In the studio
David Bowie wrote much of the Young Americans album in the studio, with the session musicians providing invaluable contributions.
I shouldn’t have been quite so hard on myself, because looking back it was pretty good white, blue-eyed soul. At the time I still had an element of being the artist who just throws things out unemotionally. But it was quite definitely one of the best bands I ever had. Apart from Carlos Alomar there was David Sanborn on saxophone and Luther Vandross on backing vocals. It was a powerhouse of a band.
And I was like most English who come over to America for the first time, totally blown away by the fact that the blacks in America had their own culture, and it was positive and they were proud of it. And it didn’t seem like black culture in Britain at that time. And to be right there in the middle of it was just intoxicating, to go into the same studios as all these great artists, Sigma Sound. Good period – as a musician it was a fun period.
Q magazine, April 1990
Bowie always worked quickly, but even by his standards the Young Americans sessions were hugely productive. His work rate was fuelled by a rapidly escalating cocaine habit, and he worked long days and nights.
In just twelve days – from 11-22 August – at least ten songs were recorded, although not all were complete, and some were later reworked or re-recorded.
‘Right’ was one of the songs recorded in August 1974, under its original title ‘Never No Turnin’ Back’. The other songs were, in their original titles: ‘The Young American’; ‘Shilling The Rubes’; ‘Lazer’, a reworking of ‘I Am A Laser’; ‘After Today’; ‘I’m Only Dancing’, later retitled ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’; ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’; ‘Who Can I Be Now?’; ‘Come Back My Baby’, eventually released as ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’; and ‘Can You Hear Me’, sometimes known as ‘Take It In, Right’.
The album was mixed at Visconti’s home studio, Good Earth, with reference to an 18-page telex from Bowie containing detailed instructions for how the songs should be treated.
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.
Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) book
At this stage The Gouster had seven songs: ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’, ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’, ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’, ‘Who Can I Be Now?’, ‘Can You Hear Me’, ‘Young Americans’, and ‘Right’. For mixing the latter song, Bowie gave Visconti the following instructions:
Go back to 1969 for this (Man Who Sold…) the works!!
On midd. section get Carlos’ guitar riff very prominent.
I would like Mutron Bass on this song for sure!!
Low fade out starts after Luther and co sing – never-never-never-never
It was also the b-side of the ‘Fame’ single, released in 1975 in the UK, USA, Australia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, France, Greece, Japan, Mexico, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, and Venezuela.
Young Americans was remastered and reissued by Rykodisc/EMI in 1991. That edition featured alternative mixes of ‘Win’, ‘Fascination’, and a slightly slower mix of ‘Right’, although subsequent editions of the album reverted to the original mixes.
The alternate mix was also released on the 2015 ‘Fame’ single, adjusted to the correct speed.
An early version of ‘Right’ from the Sigma Sound Studios was released on The Gouster, included in the 2016 box set Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976).