It’s Gonna Be Me
Apart from skipping his first couple of records, my journey through David Bowie’s music has been fairly chronological. I remember watching a VHS copy of Ziggy’s final concert at the Hammersmith Odeon and being completely transfixed. Bowie’s performance is spellbinding and the music aligned somehow with all the 80’s Goth music I was listening to at the time. It’s an odd sensation when you discover something that influences everything you know, it just makes sense, like a weird sort of deja vu. Discovering his back catalogue as a teenage music nerd felt to me like winning the lottery.
I bought The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars shortly after watching that old VHS tape and stared at the not-quite-Ziggy-looking Bowie on the cover in his blue jumpsuit. How cool he looked. His appeal was beyond music, an artist demanding your attention. That album along with Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs became the cornerstone for my Bowie appreciation and I hardly wavered from them during those teenage years.
I didn’t appreciate the previously impenetrable Berlin albums until a few years later but those 3 records quickly became a constant loop. Station to Station was/is a big favourite of mine (‘Stay’ is perfect Bowie) and has been swapping places with Low at the top of the favourite album list ever since. All the other records that have been added to the soundtrack of my life; Hunky Dory, “Heroes”, Lodger, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps to name a few but one album that never quite made the playlist was Young Americans. It sits between the rock music of Diamond Dogs and Station to Station and seemed at odds with both. I liked it of course, it has ‘Fame’ and ‘Young Americans’ both great songs but for some reason I never really loved it.
Some years ago I saw a Bowie documentary that had footage from the Young Americans recording sessions. A very wired Bowie is directing backing singers in a dark philly recording studio. So focussed and aware of his vision it’s almost frightening. There is a section in this footage where one of the singers is repeating a line over and over again with the most heartrendingly soulful voice you have ever heard, it’s just beautiful. Watching the creative process of someone at the pinnacle of their powers is mesmerising.
It staggers me that this record even exists. It’s a Soul/R&B record by a skinny white man from England with a giant cocaine habit and it is incredible. How he made this record after the 1984 glam rock musical that became Diamond Dogs is beyond me. It’s just astounding. Each song apart from ‘Across the Universe’ (I skip this every time) is wonderful and it contains some of Bowie’s best ever vocals. The epic ‘Can You Hear Me’, the soulful ‘Right’, Bowie is almost unrecognisable from previous recordings.
‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ was cut from the original release for (of all things) ‘Across the Universe’ presumably because of Lennon’s contribution but thankfully it ended up as a bonus track on subsequent reissues.
It’s such a great piece of music, I urge you to listen to it.
I found this excellent blog post recently and it describes the song far better than I ever could.