David Bowie: “Lodger” (1979)
“Lodger”, the last of Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, was actually recorded in Switzerland and NYC. I read an article that claims Bowie himself coined the “Berlin Trilogy” moniker to tie these three albums together, possibly to insure that this incredibly experimental album was given its due.
And by experimental, this is meant literally. This is the first of the three albums with Eno where he and Bowie worked together on all of the compositions, often using Eno’s various “oblique strategies” to arrive at happy accidents. “Move On” was created by playing Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes” backwards and then following along. “Fantastic Voyage” and “Boys Keep Swinging” are the same chord progression. And, as he would later do with U2, on one number Eno told the band to “play something funky” and then, like a college instructor, would point to chord changes written on a blackboard when he wanted the band to switch.
Adrian Belew also makes his debut with Bowie on this album. Eno would often have him record without any prior knowledge of the song, and then splice and edit his parts, sometimes using parts recorded for one song on another. (Regardless, Belew is fucking on fire on this album. The sounds he gets out of his Roland JC-120 are totally nuts.)
The end result is interesting, but an album I’m only about 50% satisfied with. The first four songs feel very scattered to me; it’s not until “Red Sails” that a) I start to get into it and b) I realize that Belew is on this album. From that point on until “Red Sails”, I think we’re absolutely in Bowie-is-a-genius territory, but then we get to the closer, “Red Money”, and I lose interest again.
I’ve seen a few articles that claim that “Lodger” is an unfairly dismissed album, and that subsequent listenings — and a few decades of perspective — have shown that it’s some of Bowie most interesting and challenging work. I can sympathize with this, as it improves with each listening. Still, it’s a bit of a slog to get to the real meat of the album — “D.J.”, “Look Bak In Anger”, and “Boys Keep Swinging” — and then things sort of peter out from there. Still, it’s really good while it lasts.
Also, I found this interesting anecdote that reveals how fucking homophobic the US can be:
“Bowie’s deep voice satirised machismo, while the lyrics juxtaposed depictions of male privilege and homoeroticism (“When you’re a boy, other boys check you out”). When this was combined with David Mallet’s video, which featured a suited Bowie backed by three “female” vocalists who were revealed to be the singer in drag, RCA decided against releasing the single in the US, choosing “Look Back in Anger” instead. Bowie performed the track with a puppet body special effect on Saturday Night Live on 15 December 1979, joined by Klaus Nomi as backing singer. During the broadcast NBC censors muted the “other boys check you out” line, but failed to notice the puppet’s bouncing phallus at the close of the song.”
BONUS! Bowie and Belew in ’78 on German TV. Seriously, fucking watch this shit.