David Bowie is, before everything else, a one-off original. 100% authentic originality is his game, whether it be with his styling, his acting or musically, Bowie always gave you something singular and honest, something definably ‘Bowie’.
You can imagine our delight then when we came across this joyous Youtube clip of a recording made in 1985. in the clip we see Bowie impersonating some icons of the music world, and some of his best friends, as he does his best to mimic the sound of The Boss Bruce Springsteen, and his friends Iggy Pop and Lou Reed.
Mark Saunders was working as an engineer when Bowie was in the studio for this hilarious session. The recording session was actually for Bowie to lay down some vocals for the soundtrack to the film Absolute Beginners.
But Bowie, the avid performer that he was, spared a bit of time to crack some jokes with the staff in the studio and provide some expert impressions of Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Neil Young and even Bob Dylan.
On the Youtube posting which Mark uploaded in 2016, he wrote this note: “The impersonations on this YouTube posting were recorded in August ’85, when Bowie came in to do the lead vocal. At the end of the session, he broke into the impersonations and I realized that these might get erased at some point, so I quickly put a cassette in and hit “record.” I wish we could hear the other side of the dialogue but unfortunately, that wasn’t being recorded.”
The engineer goes on to share that he and Bowie were working together on “producing the soundtrack for the movie Absolute Beginners, for which Bowie was acting and writing songs (it was a better soundtrack than it was a movie!) and I was graduating from assistant engineer to engineer at that time,” continues the caption. We can only imagine the thrill of what working with Bowie must have been.
Saunders goes on to reminisce about the shared moments between him and the genius David Bowie. He says, “The day Bowie was first due to show up at Westside, we were all a bit nervous,” as we all would be. Saunders continues, “We kept looking out the windows, waiting for a stretch limo to show up and an entire entourage to walk in, but then a black cab showed up and out popped the unaccompanied Bowie. He walked in, announced in what seemed a more cockney voice than I remembered, “Hi, I’m David Bowie,” and shook our hands.”
A dream meeting for most of the crew in the studio, with Let’s Dance being released a few years prior, Bowie’s star within the pop world was bigger than ever.
Saunders goes on to say how despite his impressive creative stature even the Starman had to grow into the process. The caption continues, “He seemed smaller than I imagined he would be in person. A bit later I noticed that the cockney had dissipated somewhat and he also seemed to have grown more upright and taller, too. I thought, “Wow, he really is a chameleon,” and wondered if the earlier exaggerated cockney was his way of reducing his superstar status temporarily to put people at ease on first meeting him.”
Listen below to the chameleon of rock and roll, David Bowie doing his best to impersonate some of the great musical acts of the world.
Timings for the impressions are below.
0:00 Bruce Springsteen
0:43 Bob Dylan (or is it Marc Bolan?)
1:37 Tom Waits
2:30 Lou Reed
3:20 Anthony Newley
4:06 Iggy Pop
5:03 Neil Young (could also be Tom Petty)