Shooter Jennings has had a shit few months. Last summer, he suffered the death of his manager and best friend Jon Hensley, and after finally picking up the pieces, was hit hard by the January passing of David Bowie, his musical inspiration. He named his record label, Black Country Rock Media, after a track on The Man Who Sold the World.
Jennings' upcoming album Countach (For Giorgio) honors both men, as well as, primarily, Seventies electronic-music pioneer Giorgio Moroder. Released February 26th on vinyl and on March 11th digitally, Countach (For Giorgio) — a collection of cover versions of Moroder's songs — is the last project on which Jennings and Hensley collaborated and features a version of Bowie's "Cat People" with guest vocals from Marilyn Manson.
A brooding ballad that originally appeared on the soundtrack to the 1982 film Cat People, Bowie recut the song as an upbeat jam for 1983's Let's Dance. Manson and Jennings' version is more faithful to the soundtrack recording, but with haunting fiddle and piano. Jennings says getting Manson to add his eerie baritone to the track was a bit of serendipity.
"I invited him out to a party at this bar, and I said, 'Hey, you know 'Cat People'? You want to do that song on this record, 'cause you'd sound awesome doing it,'" Jennings tells Rolling Stone. "And he was like, 'I sing that song every night before I go onstage. That's my song I warm up to.' So one night I went over to his house at three in the morning and brought all my recording gear."
Jennings says the finished vocal was Manson's first take. "What's awesome about Manson is all the people I've worked with who are singers always overanalyze their performance and want to recut shit or use a different take. He's none of that," says Jennings, who recorded the vocal in the charismatic metal singer's living room. "His house is cavernous and looks like a bordello and it was his voice echoing through the house. It was pretty intense."
The two musicians also bonded over their affection for Bowie. Following the rock icon's death, Manson recalled a "dizzying" ride through Los Angeles, listening to "Diamond Dogs" for the first time.
"All of my nostalgia, instantly turned to awe. I was hearing him sing about fiction as a mask to show his naked soul. This changed my life forever," he recalled to Rolling Stone. "It has become and remains a soundtrack to a movie he painted with his voice and guitar."
Jennings says the night that Bowie died, he and his wife were entertaining friends when Jennings put on Bowie's interpretation of "Across the Universe," off Young Americans. At that moment, the news broke.
"I went to sleep and woke up the next morning and the first thing I thought was, 'Oh my god, Bowie died.' . . . I was crying like a baby," he says. "But I'm really happy that I did a Bowie song."