Written by: David Bowie
Recorded: 13 August 1974
Producer: Tony Visconti
David Bowie: vocals
Carlos Alomar: guitar
Mike Garson: piano
Willie Weeks: bass guitar
Andy Newmark: drums
‘Shilling The Rubes’ is a song recorded by David Bowie during the Young Americans sessions.
It was laid down early in the sessions at Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia, but remains unreleased.
Shilling The Rubes was one of several working titles for the album. The phrase is an Americanism meaning ‘conning the suckers’.
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.
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In 2009 a reel of 2″ multitrack tape was found on sale in a Philadelphia street market. Dated 13 August 1974, it contained four Young Americans outtakes, named as ‘Young American’ (takes 1, 2, and 3); ‘Lazer’ (take 1); ‘After Today’ (take 1); and ‘Shilling The Rubes’ (take 1).
The tape’s emergence was the first indication that ‘Shilling The Rubes’ was anything other than a working title for Young Americans; previously it was unknown as a song title.
I think it’s a rough mix tape on quarter inch (just stereo), a work in progress. It’s rare to have four masters on a two inch reel. But then again it could be a back up tape. But it’s a great find for Shilling The Rubes alone. I don’t even remember how that goes!
The tape reel was posted on eBay for $15,000, but was removed from sale shortly afterwards. However, the listing included one-minute audio snippets of ‘Young American’ (take 3) and the other three songs, which became widely bootlegged. Some fan edits contain repeated sections to lengthen the recording, but the full version remains unreleased.