When the Thin White Duke passed away at 69 years old last week, much ink was spilled on how he was a “chameleon” of sorts, seamlessly transitioning through the various phases and genres of his career.
Lazy music journalism cliché aside, David Bowie did, indeed, possess an uncanny ability to inhabit whichever character he set about to create. Thanks to previously unheard studio outtakes, we now have a lighthearted example of this.
While recording the titular track for the Absolute Beginners soundtrack in 1985, Bowie decided to have a little fun in the booth by running through his best impressions of fellow rock icons Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, Tom Waits, and Neil Young.
The results are six minutes of pure, unadulterated fun. While Bowie was a man of mystery, he was also a human being who had the same goofy impulses many musicians feel while killing time in the studio.
Bowies Springsteen impression doesn’t quite nail the Boss, but there’s something about the way he sings the Darkness on the Edge of Town-esque lyric “When the fire broke out on the Rio Grande” with that mumbly throat warble.
The late musician’s imitations of Petty, Iggy, Waits, and Young are all hilarious and, in their own ways, delightfully skewering of his peers. Bowie’s impression of Lou Reed, however, comes eerily close to sounding just like the fellow recently departed rock legend.
And then when Bowie impersonates British crooner Anthony Newley—an early influence on him—it’s difficult to tell when the spoof begins and ends.