Sunday, March 15, 2015

young americans

David Bowie found fame and fascination with the discophonic plastic soul of this slinky poster love.  After recording his Orwellian concept album 'Diamond Dogs', Bowie relocated to the United States, where he began an elaborate tour that was documented in the film 'Cracked Actor'.  It was during this tour that he began working on 'Young Americans' at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  The sessions were produced by Tony Visconti, Harry Maslin, and  David Bowie and featured   David Bowie on vocals, guitar, and piano;  Carlos Alomar on guitar;  Mike Garson on piano;  David Sanborn on saxophone;  Willie Weeks on bass guitar; and Andy Newmark on drums;   with Larry Washington on conga;  and Ava Cherry, Robin Clark, and Luther Vandross on backing vocals.   
Visconti remembers:  "The session guys were great to record with. My fears were quickly dispelled. To contrast the "slickness" of Newmark, Weeks and Sanborn, David was trying out a gang of NYC kids from the Bronx, whose manager had sent in a demo tape weeks earlier. They were Carlos Alomar on guitar, his wife Robin Clark on vocals and their vocalist friend Luther Vandross! What a lineup! Mike Garson on piano was the only link left over from the Spiders From Mars days.  It was agreed we had to record live, no overdubs! But David also wanted to record his vocals live in the same room! This presented a big problem because the instruments were much louder than his voice, so I had to rig up a special microphone technique which canceled the band but recorded his voice...It saved the day, and what you hear on the recordings is about 85% "live" David Bowie.  The sessions went swift as a breeze, and we often worked until after sunrise the next morning (which sometimes hurt). A small group of fans stood vigil outside the studio listening as hard as they could. On the last day David took pity on them and invited them in for an hour of listening."

 After most of the album was finished, Bowie got together with John Lennon and recorded two new tracks ( "Across the Universe" and "Fame") in January of 1975 at Electric Lady Studios in New York without Visconti.  That session added John Lennon on vocals, guitar, backing vocals; Earl Slick on guitar;  Emir Ksasan on bass guitar;  Dennis Davis on drums;  Ralph MacDonald and Pablo Rosario on percussion; and Jean Fineberg and Jean Millington on backing vocals.  

Bowie would later reveal:   "I've learned to flow with myself. I honestly don't know where the real David Jones is. It's like playing the shell game. Except I've got so many shells I've forgotten what the pea looks like. I wouldn't know it if I found it. Being famous helps put off the problems of discovering myself. I mean that. That's the main reason I've always been so keen on being accepted, why I've striven so hard to put my brain to artistic use. I want to make a mark. In my early stuff, I made it through on sheer pretension. I consider myself responsible for a whole new school of pretensions--they know who they are. Don't you, Elton? Just kidding. No, I'm not. See what I mean? That was a thoroughly pretentious statement. True or not, I bet you'll print that. Show someone something where intellectual analysis or analytical thought has been applied and people will yawn. But something that's pretentious--that keeps you riveted. It's also the only thing that shocks anymore. It shocks as much as the Dylan thing did 14 years ago. As much as sex shocked many years ago...The unfortunate thing is that I've always wanted to be a film director. And the two media got unconsciously amalgamated, so I was doing films on record. That creates your basic concept album, which becomes a bit of a slow pack horse in the end. Now I know that if I'm going to make albums, I've got to make albums that I enjoy musically, or else just make the fucking film. A lot of my concept albums, like Aladdin Sane, Ziggy and Diamond Dogs, were only 50 percent there. They should have been visual as well. I think that some of the most talented actors around are in rock. I think a whole renaissance in film making is gonna come from rock. Not because of it, though, despite it...[Rock] is depressing and sterile and, yes, ultimately evil. Anything that contributes to stagnation is evil. When it has familiarity, it's no longer rock 'n' roll. It's white noise. Dirge. Just look at disco music--the endless numb beat. It's really dangerous...So I've moved on. I've established the fact that I am an entertainer, David Bowie, not just another boring rock singer. I've got a film out, Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth. And I'll be doing a lot more, taking a lot of chances. The minute you know you're on safe ground, you're dead. You're finished. It's over. The last thing I want is to be established. I want to go to bed every night saying, 'If I never wake again, I certainly will have lived while I was alive.' ... I love disco. It's a lovely escapist's way out. I quite like it, as long as it's not on the radio night and day--which it is so much these days. Fame was an incredible bluff that worked. Very flattering. I'll do anything until I fail. And when I succeed, I quit, too. I'm really knocked out that people actually dance to my records, though. But let's be honest; my rhythm and blues are thoroughly plastic. Young Americans, the album Fame is from, is, I would say, the definitive plastic soul record. It's the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey. If you had played Young Americans to me five years ago and said, 'This is an R album,' I would have laughed. Hysterically...Rock 'n' roll is acting. All my albums are just me acting out certain poses and characters. That's why I'm not entirely proud of a lot of my records--the visual side is sorely missed. My finally being on film simply makes it official. I'm sure I'll take my following with me. They're very faithful."

'Young Americans' went to number twenty-four in the Netherlands, thirteen in Norway, nine in Australia and the US, three in New Zealand, and number two in the UK.

"Young Americans" hustled its way to number twenty-eight in the US, eighteen in the UK, and thirteen in Ireland.

medley with Cher

They pulled in just behind the bridge
He lays her down, he frowns
"Gee my life's a funny thing, am I still too young?"
He kissed her then and there
She took his ring, took his babies
It took him minutes, took her nowhere
Heaven knows, she'd have taken anything, but

All night
She wants the young American
Young American, young American, she wants the young American
All right
She wants the young American

Scanning life through the picture window
She finds the slinky vagabond
He coughs as he passes her Ford Mustang, but
Heaven forbid, she'll take anything
But the freak, and his type, all for nothing
Misses a step and cuts his hand, but
Showing nothing, he swoops like a song
She cries "Where have all Papa's heroes gone?"

All night
She wants a young American
Young American, young American, she wants the young American
All right
She wants the young American

All the way from Washington
Her bread-winner begs off the bathroom floor
"We live for just these twenty years
Do we have to die for the fifty more?"

All night
He wants the young American
Young American, young American, he wants the young American
All right
He wants the young American

Do you remember, your President Nixon?
Do you remember, the bills you have to pay
For even yesterday?

Have you have been an un-American?
Just you and your idol singing falsetto 'bout
Leather, leather everywhere, and
Not a myth left from the ghetto
Well, well, well, would you carry a razor
In case, just in case of depression?
Sit on your hands on a bus of survivors
Blushing at all the afro-Sheilas
Ain't that close to love?
Well, ain't that poster love?
Well, it ain't that Barbie doll
Her heart's been broken just like you have

All night
All night was a young American
Young American, young American, you want the young American
All right
All right you want the young American

You ain't a pimp and you ain't a hustler
A pimp's got a Cadi and a lady got a Chrysler
Black's got respect, and white's got his Soul Train
Mama's got cramps, and look at your hands ache
(I heard the news today, oh boy)
I got a suite and you got defeat
Ain't there a man you can say no more? 
And, ain't there a woman I can sock on the jaw?
And, ain't there a child I can hold without judging?
Ain't there a pen that will write before they die?
Ain't you proud that you've still got faces?
Ain't there one damn song that can make me
Break down and cry?

All night
I want the young American
Young American, young American, I want the young American
All right
I want the young American, young American whoa whoa

Young American, young American
I want what you want
I want what you want
You want more
I want you
You want I 
I want you
I want what you want
But you want what you want
You want I 
I want you
And all I want is a young American
Young American

"Fame" hit number seventeen in the UK, nine in Norway, four in the Netherlands, and became his first number one single in the US.  Bowie would reveal how he wrote the song with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar:   "After meeting in some New York club, we'd spent quite a few nights talking and getting to know each other before we'd even gotten into the studio. That period in my life is none too clear, a lot of it is really blurry, but we spent endless hours talking about fame, and what it's like not having a life of your own any more. How much you want to be known before you are, and then when you are, how much you want the reverse: 'I don't want to do these interviews! I don't want to have these photographs taken!' We wondered how that slow change takes place, and why it isn't everything it should have been.   I guess it was inevitable that the subject matter of the song would be about the subject matter of those conversations. God, that session was fast. That was an evening's work! While John and Carlos Alomar were sketching out the guitar stuff in the studio, I was starting to work out the lyric in the control room. I was so excited about John, and he loved working with my band because they were playing old soul tracks and Stax things. John was so up, had so much energy; it must have been so exciting to always be around him."

Fame makes a man take things over.
Fame lets him loose, hard to swallow.
Fame puts you there where things are hollow. Fame.
Fame, it's not your brain, it's just the flame
That burns your change to keep you insane. Fame.

Fame, what you like is in the limo.
Fame, what you get is no tomorrow.
Fame, what you need you have to borrow. Fame.
Fame, it's mine, it's mine, it's just his line
To bind your time, it drives you to crime. Fame.

Is it any wonder I reject you first?
Fame, fame, fame, fame.
Is it any wonder you are too cool to fool? Fame.
Fame, bully for you, chilly for me,
Got to get a rain check on pain. Fame.

Fame, fame,
Fame, fame,
Fame, fame, fame,
Fame, fame, fame, fame,
Fame, fame, fame, fame,
Fame, fame, fame,
Fame, what's your name?

'Young Americans' 
full album:

All songs written by David Bowie except where noted.

Side one
"Young Americans" – 5:10
"Win" – 4:44
"Fascination" (Bowie, Luther Vandross) – 5:43
"Right" – 4:13
Side two
"Somebody Up There Likes Me" – 6:30
"Across the Universe" (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) – 4:30
"Can You Hear Me?" – 5:04
"Fame" (Bowie, Carlos Alomar, Lennon) – 4:12

bonus tracks
"Who Can I Be Now?" – 4:35
"It's Gonna Be Me" – 6:29
"John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" – 6:58
"After Today" - 3:50

"It's Hard to be a Saint in the City" (Bruce Springsteen) - 3:50

'Cracked Actor'

The Dick Cavett Show

full show

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