Saturday 26 May 2018

A new career in a new town for Bowie

David Bowie's 1979 album 'Lodger' is about to be reissued, with Tony Visconti having added a few gems into the mix, writes Barry Egan

MEMORIES: Remember the good days with a reissue of a Bowie album
MEMORIES: Remember the good days with a reissue of a Bowie album

Tell the licence fee inspector to get stuffed. Don't put the telly on tonight. Or any other night. Open the windows and put on the last - and least acclaimed after Low and Heroes - part of David Bowie's Berlin Triptych instead: Lodger.

This is possibly an edict from beyond the grave from its creator...

"I would like to do something rivetingly new and earth shattering," Bowie said in an interview before the album's release in May, 1979. "Every Saturday I want to do that! Let's do something earth-shattering. No, let's not put the telly on."

The reviews of Bowie's latest adventure in the pop avant garde were mostly scathing. Melody Maker dubbed Lodger "faceless".

Greil Marcus in Rolling Stone appeared upset at Bowie for letting the ennui at other people - particularly critics like Marcus - stop him from re-writing The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Hunky Dory ad nauseam. 'On Lodger, save for Move On, Bowie seems less than interested, neither a serious saviour nor a serious aesthete," writes Marcus gazing directly at his navel. "It's as if the role of saviour now bores him, and thus - paradoxically, one would have thought years ago - leaves him without the energy to pursue his life as an aesthete with the intensity it demands. That's disturbing, because for David Bowie, life as an aesthete is not a role at all."

Most of us, however, would forgive David Bowie anything. (With the exception of his Tin Machine project of the late 1980s, however.)

Whether it was written in response or homage to the Village People or not, Boys Keep Swinging remains a classic. I even have a soft spot for Fantastic Voyage, African Night Flight and Don't Look Back In Anger where he sings: "The speaker was an angel/He coughed and shook his crumpled wings/Closed his eyes and moved his lips: 'It's time we should be going'."

The very good news in all this is that Bowie friend and producer Tony Visconti has remixed Lodger for 2017 as part of a forthcoming David Bowie: A New Career In A New Town (1977-1982) box-set out on September 29.

It was not an overnight process by any stretch of the imagination.

"Over the years, David and I bemoaned how we wanted to remix it," Visconti (who produced the original Lodger album in 1979 along with Brian Eno) tells Uncut magazine.

"But we never got around to doing it until there was a break in recording for Blackstar. I thought, 'If I don't do something about Lodger, it'll never get off the ground'."

With this in mind, Visconti started remixing it in his own time, and without David's knowledge. When he had five mixes done, he played it to him.

"He absolutely loved it and gave it the green light." You can see why. As Visconti reveals, "I found some little gems on the tapes. At the end of Yassassin, David does a little Arabic rap that didn't make the record. I put it on the mix this time and it sounds wonderful.

"David was proud of these re-releases, but he didn't want to get involved. There are so many capable people, including myself, who could deal with it. He'd hear the final test pressing and say 'great, it's wonderful. Release it'. But he always wanted to move on."

Be that as it may, as Bowie said himself: "There are a number of really important ideas on Lodger."

He added of Lodger, Low and Heroes: "Nothing else sounded like those albums. Nothing else came close. If I never made another album, it really wouldn't matter now. My complete being is within those three. They are my DNA."

So follow orders and keep the telly off, tell the licence fee inspector to clear off - and continue to play Lodger loud.

Sunday Independent

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