By Holywell Street and Ste 13th Feb 2019
A bit of a tribute to an iconic album and artist. Holywell Street is honoured that Ste Carter another Evertonian has contributed to the blog. We welcome him on.
Obviously, the iconography of the cover to this record is almost without parallel in its influence on certain British ‘80s cultural and social movements.
I remember vividly turning up at Everton games circa ‘80 and seeing lids walking about with THAT fucking haircut and even the odd, cooler than cool cat, matching it with the duffle and going the whole Low hog, as it were.
I’m no chronicler of fashion though, and I don’t pretend it was ever my gig. I was always about the music, man, which is where I’m coming from here.
When Bowie died it was interesting to read amongst my Bowie loving friends which record of his they reached out for. Like my cousin (a much bigger ‘fan’ even than me) I initially reached out for Station to Station, and then Hunky Dory, but it is to this record I returned to time and again, because, for me, at least, it’s the one that seals Bowie’s right to be called a truly great artist.
The first part of Bowie’s Berlin ‘trilogy’ (the record was actually recorded in Paris and re-mixed in Berlin) is a completely remarkable record.
If Bowie killed off Ziggy Stardust on stage, with this record he slays The Thin White Duke persona of the coke-addled rock superstar, in the studio, both spiritually and musically.
This is Bowie’s, burnt out -rock star- kicks- everything- he’s- stood- for- firmly- into- touch, record and therefore sets the template for records like Radiohead’s Kid A.
As one critic correctly said ‘if it had been made 20 years later we could have called it ‘post-rock’.
Gone are the kooky Newley pastiches, the Ziggy glam, the plastic soul (Bowie’s words not mine) and the insane and brilliant ramblings of the Thin White Duke. In their place is a completely Eno driven, new sound and vision.
Low is a record ostensibly in two distinct halves. A brilliant, introspective drum-machined, krautrock influenced first side; lettered with pained and bitter lyrics that subject us to the broken persona he’d become, ‘Don’t look on the carpet; I drew something awful on it’.
It’s complimented by an eerie, yet melodically beautiful and haunting set of instrumentals on side two which show some of Bowie’s musical creativity at new heights, and the heavy pervading influence of his mentor on this record Brian Eno.
The two distinct sides should make the record a little disjointed but somehow they don’t’.
Many Bowie fans will tell you they loved this record on release, and it was a surprise hit, which showed, if nothing else, his legion of fans were prepared to see the script torn up and follow him down musical pastures Neu!
Yet it was released right at the end of the punk explosion and almost at the start of New Wave and was therefore overlooked by many fans and under-appreciated by critics at the time, despite the historical revisionism surrounding it.
If anyone ever tells you they picked up on the cover straight away and went around in ‘77 dressed like that, and with that haircut, if they weren’t scousers, who didn’t anyway, file them away under Billy bullshitters.
Anyway, Low, like nearly all great records, has not only stood the test of time but actually gotten better with age.
Retrospective can be 20/20, and in the light that that sheds this record must be up there as one of the very finest Bowie ever did.