Lodger is the last and arguably the most neglected of Bowie’s ’70s records. “A certified nonclassic,” Robert Christgau once called it. Bowie and Tony Visconti both have said they regret how it was recorded and mixed, while its performers, like Carlos Alomar, have described its production as being frustrating at times, with Brian Eno’s attempts to upend the sessions more irritating than inspiring.
Lodger‘s forcible inclusion in a so-called trilogy with Low and “Heroes” hasn’t helped its reputation,* as it has little in common with those records and so winds up being the Godfather III of the lot. While its cast of characters—Visconti, Eno, Alomar & crew—is mostly the same as the other “Berlin” records, Lodger mainly was recorded in a cramped, overheated studio in Switzerland, rather than in a haunted French castle or in walking distance of the Berlin Wall. And where “Heroes” and Low had been cut fast, in under two months, Lodger was a more leisurely affair: the backing tracks were cut in September 1978, while vocals and overdubs weren’t finished until March of the following year.
However, considered on its own terms, as a transition LP overflowing with ideas, some fine, some kooky, Lodger has its rewards; the songwriting is still inspired, the playing is strong and there’s a sense of what-the-hell adventurism to it all—“African Night Flight” and “Yassassin” are some of the weirdest things Bowie had ever recorded. And beneath the official narrative of the record, of Bowie as world traveler, sampling various “ethnic” musics with little vérité (it’s the sort of album where the white musicians had to teach the black ones how to play reggae), lies a more acute one: when you become an influence, does that make you obsolete?
Lodger is Bowie, at age 32, trying to come to terms with being “David Bowie,” inspiration to a horde of new bands. There’s a line from Updike’s Rabbit, Run that applies: the kids keep coming, they keep crowding you up. Bowie, touring throughout 1978 and sampling the new scenes in London and New York, could see the kids coming, and it unnerved him as much as it flattered him. His past was being disassembled and used for parts: the Cuddly Toys took Ziggy Stardust, as did Bauhaus, who also drew from Man Who Sold the World; the soon-to-form Duran Duran would feast on Young Americans, while Gary Numan seemed to have stolen a set of “Heroes” outtakes. (Numan in particular rubbed Bowie the wrong way, with Bowie allegedly having Numan kicked off a TV show that the two were slated to appear on together).
Bowie’s reaction was inspired: if he was fated to be an influence, then he would draw upon himself as well. He would take his share of the Bowie estate and reinvest it. Jon Savage called Lodger “self-plagiarism,” but it’s more Bowie self-sampling (“I am a DJ, I am what I play“), rewriting old lines, recasting players. So Bowie reused “Sister Midnight”‘s backing track, sang over the vocal chorus of “All the Young Dudes” played backwards, made three different songs out of the same chord progression. He camped up his recent inspirations (“Red Sails” is Neu! on holiday), slipped out a latter-day glam anthem while no one was looking. He even called a song “Repetition.”
“Move On” is a travelogue whose lyric was inspired by Bowie’s recent journeys to Kenya (on vacation with his son), Japan and Australia; it’s also a record of a man fearful of being trapped in the past and, more pressingly, himself and so he pushes onward, without a plan, and with only vague fantasies to guide him. “Feeling like a shadow, drifting like a leaf,” Bowie sings as the song winds out; a new territory exacts a harsh cost.
The song, in D major, consists of a verse, two choruses and a bridge, along with a hybrid instrumental section that’s half a verse plus a full chorus (a quick A-C-G progression usually serves as the scene-changer). The 18-bar verse, which opens the song, is restrained in tone, with Bowie keeping to a three-note range at first and always closing phrases on the root note, D (on “feel,” “move,” “train”, etc.). Carlos Alomar plays a simple riff that fills each vocal pause, while Dennis Davis provides a rumbling counterpoint on toms (he keeps the pattern going throughout the track), with fills at the verse’s midpoint and close.
A working title for Lodger was Planned Accidents; “Move On” was an inspired one. Bowie had been sitting listening to some old tapes and accidentally played “All the Young Dudes” backwards. He was taken by the odd, strangled melody that resulted, and had Alomar write out the “inverted” chord changes and had the band learn to play it. Then Bowie crafted a vocal that would push against the new flow. Visconti, in his autobiography, described its recording: David and I flipped the new version’s tape over and played it backwards, and sang the melody of “All the Young Dudes” forwards—I know I’ve lost most of you—and that became “Move On.”
So Bowie’s vocal, which is caged in the verse, meanders through the choruses (which, starting with “somewhere someone’s calling me,” is the inverted chord sequence of C/F/G/A minor/D/B minor)—he sings the vocal over seven phrases, each of which differs in length and in notes. The bridge (“Africa is sleepy people”) is equally roaming and random, with a lyric lacking rhymes and which scans oddly. It suggests a song that’s gone out of phase, with bars of 2/4 time (on “matted” and “place like”) further unsettling things. George Murray’s bass, kept low in the mix, is the track’s secret melodist.
Recorded September 1978 in Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland and March 1979 at Record Plant Studios, NYC; it was the B-side of “Ashes to Ashes,” September 1980. It’s never been performed live, the same as nearly half the Lodger tracks.
* Bowie, not critics, is to blame here, as he was calling Lodger part of a “triptych” soon after it was released. Eno also referred to the records as being a trilogy around the same time.
Top: Ted Bobosh, “Market Day, Western Kenya,” 1978.
I’ve been looking forward to Lodger, as it’s my second favourite (sic – I’m Australian…) Bowie record after Diamond Dogs. Move On is a great track to start with. I’ve played this track a lot recently. I love its propulsive weirdness and for me, it contains the most melodramatic singing from Bowie ever. Well, Fantastic Voyage almost pips it I guess.
I don’t mind the slightly murky production on Lodger, although some crispness would have suited it. As an aside, my oldest friend once found a cassette copy of Lodger in the middle of an isolated forrest – almost as weird as the record itself. (Was it thrown from a plane?)
You mentioning Gary Numan reminded me of one of my favourite Bowie quotes – something like: ” I never meant cloning to be part of the eighties.”, when asked about Numan by a journalist.
Also looking forward to Lodger. I had always been told that it was a minor work of Bowie’s, so by the time I got around to hearing it, it seemed much more interesting than anyone had led me to believe.
Although I find it has much more in common with Scary Monsters than the other Berlin albums.
Didn’t the New Wavers, on the whole, idolize Bowie? I know Blondie and Talking Heads both gobbled up his influence. Listen to Station to Station and Fear of Music back to back sometime – the atmospheric paranoia and disco rhythms flow perfectly into one another.
Lodger for me has some excellent material ,displaying an artist at the top of his game , but the first album for me where the experiments hindered the end product. The flow of the album is hampered by some very awkward and frankly low quality recordings.
Move on is quite pompous vocal sounding and the lyric simplistic and a jumble of cliche , the drumming pounds it along as well as some great power chords and saves the day.
I don’t know, i’ve always dug Lodger myself. It’s worth owning for D.J., Look Back In Anger, and Boys Keep Swinging alone. The rest is just (slightly lumpy) gravy, as we Yanks say. Also the videos from this era are still among his very best IMHO. The blown kiss by the geriatric “Garbo” Bowie at the close of the Boys… video being particularly affecting. Looking forward to reading your further commentary on this LP. Great work!
I’ve always had quite an attachment to Lodger. I remember waiting for the record shop to open on the day of its release (about 5 -10 other people there in the rain). At last I can admit it’s not turned into the unheralded masterpiece I’d hoped it would.
The experiments definitely get in the way of the songs here. It very much reminds me of mid-70s Eno records; each track is interesting in its own right but there is something underwhelming about the whole.
I’m not sure I’d agree that Bowie was looking over his shoulder at the younger generation yet; I think that’s more the case on the next album. For example, in 1978 Gary Numan was still singing ‘punk’ for jeans commercials; I doubt that Lee Cooper was on his radar? What marks Lodger out for me is that Bowie has taken his first break from work and he loses his intensity and momentum; he’s starting to build a life outside being David Bowie. On that unbroken run of greatness from Hunky Dory to Heroes (Pin-ups?), it’s pretty much the same theme revisited over and over again. But on Lodger his focus shifts and he starts to consider the outside world. Lodger marks the debut of his social conscience; it’s the first time you think there may be a decent human being somewhere in there. Good for him, but not so great for his audience.
I think Lodger is a fantastic album and its lumpiness is part of its charm. It was the first Bowie album I bought as a new release,and I remember feeling terribly excited but also let down – I didn’t think it was that great at first. It doesn’t have a real Bowie showstopper – a Sweet Thing, a Station to Station or a Heroes – but now I tend to think that’s part of its charm as well. Its relentless eclecticism and naivete mixed in with irony are really Bowie to the core. It has some amazing lyrics (“he used to be my boss and now he’s a puppet dancer” – how good is that?). Possibly we start to see the beginning of the end with the reappropriation of an Iggy song, the blatant rip-off of Harmonia’s Monza (Red Sails), the songs with the same chord structures etc., except this cannibalism is done really well here and was done appallingly in the eighties.
I find ‘Move On’ quite a mysterious song, with its jarring mix of existential yearning and straight-out travelogue cliches.
I think the showstopper is boys keep swinging or fantastic voyage but I won,t comment on that yet. I bought it as new and liked it very much its let down by by the running order and one or two tracks which at the time sounded ok but I recently dug it out for the car and my kids laughed out loud at african night flight and yassasin I had to admit they suck. Red money is plain dull and repetition ordinary and uninspiring. Bowie was losing his mystique with travel stories and humdrum wife beating. I thought it was too late in his career to start with social comment.
>I thought it was too late in his career to start with social comment.
But don’t you think it was a good time in his life to start developing a social conscience?
As a teenager I held off getting a copy of ‘Lodger’ for a long time, believing it to be a non-essential Bowie album. Boy was I wrong when I finally got around to listening to it.
The “Berlin Trilogy” notion seemed to get official seal and sanction in 1982 with the release of the Low/”Heroes”/Lodger box set “Portrait Of A Star”
Wow, cool rarity. Wonder what it’s worth?
The Portrait of a Star box…. is regularly to be found on eBay for prices ranging from very reasonable to quite silly. “Heroes” (the track) is the sung-in-French version – the only time it has appeared on a 12″ album, maybe?
There is a “RCA International” release of the Heroes album that also plays the french lyric version. I stumbled upon it by happy accident. Catalog number NL83857. Easily distinguished by the label that reads: Takeoff – Heroes. Funny enough the cover states a German pressing! .
I think Lodger is (mostly) rubbish. Uninspired, sludgy and repetitive. The sound of druggies pretending to enjoy being straight(ish). In a tax-haven. And, in this case, Eno’s strategies aren’t oblique, just annoying.
This has been great…it’s interesting to see that the age of Bowie “consensus” is coming to a close. From here on out, I imagine every record will have its share of detractors and fans, with the balance shifting to the former..
btw, as we’re talking about outrageous Ebay prices. I’m appalled that this guy is asking $7,500 (!!) for a “good” quality copy of the Diamond Dogs sheet music, and has equally extortionate prices for other stuff. (http://tinyurl.com/3plop8k)
I bought most of those songbooks last year, and paid only like $40 max for ’em.
I think I paid about £2.99 for mine. Those songbooks had incredible pictures and pre-internet there wasn’t much else around, especially for those of us in the UK in the years after his departure. I wouldn’t recommend trying to learn to play the guitar from those books though!
On the point of the ‘Berlin trilogy’ – second worst Bowie expression after chameleon – I’m pretty sure – though my memory may be failing me – that he was talking about a ‘trilogy’ before Lodger was made, something along the lines of ‘artists’ worked best in trilogies. Perhaps that partly explains Lodger, they had committed to it but the chemistry just wasn’t there any more.
I was just going to say how interesting it is to see the consensus shift! Now the discussion will really take off, instead of all of us in general agreement, “Yes, this song is also his best song.”
Me, I’m in a firm Pro-Lodger stance, even going so far as to prefer “Red Money” to “Sister Midnight.” I think “Money’s” got slightly more interesting lyrics. The whole “project cancelled, tumbling central” thing is easy to read as commentary at the “triptych” going stale, but it’s a pretty mysteriously chilly lyric out of that context, too.
—Move On is probably my favorite song from this album. There’s an odd amount of semi-swagger in some of the delivery, which is fun to hear from Bowie in an era known for his robotic, sub-emotion/super-emotion deliveries.
I just finished listening to Lodger on headphones and I must say it really helps to to hear it on headphones, headphones and vinyl actually. There’s still a bit too much filler on this album but not as much I remembered.
I just reversed my mp3 version of “Move On” and it really is “All the Young Dudes”. Thanks for that bit of info, it actually helps salvage one of my least favourite songs of this album. I think the main problem is that is he’s just too literal in his words on this one, basically he’s decscribing his travels. Period.
Perhaps that’s also the annoying factor for some of the other posters before me: the fact that he’s so straightforward in his lyrics for most of Lodger, or at least he seems to be.
Yeah, vinyl brings out the best in every recording.
Really enjoying this blog – many thanks.
‘Red Sails’ isn’t so much “Neu! on holiday” though – it’s an almost note-for-note copy of ‘Monza’ by Harmonia.
Just had a listen to Monza. Wow it’s so close to Red Sails! Although it sounds like they are ripping off Neu 😉
True, but that’s pretty unavoidable seeing as though Neu! guitarist Michael Rother was also in Harmonia.
Brian Eno visited Harmonia at their hideaway in Forst in 1976, and they recorded together the tracks which were later released as the album. ‘Tracks and Traces’. If you listen to Eno’s solo work, particularly from the 1977 album ‘Before and After Science’ onwards, he seems to have taken a lot of inspiration from Harmonia’s ‘Deluxe’ album (on which the track ‘Monza’ appears). Bowie did too in the Berlin trilogy period, I reckon.
Man, what a bunch of negative-ness (mostly) launched at this masterpiece by you lot so far….in my opinion Lodger is one of his best works, and will always be so. Bowie’s “experimental” approach to this album and the two preceding it are so overflowing with ideas and new directions…for instance, Eno’s work with Talking Heads during this same period and his use of African polyrhythms are all over Lodger, not to mention the force of nature propulsive motorik Funk and Disco inversions of a majority of it’s tracks. “Look Back In Anger” alone is a tune which encapsulates the burgeoning New Romantic sound, not to mention being one of his best vocal performances ever.
“Move On” simply opens up to the new horizons and fantastically so.
Lodger for myself was the first Bowie album which was behind the times. It did contain some greayts but revealed a crack in the armour he was crap at social comment a subject far better covered in new wave and the remnants of punk who’s influence veered towarDs ray davies than bowie and his past pretensionS. It would though have made a spectacular lp had a few been replAced.
I was about to completely agree with this comment and say that Lodger was the first Bowie album that didn’t change how I thought about the world. Then I reflected on my own life and remembered that it was pretty soon after Lodger that I stopped thinking that the world revolved around pop music. Soon after Lodger was released, I did pack my bag and move on; I think I’ve been everywhere in the song but Cyprus. Maybe musically it’s not such a masterpiece, but perhaps it was more influential than I ever thought. (Posted on the train home from ‘old Kyoto’.)
Wow, this is very strange. I’ve been reading this blog for a while now, but this debate really comes as a surprise. for some reason, I always thought “lodger” was clearly part of the classic bowie canon. Sure, it’s not as good as the three that out came before it, and probably not as good as the one that came out a year later – also it is mixed badly and does have some lesser songs – but in general it still is an inspiring, deeply moving and thought provoking, and also, just plain better then too other “classic period” bowie albums: the filler-filled “young Americans” and the much-messier (if brilliant at points) “diamond dogs”. I know “dogs” is very debatable, but “Americans”, as A complete effort – how many of you would whole-Hartley champion it’s placing ahead of lodger in the canon? Also I find it curious that people treat this one as if bowie was suddenly becoming political. Sure, he’s previous political works could also be read as cocaine fueled rants of a mad man, but some substantial social conscience is stirring the ship in A deeply essential way all along, at least that’s how I see it. And social commentary here isn’t embarrassing at all for my money – it’s actually very interesting, and building up towards the next, complementary album that’s even more political (I also find, like comments before me, that “lodger has more to do with “Scary monsters” then with “Low” and “Heroes”. Their like too pairs placed one after the other).
BTW, sorry for some very bad English – non-native speaker…
Hey – great points. I completely agree pretty much. Your English is good.
Answering years later, but I would definitely place Young Americans above Lodger.
diamond dogs is a classic and features not single track I don,t like it is all 100 per cent beef and to a lesser extent young americans as it does feature a couple of bad choices which but had a handful of deletions which plug the gaps.
Lodger does have some fabulous material and I will comment on those as they arrive its just its always been a lesser body of work because of a couple of tracks and a feeling the odd tune just does not cut the mustard and let’s face it we have just had a couple of classic defining albums.
So it may sound like I’m down on it but this is only move on which is a rich fella listing places he has visited and an old tune played in reverse. Hardly essential Bowie but we have bEen spoiled.
I agree with every word of diamond dog here, except that I think Lodger is much, much better than Young Americans which is my least favorite (well apart from Pin-Ups obviously) of the seventies albums.
I would also like to point out that my crappy English is also due to non-native speakerness. Can’t wait to see wihch song is up next.
Young americans is flawed I agree but was such a prolific period and the outtakes show it would have been much more but different strokes. Lodger is for me has little to say and is a bit empty the lyrics rather lacking and the experiments hardly pushing the envelope it sounded ordinary which was a shock after the promising lead single. Its not all bad and the vocals on fantastic voyage are showstopping and simply send a shiver down the spine. Its purely personal I was listening to punk and music from joy division etc and Lodger was almost a parody of himself. I think the white soul of young americans was far more of an influence on new romantics than Lodger as it was a let down for me , it does have flashes of the great man but does not gel. Anyway enough of my bullshit …..
Do listen to “Move on” played backwards. The quirky “ah-dee-yah / ah-dee-yo”-bit will sound exactly like “All the young dudes / carry the news”-chorus.
Still I love Lodger and it is definitely an integrated part of the Berlin quality, bringing a different kind of aspect to it.
For me the trilogy started with the idiot and ended with heroes. Lodger does not have the ‘atmosphere’ and is closer to scary monsters in fact if we took some from both albums we would have something quite special.
A little surprised at the love for Lodger. All these years and I thought I was the only one with a soft spot for it.
Although we have broadly the same personnel as for Low and Heroes, something has changed, perhaps the tour had engendered a little overfamiliarity. Also during that tour, Eno found another DB to play with and perhaps his heart was already wandering elsewhere.
There’s nothing wrong with Lodger but it was Bowie’s first release into a post-punk world. Previously, if you had wanted intellectually and artistically informed, yet accessible, pop music, Bowie was pretty much your only option – at least after Roxy Music became Bryan Ferry’s backing band – but by the time Lodger came around there were other options and Bowie was no longer out on his own at the top of the pile. I don’t think he can really be criticised because the others got better, especially since many of them got better as a result of listening to him
Great comments man.
thanks for this: who else was at ‘the top of the pile’ with him, would you say?
Lodger is where it really all begins to fall apart from then on one gets the odd good, even sometimes brilliant song (Ashes to Ashes for example) but the cohesive whole of previous LPs is gone forever….
That’s pretty bleak…
At the risk of sounding snarky, perhaps you are mistaking “cocaine-fueled” with cohesive. Bowie’s was a hard pace to maintain and once he cut back (or quit) the blow, he became human again.
32 is a curious age for rockers, particularly if they are early bloomers, like Bowie, or haven’t burned out, like any number I won’t bother to name. (By way of contrast, The Beatles broke up when the eldest, Mr. Starkey, was 29 going on 30).
Check the year some long-lasting musician turned 32, and you will find developments.
I got Logder at a bootfair (Americans read: flea market) this summer in Cornwall for £2. Looked forward to reassessment–but no, still “the runt” in his purple patch IMO. See here for full review: http://thriftyvinyl.wordpress.com/2011/09/27/david-bowie-lodger-rca-bow-lp-1-1979/
I’d just like to add to Chris’ typically masterful forensic dissection of this album the observation that Bowie was mentioning the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard a lot around the time of its release. For instance, in his BBC Star Special radio show in 1979, Bowie jokes: “I read Kierkegaard on a wall. He speaks highly of me too!”
But it goes deeper than that. Repetition, for instance, is the title of both a song on Lodger and a work by Kierkegaard (usually published together with Fear and Trembling, which might have been a good alternative title for the album). “Seneca has said that when a person has reached his thirtieth year,” writes Kierkegaard in Repetition, “he ought to know his constitution so well that he can be his own physician; I likewise believe that when a person has reached a certain age he ought to be able to be his own pastor.”
It’s not hard to see why Kierkegaard appealed to Bowie at this stage in his life. K’s themes keep returning to belief versus doubt, marriage versus seduction, the aesthetic versus the ethical. His voice is a playful, ironic and experimental one, with constantly shifting styles and personae. If Bowie begins the 1970s as a disciple of the bombastic Nietzsche (most notably in The Supermen), he ends the decade under the influence of Kierkegaard (a much subtler, nicer and more social-democratic figure).
In fact this very comparison is raised in Bowie’s 1995 appearance on Ray Cokes’ MTV show, with Ray opining that “the depth of Nietzsche’s theory goes much further than Kierkegaard’s” (a vote for the early ’70s material over the later, perhaps?). A joke, of course. Or is it?
The conception of the Lodger album — a synthetic electronic world music — seems to owe something to Stockhausen’s idea of “Weltmusik”. Writing in 1973, but describing the “telemusik” he invented during his 1966 trip to the NHK studios in Tokyo (‘crystallized objects from the world’s musical cultures”), Stockhausen described how “a European can experience Balinese music, a Japanese music from Mozambique, and a Mexican music from India.”
Stockhausen anticipated several dialectical stages: first, an “intermingling and integration of all the earth’s musical cultures”. Then a reaction, a conservation opposed to uniformity. After that, “a kind of artificial new folklore, utilizing electronic equipment”.
“It may be anticipated that world culture will have largely achieved integration at the moment when mankind first makes contact with a hitherto unknown culture in space,” Stockhausen concluded, rather grandly.
Lodger is one of those interesting albums for me in that, like many people, I think it’s a step down in quality, but on the other hand I always enjoy it from beginning to end, unlike a lot of Bowie albums that feature the occasional skipped through (or endured”. Not knowing anything of what Bowie was going through at the time when I first started listening to this as a kid, I always got the odd sense that he was genuinely having FUN on this album. I was probably wrong, but compared to the deeper-but-heavy pleasures of the previous three albums, this just seemed lighter. Not lightweight, mind you, but lighter. Exuberant.
In re Gary Numan, I imagine you will eventually discuss Teenage Wildlife’s extended rebuke of him. Bowie really seemed to have it in for him to a greater extent than any other artist, which is odd since one might expect him to be flattered. Of course, Numan eventually got his own digs in a few years ago when he said Bowie had written “one good song in 25 years so fuck him.” He didn’t elaborate as to which song he thought was good. It’s all funny until you realize there were grown men.
Thanks Chris for bringing Updike into the discussion! And thanks Momus for Kierkegaard. A line from an early letter of the latter: “I cannot just yet become more than an *auditor*.” This seems to fit with the picture of Bowie endlessly, recursively commenting on himself, etc.
As a David Bowie fan Gary Numan is a name that makes me sick. I know most 80’s acts ripped David off but Numan kept shooting his mouth off in the early 80’s in interviews saying “Bowie? I’m bigger than Bowie” and “He’s scared because I’m the nearest thing to competition he’s had in years”. This pathetic excuse for music act needs to keep name checking and having a dig at David in order to get attention. Pathetic. Also it pains me how Numan got famous in the first place. To all revisionists Numan was unpopular with the media for a damn bloody good reason.
Actually, Numan spoke respectfully of Bowie in the early years, likely until Bowie started publicly dissing him. If anything, Numan’s success wold have driven more fans to Bowie (did he need more?). Personally I find this negativity unbecoming and the previous comment from “john” childish. Numan released at least four amazing albums and lots of crud. Bowie’s track record is not exactly spotless now, is it?
Four amazing albums? Your mate Numan was in the right place at the right time. Because he was the face of ’79 doesn’t mean his music was “amazing”. Credit due his “Down In The Park” track was a cracker though.
Robin, Your reply to John was childish itself.
Robin you really need to research your musical history. Another Numan apologist who likes to re-write his history. While filming the Kenny Everett show David was rehearsing his piece when he was told that Numan was in the building, David then said “ask him to come over” Numan refused because he wanted the show to himself. David shrugged it off apparently and Numan spat out his dummy and stormed out.
Tony Visconti was once asked to produce a Numan album, however when Numan met up with him Visconti was disgusted by Numans negative attitude towards David and Visconti turned Numan down. Also Bill Nelson took a dislike to Numan.
Red sails is sweet, move on is cool, dj a riot, lodger is sound, love the album, me bak at 18, wow, todd
I’m tying to play it/along with it on my guitar and I’m pretty sure it’s c# not D. I’m no theory expert at all, but i think it isn’t D.
Also, the acoustic rythym on this is insane. Either Eno treated it or something, or i underestimate how quite how good carlos alomar was. Or possibly, i am mishearing something simpler.
I found this blog years later so I’m late to the show…
I first heard Lodger at 15 or 16 in the late nineties, having purchased it through one of those mail-in CD stores (they had all of the rykodisk reissues and I had saved this one for last). I’d heard the album’s singles on the Singles 69-93 collection but had no idea what to expect from the other songs. Having enjoyed Low and ‘Heroes’, I assumed I would naturally love the third part of the Berlin Trilogy.
However, I found it disappointing and inaccessible. I thought it was garbage, Bowie phoning in an album of secondrate material as a way to fulfill his contract with RCA.
That said, I always returned to it every so often, and every time it grew on me a bit more and I found myself skipping ahead less each time.
Part of my initial distaste may have been due to a few factors:
1. Age – compared to his other seventies output, Lodger offered little that resonated with me. None of the uplifting “hey, freak, you’re not alone” sentiment of the glam era that gets at the heart of being a teenage social outcast. This was some guy croaking about wife beaters and places he vacationed. It seemed trite at the time.
2. High expectations – none of the 5+ minute epics on most of his previous albums. None of the moody ambient instrumentals from the previous 2 albums.
Long story short, this has become, if not my favorite Bowie album, the one I find to be his most interesting and adventurous. It certainly holds a spot in my top 5 of his. Going back to the point on my age, I think I had to really grow up to fully appreciate Lodger. Entering my 30s and having a son of my own, as well as being a little more world wearied and less idealistic and naive, makes this album feel a lot closer to home, whereas take an album like Ziggy and the opposite happened–I find it more trite and less accessible though I still objectively accept it as a classic. It’s harder to appreciate the teenage/early 20 something misfit anthemics of the glam era Bowie but Lodger certainly speaks to this 30 something misfit.
It really feels like a distillation of previous Bowies. There’s a touch of glam rock in “Boys,” a bit of the disco/soul period in “DJ” and “Red Money,” plenty of the experimental spirit of Low and Heroes throughout, and “Look Back in Anger,” to me sounds a bit like a spiritual successor to the rockier tracks on Station to Station.
It’s understandable why some question the inclusion in the so-called Berlin trilogy. If not for the presence of Eno on the record and Bowie’s own remarks, I wonder if people would still refer to it as such. To me, this is as much a transitional album between Heroes and SM as StS was between YA and Low.
I’d also wager it’s, if not superior to SM, at least more evenly sequenced. SM starts to drag in the second half because all of the best tracks are front loaded on side one. I remain engaged throughout Lodger whereas I want to turn off SM halfway through Teenage Wildlife. Here’s a thought…what if he had instead released the best tracks from SM as an EP?