Lodger (album)

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Studio album by
Released25 May 1979 (1979-05-25)
RecordedSeptember 1978, March 1979
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[6]
  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 third and final release of the Berlin Trilogy, following Low and "Heroes" (both 1977), 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]

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.[7][8] It was accompanied by several singles, including the UK Top 10 hit "Boys Keep Swinging".

It is one of Bowie's most influential works according to Britannica.[9] Blur used the same chord sequence as "Fantastic Voyage" and "Boys Keep Swinging" in their 1997 single "M.O.R.".[10] Oasis named their 1996 single "Don't Look Back in Anger" after "Look Back in Anger".[11] The album has been reissued multiple times and was remastered in 2017 as part of the A New Career in a New Town (1977–1982) box set.

Recording and production[edit]

Originally to be titled either Planned Accidents or Despite Straight Lines,[8] 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.[7]

Eno felt that the trilogy had "petered out" by Lodger,[12] 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."[7] 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).[12]

Style and themes[edit]

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).[13][14] 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;[15] 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).[7][12] "Move On" was lyrically Bowie's ode to his own wanderlust, sonically his earlier classic "All the Young Dudes" played backwards.[13] "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;[14] 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".[7] "Red Sails" has also be compared with Harmonia's 1975 track "Monza (Rauf und Runter)".[16]

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.[13] 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.[17] 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.[13] "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.[8]


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.[13][18] These images were not reproduced in the Rykodisc CD reissue in 1991.

Release and critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[3]
Blender4/5 stars[19]
Chicago Tribune2.5/4 stars[20]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music2/5 stars[21]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[22]
Q4/5 stars[24]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 stars[25]
Spin4/5 stars[26]
The Village VoiceA−[27]

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",[28] and Melody Maker finding it "slightly faceless".[8] In Smash Hits the album was described as sounding like "a ragbag of rejects from previous styles" with "only occasional flashes of genius".[29] It was also criticised for having a thinner, muddier mix than Bowie's previous albums.[8] 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".[27] 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.[7]

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".[13] While biographer Christopher Sandford calls it a "slick, calculatedly disposable record",[15] author David Buckley contends that "its stature grows with each passing year",[7] and Nicholas Pegg sums up, "undervalued and obscure practically from the moment of its release, its critical re-evaluation is long overdue".[8] 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.[30] Shearwater covered the album in its entirety at live shows and on The A.V. Club following Bowie's death.[31]

Track listing[edit]

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 Alomar3:59
2."Look Back in Anger" 3:08
3."Boys Keep Swinging" 3:17
5."Red Money"Bowie, Alomar4:17
Total length:34:38
  • Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–10 on CD reissues.


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.[32] The 2017 remaster was separately released, in CD, vinyl, and digital formats, the following year.[33]

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).[34]

Philip Glass interpretation[edit]

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.[35] 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.[36] The track numbers refer to CD and digital releases of the album.

Production team

Chart performance[edit]


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External links[edit]