David Bowie followed up his otherworldly performance in 1976's The Man Who Fell to Earth with a decidedly more grounded role, that of Paul Ambrosius von Przygodski, a Prussian officer-turned-gigolo, in the 1978 film Just a Gigolo. Unlike The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bowie did contribute to the soundtrack of director David Hemmings' movie; now, that soundtrack has finally come to CD in expanded form from Cherry Red Records.
The West German comedy-drama's story began in 1918. The picture dovetailed with Bowie's interest in post-WWI Berlin, the city in which he recorded portions of Low and all of "Heroes." The superstar led the cast also including the legendary Marlene Dietrich (in her final onscreen film role) as the proprietor of the brothel in which von Przygodski is employed, as well as Kim Novak, Maria Schell, and Hemmings. Dietrich and Bowie were mutually interested in sharing the screen with each other, but their scenes were ultimately shot separately. The film captured the decadent time in Berlin history in which the influence of Nazism began to pervade the society - the same period between wars depicted in Cabaret, the musical which proved influential to the young Bowie. (The musical takes place a decade or so later.)
The soundtrack supervised by Jack Fishman featured period-style vocal and instrumental tracks filtered through a seventies sensibility, including three newly-recorded songs by The Manhattan Transfer as well as performances by Marlene Dietrich of the 1929 title song and renditions of vintage standards by The Pasadena Roof Orchestra, The Ragtimers, and others. David Hemmings co-wrote "Don't Let It Be Too Long," sung in the film by Sydne Rome, with composer Gunther Fischer. Frank Barber, a friend of Fishman's, arranged many of the tracks, with John Altman also providing additional arrangements. Primary recording took place at Olympic Studios in London. The album featured a handful of cuts not in the movie, including Fischer's rather modern instrumental "Kissing Time," a new "club mix" of Dietrich's "Just a Gigolo" and The Village People's disco medley of the song with "I Ain't Got Nobody." (The two songs were originally blended by Louis Prima, and famously again in 1985 by David Lee Roth.)
But the items of most interest on the soundtrack were, naturally, the two David Bowie tracks. The star is heard on a pair of versions of his own composition "Revolutionary Song." It's co-credited to Fishman and performed by "The Rebels." Bowie reportedly composed the Kurt Weill-esque tune in between takes on the set. While it's heard four times on the soundtrack, he supplied the instantly recognizable, wordless vocals for Part I and Part III of the song. An edit was even released in Japan as a single under the name "David Bowie's Revolutionary Song."
Just a Gigolo wasn't met with acclaim upon its release in November 1978; even Bowie cracked that it was "my 32 Elvis Presley movies rolled into one." But this curiosity has its share of delicious Weimar Germany-influenced music, now all available on Cherry Red's CD. This reissue has been resequenced and expanded from the original LP issue. It boasts a copiously illustrated 24-page booklet including an introduction by Paul Fishman (although his assertion that Just a Gigolo was Kim Novak's final film is incorrect; her last credit to date is 1991's Liebestraum), the original LP liner notes, and a fine essay with detailed track-by-track annotations by film historian Charlie Brigden. Paul Fishman has also remastered.
Looking to fill in that gap in your Bowie or Dietrich collection? Just a Gigolo is available now from Cherry Red at the links below!
Various Artists, Just a Gigolo: The Original Soundtrack (Ariola Germany LP 200.462, 1978 - reissued and expanded as Cherry Red CDMRED746, 2019) (Amazon U.S. / Amazon U.K. / Amazon Canada)
- Just a Gigolo - Marlene Dietrich
- Salome - The Pasadena Roof Orchestra
- The Revolutionary Song (Part I) - The Rebels [feat. David Bowie]
- Johnny - The Manhattan Transfer
- The Streets of Berlin - The Gunther Fischer Orchestra
- Charmaine - The Pasadena Roof Orchestra
- Just a Gigolo (Instrumental - Piano) - Marlene Dietrich
- Don't Let It Be Too Long - Sydne Rome
- The Ragtime Dance - The Ragtimers
- Jealous Eyes - The Manhattan Transfer
- The Revolutionary Song (Part II) - The Rebels
- I Kiss Your Hand Madame - The Manhattan Transfer
- Just a Gigolo - Marlene Dietrich
- Kissing Time - The Gunther Fischer Quintet
- Black Bottom - The Pasadena Roof Orchestra
- The Revolutionary Song (Part III) - The Rebels [feat. David Bowie]
- Auf Wiedersehen Gigolo - Marlene Dietrich & Choi
- Jealous Eyes - The Barnabas Orchestra
- Easy Winners - The Ragtimers
- The Revolutionary Song (Part IV - Instrumental) - The Rebels
- Just a Gigolo/I Ain't Got Nobody - The Village People
- Just a Gigolo (Club Mix) - Marlene Dietrich
Fingers crossed that maybe, just maybe, this is a precursor to the film being released on DVD.
Anthony Parsons says
I realize your article is written from your personal perspective, but you seem to have missed the fact that the Manhattan Transfer tracks have long been part of the holy grail of their recordings. They are also among the last tracks recorded by the original group prior to Laurel Masse's accident and subsequent departure. The only way I could get these prior to now was as bootlegged CDR singles from an eBay seller in Spain. This is a major "gap" in ManTran's available output that is finally being filled.
Joe Marchese says
I’m thrilled that this release fills a gap in a MT collection much as it does in a Bowie collection. That’s wonderful, all-around.
Kenny Lucas says
I will buy this for the Manhattan Transfer tracks. They are extremely rare.