Last Friday, a new David Bowie box set Who Can I Be Now? went on sale featuring a plethora of rarities and outtakes. Most notably, however, is the set’s fourth disc – a previously unreleased, 7-track record titled The Gouster. Recorded between 1973’s Aladdin Sane and 1975’s Young Americans, The Gouster is what would have been the transitional landmark in the shift from Bowie’s hard-rocking to soul-laden album themes. Although every track off the lost LP has debuted at some point or another, this is the first time that Gouster has been made available as a whole.
Also released in the new box set was the liner notes of producer Tony Visconti, in which he offers a very informative segment on the unreleased LP:
“Gouster was a word unfamiliar to me but David knew it as a type of dress code worn by African American teens in the ‘60’s, in Chicago. But in the context of the album its meaning was attitude, an attitude of pride and hipness. Of all the songs we cut we were enamored of the ones we chose for the album that portrayed this attitude.
David had a long infatuation with soul as did I. We were fans of the TV show Soul Train. We weren’t ‘young, gifted and black’ but we sure as hell wanted to make a killer soul album, which was quite insane, but pioneers like the Righteous Brothers were there before us.
So ‘The Gouster’ began with the outrageous brand new, funkafied version of David’s classic ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, a single he wrote and recorded in 1972, only this time our version sounded like it was played live in a loft party in Harlem and he added (Again) to the title. It wasn’t the two and a half minute length of the original either.
We maxed out at virtually seven minutes! With the time limitations of vinyl (big volume drop with more than 18 minutes a side) we could only fit two other long songs on side one, ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ both about six and a half minute songs. We had hit the twenty-minute mark. Technically that worked because ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ had lots of quiet sections where the record groove could be safely made narrower and that would preserve the apparent loudness of side one.
Side two also hit the twenty-minute mark with ‘Can You Hear Me’ saving the day with its quiet passages. Forty minutes of glorious funk, that’s what it was and that’s how I thought it would be.”