Following ‘Five Years 1969-1973’, last year’s 12CD collection of David Bowie albums, a new box set has been announced called ‘Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976)’ that contains one unreleased one from 1974. It’s called ‘The Gouster’, it eventually “morphed” into Bowie’s 1975 album ‘Young Americans’ – and here’s what we know about it.

What does ‘Gouster’ mean?

According to the liner notes from producer Tony Visconti, Bowie said Gouster was “a type of dress code worn by African American teens in the ‘60’s, in Chicago”.

Seems a bit unusual but, Visconti clarifies, “in the context of the album its meaning was attitude, an attitude of pride and hipness. Of all the songs we cut we were enamoured of the ones we chose for the album that portrayed this attitude.”

What inspired ‘The Gouster’?

Visconti said it’s a soul record. “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.”

What was the recording process like?

The album was dangerously long. The time limitations caused by vinyl – which included a big drop in volume above 18 minutes per side – meant that they had to make the grooves narrower for quieter songs – in the end they squeezed in everything. “Forty minutes of glorious funk,” Visconti says. “That’s what it was and that’s how I thought it would be.”

What is ‘The Gouster’’s tracklisting?

It begins with what Visconti calls a “funkafied” version of the 1972 track ‘John, I’m Only Dancing’, which was released as a single in 1979. “Our version,” Visconti explains of the rework, “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.”

The album also has ‘Somebody Up There Likes Me’ and ‘It’s Going To Be Me’, the first of which was originally included on ‘Young Americans’, and the second of which was reissued with that album in 1991. In total, it has four tracks in common with the original issue of ‘Young Americans’, while all of the songs have appeared on various special editions of that album. See the full tracklisting below:
Side 1
1. John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)
2. Somebody Up There Likes Me
3. It’s Gonna Be Me
Side 2
1. Who Can I Be Now?
2. Can You Hear Me
3. Young Americans
4. Right

Are there only seven tracks on The Gouster?

Fans think there were once ten. Apparently the vinyl trick Visconti mentioned above (making the grooves narrower on quieter sections to extend a vinyl’s play time) isn’t being done now, so it’s impossible to fit all of them on the vinyl. The other tracks from ‘The Gouster’ sessions that people want to hear are: ‘I Am A Lazer’, ‘Shilling The Rubes’ and ‘After Today’, and you can hear them below: