young americans




On 11 August 1974 David checked into the legendary Sigma Sound recording studios in Philadelphia to record songs for a new album. The personnel for these sessions were David Bowie (vocal, guitars, piano), Carlos Alomar (guitar), Mike Garson (piano), David Sanborn (saxaphone), Willie Weeks (bass), Andy Newmark (drums), Larry Washington (conga), Pablo Rosario (percussion), Ava Cherry, Robin Clark, Diane Sumler, Luther Vandross, Antony Hinton, Warren Peace (backing vocals).





David wasn’t pleased with the recorded sound from the initial rehearsals and asked Tony Visconti to fly over from England to take control of the recording. Tony arrived 3 days into the sessions and immediately took charge. That first night the backing for "Young Americans" was completed.





The recording sessions lasted for 12 days and during this time a small army of fans – affectionately referred to as the Sigma Kids – waited patiently outside hoping to glimpse David as he came and went. On the final day at the studios (Friday 23 August 1974) David invited the Sigma Kids into the studio to listen to the completed recording.





According to Tony Zanetta, the original working title of the album was "Dancin’" although this was soon changed to "Somebody Up There Likes Me". The tracks believed to have been recorded at this time were:

·          Young Americans

·          John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)

·          Right

·          Somebody Up There Likes Me

·          Who Can I Be Now

·          It’s Gonna Be Me

·          Can You Hear Me


The track "Young Americans" was originally titled "The Young American", "Somebody Up There Likes Me" was structured upon a song originally written for Ava and the Astronettes called "I Am Divine", "Can You Hear Me" started life as a demo recorded during the Diamond Dogs sessions titled “Take It In Right” and had then been recorded by Lulu in March 1974.


Three alternate takes of songs from these sessions - "Right", "Can You Hear Me" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me" - appear on an unofficial CD titled "Absolutely Rare". A sequence of the recording of "Right" at Sigma Sound was filmed by the BBC and shown as part of the Cracked Actor documentary.


In early September 1974, David was already playing tracks from the new album to journalists. An interview given to Robert Hilburn in Los Angeles (published in Melody Maker 14 September 1974) indicates that the title for the album was now "One Damn Song". The tracks noted by the journalist was the album's opener "John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)" which was followed by "Somebody Up There Likes Me". According to the article, "Right" was the album's closing track.


David revisited Sigma Sound in November 1974 between the two shows at the Spectrum. Although the actual dates are not documented, Arthur Stoppe of Sigma Sound clearly remembers David working in one of the studios on 21 November whilst he was hosting a live radio broadcast in another. It is quite likely that, during these sessions, David recorded "Win" and "Fascination" – the latter being a reworking of the Luther Vandross song "Funky Music" which was then being performed by The Mike Garson Band to open the Philly Dogs set.


During these later sessions, a backing track for the Bruce Springsteen song "It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City" was laid down but left unfinished i.e. without vocal. On the night of the 24 November Bruce Springsteen visited the Sigma Sound studios with a local disc jockey Ed Sciaky. This meeting was reported in The Drummer 26 November 1974.





The song "After Today" – which surfaced many years later on the Ryko release Sound + Vision - also originated from the Sigma Sound sessions although it isn’t clear exactly when it was recorded. However, stories that David recorded a song entitled "You Can Have Her, I Don't Want Her, She's Far Too Fat For Me" are totally untrue - I have this on good authority from the man himself!


Disc 7 December 1974 published an interview given by Mike Garson at the time of the shows at the Philadelphia Spectrum in late November 1974. This revealed that the new album was now called "Fascination" and consisted of seven tracks:

·          John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)

·          Young Americans

·          Fascination

·          Right

·          Win

·          It’s Gonna Be Me

·          Can You Hear Me


This would concur with the theory that "Win" and "Fascination" had been recently recorded and added to the album’s line-up (replacing "Who Can I Be Now" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me").


However, New Musical Express 14 December 1974 ran a story headed "Bowie European Tour – Unique Presentation". This reported that the album was still titled "Fascination" but contained eight tracks – the seven listed above plus one other. It can probably be safely assumed that the extra track was "Somebody Up There Likes Me".


The mixing of the album commenced on 3 December 1974 (following the completion of the Philly Dogs Tour) at the Record Plant in New York and continued for about 2 weeks. Tony Visconti then took the Master Tapes for the album – now called "The Gouster" – back to London.


In early January 1975, David booked time at the Electric Ladyland studios in New York to record the Lennon/McCartney song "Across The Universe". He asked John Lennon to assist him with the recording and during their time in the studios they also recorded "Fame" – written around the riff to "Footstompin’". David then decided to use the two new tracks in place of "It’s Gonna Be Me" and "John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)" and thus the track listing for the "Young Americans" album was finalised.


The original idea for the album cover was a picture of David wearing a flying suit standing in front of the US flag. However, the final release sported the now familiar photograph taken by Eric Stephen Jacobs.






“Young Americans” was the first track to be issued as a single from the album. For most countries this was the full-length album version but the US and Japan used a 3’ 11 edited version. The follow-up single was an edited version of “Fame”.


In 1979 "John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)" was finally released officially - as a single from the planned, but shelved, RCA album of unreleased tracks.





Incidentally, the 1990 EMI/Ryko re-issue contained radically different mixes of ”Win”, “Fascination” and “Right”.








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