Young Americans album coverWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: 11-18 August 1974
Producer: Tony Visconti

Released: 14 May 1991

Available on:
Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74)
I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74)
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976)

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals
Carlos Alomar: electric guitar
Mike Garson: piano
David Sanborn: alto saxophone
Willie Weeks: bass guitar
Andy Newmark: drums
Luther Vandross, Ava Cherry, Robin Clark: vocals
Unknown musicians: strings

‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ was one of three songs, recorded during the Young Americans sessions in 1974, which were dropped to make way for David Bowie’s collaborations with John Lennon.

Taped under the working title ‘Come Back My Baby’, it remains a hidden gem in Bowie’s back catalogue: a piano-led sparse soul epic with Bowie on top vocal form, perfectly complemented by backing vocalists Luther Vandross, Ava Cherry, and Robin Clark. Whereas some of the Young Americans tracks suffer from overproduction, ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ is perhaps the sessions’ most pared-down moment, languidly-paced in 6/8 time, with each musician given space to breathe and flourish.

Live performances

Bowie performed ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ throughout the second and third legs of the Diamond Dogs Tour, as it became the Soul Tour.

A recording from 5 September 1974 was released in April 2017 on Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74).

Another, from Detroit’s Michigan Palace on 20 October 1974, was released in August 2020 on I’m Only Dancing (The Soul Tour 74).

In the studio

‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ was recorded during the first phase of Young Americans sessions, at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in August 1974.

The songs recorded that month were, in their original titles: ‘The Young American’; ‘Shilling The Rubes’; ‘Lazer’ (‘I Am A Laser’); ‘After Today’; ‘I’m Only Dancing’ (‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’); ‘Never No Turnin’ Back’ (‘Right’); ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me‘; ‘Who Can I Be Now?’; ‘Come Back My Baby’ (‘It’s Gonna Be Me’); and ‘Can You Hear Me’, sometimes known as ‘Take It In, Right’.

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

The original title for the Young Americans album at one point was Shilling The Rubes, which is circus slang for taking money off people. I was advised that my stunning wit would not go down well.
David Bowie, 8 January 1997
50th birthday live chat, AOL

The alternative title which was still in use at the end of 1975 was The Gouster. It contained three songs – ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’, ‘Who Can I Be Now’, and ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ – which were dropped to make way for two songs recorded with John Lennon in January 1975.

The finished Gouster didn’t have ‘Across The Universe’ and ‘Fame’. It was all finished. It’s more about what isn’t on there than what is. I was OK with losing ‘Who Can I Be Now’, but I was sad about ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ – that they weren’t going to be heard.
Tony Visconti
David Bowie: Ultimate Record Collection (Uncut)

Towards the end of 1975, Bowie sent producer Tony Visconti detailed notes on how he wanted the album to sound. His comments on ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ were as follows:

I suggest very limited use of ac: guitar as it tends to rush the beat

Kill echo a little on words…

“Maybe looking for me”

bringing it back in for “strong, again & again”

David Bowie's mixing notes for Young Americans

The release

‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ was first issued on the Rykodisc reissue of Young Americans in 1991. It was the first of three extra tracks, the others being ‘Who Can I Be Now?’ and ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’.

The Gouster – Bowie’s original vision for the 1975 recordings – was released in 2016 in the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) box set, with the three tracks restored to their correct place in the running order.

The Gouster, I think, was near perfection. ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’, with or without the strings, is as classic as a classic soul song can get, but it was dropped from the newer version of The Gouster, the version we know as Young Americans. David’s vocal performance was a once in a lifetime event. I don’t think he ever sang it live.
Tony Visconti, May 2015
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) book

Visconti scored ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ for strings, which were overdubbed during a January 1975 session at AIR Studios in London.

The master mix was lost and unavailable for the Rykodisc reissues, but Visconti restored the parts when remixing the song in 2005 in stereo and 5.1 surround sound for the 2007 reissue of Young Americans.