David Bowie: Watch That Man (Vocal)?

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Vaughan, Apr 25, 2017.

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  1. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    As Bowie fans will know, this track in infamous because of the mix - Bowie's vocals are pushed way back in the mix, the only track on Aladdin Sane to have this done.

    I've always felt it was strange, but you kind of get used to it the way it is. But reading the book that comes with the Five Years box, Ken Scott writes: "This track I describe as my biggest mistake". He says that he mixed it as is, and was asked to "fix" it by Bowie's management. He did, but then management changed its mind and went back to the original mix. Then the record label went through the same iteration.

    Looking back now, Scott says he "hates" the mix, and that the vocal should be higher. I tend to agree.

    So the question is, how would a remix be viewed now? Heinous for messing with history? An interesting variant?
     
  2. O Don Piano

    O Don Piano Forum Resident

    The track sounds like what the album is about- Ziggy lost in the US.
    Confused, loud, edgy, indecipherable, all with female background singers!
    To me, it's great the way it is.
     
    pdenny, richarm, rednoise and 3 others like this.
  3. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    Location:
    Atlanta
    I rather like it. It's one of those Bowie-rips-off-the-Stones-sound tracks, and it makes sense to have the vocal kind of buried, like Mick Jagger's was sometimes in the 70's. It sounds like a party. I don't think a remix would improve it.
     
  4. O Don Piano

    O Don Piano Forum Resident

    Ha! You're right- it DOES sound like a party! That's the image I've had of that song in my head since I first heard it, but I never thought to describe it that way.
     
    dkmonroe likes this.
  5. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    Aladdin Sane provided Bowie with two top 3 singles in the U.K. in 1973. Had the vocal been 'rightened' I'm sure Watch That Man could have been a third. It's one of the most commercial songs on the LP.

    I love the song as it is, but I don't think that mix would have sat well on the radio.:)
     
    Vaughan likes this.
  6. Haristar

    Haristar Apollo C. Vermouth

    Location:
    West Sussex, UK
    First time I heard this song, I thought there was something wrong with my version of it. Why did the vocals sound so buried?

    Since then I've warmed to it a lot more. It makes it different, gives it a distinctive quality.
     
    OldSoul likes this.
  7. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    And it was typical of Bowie to do something like that....

    I wonder how many people returned that LP to the shops in 1973 thinking it was defective.:D
     
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  8. Haristar

    Haristar Apollo C. Vermouth

    Location:
    West Sussex, UK
    For those who want a version with clearer vocals there's this:



    Produced by Bowie and Ronson and featuring Bowie's whole band.
     
    conjotter and Bobby Morrow like this.
  9. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    Lulu's version of The Man Who Sold The World was the first time I heard the song. I'm not sure if I even knew it was written by Bowie back then.:)

    Not so keen on her take on Watch That Man.. Her vocal is too abrasive. She sounds like she's having fun but she does kind of ruin it...
     
  10. O Don Piano

    O Don Piano Forum Resident

    It was so-so......
     
  11. blaken123

    blaken123 Your Greater Tri-County CD Superstore

    Location:
    United States
    I like it a lot for its sound, one of my favorite Bowie songs and mixes... it sounds ahead of its time, almost like shoegaze. Some other Bowie songs could have used more of this (guitars UP, vocals back), like Queen Bitch, where the heavy guitars are "reigned in" a bit at the ten second mark so that the vocals can take center stage.
     
  12. Kwai Chang

    Kwai Chang Forum Resident

    Location:
    Agua Dulce, Ca.
    I agree with Ken Scott. The song is completely neutered by having to listen for something that never arrives.
    "There was an old fashioned band of married men...looking up to me for encouragement! It was so-So"
    The rest of the album is a triumph.
     
  13. Purple Jim

    Purple Jim Forum Resident

    Location:
    Little Britain
    A cock-up but what the hell.
     
  14. hardknox

    hardknox Forum Resident

    Location:
    Earth
    It got played on FM radio quite a bit in Cleveland back in '73 and sounded just fine. :cool:
     
    strummer101 likes this.
  15. Haristar

    Haristar Apollo C. Vermouth

    Location:
    West Sussex, UK
    Cracked Actor would have been a strong but controversial single. :):laugh:
     
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  16. Bobby Morrow

    Bobby Morrow Forum Resident

    Can't imagine Tony Blackburn playing that in 1973.


    Or Time, for that matter.

    :D
     
    Haristar likes this.
  17. Haristar

    Haristar Apollo C. Vermouth

    Location:
    West Sussex, UK
    And it would probably make Savile a bit nervous.
     
  18. MickAvory

    MickAvory Forum Resident

    Location:
    New Orleans, LA
    I've got to disagree with some here and say that I absolutely love the groove of the song, but hate the fact that I can't hear or understand the vocals at all. I think its one of Bowie's best early to mid-70s rock tracks and the buried vocals just ruin it for me. I've only managed to snag a late 70s repress of the LP and its got a better mix / mastering than the various CD releases over the years, but you still can't hear anything besides the chorus. I have no clue what Bowie sings unless I look at a lyric sheet.

    I agree with Ken Scott. Its a major mistake to have released it like this. It ruins my enjoyment of an otherwise great rock song. I've heard a few live versions and they are good in the fact that I can decipher the vocals, but I don't find they have the punch of the studio recording.

    And.. I've always wanted to start a thread on the problems with this song and why it sounds the way it does. Somebody beat me to it and explained the reason. Thanks!!!
     
    Bobby Morrow likes this.
  19. rednoise

    rednoise Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    It's a powerful slab of guitar-driven rock and roll - the band is hot and that's what matters most. Yeah, the lead vocal is slightly back in the mix, but I can still hear what he's saying perfectly well. The mix is an effect and it adds to the Stones-iness of it all. I don't think remixing would improve it in any real way and could very well rob it of some of its magic.
     
    richarm and crozcat like this.
  20. the pope ondine

    the pope ondine Forum Resident



    agreed! im used to it now but could've been so much better....some songs work well with a buried vocal but not this one, if only he recorded it for ziggy stardust
     
  21. Haristar

    Haristar Apollo C. Vermouth

    Location:
    West Sussex, UK
    Or it could have been saved for Diamond Dogs.
     
  22. strummer101

    strummer101 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lakewood OH
    I got used to it, but to this day when I hear it I wish the vocals were less buried.
    As far as which record it should be on...I like it right where it is, leading off Aladdin Sane. :agree:
     
  23. dkmonroe

    dkmonroe A completely self-taught idiot

    Location:
    Atlanta
    I sang along with this song so many times, lyric sheet in hand, that it's indelibly etched in my memory! :laugh:
     
  24. rednoise

    rednoise Forum Resident

    Location:
    Boston
    He kind of did. I consider the title song, "Diamond Dogs" to be a (slightly) inferior remake.
     
  25. karmaman

    karmaman Forum Resident

    then i'm afraid the problem lies with your ears or your equipment. being low in the mix doesn't make the lyrics indecipherable. and the album comes with a lyric sheet.
     
    Dave Thompson and scobb like this.
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