Where Are We Now? - David Bowie

from the album The Next Day (2013)

In my vinyl youth, I was obsessed in how I handled records, always taking care to hold them from the sides with my palms, never letting my fingers touch the grooves.  When others mishandled them, I became distressed, never allowing them to touch my records again.  I later came to learn that there is only one person who should leave their fingerprints on a record, the producer.

Today, I build playlists of songs by my favorite producers.  I am fascinated in how the best of them can leave their own mark across great records by diverse artists.  I listen to The Joshua Tree by U2 followed by Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris and feel the same masterful hand of Daniel Lanois on both.  And there are others: T-Bone Burnett, Sly & Robbie, Phil Spector, Brendan O'Brian.

Tony Visconti is another of those producers.  He is responsible for some of the finest records I have ever heard.  Records like Electric Warrior by T. Rex, Band on the Run by Paul McCartney & Wings, and The Idiot by Iggy Pop.   The list continues with The Moody Blues, The Boomtown Rats, Difford & Tillbrook, Adam Ant, John Hiatt, and Morrissey.  In more recent years, I have reveled in the fantastic albums he made with Alejandro Escovedo.

But more than any artist, Tony Visconti is associated with David Bowie.  From 1970 thru 1980, he sat at the console, melding the sounds that define this eclectic, innovative genius.  I imagine him adjusting the faders on Young American, Fashion, Space Oddity, Diamond Dogs, and Heroes.  What must it have been like to mix those great instrumental performances that play, as Bowie sings "We could be heroes, if just for one day?'

I envision him today, listening to a voicemail: "Hello Tony, this is David."  At 68 years-old, he takes responsibility for Bowie's first record in 10 years.  What an awesome load that must be.    I wonder what he thought as he heard the songs that would comprise The Next Day, determining how to best convey their essence.

Listening to the album, I am struck by the care he takes in producing this still-great artist.  Each song presents David Bowie as he is today, counterbalanced by the tones and vibes of his earlier years.  Every look is different, but all are familiar.  It is like walking thru a House of Mirrors.

I dig the song Where Are We Now.  It is unmistakably Bowie and unmistakably Tony Visconti.  The production captures the vulnerability in the voice of this sixty-something rock star put to the somber piano vibe that I remember listening to, late at night, on my vinyl records.

I still have most of them and Tony Visconti's fingerprints are the only ones that have touched the grooves.

Click Here for the video to Where Are We Now.

Comments

  1. 40 Watt, outside of an OCD handling issue, you have a spot on, as if ESPish insight into what may be deemed the theme of a generation. Just today, a had a Bowie song stuck in my mind, and this tribute to the "behind the art" talent that makes the aural experience a viseral memory turning the moment into a unrepressable smile. And that ain't no compost!

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  2. Give it up for Tony !!!

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  3. I learned at a super young age to handle records like that, lest my brothers slap me as I snuck into their room to steal a listen to their Beatles albums, The Beach Boys, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, etc. Blew my mind when others didn't do the same.

    At Christmas time, I went into the storage area of our basement to purge...and there sat 2 (heavy) boxes of LPs. Many are my husband's, as I left most of mine to my brothers when I moved away. In fact, I guarantee that DeBarge was never mine! ( he insists it was given to him as a gift...whatever)

    The difficult part was trying to explain to my 20 year old how very special it used to be to buy an album for so many reasons. The artwork, the lyrics, if you were lucky...and yes, I sounded ancient. I like to think she got it. No way of telling.

    Anyway....Bowie has a new record???? Yay!!! I need to go crawl back under my rock now.

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