Young Americans album coverWritten by: David Bowie, Luther Vandross
Recorded: December 1974
Producers: Tony Visconti, Harry Maslin

Released: 17 February 1975

Available on:
Young Americans


David Bowie: vocals
Carlos Alomar: electric guitar
Mike Garson: piano, organ, clavinet
David Sanborn: alto saxophone
Emir Ksasan: bass guitar
Andy Newmark/Dennis Davis: drums
Pablo Rosario: percussion
Luther Vandross, Ava Cherry, Robin Clark, Anthony Hinton, Diane Sumler: vocals

Co-written with Luther Vandross, ‘Fascination’ was recorded by David Bowie for his 1975 album Young Americans.

On the second day of recording the album, in November 1974, guitarist Carlos Alomar brought two people to the studio: his wife Robin, and his former schoolfriend Luther Vandross.

Vandross had sung an opening set with the Garson Band during the Soul Tour. One of his songs, titled ‘Funky Music (Is A Part Of Me)’, was reworked by Bowie with new lyrics, and was retitled ‘Fascination’. It was Vandross’s first songwriting credit.

I started making little vocal arrangements and showing them to Robin. I didn’t know that Bowie had overheard all this. He was sitting right behind me at the board, and he said, ‘That’s a great idea. Put that down.’ So I put it down and next thing you know one thing led to another, and I was doing the vocal arrangements for the whole album. I wrote one of the songs on the album. Bowie overheard it and said, ‘I want to record that. Do you mind?’ When I did it, it was called ‘Funky Music’. Bowie changed it to ‘Fascination’. He said he didn’t want to be so presumptuous as to say ‘funky music’, since he was a rock artist. He said, ‘Do you mind?’ And I said, ‘You’re David Bowie, I live at home with my mother, you can do what you like.’
Luther Vandross
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

Vandross later released ‘Funky Music (Is A Part Of Me)’ as a single, and it was the lead track on his 1976 debut album Luther.

Carlos and Luther came to David’s attention from Luther’s manager. He sent a song, ‘Funky Music’, written by Luther for David’s consideration. David responded saying he really liked the song and the guitarist and female singer too. Luther’s song became ‘Fascination’ with a lyric rewrite by David.
Tony Visconti, May 2015
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) book

Bowie’s handwritten lyrics for the song show some discarded phrases, including “drive a man”, “be the fever”, “be the candy”, and “gotta get my fill, gotta hunt you down”.

David Bowie’s handwritten lyrics for Fascination

Various working titles were considered for the album, including The Young American, Shilling The Rubes, Dancin’, Somebody Up There Likes Me, One Damn Song, The Gouster, and Fascination.

Bowie never performed ‘Fascination’ live. It was rehearsed ahead of his Live Aid appearance in 1985, but was dropped in favour of the more recent hit ‘Modern Love’.

In the studio

‘Fascination’ was recorded during the third of four separate sets of recording sessions for Young Americans. It was laid down at New York’s Record Plant in December 1974, along with ‘Win’, and overdubs for ‘Right’ and ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’.

Tony Visconti produced the sessions, with Harry Maslin engineering.

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.
Harry Maslin
David Bowie: A Life, Dylan Jones

Strings, arranged by Visconti, were later added to ‘Fascination’ at an overdub session.

I mixed The Gouster in London with instructions delivered from New York by David in the form of long telegrams, over twenty pages long. ‘Listen to the snare drum on this record… listen to the bass on that record… put a slap back on the congas on the ‘Young Americans’ breakdown…’ Using DHL, I sent the mixes back to New York where David listened and felt the album was not yet finished. Some songs could use real strings, including the two songs we recorded later in New York with Harry Maslin, ‘Fascination’ and ‘Win’. To me that also meant those songs might be contenders for The Gouster so some others would have to go.
Tony Visconti, May 2015
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) book

The release

‘Fascination’ was the third song on Young Americans, which was released on 17 February 1975.

An alternative mix of ‘Fascination’ was included on the 1989 box set Sound + Vision, along with an outtake from the album sessions, ‘After Today’. The original mix was used for the 2003 reissue of the box set.

Young Americans was remastered and reissued by Rykodisc/EMI in 1991. That edition featured the Sound + Vision mix of ‘Fascination’, as well as alternate mixes of ‘Win’ and ‘Right’. Later editions of the album contained the original mixes.

When you have musicians who can give you what you want, your mind goes crazy. David had ideas that he might have had but not been able to use, but now he had the people who could help him do that. Luther took care of all the background arrangements.
Carlos Alomar
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)
Previous song: ‘Win’
Next song: ‘Right’
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