Sigma Sound Studios was a recording studio founded in 1968 by recording engineer Joe Tarsia. Located at 212 North 12th Street in Philadelphia, it was one of the first studios in the United States to offer 24-track recording and the first anywhere to successfully employ console automation. Tarsia also opened Sigma Sound Studios of New York City in 1977, at the Ed Sullivan Theater building. From its beginning, Sigma Sound was strongly associated with Philadelphia soul and, in the 1970s, the sound of Gamble and Huff's Philadelphia International Records (its driving rhythm a precursor to disco music), as well as the classic, sophisticated productions of Thom Bell. Both featured large productions with strings and horns creating what became known as the "Philadelphia Sound". Their success attracted many artistes and producers from various music genres across the US, as well as Europe and Japan. By the late 1970s, Sigma was operating 10 music rooms on a 24-7 schedule. Sigma's long-time general manager, Harry Chipetz, managed the business operations and worked hand-in-hand with Tarsia in developing a staff that numbered close to 50 at its peak. Sigma is credited with well over 200 gold and platinum awards with an extensive client list that begins with Aretha Franklin and ends with ZZ Top. Tarsia sold the New York studios in 1988 and the Philadelphia location in 2003, but they still retained the Sigma Sound Studios name. The 6,000 unclaimed tapes from Sigma's 35-year-old tape library are now part of The Drexel University Audio Archive.  
David booked 2 weeks at Sigma commencing on the 8 August 1974. He was accompanied by Mike Garson and David Sanborn from the tour band; new guitarist Carlos Alomar; Willie Weeks on bass (to replace Herbie Flowers who had returned home); and Andy Newmark on drums to replace Tony Newman. In addition, Ava Cherry, Robin Clark (Alomar’s wife) and their friend Luther Vandross provided backing vocals.  
The Young American
Sigma Sound Studios - August Session
On the 9 July 1974, Ava Cherry recorded 3 songs at Sigma Sound including a version of David’s ‘Sweet Thing’. The musicians came from David’s tour band whilst he provided backing vocals and played saxophone. During his residency at the Tower Theatre news quickly spread that David would be recording his next album at Sigma Sound the following month.
‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’ is listed on the reel indexes as ‘Dancin’’, ‘Young Americans’ is listed as ‘Young American’ and ‘I’m A Laser’ is listed as ‘Lazer’. In addition, comments made by David on the first tape suggests that ‘Can You Hear Me’ was always the correct title during these sessions and not “Take It In Right” as it was known during the recording of Diamond Dogs. The file numbers on the tape indexes suggest that another reel exists between Tapes 2 and 3 above, either recorded on 13 or 14 August. Its contents and whereabouts are not known so it’s possibly lost or may have been carried over and used on later recording sessions. There is a fourth tape held by the Drexel University Audio Archive which is a ¼” reel - possibly recorded from monitors by the Sigma Sound staff. The first 45 minutes consists of Ava Cherry, Robin Clark and Luther Vandross performing their backing vocals to ‘Who Can I Be Now’ whilst the remaining 45 minutes are dedicated to the same treatment for ‘John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)’. The full story of how these tapes came into the possession of Drexel University can be read here… http://drexel.edu/now/archive/2014/October/Bowie-Archives/  
Tape 3 – dated 14 August 1974 A 2” 16 track tape. Drexel has a digital copy and the physical tape is held by the Bowie Estate. 1. Young Americans 5:39. A complete version although David gets a bit tongue tied with the lyrics near the beginning. 2. John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) [first take] 0:40. An incomplete version with no vocal. 3. John, I’m Only Dancing (Again) [second take] 5:26. A complete version with some lyrical differences to the finished version. 4. Can You Hear Me 4:50. A complete version with slight lyrical differences to the finished version. 5. After Today 4:07. Complete version and played at a similar tempo to the version released by Ryko in 1989. At the end of the song David says, “That tempo’s a lot better!” 6. It’s Gonna Be Me 6:52. A complete version with numerous lyrical differences to the finished version - see lyrics below.
It’s Gonna Be Me (early version) Hey Jack you better shake it up Put her right out of your head Think you balled just another young girl last night Brother you left a woman in that morning bed I’ve been on that trip so many times Good God, that was really yesterday   Tried it so many, many, many, many, many ways I’ve lied and taken off into the day Leaving another conquest to weep over the breakfast tray I’ve seen her before you came Hit me Jack cos I’m gonna love her Come back my babe, be holy again You gave her, ooh maybe, maybe Gotta give her, ooh baby, baby Your kind of love can only destroy You gave her, ooh baby, baby Get it down if you’re gonna be her baby Or it’s gonna be me Was no rain check for me All those little things walked by But I couldn’t nearly stammer out my name When that angel on your arm caught my eye I’ve seen her before you came Stallions and lightning won’t hold me back Come back my babe, be holy again You gave her, ooh maybe, maybe Gonna give her, ooh baby, baby Your kind of love can only destroy You gave her, ooh maybe, maybe Get down, be her baby Cos it’s gonna be me She’s playing a funky phonogram And waiting for the telephone to ring Wearing a little glitter and a glam bag clutched in her hand All the motor cars sound like they’re pulling in the drive But oh no, no I see her now Little tear running down her cheek Lost, let down Maybe looking for me? Wanna race down her street and knock hard, hard, hard on the door Til the drama breaks down like a treasured toy And I feel her pain I’ll be strong again and again Come back my babe, I’m holy again I’ll take you, ooh baby, baby We’re gonna have a, ooh baby, baby My kind of love can only bring you joy I’m gonna be there baby, baby Gotta give ya, ooh baby It’s gonna be me
Shilling The Rubes Lay in the corner How long have you been awake? You lay out your life How much did he take? Never counting the change Passed into another   It’s only a ferris wheel It’s only a house of fear It’s only a three-ring circus Ringmaster, cannonball Never counting the change Passed into another Now he’s gone   Gone, the day that he left town Gone, he was shilling the rubes Gone, let the tears of a clown And he’s gone, he was shilling the rubes   Fifteen new faces Fifteen new days Still won’t forget him Hot boiling craze Never counting the change He passed into another Now he’s gone   Gone, the day that he left town Gone, he was shilling the rubes Gone, let the tears of a clown And he’s gone, he was shilling the rubes   Gone, the day that he left town Gone, he was shilling the rubes Yeah gone, let the tears of a clown Oh, he was shilling the rubes I Am A Laser Let’s hear it for the gouster (yeah) Baggy pants and a watch chain Dressed down like the spirit and his game But mirror, mirror on the wall sees all But your doo-wop rag made you look tough Razor blades in her bra Mirror, mirror on the wall   I am the laser Burning through your eyes And I know what kind of flame you have I know what fear you hide   Hear it for the t-shirt Oh, those crew cuts that hurt Clicking jigaboo so Lenny Bruce Mirror, mirror on the wall sees all Dog tooth or paisley? Processed or strained? But mirror, mirror on the wall says   I am the laser Burning through your lies You’ll join my other world some day Then gaze in through outside   I am the laser Burning through your lies You’ll join my other world some day You’ll gaze in through outside   Oh yeah!
An acetate of two of the tracks recorded by Ava Cherry at Sigma Sound on 9 July 1974. (Left) The A-side ‘Sweet Thing. (Right) The B-side ‘Everything That Touches Me, Touches You’.
Thanks to the Drexel University Audio Archive, it’s possible to appreciate some of these very early Sigma recording sessions. The Audio Archive holds 2 physical tapes which have been digitised plus they have digital versions of 2 other tapes which are now in the hands of the Bowie Estate.
Tape 1  dated 13 August 1974  A 2 16 track tape. Drexel has a digital copy and the physical tape is held by the Bowie Estate.  1. John, Im Only Dancing (Again) 6:01. A complete version with some lyrical differences to the finished version.   2. Can You Hear Me 4:56. A complete version with slight lyrical differences to the finished version. Towards the end of the song David says Big finish now before ending the song with Hit that coda, dad!  3. Its Gonna Be Me [first take] 1:52. An incomplete version as David gets his vocal timing wrong.  4. Its Gonna Be Me [second take] 5:45. An incomplete version as Mike Garson ends the song prematurely, prompting David to say, Too soon, man.  5. Its Gonna Be Me [third take] 6:46. A complete version with numerous lyrical differences to the finished version.  NOTE. David Sanborn does not feature on any of these tracks.
Tape 2 – dated 13 August 1974 A 2” 16 track tape which has been digitised although Drexel still has the physical tape in its possession. 1. Young Americans [first take] 0:21. An incomplete version with no vocal. 2. Young Americans [second take] 2:52. An incomplete version which ends with David laughing after singing “President Nixon.” 3. Young Americans [third take] 5:37. A complete version with slight lyrical differences to the finished version. 4. Shilling The Rubes 5:16. Complete version – see lyrics below. Towards the end of the song David says, “That’s going to be very nice when it’s got its hat on!” 5. I’m A Laser 6:06. Complete version – see lyrics below. 6. After Today 4:09. Complete version but played at a much faster tempo than the version released by Ryko in 1989. NOTE. David Sanborn joins the session from track 5 onwards.
Lyrics
David wasn’t pleased with the recorded sound from the initial rehearsals and asked Tony Visconti to fly over from England to take control of the recording. Visconti arrived 3 days into the sessions and immediately took charge. He recalls:
I   arrive   in   Philadelphia   from   London   around   8pm.   I've   just   finished   a   Thin   Lizzy   album   and   I   am   tired!   I   am   rushed   to   Sigma   Sound   by limo.   I   am   shown   the   control   room,   and   can   see   a   large   band   playing   full   tilt   with   Bowie   walking   around   pensively   among   them.   I   am immediately   intimidated   because   the   band   contains   three   musicians   I   am   in   complete   awe   of   –   Andy   Newmark   on   drums,   Willie   Weeks on bass and David Sanborn on sax. These are super session men, and I'm just a Brooklyn kid who did good in England! I   ask   the   engineer,   Carl   Paruolo,   "Who   is   engineering?"   I've   never   seen   a   console   as   funky   as   this   –   it   looks   like   it   was   handmade   in someone's garage on weekends. He   says,   "You   are!"   He   was   originally   selected   to   engineer   by   Bowie,   having   recorded   many   Philly   hits,   but   he   told   me   that   Bowie   wasn't pleased with the sound. Bowie told Carl, "Tony will be handling the recording once he arrives." David   and   the   band   had   been   recording   their   rehearsals   for   three   days,   and   I   could   hear   the   problem   he   had   with   the   sound.   In   those days,   in   America,   engineers   recorded   "dry"   and   "flat",   waiting   for   the   mix   to   add   the   equalization,   reverbs   and   special   effects.   But   the British   often   recorded   with   the   special   effects   right   on   the   session!   I   was   British-trained   and   David   was   used   to   this   sound!   So   I   rolled   up my sleeves and got right into it. By 2 am we'd recorded our first official backing track – "Young Americans." The   session   guys   were   great   to   record   with.   My   fears   were   quickly   dispelled.   To   contrast   the   "slickness"   of   Newmark,   Weeks   and Sanborn,   David   was   trying   out   a   gang   of   NYC   kids   from   the   Bronx,   whose   manager   had   sent   in   a   demo   tape   weeks   earlier.   They   were Carlos   Alomar   on   guitar,   his   wife   Robin   Clark   on   vocals   and   their   vocalist   friend   Luther   Vandross!   What   a   lineup!   Mike   Garson   on   piano was the only link left over from the Spiders From Mars days. It   was   agreed   we   had   to   record   live,   no   overdubs!   But   David   also   wanted   to   record   his   vocals   live   in   the   same   room!   This   presented   a   big problem   because   the   instruments   were   much   louder   than   his   voice,   so   I   had   to   rig   up   a   special   microphone   technique   which   canceled   the band   but   recorded   his   voice.   This   required   two   identical   microphones   placed   electronically   out   of   phase.   In   other   words,   the   diaphragm   of one   mike   is   pushing   when   the   other   is   pulling.   The   band's   sound   is   picked   up   by   the   two   mikes,   but   is   out   of   phase   and   consequently cancelled!   David   was   told   to   sing   only   into   the   top   mike   so   that   his   voice   was   not   canceled!   For   the   non-technically-minded   this   probably doesn't make any sense, but it saved the day, and what you hear on the recordings is about 85% "live" David Bowie.
Throughout the two weeks of recording sessions a small army of fans – affectionately referred to as the Sigma Kids – waited patiently outside hoping to glimpse David as he came and went. On the final day at the studios (in the early hours of Friday 23 August 1974) David invited the Sigma Kids into the studio to listen to the completed recordings. The memories of one such Sigma Kid can be read here… https://onmanorsmind.wordpress.com/2016/06/14/ In addition, there is a detailed article on the Sigma Kids in Philadelphia Weekly (US) - 24 July 2002: David Bowie's Young Americans A total of 10 tracks were completed during these sessions - John, I’m Only Dancing (Again); Somebody Up There Likes Me; It’s Gonna Be Me; Who Can I Be Now?; Can You Hear Me; Young Americans; Right; Shilling The Rubes; I’m A Laser; and After Today. The first 7 of these were selected for inclusion on the new album tentatively titled ‘One Damn Song’.