David Bowie, 'The Gouster' (1974)
Bowie's 1974 album Diamond Dogs showed glimpses of his growing infatuation with R&B, which became a full-fledged obsession that summer as he toured America. Crisscrossing the country by bus, he became enraptured by Philly Soul beaming over the airwaves.
Bowie decided to head straight to the source by booking time at Philadelphia's famed Sigma Sound that August. There he assembled a dream team of studio musicians, including a young Luther Vandross. Several weeks of cocaine-fueled activity yielded enough songs for an album. "It's Gonna Be Me," "After Today," "Who Can I Be Now" and "Shilling the Rubes" are all strong songs in the "plastic soul" vein. "Young Americans" is the best known from these sessions, with its lyrical nod to Richard Nixon recorded just two days after his resignation that August.
Producer Tony Visconti assembled the tracks under the obscure black slang term The Gouster, which he defines as: "A hip guy who walks down the street snapping his fingers." It was a label that suited Bowie just fine. "I think it's the closest thing I've ever done on record to being very me," he said while previewing the album for Melody Maker.
The record was poised for release when a Beatle intervened. "About two weeks after I'd mixed the album, David phoned to say that he and John Lennon had recorded this song called 'Fame,'" Visconti recalls. The pair also laid down a version of Lennon's "Across the Universe." The track list shifted a number of times to accommodate these cuts, before the album was ultimately issued in March 1975 as Young Americans.