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Everything You Needed to Know About Your Lodger But Were Too Afraid To Ask

Katherine Pargeter picks out a bit of the massive new Bowie box set and thinks Lodger is sounding better than ever

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by Katherine Pargeter, for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2017
1979 Lodger peculiar, uglified sleeve
by Katherine Pargeter, for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2017
1979 Lodger peculiar, uglified sleeve

LODGER
TONY VISCONTI REMIX
FROM A NEW CAREER IN A NEW TOWN (1977 – 1982)


By the late 1970's, the David Bowie that had caused such a stir only a few years beforehand was nowhere to be seen. In '77 'Low' had perplexed critics, a year later the single "Heroes" only scraped into the mid-twenties in the charts and, finally,  in '79, 'Lodger', with it's peculiar and uglified sleeve, was seen as disappointingly disjointed, odd in it's very ordinariness and regarded as  the weak third act of the so-called Berlin trilogy.  It's not a fan favourite. 

At this point I have to stress that  'Lodger' is one of favourite Bowie albums.  I've always been moved by the apocalyptic sadness of 'Fantastic Voyage', the breathless delivery and jittery Eno rhythms of 'African Night Flight', not to mention the hilarious swagger of the single 'Boys Keep Swinging'.  

Bowie wasn't too impressed by the final mix of the album and endorsed the Tony Visconti remix of 'Lodger' that now forms part of new 'A New Career in a New Town' (1977-1982). Not surprisingly, I'm apprehensive at the prospect of the past being tampered with. Again. 

From the start though this is a remarkably faithful remix. On the aforementioned 'Fantastic Voyage'  the vocals are a lot clearer and the passionate croon of 'we'll never say anything nice again, will we' is devastatingly powerful. 

The retouching of the Turkish flavoured 'Yassassin' is a triumph too, the swirling strings and drums are more prominent, as is the chanted chorus.  The haunting 'Repetition' is more disturbing, the emphasis on the disorienting bass and drums suit the chilling tale of self pity and domestic abuse horrifyingly well. 

new issue

Best of all is the single 'D.J' (which, at the time, briefly struggled into the top thirty), now sounds so much bolder, driven by crisper, vibrant drums.

I'm certain that the placing of this version of  'Lodger' into an excellent (though expensive), box set, will not result in a major reassessment of the work. Like the unearthing of the album that could have been 'Young Americans' in the last box set (so much better!) this is for the committed community only.  Despite my reservations, it's a wonderful addition to the box set, completing the story of Bowie's most experimental and intriguing period.

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Katherine Pargeter

Born in Kavala in Greece to English parents, Katherine moved to London in the early nineties to study Sculpture at St. Martin's College.

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