A previously unreleased David Bowie album is set to be released. The Gouster, recorded in 1974, was Bowie’s experiment in soul and funk, which later morphed into Young Americans, released in 1975. It will appear later this year in a box set, Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976).
The release was announced via Bowie’s official Facebook page, which also printed an excerpt from the sleeve notes, written by Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti.
Gouster was a word unfamiliar to me but David knew it as a type of dress code worn by African American teens in the 60s, in Chicago. But in the context of the album its meaning was attitude, an attitude of pride and hipness. Of all the songs we cut, we were enamoured of the ones we chose for the album that portrayed this attitude.
David had a long infatuation with soul, as did I. We were fans of the TV show Soul Train. We weren’t ‘young, gifted and black’ but we sure as hell wanted to make a killer soul album, which was quite insane, but pioneers like the Righteous Brothers were there before us.
So The Gouster began with the outrageous, brand new, funkified version of David’s classic John, I’m Only Dancing, a single he wrote and recorded in 1972, only this time our version sounded like it was played live in a loft party in Harlem and he added (Again) to the title. It wasn’t the two-and-a-half-minute length of the original either.
We maxed out at virtually seven minutes! With the time limitations of vinyl (there was a big volume drop with more than 18 minutes a side), we could only fit two other long songs on side one, Somebody Up There Likes Me and It’s Gonna Be Me, both about six and a half minute songs. We had hit the 20-minute mark. Technically that worked because It’s Gonna Be Me had lots of quiet sections where the record groove could be safely made narrower and that would preserve the apparent loudness of side one.
Side two also hit the 20-minute mark, with Can You Hear Me saving the day with its quiet passages. Forty minutes of glorious funk, that’s what it was and that’s how I thought it would be.
The Gouster was recorded in Philadelphia in August 1974, and Visconti was ready to take the tapes back to London to mix, when Bowie met John Lennon in December 1974. Back home, Visconti forged ahead with the mix until he received a phone call.
He later recalled: “A week or so later I was in London mixing the album and I got a call from David. ‘Er, Tony. I don’t know how to tell you this but John and I wrote a song together and we recorded and mixed it. It’s called Fame … David apologised for not including me. There wasn’t time left to send for me, because of the release date constraints. For me, it would’ve been the most wonderful experience of my recording career. Oh well.”
The full tracklisting for the new album is:
1. John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)
2. Somebody Up There Likes Me
3. It’s Gonna Be Me
1. Who Can I Be Now?
2. Can You Hear Me
3. Young Americans
This article was written by Guardian music, for theguardian.com on Friday 22nd July 2016 08.51 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010