Written by: David Bowie, Carlos Alomar
Recorded: June-August 1976; March 1979
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti
Released: 25 May 1979
Carlos Alomar, Adrian Belew: guitar
George Murray: bass guitar
Dennis Davis: drums
Tony Visconti: backing vocals
Roger Powell: synthesizer
The closing track on David Bowie’s Lodger, ‘Red Money’ was based on the backing track of Iggy Pop’s ‘Sister Midnight’.
This song, I think, is about responsibility. Red boxes keep cropping up in my paintings, and they represent responsibility there.
Melody Maker, 19 May 1979
In the summer of 1976, prior to starting work on Low, David Bowie produced Pop’s album The Idiot. Both were recorded at Château d’Hérouville in France. In July 1976 Bowie brought in his rhythm section musicians, bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis, to overdub parts onto several tracks including ‘Sister Midnight’.
The song had originated during the rehearsals for the Isolar Tour in January 1976. The music was written by Bowie and guitarist Carlos Alomar, with Bowie writing lyrics for the first verse. The words were finished by Pop in the studio later that year.
In the studio
For ‘Red Money’, David Bowie added a new set of lyrics to the backing track of ‘Sister Midnight’. The only lines that were retained were in the chorus: “Can you hear me call?/Can you hear me well?/Can you hear me at all?” became “Can you hear it fall?/Can you hear it well?/Can you hear it at all?”
The overdubs on ‘Red Money’ included vocals and guitars, and were recorded in New York in early 1979.
Red Money is a blatant copy of Iggy Pop’s ‘Sister Midnight’ where we took off his vocals, added more guitars and wrote an entirely different song over it…
Roger Powell played full and punctuated synth lines throughout, especially noticeable on ‘Red Money’ and other songs when you think you’re hearing guitar but it is really a bendy, growly synth.
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book
In 1999, during an interview with Uncut, Bowie was asked if the “Project cancelled” refrain in ‘Red Money’ referred to the end of the so-called Berlin trilogy. “Not at all,” he replied. “Mere whimsy.”
‘Red Money’ was the final song on Lodger, which was released on 25 May 1979.
In July 1979 ‘Yassassin’ was released as a single in Turkey and the Netherlands. In Turkey it was issued as RCA 79 014, with ‘Red Money’ on the b-side.
David Bowie performed ‘Sister Midnight’ on tour with Iggy Pop in 1977, and on The Dinah Shore Show on CBS on 13 April.
During the Sound + Vision Tour in 1990 he occasionally sang parts of ‘Sister Midnight’ during ‘Young Americans’. The full song was performed during A Reality Tour in 2003/4, with a version appearing on the album and DVD of the same name.
Bowie never sang ‘Red Money’ in concert.
Or you can believe, as I do, that Lodger is the most theatrical album of Bowie’s since Ziggy. The Thin White Duke leaves Berlin for North Africa, to get further away from the Nazis he has served. He lives out his days as a jaded D.J., until he dies of Assassin Bullet. The crime scene is both the front and back covers of the album, and “Red Money” is sung in the perspective of the Assassin (as was “Yssassin’), and in it the Great White Duke died. Now that I understand the theatrical nature of Lodger, I’d like to see it adapted to stage or screen. With a different understanding; listen from start to finish. Bowie’s brilliance continues to reveal even after his death.