David Bowie performs as Lou Reed, Springsteen, and Neil Young in unreleased recording
Back in 1985, David Bowie was recording the theme song to Absolute Beginners at Westside Studios in London. Burned out, he decided to take a break and goof off, singing the song as Bruce Springsteen. Clearly enjoying it, he kept going, impersonating Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Neil Young, and Tom Waits.
It’s a weird recording. Bowie’s impressions walk that perfect line of tribute and parody. They show a true admiration for the artists (unlike, for example, his bored indifference to Coldplay). The assistant engineer at the time, producer Mark Saunders, managed to record a tape of the sessions. “I realized that these might get erased at some point, so I quickly put a cassette in and hit ‘record,'” he wrote. “I wish we could hear the other side of the dialogue between Bowie and Clive and Alan, but unfortunately that wasn’t being recorded.”
Saunders held on to a tape for years. He’d sometimes play them for friends, one of whom was the father of So So Glos drummer Zach Staggers. He convinced Saunders to upload the clip to YouTube, and here it is, publicly released for the first time.
The full post from Staggers includes a long anecdote about the recording session that is a must-read. It includes a bit about Mick Jagger passing through and recording “Dancing In The Street” with Bowie in a few hours:
I don’t know if he’s always like this in the studio, but Mick gave a performance on the mic like he was performing to a packed Madison Square Garden. Maybe it was because of the extra people in the control room, I don’t know, but for me, who was sitting at the mixing board directly in front of Jagger — which is only about ten feet away with just a big plate glass window between us — this was an incredible “can you fucking believe this” moment! This was one year and one day after I started working in a recording studio, for God’s sake!
It’s another example, like his guest performance on Extras, that perhaps gives us a good sense of one of the major reasons why Bowie is so revered — he casually wielded immense creative genius, with a wry sense of humor.
[h/t The Talkhouse]