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Music / Lodger

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

"David Bowie. Moving on once again. Explore a new quality of life."
Tagline from the album's advertising campaign.

Lodger is the thirteenth studio album by David Bowie, released in 1979 through RCA Records. 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 marked 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 or "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 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.

The album peaked 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:

  • Alternate Album Cover:
    • Most early CD releases of the album alter the cover to put Bowie's face on the front; the European RCA CD and Rykodisc CD simply flip it around, while the US RCA CD orients it vertically and turns it into a foldout poster (mixing it with the inner gatefold art and the inner sleeve). The 1999 remaster would eventually restore the LP configuration of the artwork, with the 2017 remaster following suit on physical releases.
    • The 2017 remix and the standalone digital release of the 2017 remaster also flip around the cover art, but move the faux postcard from the legs half to the face half.
  • Book Ends:
    • 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.
  • Concept Video:
    • "DJ" contrasts the public life of a Stepford Smiler radio deejay with the mental breakdown he's undergoing in private.
    • "Look Back in Anger" pays homage to The Picture of Dorian Gray, featuring Bowie as an artist who finds that touching a portrait of himself as an angel affects his face instead of the portrait's.
  • Disco Sucks: "DJ" and "Boys Keep Swinging" were written as potshots against disco (which Bowie saw as a homogenous gentrification of funk) and the associated subculture (which he felt did more to reinforce harmful gender norms). Of note is that Bowie held no ill will towards the artists themselves, openly praising Donna Summer's "I Feel Love" for its innovation and collaborating with Chic's Nile Rodgers on Let's Dance and Black Tie White Noise.
  • 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 disc 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 "DJ", which features Bowie being mobbed and kissed by male and female fans alike on the street.
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous Panning: In the 2017 remix, the chant "asante habari habari ha, asante nabana nabana na" in "African Night Flight" bounces between the left and right speakers with each line; the vocals are centered in the original 1979 mix.
  • Humble Pie: Mentioned by name in "DJ", juxtaposing it with "bitter fruit" in the context of the darker undercurrents of its titular disc jockey's supposedly glamorous lifestyle. It's never specified what the humiliating event was, but it nonetheless is shown to have had an adverse effect on the guy, as emphasized by his gradual breakdown in the song's music video.
  • 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 and a huge fan of Talking Heads (even covering them on a BBC radio performance), 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" is a riff on 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, Doo Wop-influenced, and musically complex comedy rock song with lyrics bombastically lampooning conformist elements of western society.
    • "Red Sails" is done in the style of Neu!, right down to using a motorik rhythm. Bowie was very vocal about his love of Krautrock, which had already influenced Station to Station and the other two entries in the Berlin Trilogy.
  • 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. The subject matter also lightens up for the most part, moving away from musings on a collapsing personal life and the bleakness of the Cold War in favor of more eclectic topics.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Look Back in Anger" is an upbeat, driving rock song about being tempted by Satan.
  • 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. Reportedly, this was due to Tony Visconti being unable to finish the mix in time; the 2017 remix attempts to amend this, bringing the album's sound closer in style to the elaborate and atmospheric "Heroes".
  • 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.
  • Product Placement:
    • "African Night Flight" namedrops Sony.
    • An EMI 7" is prominently displayed on one of Bowie's turntables in the "DJ" music video; the logo on it is large enough to not be muddied out by the videotape footage's low resolution. Coincidentally, Bowie would sign onto EMI a few years later due to his increasingly antagonistic relationship with RCA Records.
  • Protest Song: "Yassassin" criticizes the discrimination against Turkish immigrants that Bowie had noticed in West Berlin.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "African Night Flight" is based on two trips Bowie took to Kenya in 1978 and 1979, where he participated in a safari and met two former Luftwaffe pilots who were now working as smugglers and mercenaries.
  • Rearrange the Song:
    • "Red Money" is a rewrite of "Sister Midnight", from the Bowie-produced (and co-written) Iggy Pop album The Idiot.
    • Bowie re-recorded "Look Back in Anger" in 1988 as his first collaboration with guitarist Reeves Gabrels, who sought to help Bowie break away from the pop sound that he'd leaned into throughout the decade. This re-recording, which is much longer and more avant-garde than the original, first debuted as Bowie's contribution to Korean-American video artist Nam June Paik's 1988 film Wrap Around the World before appearing on the 1991 reissue of Lodger as a bonus track.
  • Re-Cut: 8-track releases of the album reshuffle the tracklist to fit a four-program format, with the new running order being "Fantastic Voyage", "Move On", "Yassassin", "African Night Flight", "DJ", "Boys Keep Swinging", "Look Back in Anger", "Red Money", "Repetition", and "Red Sails". Additionally, both "Yassassin" and "Red Money" are split into two parts due to them overlapping with the between-program changeover.
  • 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.
  • Remix Album: The album saw a substantial remix by producer Tony Visconti in 2017 as part of the Boxed Set A New Career in a New Town (1977-1982). This new version was intended to address issues both he and Bowie had with the original mix, which was limited by the technical restrictions of the mixing console in New York.
  • 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:
    • "African Night Flight" takes its rhythm from Dale Hawkins' "Suzy Q" played backwards.
    • "Red Sails" uses a motorik rhythm lifted from Neu!.
    • The interior gatefold includes a photograph of the 1480 Andrea Mantegna painting Lamentation of Christ.
  • Special Guest: Avant-garde guitarist and Frank Zappa collaborator Adrian Belew performs guitar on a number of the album's tracks (most distinctly the wailing guitar solos in "Red Sails" and "Boys Keep Swinging"), 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.
  • Stylistic Suck: "Boys Keep Swinging"'s rough sound, the result of Bowie having the members of his backing band switch instruments to perform it.
  • Trash the Set: The last act of the "DJ" video shows Bowie tearing apart the studio building, kicking doors down, tearing off the curtains, shattering one mirror, and spray painting another.
  • Ur-Example: "African Night Flight" is an early example of speed rap, back when Hip-Hop was still primarily associated with disco.
  • 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"
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The music video for "Look Back in Anger", depicting a self-portrait that alters its artist's image, is an extended homage to The Picture of Dorian Gray with the roles swapped.
  • 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.