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David Bowie & Cher – Can You Hear Me (Live on the Cher Show, 18th September 1975)

September 19th, 2023 | by Nick

A new restoration by Nacho of the David Bowie and Cher live vocal duet of Bowie’s ballad, Can You Hear Me, which was recorded for the Cher show, on this day 18th of September 1975.

Chris O’Leary writes that Can You Hear Me?, with its guilt and “studied unease”, is “sumptuous, its intro alone masterful”: “Once we were lovers / Can they understand? / Closer than others, I was your / I was your man.” The alto sax, played by David Sanborn and introduced in the third verse, “becomes a competing vocal line”. The arrangement and “small cathedral of voices” obscure the “pathetic man at the heart of the song”.

The original version of Can You Hear Me was recorded in August 1974. The final version was released in March 1975 on the David Bowie album, Young Americans. Nine months later, in November 1975, Can You Hear Me was used as the B-side of Golden Years, the first single from the forthcoming Station To Station album.

The three Bowie Cher Show performances are so contrasting – the fierceness of Fame, the showmanship of the Young Americans medley, and the tenderness of Can You Hear Me.

As a Bowie fan, it is tempting to ruminate on whether it would have been be better if the performance of Can You Hear Me had been by Bowie alone. But in my opinion this duet is a delight – Cher’s charisma, her extraordinary beauty and her gorgeous, seemingly effortless singing voice are a fine compliment to Bowie. He gives her perhaps the best line of the song, “I want love so badly, I want you most of all”. And she handles it beautifully, with her apparent ease. Another highlight of the performance comes later in the song, when Bowie flirts quite outrageously with Cher, apparently causing her to blush.

Bowie claims to remember almost nothing of the recording of the show or of meeting Cher. This is consistent with his claims about the entire Station To Station / LA period where he had little sleep and sustenance was mainly in powder form. Years later Bowie speculated, “I was probably this crazed anorexic figure walking in. I’m sure she didn’t know what to make of me”.

I’ve been hoping to get hold of a decent quality copy of this episode of the Cher show for many years.

So it’s big thanks to Tyler for providing me with one at last. There was no in-studio audience for the Cher show, the applause and laughter was all dubbed on in post-production.

On this version, that embellishment has been removed.

Thanks for watching, hope you dig it!

Video: David Bowie and Cher | Can You Hear Me | Live on the Cher Show | 18 September 1975 | Series 2 Episode 11 | CBS Television City, Los Angeles | Broadcast 23 November 1974 | CBS US | Cher show episode Directed by Bill Davis | APIS George Schlatter Production Inc.

Audio: David Bowie and Cher | Can You Hear Me | Live Vocal | Instrumental Mix by Harry Maslin | Backing track originally recorded 13–18 August 1974, at Sigma Sound, Philadelphia| Written by David Bowie | Strings by Tony Visconti | ℗ 1975, 2016 Jones/Tintoretto Entertainment Co., LLC under exclusive license to Parlophone Records Ltd, a Warner Music Group Company

Musicians: David Bowie | lead vocals Carlos Alomar | guitars Mike Garson: piano David Sanborn: alto saxophone Willie Weeks: bass guitar Andy Newmark: drums Larry Washington and possibly Pablo Rosario: conga Luther Vandross, Ava Cherry, Robin Clark.

Production: Tony Visconti Harry Maslin David Bowie

Nacho, September 2023.

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