And so, here we are. The end of the road in a way. You know, I could have just listed these albums from 7 to 1 in a Facebook post though it would have done little to no justice to any of the albums. Even more so, Hunky Dory has been displaced by Blackstar in my favourite Bowie album list which was a tough decision to master in the end but it just had to be done. Without further a do, my favourite Bowie album which just happens to be celebrating its 40th anniversary today as well…..
Low: released January 14 1977
Highest UK chart position: 2
Highest US chart position: 11
Despite being recorded in France for the best part, Low is the beginning of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy or “trip-tych” as he has previously labelled the series of albums. It was an incredibly productive time for Bowie. Between 1976 and 1979 he released STATIONTOSTATION, Low, “Heroes” and Lodger whilst playing a major role in Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life and The Idiot albums. It is perhaps his most productive period as a creative being. What blew me away the first time I heard the album was the drums. They were so high in the mix and I don’t think I have heard an album with such prescient drum-scapes since. For this alone, Dennis Davis should be commended for eternity.
Low was a break away for Bowie from the commercial world of America and stardom. It contained a second side solely comprising of instrumental tracks which was quite abrasive and experimental for its time. A lot of people in 1977 took a little time to warm to Low and the record was considered a little pretentious in some circles. The New Musical Express however listed Low at number 14 in a poll of the 1,000 greatest albums of all time back in 2013. The record has been a major influence on so many artists including Siouxsie Sioux, La Roux, New Order, Blur, Nine Inch Nails, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead and a great deal of British artists from the 1980’s.
Low offered Bowie a new life in Europe. With that came a fresh lease of life on his recording techniques and it was also the beginning of his working relationship with Brian Eno who had already forged his way as an ambient artist. Joining them were producer, Tony Visconti and band members, Carlos Alomor, Dennis Davis, George Murray, Ricky Gardner and Roy Young. Despite stating the sessions in France the album was completed at Hansa Studios by the Berlin Wall. I recently visited Hans Studios whilst travelling and the feeling inside the venue was quite unique. You can almost feel the atmosphere that they would have encountered during the final months of 1976.
The album itself was meant to be release prior to Christmas however, Bowie label, RCA didn’t want to release it and even went as far as to offer him more money to go back to Philadelphia and record an album similar to Young Americans. Bowie stood his ground and Low finally appeared in the second week of January being led off by Sound and Vision as a single release.
During his 1978 world tour, Bowie opened his shows with Warszawa, the opening track to side two of Low. In 2002 he played the album from start to finish during selected shows to emphasise the albums importance in musical society. It’s an album that will never age. An album of pure genius. An album in effect, of our time. Happy birthday Low!