Lodger (album)

Last updated

Studio album by
Released18 May 1979 (1979-05-18)
RecordedSeptember 1978, March 1979
Label RCA Records
David Bowie chronology
Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)
Singles from Lodger
  1. "Boys Keep Swinging" b/w "Fantastic Voyage"
    Released: 27 April 1979
  2. "DJ" b/w "Repetition"
    Released: 29 June 1979
  3. "Yassassin" b/w "Repetition"
    Released: July 1979 [5]
  4. "Look Back in Anger" b/w "Repetition"
    Released: 20 August 1979

Lodger is the 13th studio album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie. It was originally released in May 1979 by RCA Records. The last of the Berlin Trilogy, it was recorded in Switzerland and New York City with collaborator Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti. Unlike Bowie's previous two albums, Lodger contained no instrumentals and a somewhat more pop-oriented style while experimenting with elements of world music and recording techniques inspired by Eno's Oblique Strategies cards. [4]

David Bowie British musician, actor, record producer and arranger

David Robert Jones, known professionally as David Bowie, was an English singer-songwriter and actor. He was a leading figure in the music industry and is considered one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, acclaimed by critics and musicians, particularly for his innovative work during the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, with his music and stagecraft having a significant impact on popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million albums worldwide, made him one of the world's best-selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded ten platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, and released eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and nine gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

RCA Records is an American record label owned by Sony Music, a subsidiary of Sony Corporation of America. It is one of Sony Music's four flagship labels, alongside RCA's former long-time rival Columbia Records, Arista Records, and Epic Records. The label has released multiple genres of music, including pop, classical, rock, hip hop, electronic, R&B, blues, jazz, and country. Its name is derived from the initials of its defunct parent company, the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). It was fully acquired by Bertelsmann in 1986, making it a part of Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG); however, RCA Records became a part of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, a merger between BMG and Sony Music, in 2004, and was acquired by the latter in 2008, after the dissolution of Sony BMG and the restructuring of Sony Music. It is the second oldest record label in American history, after sister label Columbia Records.

Berlin Trilogy

The Berlin Trilogy, or Berlin Triptych, consists of three consecutively released studio albums by English singer and songwriter David Bowie: Low (1977), "Heroes" (1977) and Lodger (1979). The albums were recorded after Bowie took up residence in West Berlin in late 1976, and saw him experiment with elements of electronic, krautrock, ambient, and world music in collaboration with American producer Tony Visconti and English musician Brian Eno.


The album was not, by Bowie's standards, a major commercial success. Indifferently received by critics on its initial release, it is now widely considered to be among Bowie's most underrated albums. [6] [7] It was accompanied by several singles, including the UK Top 10 hit "Boys Keep Swinging".

Boys Keep Swinging 1979 single by David Bowie

"Boys Keep Swinging" is a song by David Bowie. It was released as a single from the album Lodger on 27 April 1979.

It is one of Bowie's most influential works, particularly to the 1990s Britpop movement, with two major Britpop bands, Oasis, who named their 1996 number-one hit "Don't Look Back in Anger" after Lodger's "Look Back in Anger" and Blur, who used the same chord sequence as "Fantastic Voyage" and "Boys Keep Swinging" in their 1997 hit single "M.O.R.".

Britpop was a UK-based music and culture movement in the mid-1990s which emphasised "Britishness", and produced brighter, catchier alternative rock, partly in reaction to the popularity of the darker lyrical themes of the US-led grunge music, an alternative rock genre, and to the UK's own shoegazing music scene. The most successful bands linked with the movement are Blur, Oasis, Suede and Pulp; those groups would come to be known as its "big four". The timespan of Britpop is generally considered to be 1993–1997, with 1994–1995, and a chart battle between Blur and Oasis dubbed "The Battle of Britpop", being the epicentre of activity. While music was the main focus, fashion, art, and politics also got involved, with artists such as Damien Hirst being involved in creating videos for Blur, and being labelled as Britart or Britpop artists, and Tony Blair and New Labour aligning themselves with the movement.

Oasis (band) English rock band

Oasis were an English rock band formed in Manchester in 1991. Developed from an earlier group, the Rain, the band originally consisted of Liam Gallagher, Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs (guitar), Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan and Tony McCarroll (drums). Upon returning to Manchester, Liam's older brother, Noel Gallagher joined as a fifth member, which formed the band's core and settled line-up. During the course of their existence, they had various line-up changes, though the Gallagher brothers remained as the staple members until the group's demise.

Dont Look Back in Anger 1996 single by Oasis

"Don't Look Back in Anger" is a song by the English rock band Oasis. It was released on 19 February 1996 as the fifth single from their second studio album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory? (1995). The song was written by the band's guitarist and main songwriter, Noel Gallagher. It became the band's second single to reach number one on the UK Singles Chart, where it also went platinum. "Don't Look Back in Anger" was also the first Oasis single with lead vocals by Noel instead of his brother, Liam.

Recording and production

Originally to be titled either Planned Accidents or Despite Straight Lines, [7] Lodger was largely recorded between legs of David Bowie's Isolar II Tour and featured the same musicians, along with Brian Eno. The recording sessions saw Bowie and Eno utilize techniques from Eno's Oblique Strategies cards. [4] Experiments on the album included using old tunes played backwards, employing identical chord sequences for different songs and having the musicians play unfamiliar instruments (as on "Boys Keep Swinging"). [4] Lead guitar was played not by Robert Fripp, as on "Heroes", but by Fripp's future King Crimson band member, Adrian Belew, whom Bowie had "poached" while the guitarist was touring with Frank Zappa. Much of Belew's work on the album was composited from multiple takes played against backing tracks of which he had no prior knowledge, not even the key. [6]

Isolar II – The 1978 World Tour

The Isolar II – The 1978 World Tour, more commonly known as The Low / Heroes World Tour or The Stage Tour, was a worldwide concert tour by David Bowie. The tour opened on 29 March 1978 at the San Diego Sports Arena continuing through North America, Europe and Australia before reaching a conclusion at the Nippon Budokan in Japan on 12 December 1978.

Brian Eno English musician, composer, record producer and visual artist

Brian Peter George St John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno, RDI is an English musician, record producer, and visual artist best known for his pioneering work in ambient music and contributions to rock, pop, electronic, and generative music. A self-described "non-musician", Eno has helped introduce a variety of conceptual approaches and recording techniques to contemporary music, advocating a methodology of "theory over practice, serendipity over forethought, and texture over craft" according to AllMusic. He has been described as one of popular music's most influential and innovative figures.

Oblique Strategies is a card-based method for promoting creativity jointly created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt, first published in 1975. Physically, it takes the form of a deck 7-by-9-centimetre printed cards in a black box. Each card offers a challenging constraint intended to help artists break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking.

Eno felt that the trilogy had "petered out" by Lodger, [8] and Belew also observed Eno's and Bowie's working relationship closing down: "They didn't quarrel or anything uncivilised like that; they just didn't seem to have the spark that I imagine they might have had during the "Heroes" album." [6] An early plan to continue the basic pattern of the previous records with one side of songs and the other instrumentals was dropped, Bowie instead adding lyrics that foreshadowed the more worldly concerns of his next album, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) . [8]

Style and themes

Though missing the songs/instrumentals split that characterised Low and "Heroes", Lodger has been interpreted as dividing roughly into two major themes, that of travel (primarily side one) and critiques of Western civilisation (primarily side two). [9] [10] The final track on "Heroes", "The Secret Life of Arabia", anticipated the mock-exotic feel of Lodger's travel songs. "African Night Flight" was a tribute to the music and culture of the veld, inspired by a trip to Kenya that he took with his then-small son Zowie; [11] its musical textures have been cited as presaging the popularity of world music, Bowie considering it a forerunner of the sounds developed by Brian Eno and David Byrne for My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (1981). [6] [8] "Move On" was lyrically Bowie's ode to his own wanderlust, sonically his earlier classic "All the Young Dudes" played backwards. [9] "Yassassin" was an unlikely reggae song with a Turkish flavour. "Red Sails" was inspired in part by the music of German band Neu!, sharing Neu!'s distinctive "motorik" drum beat; [10] for Bowie, it combined "a German new music feel" with "a contemporary English mercenary-cum-swashbuckling Errol Flynn" to produce "a lovely cross-reference of cultures". [6] "Red Sails" has also be compared with Harmonia's 1975 track "Monza (Rauf und Runter)". [12]

"The Secret Life of Arabia" is a song written by David Bowie, Brian Eno and Carlos Alomar in 1977 for the album "Heroes". It was the final track on the original vinyl album, following the instrumental "Neuköln".


Veld, also spelled veldt, is a type of wide open rural landscape in Southern Africa. Particularly, it is a flat area covered in grass or low scrub, especially in the countries of South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe and Botswana. A certain sub-tropical woodland ecoregion of Southern Africa has been officially defined as the Bushveld by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Trees are found only in a few places—frost, fire and grazing animals allow grass to grow but prevent the growth of trees.

Kenya republic in East Africa

Kenya, officially the Republic of Kenya, is a country in Africa with 47 semiautonomous counties governed by elected governors. At 580,367 square kilometres (224,081 sq mi), Kenya is the world's 48th largest country by total area. With a population of more than 52.2 million people, Kenya is the 27th most populous country. Kenya's capital and largest city is Nairobi while its oldest city and first capital is the coastal city of Mombasa. Kisumu City is the third largest city and also an inland port on Lake Victoria. Other important urban centres include Nakuru and Eldoret.

Of the album's critiques, "Boys Keep Swinging", the first single, was seen by NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray partly as a witty riposte to the Village People but also, combined with its cross-dressing video clip, a comment on ideas of masculinity; musically it was notable for guitarist Carlos Alomar and drummer Dennis Davis in the unfamiliar roles of drummer and bass player, respectively. [9] According to Tony Visconti, the song featured the "exact same chord changes and structure, even the same key" as "Fantastic Voyage", Bowie's take on the possibility of nuclear war. [13] The second single, "DJ", took a sardonic look at the world of the disc jockey. "Repetition", Bowie's exploration of the mind of an abusive partner, was sung in a deliberately unemotional tone that highlighted the lyric and the unnatural slur of the bass guitar. [9] "Red Money" added new words to a Bowie/Alomar tune that had originally appeared as "Sister Midnight", with lyrics by Bowie and Iggy Pop, on the latter's album The Idiot . [7]


Bowie collaborated with English pop artist Derek Boshier on the cover design. The original gatefold album sleeve featured a full-length shot of Bowie by photographer Brian Duffy as an accident victim, heavily made up with an apparently broken nose. For effect, the image was deliberately of low resolution, taken with a Polaroid SX-70 type camera. The inside of the gatefold included pictures of Che Guevara's corpse, Andrea Mantegna's Lamentation of Christ and Bowie being readied for the cover photo. [9] [14] These images were not reproduced in the Rykodisc CD reissue in 1991.

Release and critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [3]
Blender Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [15]
Chicago Tribune Star full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg [16]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music Star full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [17]
Entertainment Weekly B+ [18]
Pitchfork 8.5/10 [19]
Q Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [20]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [21]
Spin Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [22]
The Village Voice A− [23]

Lodger received relatively poor reviews on its original release, Rolling Stone calling it "one of his weakest ... scattered, a footnote to "Heroes", an act of marking time", [24] and Melody Maker finding it "slightly faceless". [7] In Smash Hits the album was described as sounding like "a ragbag of rejects from previous styles" with "only occasional flashes of genius". [25] It was also criticised for having a thinner, muddier mix than Bowie's previous albums. [7] Robert Christgau wrote favourably of the album in The Village Voice . Although he said the songs may seem impassive and not designful, Christgau believed those qualities were "part of their charm--the way they confound categories of sensibility and sophistication is so frustrating it's satisfying". [23] Lodger peaked at No. 4 in the UK charts and No. 20 in the US at a time when the artist was being "out-Bowied" commercially by his new wave "children" such as Gary Numan. [6]

Soon after its release, Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray predicted that Lodger would "have to 'grow in potency' over a few years, but eventually it will be accepted as one of Bowie's most complex and rewarding projects". [9] While biographer Christopher Sandford calls it a "slick, calculatedly disposable record", [11] author David Buckley contends that "its stature grows with each passing year", [6] and Nicholas Pegg sums up, "undervalued and obscure practically from the moment of its release, its critical re-evaluation is long overdue". [7] Electronica/techno artist Moby would later state that the only reason he got his first job (as a golf caddy) was so that he could afford to buy Lodger, which had just come out. Built to Spill would reference the album in their song "Distopian Dream Girl" taken from their 1994 album There's Nothing Wrong with Love . [26] Shearwater covered the album in its entirety at live shows and on The A.V. Club following Bowie's death. [27]

Track listing

All songs written by David Bowie and Brian Eno, except where noted

Side one
1."Fantastic Voyage" 2:55
2."African Night Flight" 2:54
3."Move On"Bowie3:16
4."Yassassin" (Turkish: Yaşasın, lit.  'Long Live')Bowie4:10
5."Red Sails" 3:43
Side two
1."DJ"Bowie, Eno, Carlos Alomar 3:59
2."Look Back in Anger" 3:08
3."Boys Keep Swinging" 3:17
5."Red Money" 4:17
Total length:34:38


Lodger has been rereleased several times on compact disc. It was first released on CD by RCA Records in the mid-1980s. Rykodisc (in the USA) and EMI (elsewhere) released a version with two bonus tracks in 1991. The third iteration, without bonus tracks, appeared in 1999 on EMI, featuring 24-bit digitally remastered sound. In 2017, the A New Career in a New Town (1977–1982) box set released by Parlophone included two versions of Lodger, a remaster of the standard album and a remix by producer Tony Visconti. [28] The 2017 remaster was separately released, in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, the following year. [29]

1991 reissue bonus tracks
11."I Pray, Olé" (Previously unreleased track, recorded 1979)3:59
12."Look Back in Anger" (New version, recorded 1988)6:59


An alternative mix of Lodger was produced by Tony Visconti in 2015–2016. The remixed album was included in the 2017 box set A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982). [30]

Philip Glass interpretation

In January 2018, Philip Glass announced the completion of a symphony based upon Lodger. The work is Glass' 12th Symphony and was premièred in Los Angeles in January 2019. [31] This completes his trilogy of works based upon Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy", the previous two being Symphony No. 1 ("Low" Symphony) and Symphony No. 4 (Glass) ("Heroes" Symphony).


Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes. [32] The track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.

Production team

Chart performance

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