Watch That Man

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"Watch That Man"
Song by David Bowie from the album Aladdin Sane
Released 13 April 1973
Recorded RCA Studios, New York
Trident Studios, London
9 December 1972 -
24 January 1973
Genre Glam rock
Length 4:25
Label RCA
Writer David Bowie
Producer Ken Scott, David Bowie
Aladdin Sane track listing
"Watch That Man"
(1)
"Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)"
(2)

"Watch That Man" is a song written by David Bowie, the opening track on the album Aladdin Sane from 1973. Its style is often compared to The Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street,[1][2][3] and is also notable for the discussion that its mix has generated among critics and fans.[1][4]

Production[edit]

NME editors Roy Carr and Charles Shaar Murray considered "Watch That Man" the prime example of a collection of songs on Aladdin Sane that were "written too fast, recorded too fast and mixed too fast". They remarked on the "hurried shoddiness" of its production which "doesn't even sound like a finished mix".[1] Co-producer Ken Scott however, speaking in 1999, defended the mix as the result of careful deliberation:[4]

'Watch That Man' was very much a Stones-sounding thing, with the vocal used as an instrument rather than as a lead. When it came to mixing the track, to get the sort of power of it, I just put everything up front, which meant losing the vocal. So I did the mix the way I felt. When we delivered the tapes of the album, I heard from MainMan, 'Great, but can we get another mix on "Watch That Man" with the vocal more up front so we can hear a bit more of David?' So I said, 'Fine,' and did the mix with David more up front. The problem though is that with the vocal more up front, the other instruments have to drop back. Then, a couple of weeks later, I get a phone call from RCA, and they said 'You were right in the first place. We'll go with the original.'

Music and lyrics[edit]

According to author Nicholas Pegg, "Watch That Man" could be taken as "one of Bowie’s most calculated changes of direction", to a more Stones-inspired dirty rock sound. Bowie himself suggested in the year of its release that it was a reminiscence of his introduction to the drug-fuelled American tour experience of late 1972.[2] Rolling Stone magazine called it "inimitable Stones, Exile vintage. Mick Ronson plays Chuck Berry licks via Keith Richards, Garson plays at being Nicky Hopkins, Bowie slurs his lines, and the female backup singers and horns make the appropriate noises."[3]

Live versions[edit]

Other releases[edit]

  • It was the B-side of the Italian release of the single "Let's Spend the Night Together" in June 1973.
  • It appeared on the Japanese compilation The Best of David Bowie in 1974.

Cover versions[edit]

Lulu recorded the song in 1973, releasing it as the B-side of the single "The Man Who Sold the World", another Bowie track, on 11 January 1974. The band included Bowie on guitar, sax and backing vocals, Mick Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass, Mike Garson on piano, and Aynsley Dunbar on drums. Produced by Bowie and Ronson, it has been described as having "a mix and backing vocal performance that easily outstrips the original".[5] Lulu's cover of "Watch That Man" was also released on the albums From Crayons to Perfume, Heaven and Earth and the Stars and David Bowie Songbook (various artists).

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: p.54
  2. ^ a b Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: p.232
  3. ^ a b Ben Gerson (19 July 1973). "Aladdin Sane". Rolling Stone (Rolling Stone). [dead link]
  4. ^ a b David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination - David Bowie: The Definitive Story: p.188
  5. ^ Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Op Cit: p.118

External links[edit]