Various bits of flotsam that washed up on our computers, before we moved to a better blog system in November 2004. Now a repository for YouTube videos and testing new tools. Go to for more recent content.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

David Bowie - A New Career In A New Town

no footage, just a great song
Following the release of the cocaine-fuelled Station to Station, Bowie began to rekindle his interest in art. As a recovering cocaine addict, (although he never fully dropped the habit and continued to use sporadically during recording and mixing), his songwriting on Low tended to deal with difficult issues; many of the songs concern lethargy, depression, estrangement, or self-destructive behavior. Producer Tony Visconti contended that the title was partly a reference to Bowie's "low" moods during the album's writing and recording.

The format of the album was unusual for its time: side one contained short, direct song-fragments; side two comprised longer, mostly instrumental tracks. On these tracks help was lent by ex-Roxy Music keyboardist and conceptualist Brian Eno, who brought along his EMS 'suitcase' synthesiser (Bowie was later given this exact synthesiser as a birthday present after a friend obtained it in an auction).Often incorrectly given credit as Low's producer,Eno was responisible for a good deal of the direction and composition of the second side of the album and actually wrote the theme and instrumentation for "Warszawa" while Bowie was in Paris attending court hearings against his former manager. Eno in turn was helped by producer Tony Visconti's four-year-old son who sat next to Eno playing A, B, C in a constant loop at the studio piano. This phrase became the "Warszawa" theme. On Bowie's return Eno played him the work which impressed Bowie who then quickly composed the made-up, vaguely eastern European sounding lyrics.

Although the music was influenced by German bands such as Kraftwerk and Neu!,Low has been acclaimed for its originality and is considered ahead of its time, not least for its cavernous treated drum sound created by producer Visconti using an Eventide Harmoniser.On the release of Low, Visconti received phone calls from other producers asking how he had made this unique sound, but would not give up the information, instead asking each producer how they thought it had been done.

The influence of Low spans many genres that would come to prominence in following years such as Post-punk, New Wave and Industrial. Not only was it an influence on these styles, but the fact that an artist of Bowie's prominence had experimented with these styles made other proponents of the genres more respectable. Trent Reznor would later claim Low to be one of his influences while creating The Downward Spiral. As late as 2000, Radiohead looked to be attempting a similar concept and sound with their album Kid A.


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