Wednesday, March 07, 2012

David Bowie, "Sound and Vision" (1977)


Who says you can't learn anything by reading Wikipedia? I just found out not only that producer Tony Visconti was married to Mary Hopkin (who had a #2 hit late in 1968 with "Those Were the Days") but also that she's among the backing vocalists on this very early fruit of the collaboration between David Bowie and Brian Eno. Released as the first single from their first album working together, Low, "Sound and Vision" did pretty well in Europe but fizzled in the States, never even cracking the top 40. A pity, and all the more reason I was utterly thrilled in 1978 to find it parked on a jukebox at a greasy burger joint in a strip mall in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, near where I was living at the time. I actually dragged pals to that dump so we could sit there and play it over chocolate shakes—it was the public declaration of fealty to strange snaky sounds that had already won me over and somehow come to mean so much. The big whomping attack and the stately tempo it sets before it starts layering itself up and down with the lovely coruscating sheets and bolts of soundscape. It says here Bowie slashed away at the already minimal lyrics to leave space for the song to breathe. Well, there's so much space here it practically gasps and it's all shoved right up front; not even the background vocals come in for 45 seconds, and it's not until the 1:28 mark that Bowie on the lead vocal finally appears. Already Bowie and Eno were showing new ways around a three-minute pop songs—it's practically the first thing they did. Oh, and P.S. in case you were wondering the 1977 original is way better than the buffed-up 1991 remix.

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