David Bowie – Boys Keep Swinging (1979)

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During the Lodger recording sessions, David Bowie had wanted to capture a garage band style for the track, and decided the best way to achieve this sound was to get the band to swap instruments. Guitarist Carlos Alomar played drums and drummer Dennis Davis played bass. “Boys Keep Swinging” has exactly the same chord sequence as the song “Fantastic Voyage” from the same album (“Fantastic Voyage” was also the B-side to the single of “Boys Keep Swinging”). Bowie’s deep voice satirised machismo, while the lyrics juxtaposed depictions of male privilege and homoeroticism (“When you’re a boy, other boys check you out”). When this was combined with David Mallet’s video, which featured a suited Bowie backed by three “female” vocalists who were revealed to be the singer in drag, RCA decided against releasing the single in the US, choosing “Look Back in Anger” instead. Bowie performed the track with a puppet body special effect on Saturday Night Live on 15 December 1979, joined by Klaus Nomi as backing singer. During the broadcast NBC censors muted the “other boys check you out” line, but failed to notice the puppet’s bouncing phallus at the close of the song. The song reached #7 in the UK, returning Bowie to the top 10 of the Singles chart for the first time since “Sound and Vision” in February 1977. It has only been performed on one of Bowie tours to date, the 1995 Outside Tour. Interviewed in 2000, Bowie said the following about the song: “I do not feel that there is anything remotely glorious about being either male or female. I was merely playing on the idea of the colonization of gender.”

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