Happy Birthday David Bowie: Spot-On Impressions Of Lou Reed, Bruce Springsteen, Iggy Pop & More
David Bowie was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Bowie pushed the boundaries and sought out innovation, consistently honing and revamping his public and musical persona. Accordingly, the British pop icon is known for his distinct sounds and eras, with Bowie constantly reinventing himself across his decades-long career through his death in 2016. In celebration of what would have been his 72nd birthday, check out a video of David Bowie proving himself as a music chameleon during a 1985 recording session.
In this delightful video, David Bowie runs through a number of spot-on music impressions, including those of Bruce Springsteen, Tom Waits, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop and Anthony Newley. The recording also features two additional impressions, most likely of Bob Dylan and Neil Young or Tom Petty.
Starman’s impressions were captured by Mark Saunders at London’s Westside Studios on August 18, 1985. Saunders worked at the facility as an audio engineer at the time. Bowie was in town to record on the soundtrack for the movie, Absolute Beginners, which he also starred in as Vendice Partners. Notably, later in the day, Mick Jagger joined Bowie in the studio to record their take on “Dancing In The Street.”
Saunders explained in a statement:
The impersonations on this YouTube posting were recorded in August ’85, when Bowie came in to do the lead vocal. At the end of the session, he broke into the impersonations and I realized 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.
The clip starts off with an impression of The Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Given the off-the-cuff nature of the impressions, Bowie had to quickly pen all the lyrics for his first impersonation — a feat which only adds to the impressive nature of each recording, given the spot-on imitation of Springsteen-esque lyrics. Clearly having a ball, Bowie can be heard stating to the room, “I’m going to give you somebody else now, just ‘cause I feel like it.”
Next, using the same lyrics as a template, he works through a take of most-likely Bob Dylan, characterized by his raspy vocals and poetic phrasing (though Far Out Magazine notes it could also be an impression of Marc Bolan). After laughing and exclaiming, “I’m just fuckin’ about now,” Bowie launches into his best take on Tom Waits followed up by an impression of The Velvet Underground frontman Lou Reed and British rocker and actor Anthony Newley.
Before a hilarious Iggy Pop impersonation, the recording captures Bowie working through how to best approach the impression with someone else in the room. For the final impression, which is most likely Tom Petty or Neil Young, Bowie speaks to the difficulty of the imitation. Laughing, he explains, “It’s difficult. He’s somewhere between all of ‘em. No, I couldn’t get anywhere near to him.” Check out David Bowie’s hilarious music impressions below: