Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: September 1978, March 1979
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti
Released: 25 May 1979
Carlos Alomar, Adrian Belew: guitar
Tony Visconti: guitar, vocals
George Murray: bass guitar
Sean Mayes: piano
Dennis Davis: percussion
‘Move On’ is the third song on David Bowie’s Lodger album. It is based on his 1972 song ‘All The Young Dudes’.
This, of course, is blatantly romantic. The interesting thing about this one is in the middle section: I was playing through some old tapes of mine on a Revox and I accidentally played one backwards and thought it was beautiful. Without listening to what it was originally, we recorded the whole thing note for note backwards, and then I added vocal harmonies with Tony Visconti. If you play it backwards you’ll find that it’s ‘All The Young Dudes’. I did this in New York, which is a very enjoyable city at the moment. It’s very exciting there and is probably having its heyday as far as the arts are concerned. The whole arts thing in New York is extraordinary, much more exciting than London, which is a bit patchy.
I’m so pleased that the conclusion of these three albums has been so up. You never know until you come out of the studio exactly what you’ve done, and I think it would have been terribly depressing if the third one had been down. At least this one has a kind of optimism.
Melody Maker, 19 May 1979
The lyrics of ‘Move On’ encapsulate Lodger’s themes of wanderlust, global exploration, and itinerant living, as well as Bowie’s restless attitude to creativity. They mention his October 1977 and February 1978 holidays in Kenya, which inspired ‘African Night Flight’, and his his Christmas 1978 trip to Kyoto, Japan. Cyprus, where his first wife Angela was born (they spent Christmas 1971 there with her parents), is also referenced, as is Russia, where Bowie had visited in 1973 and 1976.
I don’t live anywhere really. I travel 100 per cent of the time.
Northern Lights, Tyne Tees television, 16 June 1978
In May 1975 Bowie and Iggy Pop held a recording session at Oz Studio in Los Angeles. Little of use came of it, not least due to the prodigious amounts of drugs both men were consuming.
After the session ended, Bowie remained behind and improvised a song, ‘Moving On’, on an acoustic guitar. Afterwards he reportedly said: “Another song; that’s the last thing I need.” The song remains unreleased.
In 1999 Bowie said he wrote the song for Iggy Pop, and that ‘Moving On’ was a working title which he later adapted for ‘Move On’.
It has the same title [sic] as the song I wrote for Iggy. But as the one for Jim was a working title, I passed it onto the Lodger song.
In the studio
‘Move On’ came about when David Bowie accidentally put on a tape reel of songs the wrong way round, so it played in reverse. One of the recordings was ‘All The Young Dudes’.
Not really an accident but I did stumble upon it. I had put one of my reel to reel tapes on backwards by mistake and really quite liked the melody it created. So I played quite a few more in this fashion and chose five or six that were really quite compelling. ‘Dudes’ was the only one to make the album, as I didn’t want to abandon the ‘normal’ writing I was doing completely. But it was a worthwhile exercise in my mind.
The song does not feature Bowie’s or Mott The Hoople’s 1972 recordings. Instead, guitarist Carlos Alomar wrote out and reversed the chords of the song, and the band recorded the results.
They then flipped the tape of the new recording around, playing the song backwards so it sounded similar to ‘All The Young Dudes’. Wordless vocals were added by Bowie and producer Tony Visconti where the ‘Dudes’ chorus would have been. The tape was then reversed once again so that the backing track sounded normal, but the new vocals were backwards.
A snippet of the wordless vocals was released on the soundtrack of Brett Morgen’s 2022 film Moonage Daydream.
One of the best experiments had accidentally begun with David playing Mott The Hoople’s recording of ‘All The Young Dudes’ backwards at home and asking Carlos to jot down the chords in the studio. After jamming on the chords for a bit the song ‘Move On’ evolved from the results. For backing vocals we tried various ideas that were OK, like the high vocals singing under the lyrics ‘Somewhere in a place like that’. But it occurred to me that if we played ‘Move On’ backward, by flipping the multi-track tape over, we’d hear the chords of ‘All The Young Dudes’ in the correct order, but with all the instruments sounding backwards – very disarming! Listening a few times backwards we learned where to come in with the melody of ‘All The Young Dudes’.
I know, this is hard to follow, but when we flipped the tape over back to normal we heard those bizarre vocals that are now in the instrument breaks and under the lyrics, ‘Somewhere, someone’s calling me and when the chips are down…’ You’ll understand clearly if you have the means to play a music file backwards in a computer program. You’ll hear it!
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book
Listen to ‘Move On’ reversed:
‘Move On’ was released on the Lodger album on 25 May 1979.
In August 1980, Bowie’s single ‘Ashes To Ashes’ was released in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom, with ‘Move On’ on the b-side. In the USA the single had ‘It’s No Game (No. 1)’ on the flipside.