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Hear David Bowie’s Impressions of Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young and More

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Given how often he changed his sound and style, it should come as no surprise that David Bowie could be a gifted mimic when the mood struck — and proof lies in this recently unearthed 1985 recording, which finds Bowie goofing off between takes with impressions of a series of other rock stars.

The Talkhouse (via Pitchfork) bring word of the track, which comes from the personal archives of producer Mark Saunders, and was recorded during sessions Saunders engineered for Bowie’s work on the Absolute Beginners soundtrack.

As Saunders notes in a lengthy reminiscence of the period (which is well worth checking out in full at the Talkhouse link), Bowie was a consummate professional in the studio, even during a rather frantic period — which Saunders witnessed — that included Mick Jagger showing up to cut their duet cover of “Dancing in the Streets” under a ludicrously tight deadline.

“When the band was recording the backing tracks, Bowie would sing a ‘rough’ vocal along with them and every one could have been the master — he had an amazing voice. But with every song, when he came to sing the vocal for real, he would sing one line at a time, stop, listen to it and then do the next,” writes Saunders. “He would often have a Walkman with him and check how he’d sung the line on his demo before continuing. I thought this was very odd considering what a great voice he had.”

That voice’s wide range is on full display in this off-the-cuff collection of impressions, which includes Bowie’s best Springsteen, Young, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed and Tom Waits. It’s a bit of humorous spontaneity that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever spent a sustained period of time in a recording studio, and a bittersweet look at a recently departed musical legend’s lighter side.

In other Bowie news, veteran country singer Dwight Yoakam recently shared a conversation he had with Bowie in 1997, during which Bowie revealed he was approached by Elvis Presley to produce an album for him — an intriguing collaboration that sadly dissipated upon Presley’s death shortly thereafter.

According to Bowie, the call from Presley was prompted by Presley hearing Bowie’s “Golden Years,” which was recorded with Elvis in mind. “I thought ‘Oh my God, it’s a tragedy that he was never able to make that,” Yoakam told the Orange County Register. “I couldn’t even imagine 1977 David Bowie producing Elvis. It would have been fantastic. It has to be one of the greatest tragedies in pop music history that it didn’t happen, one of the biggest missed opportunities.”

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