On the 9 July 1974 - during his residency at the Tower in Philadelphia - David visited the Sigma Sound Studios where Ava Cherry was recording some songs with Michael Kamen. Three numbers were completed including a version of David’s “Sweet Thing.” There is no record of the musicians used on this session but the recording certainly suggests that some of David’s tour band were used.
On the 8 August 1974 David booked time at the studios for himself to record songs for a new album. The personnel for these sessions were David Bowie (vocal, guitars, piano), Carlos Alomar (guitar), Mike Garson (piano), David Sanborn (saxophone), Willie Weeks (bass), Andy Newmark (drums), Larry Washington (conga), Pablo Rosario (percussion), Ava Cherry, Robin Clark, Diane Sumler, Luther Vandross, Antony Hinton, Warren Peace (backing vocals).
Studio master tapes now held by Drexel University in Philadelphia reveal that the first recordings were made on 13 August. The songs recorded were: John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) Can You Hear Me It’s Gonna Be Me Young Americans Shilling The Rubes I Am A Laser After Today The first 3 songs above exist on Reel 1 whilst the remainder make up the content of Reel 2. The whereabouts of Reel 3 are not known but Reel 4 dated 14 August is also held by Drexel and contains the following songs: Young Americans John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) Can You Hear Me It’s Gonna Be Me After Today The full story of how these tapes came into the possession of Drexel University can be read here… http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2014/October/Bowie-Archives/
I   arrive   in   Philadelphia   from   London   around   8pm.   I've   just   finished   a   Thin   Lizzy   album   and   I   am   tired!   I   am   rushed   to   Sigma   Sound   by   limo.   I am   shown   the   control   room,   and   can   see   a   large   band   playing   full   tilt   with   Bowie   walking   around   pensively   among   them.   I   am   immediately intimidated   because   the   band   contains   three   musicians   I   am   in   complete   awe   of   Andy   Newmark   on   drums,   Willie   Weeks   on   bass   and   David Sanborn on sax. These are super session men, and I'm just a Brooklyn kid who did good in England! I   ask   the   engineer,   Carl   Paruolo,   "Who   is   engineering?"   I've   never   seen   a   console   as   funky   as   this   –   it   looks   like   it   was   handmade   in someone's garage on weekends. He   says,   "You   are!"   He   was   originally   selected   to   engineer   by   Bowie,   having   recorded   many   Philly   hits,   but   he   told   me   that   Bowie   wasn't pleased with the sound. Bowie told Carl, "Tony will be handling the recording once he arrives." David   and   the   band   had   been   recording   their   rehearsals   for   three   days,   and   I   could   hear   the   problem   he   had   with   the   sound.   In   those   days,   in America,   engineers   recorded   "dry"   and   "flat",   waiting   for   the   mix   to   add   the   equalization,   reverbs   and   special   effects.   But   the   British   often recorded   with   the   special   effects   right   on   the   session!   I   was   British-trained   and   David   was   used   to   this   sound!   So   I   rolled   up   my   sleeves   and got right into it. By 2 am we'd recorded our first official backing track – "Young Americans." The   session   guys   were   great   to   record   with.   My   fears   were   quickly   dispelled.   To   contrast   the   "slickness"   of   Newmark,   Weeks   and   Sanborn, David   was   trying   out   a   gang   of   NYC   kids   from   the   Bronx,   whose   manager   had   sent   in   a   demo   tape   weeks   earlier.   They   were   Carlos   Alomar on   guitar,   his   wife   Robin   Clark   on   vocals   and   their   vocalist   friend   Luther   Vandross!   What   a   lineup!   Mike   Garson   on   piano   was   the   only   link   left over from the Spiders From Mars days. It   was   agreed   we   had   to   record   live,   no   overdubs!   But   David   also   wanted   to   record   his   vocals   live   in   the   same   room!   This   presented   a   big problem   because   the   instruments   were   much   louder   than   his   voice,   so   I   had   to   rig   up   a   special   microphone   technique   which   canceled   the band   but   recorded   his   voice.   This   required   two   identical   microphones   placed   electronically   out   of   phase.   In   other   words,   the   diaphragm   of one   mike   is   pushing   when   the   other   is   pulling.   The   band's   sound   is   picked   up   by   the   two   mikes,   but   is   out   of   phase   and   consequently cancelled!   David   was   told   to   sing   only   into   the   top   mike   so   that   his   voice   was   not   canceled!   For   the   non-technically-minded   this   probably doesn't make any sense, but it saved the day, and what you hear on the recordings is about 85% "live" David Bowie.
David wasn’t pleased with the recorded sound from the initial rehearsals and asked Tony Visconti to fly over from England to take control of the recording. Tony arrived 3 days into the sessions and immediately took charge. He recalls:
Over the following days the following numbers were written and recorded: Right Somebody Up There Likes Me Who Can I Be Now?
The recording sessions lasted for 15 days and during this time a small army of fans – affectionately referred to as the Sigma Kids – waited patiently outside hoping to glimpse David as he came and went. On the final day at the studios (Friday 23 August 1974) David invited the Sigma Kids into the studio to listen to the completed recording. The memories of one such Sigma Kid can be read here… https://onmanorsmind.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/ In addition, there is a detailed article on the Sigma Kids in Philadelphia Weekly (US) - 24 July 2002: David Bowie's Young Americans According to Tony Zanetta, the original working title of the album was "Dancin’" although this was soon changed to "Somebody Up There Likes Me.” However, in early September 1974, David was already playing tracks from the new album to journalists and an interview given to Robert Hilburn in Los Angeles (published in Melody Maker 14 September 1974) indicates that the title for the album was now "One Damn Song". The tracks noted by the journalist was the album's opener "John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)" which was followed by "Somebody Up There Likes Me".
David revisited Sigma Sound in November 1974 between the two shows at the Spectrum and during these sessions he recorded "Win" and "Fascination" – the latter being a reworking of the Luther Vandross song "Funky Music" which was then being performed by The Mike Garson Band to open the Philly Dogs set. In addition, a backing track for the Bruce Springsteen song "It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City" was laid down but left unfinished i.e. without vocal. On the night of the 24 November Bruce Springsteen visited the Sigma Sound studios with a local disc jockey Ed Sciaky. This meeting was reported in The Drummer 26 November 1974. Stories that David recorded a song entitled "You Can Have Her, I Don't Want Her, She's Far Too Fat For Me" are totally untrue - I was told this by the man himself!
Disc 7 December 1974 published an interview given by Mike Garson at the time of the shows at the Philadelphia Spectrum in late November 1974. This revealed that the new album was now called "Fascination" and consisted of seven tracks:   John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)   Young Americans   Fascination   Right   Win   It’s Gonna Be Me   Can You Hear Me However, New Musical Express 14 December 1974 ran a story headed "Bowie European Tour – Unique Presentation". This reported that the album was still titled "Fascination" but contained eight tracks – the seven listed above plus one other. It can probably be safely assumed that the extra track was "Somebody Up There Likes Me". The mixing of the album commenced on 3 December 1974 (following the completion of the Soul Tour) at the Record Plant in New York and continued for about 2 weeks. Tony Visconti then took the Master Tapes for the album – now called "The Gouster" – back to London. In early January 1975, David booked time at the Electric Ladyland studios in New York to record the Lennon/McCartney song "Across The Universe". He asked John Lennon to assist him with the recording and during their time in the studios they also recorded "Fame" – written around the riff to "Footstompin’". David then decided to use the two new tracks in place of "It’s Gonna Be Me" and "John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)" and thus the track listing for the "Young Americans" album was finalised.
Most of the songs recorded during the Sigma Sessions have been released in some form as follows: Young Americans. Originally titled “Young American” or “The Young American”, this was the first song to be finalised and became the title track of the album released in March 1975. It was released as a single in full length form in the UK but most other countries issued an edited version. Can You Hear Me. Also released on the “Young Americans” album although a different version was released on “The Gouster” album included with the 2016 “Who Can I Be Now?” boxset. Right. Also released on the “Young Americans” album although a remixed version was used on the Ryko re-issue in 1991. A different version was released on “The Gouster” album. Somebody Up There Likes Me. Also released on the “Young Americans” album although a different version was released on “The Gouster” album. Win. Also released on the “Young Americans” album although a remixed version was used on the Ryko re-issue in 1991. The surround sound mix on the 2007 EMI Special Edition does not fade out. Fascination. Also released on the “Young Americans” album although a remixed version was used on the Ryko re-issue in 1991. John, I’m Only Dancing (Again). This song remained unreleased until 1979 when it was issued as a single from the planned, but shelved, RCA album of unreleased tracks. Who Can I Be Now? This song remained unreleased until 1991 when it was issued as a bonus track on the Ryko re-issue. It’s Gonna Be Me. This song remained unreleased until 1991 when it was issued as a bonus track on the Ryko re-issue. However, the 2007 EMI Special Edition included a version with strings which were added by Tony Visconti in January 1975. After Today. This song was released as part of the Ryko “Sound+Vision” boxset in 1989. However, this version is different to all versions held on the reels in the Drexel archive. It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City. A much reworked version of this song was released as part of the Ryko “Sound+Vision” boxset in 1989. Shilling The Rubes. This song remains unreleased - see lyrics below. I Am A Laser. This song remains unreleased - see lyrics below.
The Young American
Sigma Sound Sessions
Video links
Click on the images below to view a fan-made video for “Right” and a short documentary on the Sigma Sound Studios:
Right
Sigma Sound Studios Documentary
Lyrics
Shilling The Rubes Lay in the corner How long have you been awake? You lay out your life How much did he take? Never counting the change Passed into another   It’s only a ferris wheel It’s only a house of fear It’s only a three-ring circus Ringmaster, cannonball Never counting the change Passed into another Now he’s gone   Gone, the day that he left town Gone, he was shilling the rubes Gone, let the tears of a clown And he’s gone, he was shilling the rubes   Fifteen new faces Fifteen new days Still won’t forget him Hot boiling craze Never counting the change He passed into another Now he’s gone   Gone, the day that he left town Gone, he was shilling the rubes Gone, let the tears of a clown And he’s gone, he was shilling the rubes   Gone, the day that he left town Gone, he was shilling the rubes Yeah gone, let the tears of a clown Oh, he was shilling the rubes
I Am A Laser Let’s hear it for the gouster (yeah) Baggy pants and a watch chain Dressed down like the spirit and his game But mirror, mirror on the wall sees all But your doo-wop rag made you look tough Razor blades in her bra Mirror, mirror on the wall   I am the laser Burning through your eyes And I know what kind of flame you have I know what fear you hide   Hear it for the t-shirt Oh, those crew cuts that hurt Clicking jigaboo so Lenny Bruce Mirror, mirror on the wall sees all Dog tooth or paisley? Processed or strained? But mirror, mirror on the wall says   I am the laser Burning through your lies You’ll join my other world some day Then gaze in through outside   I am the laser Burning through your lies You’ll join my other world some day You’ll gaze in through outside   Oh yeah!