David Bowie Recorded ‘Five Years’ in Tears
Ken Scott, who was David Bowie’s co-producer for four albums, recalled that the musician was in tears as he completed his performance of the opening track on groundbreaking album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.
Scott explained that, while it can’t be heard as well in the final mix, he’s used an alternative version to demonstrate to fans just how much Bowie gave while he was working. “Five Years,” and an isolated vocal version, can be heard below.
“With all of the top name artists I’ve worked with, and vocalists, I've never come across anyone quite like that,” the producer told Music Radar in a recent interview, adding of Bowie’s performances: “a friend of mine said they're perfect in their imperfection. And that's what it is. They're not totally in tune. They're not totally in time, but they come from your soul. He's putting across himself in every one of those.”
He continued: “The first track on Ziggy, ‘Five Years,’ by the end of the take he was bawling his eyes out; there were tears rolling down his face. Now, unfortunately when one is mixing, doing a final mix, you're trying to be dramatic, should we say, and put everything across as best you can. And when you do that sometimes these little bits and pieces get a little lost.
“[Y]ou do hear that there's emotion in his voice at the end there. But now quite often in my talks, I will play the ending of 'Five Years'. It starts off with just the regular track [then] I've laid that down so it’s just David and acoustic guitar…I’ve had members of the audience that have heard this – they've started to bawl their eyes out. It is so moving. And that's what he gave every single time.”
Scott also praised Bowie’s ability to quickly capture what he wanted to express. “Of the four albums I co-produced with David, about 90 percent of the vocals were first take, beginning to end,” he said. “I would run the take, get the level for his vocal, go back, hit record on the take, and what he did that one time through is what we still hear today. And that's no Auto-Tune...no cut and pasting things, no moving anything around. It was one performance that came from his heart every time.”
Listen to David Bowie’s Full Version of ‘Five Years’
Listen to David Bowie’s Isolated Vocals on ‘Five Years’