A Look Back At David Bowie's 'Low' 40 Years Later

01-17-2017
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David Bowie

(Radio.com) In January of 1977, David Bowie released Low, the first album in what would become known as "The Berlin Trilogy." Low wasn't a huge commercial hit, but has gone on to be one of his most celebrated and influential albums.

To mark the anniversary, Adam Wiener--the EVP/GM of CBS Local Digital Media and publisher of Radio.com--and Paul Witcover, a Brooklyn-based novelist whose most recent book is The Watchman of Eternity, got together for a lengthy conversation about the album. Below is an edited version of that discussion.

Paul Witcover: I was a freshman in college when Low came out. I played it non-stop, much to the annoyance of my father, who hated it. He berated Bowie's voice, comparing it to Anthony Newley's [an English actor, singer and songwriter], who I didn't know at the time, but now I realize that Bowie was influenced by him.

Adam Wiener: I was 11 years old in 6th grade and owned both [1974's] Diamond Dogs and [1974's] David Live, which I discovered thanks to my older brother. Around March of 1977, I took my allowance to the record store, and there was the display for Low. I was immediately drawn to it because Bowie had the same orange hair as he did on the David Live album and I assumed the music was going to be more of the same. At this point any other person might say 'Imagine my disappointment when I heard it… " but that's not what happened. It was like nothing I'd ever heard.

AW: To mark the end of grammar school that June, my teacher threw a party and asked people to bring in albums. Other boys brought in KISS, either Destroyer or Rock and Roll Over. When it was my turn I played 'Always Crashing In The Same Car." Well, I tried to, at least. Despite being a very short song, it didn't make it all the way through before they insisted I take it off so they could again play one of the KISS songs that we'd already heard ten times. The ironic part is none of them really understood that KISS probably wouldn't have existed without Bowie's Ziggy Stardust character.

PW: Prior to that point in my life I had been listening to prog rock bands, electronic acts like Tangerine Dream, and Brian Eno's solo albums. My friends and I had talked about how incredible it would be to have Eno and Bowie collaborate. I heard about Low before it came out, and I knew that Eno was involved. But even then, the album was weirder than I had imagined it could be. I was used to weird soundscapes from these other groups. Low had them, too, but the mix is disjointed, fractured. However, the more you listen, you realize there is a pattern.

PW: After Bowie died, Eno was asked to describe something unique about Bowie that he hadn't yet discussed. He said he never met a singer who would prepare more for a vocal than David, trying countless intonations until he got the exact persona he wanted to convey. 'Be My Wife," complete with an accent on certain words, is a good example of that.

AW: I discovered Eno about a year after Low, when my uncle bought [1978's] Ambient 1: Music for Airports. It suddenly was very clear to me how many songs on Low came about, especially on side two. Eventually I went back and listened to Eno's Another Green World, which was released over a year before Low [in 1975]. For whatever reason these two albums are inextricably intertwined for me and I sort of consider them to be one album. Read more here.

Radio.com is an official news provider for antiMusic.com.
Copyright Radio.com/CBS Local - Excerpted here with permission.

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