Bowie began the second half of the 70’s in a very bad way indeed. Physically and mentally he was in poor shape as a direct result of his cocaine addiction. If you know anyone who’s been made a better person through cocaine use do let me know. With Bowie it had the usual effect of making him a complete nob. This led to a very public flirtation with fascism at London’s Victoria Station. For a while it looked like all our favourite rock stars were becoming Nazi’s. Eric Clapton had managed a similar incident with the aid of alcohol and Rock Against Racism actually came about in reaction to this alarming trend.
Despite this Station to Station is one of his most enduring albums with a uniquely European influence despite Bowie’s residence in the 70’s cocaine capital of Los Angeles. He again had a regular band, most notable guitarist Carlos Alomar, who would remain with him for the rest of the decade
Wild is the Wind
Like the rest of the album this has stood the test of time partly my not being rooted musically in any historical musical period. Its just a great song and its brilliantly sung. Lets remember that even if he never actually wrote an original song Bowie would be considered a great vocalist, he’s got range, he’s got control and he’s totally original.
Again he’s got a sympathetic band behind him that makes this a great ensemble effort, just listen to the way the drum fills build at the end of every break
Sound and Vision
Phew, he managed to get it together again. Bowie’s Berlin period is justly celebrated. It took him away from the madness of LA and enabled him to create something we had never heard before. It didnt do him any harm to have Brian Eno in tow or that he had sprinkled some of his fairy dust on Iggy’s career.
Sound and Vision is a great pop single but when this came out I had never heard anything like it. The playing is brilliant being funky but not using any if the usual funk devices, the drums sound like John Bonham (not funky), Bowie plays some more sax which is always a good thing and Tony Visconti has brought Mary Hopkin along to sing some ‘do do’ bits.
Really any of the instrumental pieces from Low would serve to demonstrate the dizzy heights that he was reaching. Music that was simple and complex at the same time. Where the hell did this come from? What I love about his Low instrumentals is that they are played on real instruments even if those real instruments are synthesisers no one is trying t get them to sound like crappy strings of accordions or whatever. So just to prove my point her it is live.Low was to have a tremendous influence on post punk bands both in terms of sound and attitude but we cant hold him responsible for Ultravox..
Despite my unlimited admiration for Low the rest of his Berlin Trilogy left me a bit cold and that was confirmed when grim 80’s band started pilfering his work for inspiration. But how could anyone not like this track. Its an anthem that is both inspiring and doomed and its full of noise and melody. This is the sort of song that could have been written by Queen and be eternally grateful that it wasn’t.
And so we forgave Bowie, he wasn’t a fascist after all.. Hurrah!
Thoughout the 70’s he had dazzled us with his brilliance and as far as I am concerned that was enough for me. By the time he was starting to re reference Major Tom as a junkie I was loosing interest and he would never be brilliant again and that was fine with me.
But like the blues and jazz guys he kept going and still made records and some of them were quite good.
And that was fine with me too.