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Lodger is the thirteenth studio album by David Bowie. It was originally released in May 1979, on the label RCA. The last of the Berlin Trilogy, it was recorded in Switzerland and New York City with collaborator Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti. Unlike Bowie's previous 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.[5][6] It was accompanied by several singles, including the UK Top 10 hit "Boys Keep Swinging."

Recording and production[]

Originally to be titled either Planned Accidents or Despite Straight Lines,[6] Lodger was largely recorded between legs of David Bowie's 1978 world 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.[5]

Eno felt that the trilogy had "petered out" by Lodger,[7] 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."[5] 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).[7]

Style and themes[]

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).[8][9] 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;[10] 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).[5][7] "Move On" was lyrically Bowie's ode to his own wanderlust, sonically his earlier classic "All the Young Dudes" played backwards.[8] "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;[9] 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".[5]

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.[8] 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.[11] 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.[8] "Red Money" added new words to a Bowie/Alomar tune that had originally appeared as "Sister Midnight", with lyrics by Iggy Pop, on the latter's album The Idiot.[6]


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.[8][12] These images were not reproduced in the Rykodisc CD reissue in 1991.

Release and critical reception[]

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg[3]
Blender4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[13]
Chicago Tribune2Star full.svgStar half.svgStar empty.svg[14]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music2/5 starsStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg[15]
Entertainment WeeklyB+[16]
Pitchfork Media8.5/10[17]
Q4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[18]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide5/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg[19]
Spin4/5 starsStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg[20]
The Village VoiceA−[21]

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",[22] and Melody Maker finding it "slightly faceless".[6] In Smash Hits the album was described as sounding like "a ragbag of rejects from previous styles" with "only occasional flashes of genius".[23] It was also criticised for having a thinner, muddier mix than Bowie's previous albums.[6] 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".[21] 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.[5]

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".[8] While biographer Christopher Sandford calls it a "slick, calculatedly disposable record",[10] author David Buckley contends that "its stature grows with each passing year",[5] and Nicholas Pegg sums up, "undervalued and obscure practically from the moment of its release, its critical re-evaluation is long overdue".[6] 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.[24] Shearwater covered the album in its entirety at live shows and on The A.V. Club following Bowie's death.[25]

Track listing[]

All lyrics are written by David Bowie; all music is composed by Bowie and Brian Eno, except where noted.

Side one
1."Fantastic Voyage" 2:55
2."African Night Flight" 2:54
3."Move On"David Bowie3:16
5."Red Sails" 3:43
Side two
  • Bowie
  • Brian Eno
  • Carlos Alomar
7."Look Back in Anger" 3:08
8."Boys Keep Swinging" 3:17
10."Red Money"
  • Bowie
  • Alomar
Total length:34:38


Lodger has been re-released several times on CD. RCA first issued the album on CD in 1985. Rykodisc (in the USA) and EMI (elsewhere) released a version with two bonus tracks in 1991. The most recent iteration appeared in 1999 on EMI (featuring 24-bit digitally remastered sound and no bonus tracks); subsequent editions are merely repackagings of the current EMI edition.

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


Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.[26]

  • David Bowielead and background vocals; guitar; synthesizer; Chamberlin; piano
  • Brian Eno – synthesizers; ambient drone; prepared piano; cricket menace; guitar treatments; horse trumpet; eroica horn; piano; backing vocals
  • Tony Visconti – guitar; mandolin; bass guitar; backing vocals
  • Adrian Belew – guitar; mandolin
  • Carlos Alomar – guitar; drums on "Boys Keep Swinging"
  • Dennis Davis – drums; percussion; bass guitar on "Boys Keep Swinging"
  • George Murray – bass guitar
  • Sean Mayes – piano
  • Simon Houseviolin; mandolin
  • Roger Powell – synthesizer
  • Stan Harrisonsaxophone
Production team
  • David Bowie – producer
  • Tony Visconti – producer; engineer; mixing
  • David Richards – engineer
  • Rod O'Brien – mixing

Chart performance[]


  1. "Ranking: Every David Bowie Album from Worst to Best". Consequence of Sound. 8 January 2016. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. BLACKARD, CAP, WREN GRAVES AND ERIN MANNING. "A Beginner's Guide to David Bowie". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Lodger – David Bowie". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 March 2016.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Graham, Ben. "30-Years On: David Bowie's Lodger Comes In From The Cold Ben Graham , January 11th, 2016 00:35". The Quietis. Retrieved 6 December 2016.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 David Buckley (1999). Strange Fascination – David Bowie: The Definitive Story: pp.335–356
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Nicholas Pegg (2000). The Complete David Bowie: pp.310–312
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Ian Gittens (2007). "Art Decade", MOJO 60 Years of Bowie: pp.70–73
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 Roy Carr & Charles Shaar Murray (1981). Bowie: An Illustrated Record: pp.102–107
  9. 9.0 9.1 Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: pp.172–173
  10. 10.0 10.1 Christopher Sandford (1996, 1997). Loving the Alien: pp.177–191
  11. Nicholas Pegg (2000). Op Cit: p.74
  12. Derek Boshier Web Site
  13. "David Bowie Part 1: The 1960s and '70s". Blender (47). May 2006.
  14. Kot, Greg (10 June 1990). "Bowie's Many Faces Are Profiled On Compact Disc". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  15. Larkin, Colin (2007). The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (5th ed.). Omnibus Press. ISBN 0-85712-595-8.
  16. Robbins, Ira (1 November 1991). "Lodger". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  17. Powell, Mike (22 January 2015). "David Bowie: Lodger". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 22 January 2015.
  18. "David Bowie: Lodger". Q (61). October 1991.
  19. Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 97–99. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8.
  20. Dolan, Jon (July 2006). "How to Buy: David Bowie". Spin. 22 (7): 84. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  21. 21.0 21.1 Christgau, Robert (30 July 1979). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  22. Marcus, Greil (9 August 1979). "Lodger". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 18 July 2011.
  23. Starr, Red. "Albums". Smash Hits (31 May - 13 June 1979): 25.
  24. Gordinier, Jeff (31 May 2002), "Loving the Aliens", Entertainment Weekly, no. 656, pp. 26–34
  25. "Shearwater covers the entirety of David Bowie's Lodger". The A.V. Club. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 3 July 2016.
  26. Lodger liner notes. RCA Records. 1979.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992. St Ives, NSW: Australian Chart Book. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  28. "David Bowie – Lodger –" (ASP). Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  29. "Top Albums/CDs - Volume 31, No. 19" (PHP). RPM. 4 August 1979. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  30. " David Bowie – Lodger" (ASP). MegaCharts. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  31. "InfoDisc : Tous les Albums classés par Artiste > Choisir Un Artiste Dans la Liste" (PHP). Retrieved 31 January 2014. Note: user must select 'David BOWIE' from drop-down.
  32. Oricon Album Chart Book: Complete Edition 1970–2005. Roppongi, Tokyo: Oricon Entertainment. 2006. ISBN 4-87131-077-9.
  33. " David Bowie – Lodger" (ASP). Recording Industry Association of New Zealand. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  34. " David Bowie – Lodger" (ASP). Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  35. " David Bowie – Lodger" (ASP). Sverigetopplistan. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  36. "David Bowie > Artists > Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. Retrieved 31 January 2014.
  37. "allmusic ((( Lodger > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums )))". Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  38. "RPM Top 100 Albums of 1979". RPM. 22 December 1979. Retrieved 10 May 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  39. "Dutch charts jaaroverzichten 1978". Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  40. "Les Albums (CD) de 1979 par InfoDisc" (PHP) (in French). Retrieved 29 January 2012.
  41. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help) (in Dutch). Nederlandse Vereniging van Producenten en Importeurs van beeld- en geluidsdragers. Retrieved 17 January 2010. URL–wikilink conflict (help) Enter Lodger in the "Artiest of titel" box.
  42. [[[:Template:Certification Cite/URL]] "[[:Template:Certification Cite/Title]]"] Check |url= value (help). British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 31 January 2014. URL–wikilink conflict (help) Select albums in the Format field. Select Gold in the Certification field. Type Lodger in the "Search BPI Awards" field and then press Enter.

External links[]

  • Template:Discogs master

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