Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: 15 November 1971; July, October 2000
Producers: Ken Scott; David Bowie, Mark Plati
Released: 3 June 2002
David Bowie: vocals, 12-string guitar
Mick Ronson: guitar, piano
Trevor Bolder: bass guitar
Mick ‘Woody’ Woodmansey: drums
David Bowie: vocals
Gerry Leonard: guitar
Mike Garson: piano
Gail Ann Dorsey: bass guitar
Lisa Germano: violin
Cuong Vu: trumpet
David Bowie recorded ‘Shadow Man’ in 1971 during the early Ziggy Stardust sessions, and again in 2000 for the abandoned Toy album.
The studio version, although widely bootlegged, has never been officially released. In 1990 a tape reel was auctioned at Sotheby’s containing three rough mixes of the song.
Bowie revived ‘Shadow Man’ in 2000 for the Toy project. The backing track was recorded in July 2000, with further overdubs following in October, including a string arrangement by Tony Visconti.
A news item posted on BowieNet on 1 January 2001 mentioned the songs ‘Untitled’ and “Gail’s favourite ‘Secret 1’”. The latter is assumed to be ‘Shadow Man’, although it may have been another unknown recording from the sessions.
An alternative mix was posted on MySpace by Mike Garson in 2006, and another leaked online with the rest of Toy in 2011.
‘Shadow Man’ was one of the Toy tracks included on the 2014 compilation Nothing Has Changed. The full Toy album was officially released in November 2021.
‘Shadow Man’ started off as something of a typical piano and vocal piece, though when you’ve got Garson and Bowie executing it ‘typical’ can only be applied in a very narrow sense. True to form, Mike chose his moments to add selective left turns and small forays into dissonance: David for his part simply rammed through Mike’s musical misbehavior like a freight train, providing possibly the best vocal performance on the album. Both piano and vocal were done live together on the first run, with no fixes or overdubs. We decided to forego drums and percussion as it could lead a song of this nature to feel overblown, bombastic, or just normal. Gail added a simple bass line for support, acoustic guitars were placed in spots as punctuation, a synth pad was sprinkled here and there for a little color, and lastly some pizzicato string samples provided a subtle bit of rhythm.
And so it was going to stay until an afternoon at the Looking Glass when I was working in Studio A and Pete Keppler was working in Studio B. He was working on a project with Gerry Leonard, a guitarist I knew through our mutual work with Duncan Sheik. At some point when we crossed paths at the coffee machine there was a brainstorm – Gerry could add his particular brand of mad-scientist guitar looping and effects magic to ‘Shadow Man’ to lend it something of a different backdrop. I gave Gerry the tracks and off he went on his own to do it. He soon came back to me with around eight tracks of textures, assorted noises, doodling, loops, and melodies dripping with reverb and the like… we ended up using all of them. It steered the song down a different path, to the point of foregoing the previously up-front presentation of piano and voice and pursuing a more widescreen, otherworldly landscape. Further down the line, Lisa Germano and Cuong Vu (violin and trumpet) each contributed freewheeling runs bathed in echo and distortion. I then did my ver Eno best to make an ambient stew out of the lot, making sure to ride up the appropriate harmonic bits at the right moments.
Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001) book
In April 2022 the Toy EP (You’ve Got It Made With All The Toys) was released on CD and 10″ vinyl for the annual Record Store Day. One of the six songs was ‘Shadow Man’ (Vocal And Piano Mix), which featured just Bowie and Garson.