The newly announced David Bowie box set Who Can I Be Now? (1974 – 1976), a sequel to last year’s 13xLP Five Years 1969-1973 set, will include a planned Bowie album called The Gouster. The Gouster is a collection of songs that eventually morphed into 1975’s Young Americans but never saw a release in its original form, named after “a type of dress code worn by African American teens in the ‘60’s, in Chicago,” as Bowie’s longtime producer Tony Visconti explains in the book of liner notes that comes with the set. “Forty minutes of glorious funk, that’s what it was and that’s how I thought it would be.” Read more of Visconti’s notes and find The Gouster’s original tracklisting below via Pitchfork.
Gouster was a word unfamiliar to me but David knew it as a type of dress code worn by African American teens in the ‘60’s, in Chicago. But in the context of the album its meaning was attitude, an attitude of pride and hipness. Of all the songs we cut we were enamored of the ones we chose for the album that portrayed this attitude.
David had a long infatuation with soul as did I. We were fans of the TV show Soul Train. We weren’t ‘young, gifted and black’ but we sure as hell wanted to make a killer soul album, which was quite insane, but pioneers like the Righteous Brothers were there before us.
So ‘The Gouster’ began with the outrageous brand new, funkafied version of David’s classic ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, a single he wrote and recorded in 1972, only this time our version sounded like it was played live in a loft party in Harlem and he added (Again) to the title. It wasn’t the two and a half minute length of the original either.
We maxed out at virtually seven minutes! With the time limitations of vinyl (big volume drop with more than 18 minutes a side) we could only fit two other long songs on side one, ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ both about six and a half minute songs. We had hit the twenty-minute mark. Technically that worked because ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ had lots of quiet sections where the record groove could be safely made narrower and that would preserve the apparent loudness of side one.
Side two also hit the twenty-minute mark with ‘Can You Hear Me’ saving the day with its quiet passages. Forty minutes of glorious funk, that’s what it was and that’s how I thought it would be.
01 “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)”
02 “Somebody Up There Likes Me”
03 “It’s Gonna Be Me”
01 “Who Can I Be Now?”
02 “Can You Hear Me”
03 “Young Americans”