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Music / Lodger

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"I am a DJ, I am what I play."

Lodger is the thirteenth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1979. The third and final album of what critics and fans call the "Berlin Trilogy" of his Krautrock/Post-Punk albums (though most of the album was recorded in Switzerland or New York City). It also marks the end of his working relationship with Brian Eno. The two reunited later for his 1995 album 1. Outside.

Lodger is perhaps the most accessible entry in the Berlin Trilogy, to the point where an uninitiated listener wouldn't be able to tell that it had any relation with Low and "Heroes"; there are no instrumentals on side two and the songs are lighter and more pop-oriented. Additionally, while its two predecessors are rooted more strongly in Krautrock, art rock, and avant-garde music, Lodger is more strongly based in a mix of post-punk and World Music (though not without conspicuous art rock leanings), predating Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads' similar blend of genres on Melt and Remain in Light by roughly a year.


As with Low, critical reviews were indifferent to negative upon release, only to later be Vindicated by History; it is now considered one of his most underrated albums. As of 2020, it sits at No. 2685 on Acclaimed Music's dynamic compendium of the most critically praised albums of all time. Commercially-speaking, the album performed roughly on-par with "Heroes" in the UK, peaking at No. 4 on the UK Albums chart, while in the US it outperformed its predecessor, peaking at No. 20 on the Billboard 200. The album would later be certified gold in the UK and the Netherlands.

Lodger was supported by four singles: "Boys Keep Swinging", "DJ", "Yassassin", and "Look Back in Anger". The latter single was exclusive to the United States, being released there in place of "Boys Keep Swinging", which executives feared would be received poorly in America due to its sexually androgynous undertones.



Side One

  1. "Fantastic Voyage" (2:55)
  2. "African Night Flight" (2:54)
  3. "Move On" (3:16)
  4. "Yassassin" (4:10)
  5. "Red Sails" (3:43)

Side Two

  1. "DJ" (3:59)
  2. "Look Back in Anger" (3:08)
  3. "Boys Keep Swinging" (3:17)
  4. "Repetition" (2:59)
  5. "Red Money" (4:17)

Bonus Tracks (1991 Reissue):

  1. "I Pray, Olé" (3:59)
  2. "Look Back in Anger" (1988 version) (6:59)

Life is a pop of the cherry, when you're a trope:

  • Bookends:
    • Bowie's "Berlin Trilogy" sometimes unofficially includes Iggy Pop's The Idiot due to Bowie's involvement and its sound. The first song on The Idiot is "Sister Midnight", and the final song of Lodger is "Red Money", a rewrite of "Sister Midnight".
    • A more bizarre case occurs with the cover photo: Low featured a profile shot of Bowie's head on the front cover, Lodger a shot of his legs and feet (though some reissues, such as the RCA and Rykodisc CD releases, make the upper half of the photo the front cover instead of the lower half).
  • Bowdlerise: The Saturday Night Live performance of "Boys Keep Swinging" muted the second line of the couplet "When you're a boy/Other boys check you out". Subverted at the very end of the performance when the costume Bowie was wearing suddenly reveals a fake penis and waves it around the place. Surprisingly, Bowie wasn't blacklisted for thisnote , and wound up performing on the show again in the late 90's.
  • Call-Back:
    • The rhythm of "Move On" is the chord sequence for "All the Young Dudes" played backwards.
    • In an example within the album alone, "Boys Keep Swinging" repeats the basic structure of "Fantastic Voyage".
  • Camp: "Boys Keep Swinging", an intentionally over-the-top and cartoonish portrayal of masculinity.
  • Distinct Double Album: Like the previous two albums, this one is a single-disc variant, featuring songs with themes of travelling on side A and lyrically introspective songs on side B.
  • Domestic Abuse: The subject of "Repetition".
  • Double-Meaning Title: "DJ". Yes, the song is about a disk jockey, but when you remember that Bowie's real name was David Jones...
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Bowie's tendency towards this trope is exploited to great effect in the "Boys Keep Swinging" music video, which features multiple seemingly female backing singers who reveal themselves at the end to be Bowie in drag.
  • Dull Eyes of Unhappiness: Implied to be the case with Anne in "Repetition", which claims that "the space in her eyes show through" as a result of Johnny's continuous abuse.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Invoked in the video for "D.J."
  • Everything Is an Instrument: "African Night Flight" features a buzzing noise midway through the song, listed in the liner notes as "Cricket Menace".
  • Face on the Cover: Played with; the cover photo depicts Bowie made-up to look like an accident victim, spanning the whole of the exterior gatefold sleeve. However, the orientation of the photo places the half with Bowie's face on the back; the front cover, pictured above, merely shows his legs and feet. Played straight with the 2017 remix, which flips around the cover photo to put Bowie's face on the front.
  • Guest Star: Avant-garde guitarist and Frank Zappa collaborator Adrian Belew performs guitar on a number of the album's tracks (most distinctly the wailing guitar solo in "Boys Keep Swinging", which sounds uncannily precursory to his solo in "The Great Curve"), as well as contributing mandolin to "Fantastic Voyage". Belew had previously accompanied Bowie during the Isolar II tour in 1978 and would rejoin him for the Sound+Vision Tour in 1990; in return for the latter, Bowie contributed two songs to Belew's 1990 album Young Lions ("Pretty Pink Rose" and "Gunman"), performing both songs with him as duets.
  • In the Style of...:
    • A Talking Heads biography posits that "DJ" was Bowie's attempt at emulating the singing style of frontman David Byrne; not only was Bowie personally acquainted with Byrne, but Berlin Trilogy collaborator Brian Eno had also started working with Talking Heads during the interim between "Heroes" and Lodger, with More Songs About Buildings and Food and Fear of Music being recorded and released before and during the recording sessions for Lodger.
    • "Boys Keep Swinging" seems to be Bowie's attempt at pastiching the work of Frank Zappa, of whom Bowie was a fan (to the point of grabbing one of Zappa's touring guitarists, Adrian Belew, for both his 1978 Isolar II tour and this album, much to Zappa's consternation). Like much of Zappa's material, "Boys Keep Swinging" is a rough-sounding and musically complex comedy rock song with lyrics bombastically lampooning conformist elements of western society. Hell, considering the off-kilter musical and lyrical nature, one could say that the whole album wears some heavy Zappa influences on its sleeve.
  • Large Ham: Most of the songs on the album thrive on this, as do the music videos:
    • Boys Keep Swinging: Two minutes of Bowie gyrating his hips, one minute of his backup singers showing off on the catwalk and revealing themselves to be Bowie in drag.
    • Look Back in Anger: Bowie paints a self-portrait, which becomes progressively more and more detailed while his face decays.
  • Large Ham Radio: The music video for "DJ" features Bowie in a pink suit, bombastically breaking down in a radio studio. The song itself is also quite over-the-top in its style and delivery, the end result of Bowie trying to imitate Talking Heads.
  • Lighter and Softer: By far the most accessible and pop-oriented of the Berlin Trilogy.
  • Mood Whiplash: The bombastically satirical "Boys Keep Swinging" is juxtaposed with the cold, minimalist, and downright chilling "Repetition"; the subject matters of the songs are also like night and day in terms of mood, the former being a comedic riff on male gender norms and the latter being a frighteningly dead-serious story about an abusive husband.
  • Motor Mouth: "African Night Flight" features Bowie delivering lyrics at serious speed.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Parodied in "Boys Keep Swinging", which features Bowie satirizing masculinity by bombastically listing a number of excruciatingly mundane and unisex privileges that men seemingly have (interspersed with a number of more outlandish and comically unrealistic claims such as "they'll never clone ya").
  • My Nayme Is: Subverted with "Yassassin": it is not another way of spelling "assassin". Some versions of the album remedy this by adding the subtitle "(Turkish for: Long Live)".
  • New Sound Album: While still retaining the rough and abstract art rock style of Low and "Heroes", Lodger features much starker and stripped back production that lends a rawer sound to the album. Interestingly, this was not actually producer Tony Visconti's intentions; he couldn't complete the mix in time due to scheduling constraints, resulting in the album shipping out incomplete (this, incidentally enough, is what led to the album being critically panned when first released; the press specifically thought the album sounded "muddy"). The 2017 remix attempts to amend this, bringing the album's sound closer in style to the elaborate and atmospheric "Heroes".
  • The Not-Remix: Received a fairly notable one in 2017 as an exclusive extra in the Boxed Set A New Career in a New Town [1977-1982]; unlike the ones from previous retrospective sets, this one was fairly controversial among fans and critics for the heavier changes producer Tony Visconti made to the album. For what it's worth, Visconti stated that the alterations were meant to reflect his intended vision for the album that simply wasn't possible in 1979 (due to scheduling constraints), and indeed the remix's production is more in-line with that of its predecessors.
  • One-Word Title: The album itself, plus the songs "Yassassin", "DJ" and "Repetition".
  • Packaged as Other Medium: The album cover is styled after a postcard, specifically addressed to RCA Records' UK headquarters; incidentally, the reference to RCA is preserved on reissues put out after Bowie reclaimed the rights to his backlog from them in 1988.
  • Rearrange the Song: "Red Money" is a rewrite of "Sister Midnight", from the Bowie-produced Iggy Pop album The Idiot.
  • Refuge in Audacity: "Boys Keep Swinging", both the song and the video, continue Bowie's tradition of playing with gender norms and sexuality. "DJ" isn't too far behind.
  • Reggae: "Yassassin" uses a reggae riddim as its base.
  • Revealing Injury: The full image for the album cover has Bowie as an accident victim, heavily made up with an apparently broken nose.
  • Shout-Out: "Red Sails" uses a motorik rhythm lifted from Neu!.
  • Stylistic Suck: "Boys Keep Swinging"'s rough sound, the result of Bowie having the members of his backing band switch instruments to perform it.
  • Take That!: "DJ" and "Boys Keep Swinging" take swipes at the disco subculture of the era, Bowie having been a vocal critic of the genre for being, in his eyes, a watered-down gentrification of funk that rapidly became homogenized. "Boys Keep Swinging" in particular jabs at the hypermasculine image of groups like The Village People, who Bowie felt did more to reinforce harmful gender norms. Of note is that Bowie's dislike of disco was, for the most part, limited to the music rather than to the artists as people, and he went on to collaborate with disco giants Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers in the early 80's; he also openly admired Donna Summer's "I Feel Love", indicating that he did take a liking to acts who chose to innovate upon the disco formula rather than simply repeat it.
  • Ur-Example: "African Night Flights" could very well be the first example of speed rap.
  • Video Inside, Film Outside: The video for "DJ" alternates between 16mm location scenes of Bowie being mobbed by fanatic admirers on the street and videotaped scenes of him having a physically violent mental breakdown at a radio station.
  • Wham Line: "Repetition"
    "I guess the bruises won't show/If she wears long sleeves"
  • World Music: The album is seen as an Ur-Example of the worldbeat boom of The '80s which came to popularity with artists such as Talking Heads and Peter Gabriel.


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