Lodger

  1. Fantastic Voyage [2.55]

  2. African Night Flight [2.54]

  3. Move On [3.16]

  4. Yassassin [4.10]

  5. Red Sails [3.43]

  6. DJ [3.59]

  7. Look Back In Anger [3.08]

  8. Boys Keep Swinging [3.17]

  9. Repetition [2.59]

  10. Red Money [4.17]

Bonus tracks on 1991 reissue:

  • I Pray, Olé  [3.59]

  • LookBack In Anger  [6.59]

Lodger

Released:

  • RCA BOW LP 1 - May 1979

  • RCA International NL 84234 - March 1984

  • EMI EMD 1026 - August 1991

  • EMI 7243 5219090 - September 1999

Personnel:

  • David Bowie: Vocals, Keyboards, Piano, Synthesizer, Chamberlain, Guitars

  • Carlos Alomar: Guitar, Drums

  • Dennis Davis: Percussion

  • George Murray: Bass

  • Sean Mayes: Piano

  • Adrian Belew: Mandolin, Guitar

  • Simon House: Mandolin, Violin

  • Tony Visconti: Mandolin, Backing Vocals, Guitar

  • Brian Eno: Ambient Drone, Prepared Piano and Cricket Menace, Synthesizers and Guitar Treatments, Horse Trumpets, Eroica Horn, Piano

  • Stan: Saxophone

  • Roger Powell: Synthesizer

Recorded:

  • Mountain Studios, Montreux/Record Plant Studios, New York

Producers:

  • David Bowie, Tony Visconti

In September 1978, midway through the four-month break in the Stage tour, Bowie took his band to Montreux to begin work on a studio album with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti. Although Lodger is now widely referred to as the third album in Bowie's "Berlin trilogy", it was in fact recorded in Switzerland and New York, which had become Bowie's twin homes by the time it was released.

 

Working titles for the album included Despite Straight Lines and Planned Accidents, both clues to Bowie's latest methodology. He would later remark that a mistake repeated three times becomes an arrangement, and for Lodger he went out of his way to create conditions under which such mistakes might bear fruit. With basic tracks already laid down by the rhythm section, the remaining members of the tour band were shipped in. "When I arrived," Adrian Belew recalled, "they had about twenty tracks already done: bass, drums, rhythm guitar, but no vocals. They said, 'Adrian, we're not going to let you hear these songs. We want you to go into the studio and play accidentally - whatever occurs to you'...I would just suddenly hear 'One, two, three, four' in the headphones and a track would start...I didn't even know what keys the songs were in or anything. The one particular song where I remember I lucked out on was "Red Sails", 'cos I started the guitar feeding back and it was right in key. Anyway, they would let me do this maybe two or three times and by then I might know something about the song, so it was over."

 

Some tracks were spliced into loops and re-used as backing information. "Often when [David] chose a section for looping," wrote Sean Mayes, "He would pick the part with the most mistakes, which when repeated became an integral part of the song." Famously, Bowie instructed the band to swap instruments for "Boys Keep Swinging". "David was very keen on spontaneity," explained Mayes. "He liked everything to be recorded in one or two takes, mistakes and all." Several tracks, notably "African Night Flight", "Yassassin" and "Red Sails", were constructed around a melodic clash of disparate cultures. Nobody spoke of "world music" at the time, but Lodger's intercontinental eclecticism steals the march on the 1980s work of Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. David described the album as a "sketchpad" of his experiences among other cultures.

 

Tony Visconti recalls that Brian Eno was given far more leeway during the Lodger sessions than previously: "The first two, Low and "Heroes", were a delicate balance, but on this one, Brian was very much in control." The recording session for "Look Back In Anger" (another working title for the album) was a case in point. According to Visconti, Brian Eno "made a chart of his eight favourite chords and stuck them on the studio wall and he had a teacher's pointer and he pointed. He told the band, 'Just get into a funky groove, boys.' He was telling these three black guys who came from the roughest part of New York, 'Just play something funky.'" Sean Mayes later confirmed that "There was some grumbling about this 'back to school' session!", and Carlos Alomar tells David Buckley that he considered the experiment "bullshit...I totally, totally resisted it. David and Brian were two intellectual guys and they had a very different camaraderie, a heavier conversation, a 'Europeanness'. It was too heavy for me." Bowie later admitted that "Brian and I did play a number of 'art pranks' on the band. They really didn't go down too well though. Especially with Carlos who tends to be quite 'grand'."

 

All the same, Eno's presence is less keenly felt on Lodger than on the previous two albums, and indeed he neither co-wrote nor played on four of the ten tracks. Adrian Belew believes that Bowie's working relationship with Eno was "winding down" by the time of the Lodger sessions, and similar reservations are shared by Tony Visconti, who has always regarded "Heroes" as the peak of the period. "I don't think [David's] heart was in Lodger," he once remarked, adding on another occasion that "We had fun, but nevertheless an ominous feeling pervaded the album for me."

 

Despite the experimental spirit of the sessions, Bowie's songwriting was, in fact, becoming more conventional. Gone were the sprawling instrumental tracks and half-finished vignettes; according to Visconti, "We dropped the ambient-side-two concept and just recorded songs!" In an interesting development, most of the lyrics remained unwritten at the time of the three-week Montreux sessions. Sean Mayes recalls that David was already singing snatches of "Yassassin" and "Red Sails", but other songs merely had working titles. Tony Visconti's early track-listing certainly makes for unfamiliar reading: "Working Party", "Emphasis On Repetition", "Portrait Of An Artist", "I Bit You Back", "The Tangled Web We Weave", "Pope Brian", "Eno's Jungle Box", "Red Sails", "Fury", "Burning Eyes" and "Aztec". Among these can be found likely ancestors of titles like "Repetition" and "African Night Flight", but with the obvious exception of "Red Sails" the question of which working title evolved into which Lodger track remains a matter of conjecture.

 

Rather than improvise on the mike as he had for the previous two albums, Bowie elected to write the lyrics later, and Lodger remained unfinished until March 1979, when the vocal tracks, instrumental overdubs and mixing were completed at New York's Record Plant in the space of a week. Adrian Belew returned to provide some further guitar parts, and Tony Visconti played a replacement bassline for "Boys Keep Swinging" when it was decided that Dennis Davis's original attempt was unsatisfactory.

 

Alongside Lodger's cultural diversity is evidence that Bowie's lyrics are becoming politicised on individual issues: "Fantastic Voyage" tackles the nuclear arms race and "Repetition" addresses domestic violence. For Brian Eno such linear concepts represented a step in the wrong direction; he was less than happy with the sessions and has often denigrated Lodger in subsequent interviews. "It started off extremely promising and quite revolutionary and it didn't seem to quite end that way," he once said, admitting that he and Bowie "argued quite a lot about what was going to happen" on individual tracks.

 

"I never took what would be called world beat to its fruition," said Bowie. "Brian Eno did. I think some of what we wrote together, like "African Night Flight", probably gave him the impetus to get on with things like My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts, which followed on from Lodger. He found the idea of combining different ethnic music against a Westernised beat fairly stimulating."

 

Despite the apparent tensions, Lodger boasts what Bowie called "a kind of optimism". Promoting the album in May 1979, he said, "I think it would have been terribly depressing if this one had been down. I'm so pleased it has been so up. You never know until you come out of the studio exactly what you've done." RCA's rather crass internal publicity quoted executive Mel Ilberman as saying, "It would be fair to call it Bowie's Sergeant Pepper, a concept album that portrays the Lodger as a homeless wanderer, shunned and victimised by life's pressures and technology."

 

By contrast with the almost universal praise for "Heroes", reviews were mixed. The New York Times considered it David's "most eloquent" record in years, but Rolling Stone dismissed it as "just another LP, and one of his weakest at that: scattered, a footnote to "Heroes", an act of marking time." Billboard was non-committal, noting merely that "the tone of the album is less foreboding than his more recent musical excursions". Melody Maker's Jon Savage dismissed it as "a nice enough pop record, beautifully played, produced and crafted, and slightly faceless", and wondering in conclusion, "will the eighties really be this boring?" Savage also found time to discuss Lodger's unusual gatefold sleeve design, a wrap-around photograph by Brian Duffy showing Bowie spreadeagled in a contorted, Egon Schiele-like pose, inside a tiled bathroom (or is it a mortuary?) with what looks like a comb (or is it a cut-throat razor?) clutched in his bandaged right hand, his nose and mouth squashed up against an imagined window or mirror. The lettering, scrawled on a postcard marked with the album's title in four languages, sets the travelogue motif and suggests stitched-up lacerations: "a part of that child-like autistic edge of unease that Bowie likes to keep", noted Savage, adding that the cover pose was reflected in the sleeve's inner photographs, omitted from subsequent reissues: "a carefully kept baby, a mortuary corpse, a shrouded Christ, a carefully killed Che Guevara."

 

Notwithstanding Eno's reservations, Lodger is far from being a conventional rock album. On the contrary, its daring collision of musical influences and downright strange noises is if anything even less compromising than either Low or "Heroes". It lacks their icy clarity and has been accused of being over-cluttered and over-produced, while the oddly obscure and muffled mix contributes to the initial inaccessibility. "My only regret is that we went to New York to finish this album," said Visconti later, "and it suffered at the mixing stage because New York studios simply were not as versatile or well-equipped as their European counterparts in those days." Bowie concurs: "I think Tony and I would both agree that we didn't take enough care mixing," he mused many years later. "This had a lot to do with my being distracted by personal events in my life, and I think Tony lost heart a little because it never came together as easily as both Low and "Heroes" had."

 

But Lodger repays close attention. The opening side's insistent quest theme ("Move On", "African Night Flight", "Red Sails", "Fantastic Voyage") revives a perennial motif retreating through Bowie's Berlin albums ("I've lived all over the world, I've left every place") and his Los Angeles exile ("got to keep searching and searching"), right back to his very earliest compositions ("I've gotta pack my bags, leave this home, start walking"). The journey is metaphorical as well as geographical: the frenzied chant of "we're going to sail to the hinterland!" at the climax of "Red Sails" is a bold announcement of Bowie's studious avoidance of the creative mainstream. On its second side Lodger moves from philosophical travelogue to a skewed critique of Western society, setting the totems of the American dream ("you can buy a home of your own, learn to drive and everything") against capitalism's oppressive underbelly in the claustrophobic nightmares of "DJ" and "Repetition".

 

Lodger is also a challenging step forward from an artist who could so easily have settled for a second helping of "Heroes". Unlike Eno, Bowie was a face as well as a sound, and he had already sensed the need to discard his airbrushed, bomber-jacketed, back-lit "Heroes" persona. He was right. In the very week that "Boys Keep Swinging" peaked at number 7 in June 1979, Tubeway Army's brilliant but hugely derivative "Are Friends Electric?" entered the chart, heralding an avalanche of ersatz Berlin-Bowie androids posing behind their synthesizers in eyeliner and Blake's 7 jumpsuits. By the time it happened, David had already moved on. The drainpipe schoolboy suit he sported for the Lodger sleeve and the "Boys Keep Swinging" video suggested that he was now aligning himself with new wave acts like Elvis Costello, The Jam and Blondie (whose male members had sported the same uniform on the sleeve of the band's 1978 classic Parallel Lines). But above and beyond the trappings, Bowie had now colonised a different musical landscape entirely. Like all his best moves, Lodger kept him one step ahead of the pack: undervalued and obscure practically from the moment of its release, its critical re-evaluation is long overdue.