Though Lodger was considered the final LP in David Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, recording for it actually began in Montreux, Switzerland, and was completed in New York. The link was Bowie’s ongoing collaboration with Brian Eno, whose influence looms large. Song like “Red Sails” and “African Night Flight,” with their offbeat vocal and rhythmic arrangements, vividly echo Eno’s solo work, and “DJ” shows Bowie reflecting another of Eno’s collaborators during this period, David Byrne of Talking Heads – whose singing owed something to Bowie in the first place.
Replacing Robert Fripp for this outing was Adrian Belew, poached by Bowie in Berlin when the young guitarist came through town with Frank Zappa’s band. “Quite a guitar player you have here, Frank,” Bowie said, according to Belew, when Zappa discovered them dining together. “Fuck you, Captain Tom,” Zappa responded.
Belew’s spiky, free-range playing helped define the record. Other musicians got to shine too, including violinist Simon House, a new band member formerly with the prog-rock group Hawkwind; on the Turkish-reggae fusion experiment “Yassassin” and elsewhere, House adds an element recalling violist John Cale’s role in the Velvet Underground, beloved by Bowie.
Yet there was a sense of ideas being recycled on Lodger. At times this worked to the album’s advantage: “Red Money” literally lifts the bass line from “Sister Midnight,” Bowie’s collaboration with Iggy Pop a few years earlier, effectively making it a remix, with no diminished effect.
After three years, Bowie’s creative romance with Eno was fraying – as Bowie delicately put it, “We’ve slightly changed our opinions about music and what we should be doing.” Despite its virtues, Bowie wasn’t as pleased with Lodger as with its predecessors. “I think Tony [Visconti] and I would both agree that we didn’t take enough care mixing,” he said. Tellingly, Bowie wouldn’t make a record with Eno again until the Nineties, and his working relationship with Visconti would soon lapse as well.