Released in May of 1979, Lodger is the third album in David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy. This was a set of three albums (Low, Heroes and Lodger) in which David Bowie produced/collaborated with Brian Eno. Although Lodger was the third album in this trilogy, it wasn’t actually recorded in Berlin but was primarily recorded in Montreux, Switzerland. Often said to be more accessible or commercial sounding than either Heroes or Low, Lodger was a highly experimental album that was recorded in equally as experimental circumstances. Upon first listen, compared to the other albums in the trilogy it does have a more conventional sound, but if you listen a little more closely it is actually quite the opposite. When first released in 1979, the album was for the most part panned by critics and labelled one of Bowie’s weakest albums. Fans and critics alike now view it as one of Bowie’s most underrated albums.
Lodger is notable for its inclusion of elements of World Music, Funk and Post-Punk/New Wave sounds. Almost every track does seem to have an element that comes from a World Music category. Lyrically the album addresses themes of travel and Western civilization, but the circumstances in which it was recorded are just as fascinating. During the recording process Eno and the band did things such as recording backwards versions of already existing David Bowie songs, making songs deliberately with the same chord sequences, having band members playing instruments they were not used to playing and playing songs based on a series of chords written on a blackboard. In an interview in 2001 with UNCUT Magazine, Tony Visconti (bassist and producer on this album and several other Bowie albums) elaborated on this process:
“A lot more chaos was intended. Brian was doing some strange experiments like writing his eight favorite chords on a black board and asking the rhythm section to "play something funky." Then he would randomly point at a chord and the band had to follow. This didn't go down too well, but we were trying all sorts of different things.”
Adrian Belew, future guitarist in King Crimson also played guitar on several tracks (as did Carlos Alomar), most of which were edited together from multiple takes that he did to backing tracks. All of the tracks he recorded to he had not heard before playing. Another element in the creation of this album was chaos. The atmosphere in which these songs were created added to its overall atmosphere. The album’s cover, in which David Bowie is depicted as an accident victim and oddly looking like a young Richard Hell, further adds to this element and theme that is apparent on Lodger.
Lodger opens with the track “Fantastic Voyage”, the song itself being symbolic with the era in which it was recorded and in which this trilogy stands. Lodger was his last collaboration with Eno during this point in his career, but it also adheres to the imagery and themes of travel that run rampant throughout this album. This song in particular displays an emotive Cold War paranoia, while the second track “African Night Flight” ventures into experimental territory. With electronic sounds, heavy plodding bass and something that is credited as “Cricket Menace”, an effect that was produced by drum machine and briefcase synthesizer that sounds like crickets, anyone can see that this song ventures into a different avenue. “Move On” is one of the strongest songs found on Lodger, the song was created by playing a backwards version of the David Bowie song “All The Young Dudes”. Once again in UNCUT Magazine in 2001 this time by David Bowie, there is further elaboration on this song and why it was done this way:
“I had put one of my reel to reel tapes on backwards by mistake and really quite liked the melody it created. So I played quite a few more in this fashion and chose five or six that were really quite compelling. Dudes was the only one to make the album, as I didn't want to abandon the 'normal' writing I was doing completely. But it was a worthwhile exercise in my mind.”
Musically the elements combined on this album venture into World Music, Funk and New Wave genres creating an amalgamation of sorts. The overall message and themes of this album are wrapped up in a chaotic nature, emphasizing the paranoia of that time, but also in the album's cover image. As mentioned earlier, the cover for Lodger depicts David Bowie as an accident victim. Designed with British Pop artist Derek Boshnier, Bowie appears to have fallen and is in a broken state, complete with a broken looking nose. In that respect Lodger can be seen by many as an album that is “broken” in comparison to Low and Heroes in the Berlin Trilogy, but it can also be seen as the opposite of that. The fallen Bowie on the cover can also be seen as symbolism for the experimental and different sounds found on Lodger shattering the preconceived notions we had of David Bowie’s music at the time. Initially rumoured to be called Planned Accidents, Lodger is no accident. David Bowie exited out of the Berlin Trilogy in a unique way, not overstaying his welcome.
This week's play list:
1. Hunx and His Punx – Rat Bag
2. Sebadoh – I Will
3. Wiskey Biscuit – Stoner Girl
4. The Diodes – Survivors
5. Teenage Head – Bonerack (Alternate Version)
6. The Hippies – Can Teens
7. Paul Jacobs – Coffin Ride
8. The Chessmen – Time Machine
9. Lords of London – Time Waits For No One
10. Neil Young – Roll Another Number (For The Road)
11. Jay Sad – My Mensa Friend
12. The Strokes – Machu Picchu
13. David Bowie – DJ
14. David Bowie – Repetition
15. The Mark Inside – Shark Attack (I Can See Them Circling)
16. Nirvana – Token Eastern Song (1989 Music Source Studios Version)
17. Queens of the Stone Age – I Sat By The Ocean
18. The Traditional Fools – Layback!!!
19. Protex – Don’t Ring Me Up
20. Lids – I Don’t Want You
21. 999 – Nasty Nasty
22. The Stooges – Fun House
To download this weeks program, visit CJAM's schedule page for Revolution Rock and download the file for August 06. Or subscribe to Revolution Rock as a Podcast.