Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Gail Ann Dorsey

Something about girls with shorn heads that brings out the best in a song. For example the version of 'Under Pressure' Gail played and sung live with David Bowie. It was a great song made so by Freddie, Queen and the Dame himself. OK, sometimes the original cannot be bested although I think Joe Cocker's cover of 'With A Little Help From My Friends' possibly disproves that thought. The live version(s) played by Bowie, his band and featuring Gail Ann Dorsey on bass and vocals may be another case in point.

What a remarkable musician she is. Having heard the a Capella version by Mercury and Bowie it is undeniably a remarkable song made so by the voices of the singers.  She really does have a terrific voice though and on that song, on 'Under Pressure' her powerful vocals are more than a match for our David's and equal to the power of Freddie.

"I was in tears the first time David suggested that I perform Freddie's part in Under Pressure. I believe it was in Boston during the Nine Inch Nails Outside tour. I've probably said it before, but Queen is my favorite band of all time. To this day, it is always a special moment for me to perform that song with David."

When we think of Gail it is as a long time member of David Bowie's band. We tend to forget her time with Tears For Fears but also entirely overlook her own output. Gail is not just a working musician, a session bassist, guitarist, clarinettist and vocalist, she is also a solo artist having released three studio albums.

She appears on the Tears for Fears albums Raoul and the Kings of Spain but also performed live extensively with the band and featured on their successful single Break It Down Again.

Other artists she worked with include Louise Goffin, Sophie B. Hawkins, The The, Gang of Four,  The Indigo Girls, The B52's and Michael Hutchence and of course David Bowie.

It was with David Bowie where my interest in Gail began. She joined his band around the time of the Outside tour. She didn't play on that album but did on its follow up 'Earthling.' Both albums have been criminally overlooked and yet form part of a three album run that saw Bowie at the peak of his 90's output. The electronic drum and bass suited Gail's playing as many of the songs were grounded by her subtle muscle. Her bass playing was key to the fundamental thrust of the album, its drive was provided by her seamless link to drummer Zac Alford's drum loops, his acoustic drumming and the electronic drumming prevalent on the album.

'Earthling' is one of the vital albums in Bowie's remarkable cannon made all the more so by Gail's bass.

Bowie had this to say about the album's lyrics..."I guess the common ground with all the songs is this abiding need in me to vacillate between  atheism or a kind of gnosticism. I keep going backwards and forwards between the two things, because they mean a lot in my life. I mean, the church doesn't enter into my writing, or my thought; I have no empathy with any organised religions. What I need is to find a balance, spiritually, with the way I live and my demise. And that period of time - from today until my demise - is the only thing that fascinates me."


Born November 20th 1962 she grew up in Philadelphia, a town with a rich history in music. From early on she learned to play the guitar. She didn't consider herself a bassist until she hit twenty even though when she acquired one around her fourteenth birthday.

She tried her hand, whilst attending the California Institute of Arts, in the making of soundtracks.  But working in the film industry was not for her so she left the Institute to go and live in London. It proved to be a move of significance as it opened a lot of new doors for her granting her greater recognition which ultimately led to the release of her first solo album, the highly rated "The Corporate World." This was an album whose sound was a curious mix of Pet Shop Boys with large buckets full of soul. All of the songs on the album were written by Gail. The album was released in 1989.
Her second album, "Rude Blue," followed the first some three years later and again revealed a singer/songwriter of talent. It was less successful than the first and it wasn't for another eleven years that she released her third solo project.
What I really like about Gail is all absence of having the need to confess her musical 'guilty secrets.' Her taste in music is not only eclectic but at times unashamedly uncool. She states Olivia Newton-John, Bread, The Fifth Dimension, Queen, Dion Warwick, Abba, Heart and The Partridge Family as her influences. Her favourite bassists are Charles Mingus and Chuck Rainey. Notable bassists both. But it is when asked to describe her sound that she really makes me giggle - 'Black -arach.' In other words Bert Bacharach fused with soul and a little jazz. A neat combination. 


Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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