David Bowie - Lodger

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David Bowie - Lodger
Bowie-lodger.jpg
Studio album by
 David Bowie
Released 18 May 1979
Recorded September 1978, March 1979
Studio
  • Mountain Studios
  • (Montreux, Switzerland)
  • Record Plant Studios
  • (New York City, New York)
Genre
  • Art rock
  • experimental rock
  • avant-pop
  • world
Length 34:38
Label RCA
Producer
  • David Bowie
  • Tony Visconti
David Bowie chronology
Stage
(1978)
Lodger
(1979)
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
(1980)
 
Singles from Lodger
  1. "Boys Keep Swinging" b/w "Fantastic Voyage"
    Released: 27 April 1979
  2. "DJ" b/w "Repetition"
    Released: 29 June 1979
  3. "Yassassin" b/w "Repetition"
    Released: July 1979
  4. "Look Back in Anger" b/w "Repetition"
    Released: 20 August 1979

 

  "Lodger" is the 13th studio album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie. It was originally released in May 1979 by RCA Records. The third and final release of the Berlin Trilogy, following "Low" and "Heroes" (both 1977), it was recorded in Switzerland and New York City with collaborator Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti. Unlike Bowie's previous two albums, "Lodger" contained no instrumentals and a somewhat more pop-oriented style while experimenting with elements of world music and recording techniques inspired by Eno's Oblique Strategies cards.

The album was not, by Bowie's standards, a major commercial success. Indifferently received by critics on its initial release, it is now widely considered to be among Bowie's most underrated albums. It was accompanied by several singles, including the UK Top 10 hit "Boys Keep Swinging".

It is one of Bowie's most influential works, particularly to the 1990s Britpop movement, with two major Britpop bands, Oasis, who named their 1996 number-one hit "Don't Look Back in Anger" after Lodger's "Look Back in Anger" and Blur, who used the same chord sequence as "Fantastic Voyage" and "Boys Keep Swinging" in their 1997 hit single "M.O.R.".

 

Recording and production

Originally to be titled either Planned Accidents or Despite Straight Lines, Lodger was largely recorded between legs of David Bowie's Isolar II Tour and featured the same musicians, along with Brian Eno. The recording sessions saw Bowie and Eno utilize techniques from Eno's Oblique Strategies cards. Experiments on the album included using old tunes played backwards, employing identical chord sequences for different songs and having the musicians play unfamiliar instruments (as on "Boys Keep Swinging"). Lead guitar was played not by Robert Fripp, as on "Heroes", but by Fripp's future King Crimson band member, Adrian Belew, whom Bowie had "poached" while the guitarist was touring with Frank Zappa. Much of Belew's work on the album was composited from multiple takes played against backing tracks of which he had no prior knowledge, not even the key.

Eno felt that the trilogy had "petered out" by Lodger, and Belew also observed Eno's and Bowie's working relationship closing down: "They didn't quarrel or anything uncivilised like that; they just didn't seem to have the spark that I imagine they might have had during the "Heroes" album." An early plan to continue the basic pattern of the previous records with one side of songs and the other instrumentals was dropped, Bowie instead adding lyrics that foreshadowed the more worldly concerns of his next album, "Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)".

 

Style and themes

Though missing the songs/instrumentals split that characterised "Low" and "Heroes", Lodger has been interpreted as dividing roughly into two major themes, that of travel (primarily side one) and critiques of Western civilisation (primarily side two). The final track on "Heroes", "The Secret Life of Arabia", anticipated the mock-exotic feel of Lodger's travel songs. "African Night Flight" was a tribute to the music and culture of the veld, inspired by a trip to Kenya that he took with his then-small son Zowie; its musical textures have been cited as presaging the popularity of world music, Bowie considering it a forerunner of the sounds developed by Brian Eno and David Byrne for "My Life in the Bush of Ghosts" (1981). "Move On" was lyrically Bowie's ode to his own wanderlust, sonically his earlier classic "All the Young Dudes" played backwards. "Yassassin" was an unlikely reggae song with a Turkish flavour. "Red Sails" was inspired in part by the music of German band Neu!, sharing Neu!'s distinctive "motorik" drum beat; for Bowie, it combined "a German new music feel" with "a contemporary English mercenary-cum-swashbuckling Errol Flynn" to produce "a lovely cross-reference of cultures". "Red Sails" has also be compared with Harmonica's 1975 track "Monza (Rauf und Runter)".

Of the album's critiques, "Boys Keep Swinging", the first single, was seen by NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Sharr Murray partly as a witty riposte to the Village people but also, combined with its cross-dressing video clip, a comment on ideas of masculinity; musically it was notable for guitarist Carlos Alomar and drummer Dennis Davis in the unfamiliar roles of drummer and bass player, respectively. According to Tony Vosconti, the song featured the "exact same chord changes and structure, even the same key" as "Fantastic Voyage", Bowie's take on the possibility of nuclar war. The second single, "DJ", took a sardonic look at the world of the disc jockey. "Repetition", Bowie's exploration of the mind of an abusive partner, was sung in a deliberately unemotional tone that highlighted the lyric and the unnatural slur of the bass guitar. "Red Money" added new words to a Bowie/Alomar tune that had originally appeared as "Sister Midnight", with lyrics by Bowie and Iggy Pop, on the latter's album "The Idiot".

 

Packaging

Bowie collaborated with English pop artist Derek Boshier on the cover design. The original gatefold album sleeve featured a full-length shot of Bowie by photographer Brian Duffy as an accident victim, heavily made up with an apparently broken nose. For effect, the image was deliberately of low resolution, taken with a Polaroid SX90 type camera. The inside of the gatefold included pictures of Che Guevara's corpse, Andrea Mantegna's Lamentation of Christ and Bowie being readied for the cover photo.

 

Release and critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars
Blender 4/5 stars
Chicago Tribune 2.5/4 stars
Encyclodedia of Popular Music 2/5 stars
Entertainment Weekly B+
Pitchfork 8.5/10
Q 4/5 stars
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars
Spin 4/5 stars
The Village Voice A−

"Lodger" received relatively poor reviews on its original release, Rolling Stone calling it "one of his weakest ... scattered, a footnote to "Heroes", an act of marking time", and Melody Maker finding it "slightly faceless". In Smash Hits the album was described as sounding like "a ragbag of rejects from previous styles" with "only occasional flashes of genius". It was also criticised for having a thinner, muddier mix than Bowie's previous albums. Robert Christgau wrote favourably of the album in The Village Voice. Although he said the songs may seem impassive and not designful, Christgau believed those qualities were "part of their charm—the way they confound categories of sensibility and sophistication is so frustrating it's satisfying". Lodger peaked at No. 4 in the UK charts and No. 20 in the US at a time when the artist was being "out-Bowied" commercially by his new wave "children" such as Gary Numan.

Soon after its release, Roy Carr and Charles Sharr Murray predicted that Lodger would "have to 'grow in potency' over a few years, but eventually it will be accepted as one of Bowie's most complex and rewarding projects". While biographer Christopher Sandford calls it a "slick, calculatedly disposable record", author David Buckley contends that "its stature grows with each passing year", and Nicloas Pegg sums up, "undervalued and obscure practically from the moment of its release, its critical re-evaluation is long overdue". Electronica/techno artist Moby would later state that the only reason he got his first job (as a golf caddy) was so that he could afford to buy Lodger, which had just come out. Built to Spill would reference the album in their song "Distopian Dream Girl" taken from their 1994 album "There's Nothing Wrong With Love". Shearwater covered the album in its entirety at live shows and on The A.V. Club following Bowie's death.

 

Track listing

All songs written by David Bowie and Brian Eno, except where noted

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Fantastic Voyage"   2:55
2. "African Night Flight"   2:54
3. "Move On" Bowie 3:16
4. "Yassassin" (Turkish: Yaşasın, lit. 'Long Live') Bowie 4:10
5. "Red Sails"   3:43
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "DJ" Bowie, Eno, Carlos Alomar 3:59
2. "Look Back in Anger"   3:08
3. "Boys Keep Swinging"   3:17
4. "Repetition" Bowie 2:59
5. "Red Money"   4:17
Total length: 34:38

 

 
     
     
     

 

Personnel

Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes. The track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.

  • David Bowie – lead and background vocals; synthesizer (4); piano (1, 6); Chamberlin (6); guitar (8, 10)
  • Brian Eno – ambient drone (1); prepaired piano and cricket menace (2); guitar treatments (5); synthesizers (5, 7); horse trumpet and eroica horn (7); piano (8); backing vocals (4)
  • Tony Visconti – mandolin (1); guitar (3–4); bass guitar (8); backing vocals (1, 3–4, 7–8, 10)
  • Adrian Belew – mandolin (1); guitar (3, 5–6, 8–10)
  • Carlos Alomar – guitar (2–7, 9–10); drums (8); backing vocals (4)
  • Dennis Davis – drums (1, 4–6, 9–10); percussion (2–3, 7); bass guitar (8); backing vocals (4)
  • George Murray – bass guitar (all but track 8); backing vocals (4)
  • Sean Mayes – piano (1–3, 5, 7)
  • Simon House – mandolin (1); violin (4–5, 8–9); backing vocals (4)
  • Roger Powell – synthesizers (9–10)
  • Stan Harrison – saxophone (5)
Production team
  • David Bowie – producer
  • Tony Visconti – producer; engineer; mixing
  • David Richards – engineer
  • Eugene Powell – assistant engineer
  • Rod O'Brien – mixing engineer
  • Greg Calbi – mastering engineer

 

Chart performance

Chart (1979) Position
Australian Albums Chart 67
Canadian Albums Chart 72
Dutch Albums Chart 55
French Albums Chart 58

 

Certifications

 

 

 

David Bowie - Lodger

UK RCA Victor BOW LP1 (PL 13254 stereo) 1979 1st UK press.

The vinyl record has remained in excellent condition.

Audio quality is very clear and strong throughout.

Both record labels are clean, unmarked, and free from tears, stains or stickers.

The albums original hinged, laminated cover is in excellent condition, displaying only minor signs of wear.

The album cover has a strong, undamaged hinge and spine, displaying clear, printed script.

The original black and white printed paper/lyric insert is excellently presented.

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