“Low” at 45

Guest post by Tony Visconti:

It’s anniversary time for David Bowie’s Low album. I’ve commented on it before, but certain elements of it are worth repeating.

For me it started with a phone call from Switzerland, where David was living at the time. He said that he and Brian Eno were working on a certain concept for a radically new album idea (and it was about time somebody did that). He briefly described the minimalist approach and plans for instrumental tracks, a first for him, but relying heavily on Brian’s great sonic landscape compositions. He asked me to join them in the ‘Honky Chateau’ in the outskirts of Paris, France, and cautioned that as it was experimental I might be wasting a month of my life for nothing.

I replied that spending a month of my life with you and Eno was worth it!!!

We sequestered ourselves for the first two weeks. I ended up not shaving or wearing shoes as my life consisted of dining room three times a day and studio most of the day, then the ‘haunted’ bedroom at night (but that’s another story).

Amazingly all of the tracking was done in two weeks, first with the band of Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis and George Murray. In the second week Brian and David laid down the bed of the ‘ambient music’ tracks. My new fangled Eventide Harmonizer 910 had a lot to do with the sonic nature of the tracks, not only the snare drum sound, but in the instrumental compositions too. David and I spent two more weeks with the overdubbing and mixing.

On the day of the final mix David asked for a cassette of all the mixes. He had quite a lot to drink. When I handed the cassette to him he waved it in the air and exclaimed, “We have an album,” considering we were never sure we did have an album until the final days of mixing.

David left the control room very excited, but we quickly heard a rumbling sound immediately afterwards and ran to the staircase. David had fallen down and was lying at the bottom in pain, but holding the cassette over his head. He was fine the next morning.

We never wavered from the decisions to make the album as radical as it sounded, even though critics panned it for the most part. Okay, so it wasn’t Ziggy Stardust II, but the influence it had on musicians, to open up more, gave birth to new genres and Pop music as an Art form.

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