Given the amount of excellent material that he produced in his lifetime, it’s amazing to think that David Bowie had even more stashed away. But that’s what we’re seeing with the release of the Bowie-curated ’70s boxset Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976). Specifically, the new collection contains a never-before-released album called The Gouster that you can stream now over on Spotify.
As Consequence of Sound points out, The Gouster starts 50 tracks into Now? and contains several early versions of Young Americans tracks as well as completely fresh songs. All I know is funky Bowie is best Bowie (fight me), so this is great news in a year chock full of awful. Bowie’s long-time producer Tony Visconti explained the album’s creation (and the title) in the set’s liner notes.
“Gouster was a word unfamiliar to me but David knew it as a type of dress code worn by African American teens in the ‘60s 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.”
Stream The Gouster below and if you somehow need more Bowie after a 104-song comp, check out our hand-selected favorites from his packed career.