Side Trips: David Bowie - "BOWIEAMERICANYEAR" V2 (1974 reconfiguration)

This is a fake 2-LP Bowie album from 1974, made up almost entirely of officially released songs. It is intended to be the soul-funk-disco Bowie edifice that the year’s albums implied but never quite pulled off, IMO. 

Soul-funk-disco Bowie got put in a lot of different places: “Young Americans," “The Gouster,” “David Live,” to a limited extent “Diamond Dogs," and the more recent "Cracked Actor," a live show from late in the 1974 tour. Beyond those sources, I've pulled in an old Rykodisc bonus track (from a better source), and an astounding alternate mix of "Across the Universe" (from a bootleg). 

I would argue that the year’s output was great, but that it was not a trail-blazing moment for Bowie. Instead, it was mostly a shaggy homage to varied Black American music, some of it old, some of it contemporary. He was definitely intuitive about where popular music was going in the mid-to-late 1970s, but he didn’t make it thoroughly his own the way he did glam beforehand and Krautrock/”new wave” afterwards. 

So, I don’t think you get to the strongest case for 1974 soul-funk-disco Bowie by trying to find the 10 best songs; you aim to cover as many angles as possible, with as many songs as possible. I got to 20.

This particular Bowie pose feels natural and complete to me, blown out into a double-LP. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as it arguably is with many of the Seventies’ double albums. Quantity, variety, and pacing make it seem like a bigger deal. 

Maybe that’s why Bowie and Visconti struggled with the track list for a single LP that year – first proposing the 7-song “The Gouster” configuration, then releasing the 8-song “Young Americans,” each including tracks the other doesn’t. Neither strikes me as a balanced album; you need all of the combined tracks, plus some more.

Most of those additional, necessary tracks come from “David Live,” which documented a blurry transitional tour, in which Bowie began to sort out his soul-funk-disco moves, ahead of “The Gouster”/”Young Americans” sessions. It’s a good album – a good band and tour – but it delivered a mix of songs played straight (rock and roll) and songs played through the 1974, “American year” aesthetic. I pulled those latter tracks into this mix. 

Between Ziggy and The Thin White Duke, there was this guy.

Sources:

  • Young Americans
  • The Gouster
  • David Live
  • Cracked Actor
  • Diamond Dogs
  • Bootleg


Side one: 
Somebody Up There Likes Me (TG) 
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (DL) 
Right (YA) 
Aladdin Sane (DL)
All the Young Dudes (DL)  

Side two: 
After Today (bootleg) 
Fascination (YA) 
Can You Hear Me (YA) 
Young Americans (TG) 
Watch That Man (DL)  

Side three: 
The Jean Genie (DL) 
It's Gonna Be Me (CA) 
John, I'm Only Dancing (Again) (TG) 
Fame (YA)  

Side four: 
1984 (DD) 
Across the Universe (alt mix) (bootleg)
Sweet Thing (DL) 
Knock on Wood (DL) 
Win (YA) 
Who Can I Be Now (TG)

17 responses
Interesting concept, well executed, and an entertaining listen. Thank you.
Paul, thank you for the feedback.
Great Comp! Can you list the song titles? Thanks
Brad - spoilers! spoilers! But, okay. Side one: Somebody Up There Likes Me (TG) Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (DL) Right (YA) Aladdin Sane (DL) All the Young Dudes (DL) Side two: After Today (S&V) Fascination (YA) Can You Hear Me (YA) Young Americans (TG) Watch That Man (DL) Side three: The Jean Genie (DL) It's Gonna Be Me (TG) John, I'm Only Dancing (Again) (TG) Fame (YA) Side four: 1984 (DD) Sweet Thing (DL) Knock on Wood (DL) Win (YA) Who Can I Be Now (TG)
I would very much like to assemble this as a track by track album versus your [intriguing nonetheless] vinyl side construction...
Fredrick, yes. I did that because it is 100% commercially available music, and I felt awkward "giving it away."
Oh, I wasn't asking you to do it, I'm just trying to track down The Gouster, as it actually doesn't exist except as part of the Who Can I Be Now? box set and also trying to find the Sound + Vision set for that one song...I have an old friend who lived for him, and I wanted to be able to present her with the album for her opinion on it as a Bowiephile, and though I have no problem with the vinyl structure as I'm likely to be listening to it as (enjoyable) background music, she would probably prefer it as digestible tracks LOL
Frederick, have you already started re-making this yourself?
I am consolidating the parts necessary, again for nothing more than personal interest...I haven't actually got to this in my listening rotation yet, so my assumption is it plays like intended, as vinyl 'sides', where if you want to go to a certain track, you have to 'drag' the 'needle' across and drop it where the 'track' is LOL, but as I would like my Bowiephile friend's take, she would prefer it in track by track form imho...unless you did further production work to create the sides, my guesstimate is I can simply compile the tracks as [leaked LOL] above and Bob's your uncle? :)
Fredrick, I've reposted the music as separate tracks, and updated the mix itself to make a few improvements. Happy to save you the trouble, as I'd wanted to make these improvements for a while, and was being lazy.
Thank you, sir LOL
Good day, sir... A friend of mine has gone through the effort of removing a majority of the crowd noise from the David Live cuts and faded them in and out so the flow of the album is better, on an aesthetic level. I was planning to swap out the original tracks for these edited versions and recompiling it in iTunes as V2.5, and I was wondering if you may be interested in the edits for your own gratification, or do you prefer it in the newly remade version you posted?
Fredrick, that sounds like a great project, and thanks for the offer! I'll gladly take a new version of this mix with even less crowd noise.
By the way, it is mindblowing that I had never heard that cover of Across The Universe before now, it, to me, reminds me of the first time I heard his produced 'demo' of ATYD as a bonus track of one of the old Rykodisc releases, which I erroneously believed was a cover and it was then I found out he wrote it *for* MTH, in that he makes it his as only Bowie could, in sort of the way Hendrix made Watchtower his, even Dylan admitted it LOL...my only 'problem' with the crowd noise was that because we would at times go from a studio cut to a live one, and it can detract from the flow to some...if you want to credit the edits, they were done by Peter Jolly of Albums I Wish Existed [http://albumsiwishexisted.blogspot.com/]
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