the decade and beyond.
Lulu’s got this terrific voice, and it’s been misdirected all this time, all these years. People laugh now, but they won’t in two years time, you see! I produced a single with her — ‘Can You Hear Me’ — and that’s more the way she’s going. She’s got a real soul voice, she can get the feel of Aretha, but it’s been so misdirected.
English singers do all this ‘Oh yeah’, ‘Alright now’ on soul songs, and it’s wrong, but when she doesn’t do that she just has the feel naturally.
Sounds, 4 May 1974
Despite the considerable attention it was given at the time, Lulu’s version of ‘Can You Hear Me’ was shelved and remains unreleased, and the mooted album never materialised.
He was having terrible problems with his record company at the time, and the record stayed unreleased. It’s probably in a vault somewhere.
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones
‘Can You Hear Me’ was the b-side of the ‘Golden Years’ single in the UK, USA, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, and Spain.
The final stage of the Diamond Dogs Tour was known as the Soul Tour, and took place in America from 5 October to 1 December 1974. New songs were added to the setlist, including ‘Can You Hear Me’, to reflect Bowie’s new direction.
On 2 November Bowie and his band appeared on the Dick Cavett Show, where they performed ‘1984’, ‘Young Americans’, and a medley of ‘Foot Stompin’’/‘I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate’. Some accounts claim that he also performed ‘Can You Hear Me’, although it was not broadcast.
A live recording, from Detroit’s Michigan Palace on 20 October 1974, can be heard on the 2020 album I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74).
On 23 November 1975 Bowie and Cher duetted on ‘Can You Hear Me’ for an edition of CBS’s The Cher Show.