He was a man of endless talents, and now it seems that the late David Bowie was also a fantastic mimic.
A new video, posted by music engineer Mark Saunders, features Bowie impersonating a range of singers including Lou Reed, Tom Waits and Iggy Pop from a session in 1985 when he was laying down vocals for Mick Jagger duet Dancing In The Street.
The tape was made at Westside Studios in London, where Madness producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley were producing the soundtrack for the film Absolute Beginners. Later in the session, when Bowie came in to record his vocals for Dancing In The Street at Westside, he started playing around a impersonating some of his contemporaries, much to his own amusement.
Bowie kicks off with Bruce Springsteen, before making his way through a range of stars, seemingly struggling to get to grips with impersonating Iggy Pop and Tom Waits before nailing the vocals.
Saunders, who was engineering the session, revealed: “The impersonations on this YouTube posting were recorded when Bowie came in to do the lead vocal.
“At the end of the session, he broke into the impersonations and I realised that these might get erased at some point, so I quickly put a cassette in and hit Record. I wish we could hear the other side of the dialogue but unfortunately that wasn’t being recorded.”
Saunders, who has gone on to produce the likes of The Cure and Erasure, continued: “The day Bowie was first due to show up at Westside, we were all a bit nervous — Bowie was the biggest star client for Clive and Alan at that point.
“We kept looking out the windows, waiting for a stretch limo to show up and an entire entourage to walk in, but then a black cab showed up and out popped the unaccompanied Bowie.”
Saunders also gave an insight into how Bowie worked while recording, admitting he was surprised to find the star often doubted his talents.
“When the band was recording the backing tracks, Bowie would sing a rough vocal along with them,” explained Saunders. “Each one could have been the master — he had an amazing voice. But with every song, when he came to sing the vocal for real, he would sing one line at a time, stop, listen to it and then do the next.
“Bowie would often have a Walkman with him and check how he’d sung the line on his demo before continuing. I thought this was very odd, considering what a great voice he had.”
Saunders’ tape is the latest curio from Bowie’s career to be unearthed following his death from cancer last month shortly after his 69th birthday.
Loaded’s entertainment editor Jennifer O’Brien is an award-winning journalist who has written extensively about popular culture as a national newspaper columnist and author. Follow her on Twitter at @Jen_OBrien1