In 1985, David Bowie acted in the rock musical Absolute Beginners. He also composed the soundtrack for the film, and one of the recording sessions resulted in this recently unearthed gem. Bowie runs through a myriad of impressions—Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Lou Reed, and Tom Waits get mimicked—and totally nails it. Sound engineer Mark Saunders shared the clip, and this story:
“I was lucky enough to work with Bowie in 1985 at Westside Studios in London. My bosses, Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley (Madness, Dexys Midnight Runners, Elvis Costello, Bush) were producing the soundtrack for the movie Absolute Beginners, for which Bowie was acting and writing songs.
The day Bowie was first due to show up at Westside, we were all a bit nervous—Bowie was the biggest star client for Clive and Alan at that point in time. We kept looking out the windows, waiting for a stretch limo to show up and an entire entourage to walk in, but then a black cab showed up and out popped the unaccompanied Bowie. He walked in, announced in what seemed a more cockney voice than I remembered, ‘Hi, I’m David Bowie,’ and shook our hands. A bit later I noticed that the cockney had dissipated somewhat and he also seemed to have grown more upright and taller, too. I thought, ‘Wow, he really is a chameleon,’ and wondered if the earlier exaggerated cockney was his way of reducing his superstar status temporarily to put people at ease on first meeting him.
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.”