Friday, September 14, 2007

The Making Of Young Lions (part three)

throughout the making of young lions I continued to prepare for the upcoming bowie tour in my role as "music director" by arranging the material. david had given me a list of 35 songs from throughout his career, a kind of "greatest hits" list. they varied in style and content from orchestral pieces like space oddity to modern soul music like young americans. the band for the tour was to be my trio plus a turkish bassist david had chosen, Erdal Kizilcay. the instrumentation needed to portray such a varied catalog was far beyond the abilities of a 4-piece band, so I worked with keyboardist Rick Fox to do as much "sampling" as possible.*
most mornings before going into the studio to continue the making of young lions rick and I would talk through bowie songs over the phone (rick lived in cincinnati). I kept what I felt were the signature components of each song and filled in the arrangements as best I could with the attitude of a 4-piece rock band. still, this required more and more "sampling" from rick. we kept ordering more Roland samplers.

at last in early January, 1990 the Sound and Vision World Tour rehearsals began in New York City during which time I completed the young lions record and handed it over to Atlantic Records. in retrospect it has five of my personal favorites: I am what I am, young lions, phone call from the moon, gunman, and men in helicopters.

for the first and only time in my solo career out of necessity I allowed the artwork to be done without my input. usually I am completely involved in the artwork. it has become yet another output for creativity and personal expression. the artwork for young lions was done by the in-house art department of Atlantic. I supplied a photo of myself at age 5 (on my way to sunday school) and left the rest to them.

I am happy with young lions even though some of the material would have been different under less time constraints. in general, I'm not an artist who looks back at a record and wishes I had done something else. in fact, it was a great experience to see what magic could be pulled out of the hat on such short notice.

*during the bowie concerts rick fox sometimes had little to do except to start a sampler and let it play. the band was nearly hidden in the very back of the large 60-foot metal stage. once while playing in a stadium in front of about 30,000 people I looked back at rick. he had started the sampler and evidently had no keyboard parts to play. so there he sat, casually eating a sandwich!


  1. Adrian,

    It continually amazes me that you say Young Lions was rushed. For a long time this was my favorite of your albums. There is such diversity of feel among the songs and so much charisma. Looking back, I wouldn't do anything differently either (if I were a talented musical professional). It was very well executed, perhaps in a zen moment way, if a zen moment could be several months long.



  2. Adrian I really enjoyed your playing during that Bowie tour. I saw you here in Winnipeg. It was a real pleasure to see you and Bowie playing together. Two of my faves on one stage.
    I liked the way that you arranged the songs for that tour. The songs benefitted from being played by a smaller band. Smaller is better sometimes.
    I hope you get to do more work with David.


  3. Amazing !!!
    Believe It !!
    Travis ~~~

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  5. I saw that tour ... which means I've seen you in concert (at least) 17 times between Crim, Bears, solo ... and Bowie ... I've seen Zappa, Talking Heads, and Laurie Anderson in concert but I've no idea if you were there. One of my favorites was your "extremely naked" appearance at the Barns At Wolf Trap in Virginia.

  6. Hey Adrian, how goes it? I'm a Florence, KY resident and really enjoy your stuff (music, blog, art, etc.) Your anecdotes are especially valuable as you've had a hand in so much rock history. Being a Zep freak, I really enjoyed hearing about the almost (shoulda happened) pow-wow with Jimmy...I imagine he's pretty busy at the moment, however. Also, a fan of Zappa (saw Dweezil with ZPZ in Cincinnati in July...great show) Bowie, the Bears , and of Rock School-The Slicks. Adrian Belew, you are the nexus of my rock'n'roll world! Come back to the Southgate House (fantastic venue!) ASAP! Do a homie a favor, awight?

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  8. Hey Adrian,

    Just wanted to drop a note saying I'm really enjoying the more in-depth look at the creation of Young Lions. Repeat the process for every album you've ever put out and you've got blog material for months! (:

    PS. Are you catching Dylan at the Ryman this week? If so, make sure you've heard his latest album, he's playing a lot from it... won't say he's still at the top of his game, but he definitely has his moments.

  9. BTW, the name of that Turkish bassist is Erdal Kizilcay... :)

  10. "Gunman" has always been one of my favorites, glad to hear it is is one of yours. Mighty.