Everyone already knows that the late David Bowie was a singular musical genius, deft multi-instrumentalist, and celebrated stage and film actor. Now it turns out he could also put to shame the dumb Neil Young impression you do at karaoke. Mark Saunders is a record producer, sound engineer, and musician who has spent a decades-long career working with the likes of Mick Jagger, The Cure, John Lydon, and David Byrne, among many others. He worked with Bowie on several songs for the soundtrack of the odd, ill-received 1986 rock musical Absolute Beginners, in which Bowie also appeared as an actor. While rehearsing the title track, Bowie began riffing on “Absolute Beginners” as it would have been sung by a variety of other famous singers. Urged on by So So Glos drummer Zach Staggers, a family friend, Saunders has now uploaded the six-minute-plus take to YouTube:
The results are mixed: It’s little surprise that Lou Reed and Iggy Pop are among the strongest, given their personal and professional ties to Bowie, but he also does a solid Neil Young, a decent enough Bruce Springsteen, and, apparently, an uncanny Anthony Newley (a British actor, singer-songwriter, and Bowie influence best known for co-writing Nina Simone classic “Feeling Good,” the title song to Goldfinger, and the score for Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory). Less successful are his Tom Waits and one that we’re guessing is Bob Dylan, but that Slate points out might just as easily be Marc Bolan. Still, the others alone are surely enough to have Jimmy Fallon staring in the mirror, pondering his own mortality.
Staggers explains on The Talkhouse that Saunders had played the impressions privately among friends for years; Bowie’s death prompted Staggers to dig out the recording from an old iPod, and Saunders put it online. The Talkhouse article goes on to paste in a post from Saunders’ personal blog warmly remembering his interactions with Bowie, whom he inauspiciously first met alongside Mick Jagger while working on the unfortunate “Dancing In The Street.”