Speed Of Life2:46 Breaking Glass1:52 What In The World2:23 Sound And Vision3:05 Always Crashing In The Same Car3:33 Be My Wife2:58 A New Career In A New Town2:53
Side two Warszawa6:17 Art Decade3:43 Weeping Wall3:25 Subterraneans5:37
RCA had already manufactured the cassette versions of the album with its original title New Music: Night And Day, and sent review copies to music critics. At the last minute Bowie retitled it Low.
Although several critics found it incomprehensible, just as many were intrigued by Bowie’s attempt to make a 'new music'. Record Mirror’s Tim Lott concluded his review: “So. This album might be Bowie’s best ever. Eno’s best ever. A mechanical classic.”
Bowie (1977): It was received with caution when it came out. I didn’t expect otherwise. I certainly didn’t expect people to embrace it with open arms as the long lost ‘new language of music’. And I realise I might be alienating a lot of people that had maybe only recently got into the idea that I change from record to record. I’d gathered a whole lot of new people listening to me at the Young Americans stage which I was worried about because I hoped that they didn’t expect that, that was it – that I was going to continue from there and that’s what I was, so I knew I’d lose a few of them on the way. [An Evening With David Bowie (Sonny Fox, December 1977, released RCA, 1978)
Bowie refused all interview requests, saying “It doesn't need to be discussed. It speaks for itself.”
Bowie (1989): The music was literally expressing my physical and emotional state... and that was my worry. So the music was almost therapeutic. It was like, ‘Oh yeah, we've made an album and it sounds like this’. But it was a by-product of my life. It just sort of came out. I never spoke to the record company about it. I never talked to anybody about it. I just made this album... in a rehab state. A dreadful state really. [Deevoy, Adrian. ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ (Q 33, June 1989)]
RCA’s initial response to Low had been “What are we going to do with this?” Circus writer Wesley Strick asked RCA the same question and was told, “Bowie albums sell themselves.” RCA was correct – Low charted for 18 weeks, peaking at number 2.
Bowie then persuaded RCA to sign Iggy to a three-album recording contract, the first release being The Idiot. They would tour that instead of Low.
Bowie sent a copy of Low to Nic Roeg with a note saying it was what he’d had in mind for the soundtrack of The Man Who Fell To Earth. The cover reflected this, using the same treated still that appeared on the US ‘teaser’ poster for the film.
Saturday January 15
For his performance in The Man Who Fell To Earth, Bowie was named Best Actor of 1976 (shared with Gregory Peck for The Omen) at the annual Golden Scroll Awards, presented by The Academy of Science, Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films at the Directors Guild Theatre in Hollywood.
Saturday January 29
Melody Maker reported, “plans are afoot for both David Bowie and Iggy Pop, whom he now manages, to appear in Britain this year. Bowie wants to do a tour in the autumn with Brian Eno on keyboards, Tony Visconti on bass and Ricky Gardiner on guitar.”
Bowie's response on the Melody Maker Letters page, March 5:
“I would like to correct the misconception that Iggy Pop is managed by myself. Iggy looks after his own business affairs. I would appreciate a printed correction. – David Bowie, Berlin.”
Friday February 11
Sound And Vision3:00•A New Career In A New Town2:50
RCA PB 0905 (UK) Chart peak 2
Saturday February 12
Iggy Pop tour rehearsals
UFA Studios, Berlin
Ricky Gardiner arrived in Berlin to join rehearsals for the Iggy tour as UK dates were announced. For the rhythm section Bowie recruited two of Iggy’s LA friends, Hunt and Tony Sales, who been sending him demo tapes periodically since he met them in New York. Sons of comedian Soupy Sales, the Sales brothers had grown up around the Sinatra scene and played for the mob-connected Roulette label run by Morris Levy.
Hunt Sales (drums) (1991): Me and my brother Tony first met David in the back room of Max's Kansas City when we were working with Todd Rundgren in the ill-fated Utopia. David had come over to our table to say hello, possibly because Tony had pink hair and I had black hair with a white stripe down the middle, like a skunk. David gave us some passes to see his Ziggy show at Radio City, and I thought it was amazing. I didn't see or speak to him again until '75 or '76. I was laying around in LA when I got a phone call from lggy Pop, whom David had scraped off the street. Iggy and I once hung together in LA, and he thought of me and my brother when he got a shot to make the record with David. [Cohen, Scott, From Ziggy Stardust to Tin Machine: David Bowie comes clean, Details, September 1991]
Iggy Pop UK tour
Iggy Pop (vocals)
Ricky Gardiner (guitar)
Tony Sales (bass)
Hunt Sales (drums)
David Bowie (keyboards, backing vocals)
Support: The Vibrators
The press announcement made no mention that Bowie would be playing keyboards on the tour – Bowie wanted the focus squarely on Iggy.
Bowie (1978): He encouraged me to play piano with him and I thought the idea was thoroughly enticing and very tempting and I did it for the nerve of it, really. I never enjoyed a tour very much, because I had no responsibilities on my shoulders at all, I mean I just had to sit there, drink a bit, have a cigarette, wink at the band, I mean y'know, and watch him. [Tobler, John. ‘Secret Secret Never Seen: An Interview With David Bowie’ (ZigZag, January 1978)]
Tony Sales: It was a very loving relationship in a sense. David was at a place where he needed to recharge and got behind Iggy – and in return that helped him, taking the pressure off being David Bowie. [Trynka, Paul. Starman (Sphere, 2010)]
Bowie (1993): It was the first time I’d ever really put myself into a band since the Spiders. It was great not having the pressure of being the singer up front. But there were too many drugs around at the time. I was trying to get away from those drugs and I was going through these really ambivalent things because I kept wanting to leave the tour to get off drugs. The drug use was unbelievable and I knew it was killing me, so that was a difficult side of it. But the playing was fun. Iggy would be preening himself before he went on and I’d be sitting there reading a book.
In the Gun Bar of the Bell Hotel, nearby in Market Square, Bowie spent the afternoon waiting for the band. After delays getting the equipment through customs, they arrived late. Bowie saw the queue at the hall getting longer and told promoter David Stopps, “Just let them in. We’ll forget the soundcheck.”
David Stopps (1999): He said it was more important that they come in out of the rain, rather than keep the audience out while they did a soundcheck. When people realised David was the keyboard player, the entire audience shifted to one side of the venue. [Buckley, David. Strange Fascination (Virgin, 2005)]
Jim Evans, Daily Mirror: [Iggy Pop's] performance was interesting if not totally enjoyable. It was difficult to hear exactly what he was trying to sing at times although he managed to express himself perfectly in other ways – with his body. Without Bowie’s presence, the concert would have become boring. His musicianship managed to lift it above tedium.
Iggy's first London show was marred by scuffles between the crowd and security as Bowie and group came on stage and the audience rushed to the front. Fans were ejected and seats were damaged.
For the London dates, Iggy checked into the Montcalm Hotel, while Bowie stayed with Marc Bolan at his house at 142 Upper Richmond Road West, hanging around nearby King’s Road and dining at Toscanini’s.
Monday March 7
Rainbow Theatre, Finsbury Park
Thursday March 10
London – New York
Bowie, Iggy and Andy Kent flew from Heathrow to New York to begin the US leg of the tour. For the first time since 1972, Bowie conquered his fear of flying, after realising that a boat to America would take seven days.
Bowie (1984): The first gig was in four days… I thought, well, I've got to take a plane. It's the only way I can get over there in time. So I thought, sod it. So I took a plane, and it was all right. [Flippo, Chet. Serious Moonlight (Doubleday, 1984)]
The Patti Smith Group at Lower Manhattan Ocean Club
That night Bowie and Iggy dropped in to Mickey Ruskin’s Lower Manhattan Ocean Club in Chambers Street, where The Patti Smith Group were performing (without Patti Smith, who was recuperating after falling off the stage in Tampa).
Bowie told Lisa Robinson, “I flew for the first time in five or six years. I think the airplane really is a wonderful invention.” [Robinson, Lisa. ‘Bowie’ (Spin, August 1990)]
The Patti Smith Group played a set of rock'n'roll nuggets with special guest vocalists including David Johansen. Iggy ripped off his jacket, shoes and sunglasses and took the stage to belt out 96 Tears. Bowie smiled like a proud father as the audience erupted.
Afterwards Bowie talked to the band in the basement dressing room. Someone observed that the Eagles would be performing in New York the same night as Iggy (the 18th). Bowie quipped, “I thought Blondie was opening for us.”
Clem Burke, Blondie: We got word that we were going to do the Iggy tour and we were totally floored. This was just coming from playing clubs twice a month in New York. David Bowie had heard our album while he was in Berlin and wanted us to do the tour. We got to know Iggy really well … we learned a lot from him, and David would help us too. Like we’d be doing a soundcheck and he would prop his head on his elbows right in front of Debbie and take in the whole thing. He’d give us suggestions, too. [Ambrose, Joe. Gimme Danger (Omnibus Press, 2004)]
Friday March 11
Iggy flew to Toronto to appear on Peter Gzowski’s CBC television talk show. He had planned to perform but the American Federation of Musicians ruled it out, so he settled for a show of attitude. Gzowski said afterwards it was just an act – backstage, Iggy Pop was “quite a pleasant young guy.”
Meanwhile Blondie finished their New York dates with a 2am show at Max’s, before travelling up to Canada in their Winnebago.
Bob Gruen (2011): When they were getting ready before the first show, Iggy Pop came in to say hello. I saw Iggy and Debbie talking, so I asked: "Can I get a picture of you two together?" We stepped into a bathroom by the dressing room. Instead of just standing there, he put his arm round her, feeling her up; she started licking his chest. A great music picture is all about attitude – and Debbie and Iggy have pure attitude. They just look cool. I was using a built-in flash for the first time. It had just been invented. Before, you had to calculate the power of the flash . . . it was difficult to get a properly exposed colour picture. Those scars you see on Iggy's chest were because he had a tendency to throw himself into his work. He'd literally throw himself into an amplifier or into the audience. [Pulver, Andrew. The Guardian, 17 March 2011]
Wednesday March 16
Harvard Square Theatre, Boston
Friday March 18
New York Palladium, New York
Bob Gruen (2004): Bowie was kind of dark in the background, not spotlighted, not highlighted. He was the piano player. It was kind of funny. People were going, “Who is this guy Iggy Pop, who has Bowie as his piano player?” It suddenly gave him a lot of respect, a lot of attention. [Ambrose, Joe. Gimme Danger (Omnibus Press, 2004)]
Mick Jagger, Ron Wood and Bill Wyman, in town for a band meeting in the wake of the Toronto drug bust, watched the concert with their respective wives from the wings.
During the day Ron Wood joined Bowie and Iggy for a photo session with Milton H. Greene, another legendary Hollywood legend who, like Tom Kelley, made his name photographing Marilyn Monroe.
RCA PL 12275 (UK) • Chart peak UK 30 US 72
Sister Midnight 4:23
China Girl 5:12
Dum Dum Boys 7:12
Tiny Girls 3:03
Mass Production 8:28
All songs written by Iggy Pop and David Bowie
except Sister Midnight (co-written by Carlos Alomar)
Produced by David Bowie
Iggy Pop (vocals)
David Bowie (keyboards, synthesiser, guitar, piano, saxophone, xylophone, backing vocals)
Carlos Alomar (guitar)
Dennis Davis (drums)
George Murray (bass)
Phil Palmer (guitar)
Michel Santangeli (drums)
Laurent Thibault (bass)
Cover photograph by Andrew Kent
Saturday March 19
Tower Theatre, Philadelphia
Monday March 21
Tuesday March 22
Wednesday March 23
Agora Ballroom, Cleveland
Members of Akron band Devo were in the audience. Around this time Bowie was given their demo tape. He initially put it aside then Iggy recommended he give it a listen.
• TV Eye, Dirt and Fun released on TV Eye: 1977 Live
Friday March 25
Masonic Temple, Detroit
Iggy’s parents and his nine year-old son Eric came along to see his sold out homecoming show.
Saturday March 26
Masonic Temple, Detroit
Sunday March 27
Riviera Theatre, Chicago
Monday March 28
Riviera Theatre, Chicago
• I Wanna Be Your Dog released on TV Eye: 1977 Live
Tuesday March 29
Leona Theatre, Pittsburgh
Wednesday March 30
Agora Ballroom, Columbus
Thursday March 31
Taft Auditorium, Cincinnati
Friday April 1
Oriental Theatre, Milwaukee
Monday April 4
Tuesday April 5
Paramount Theatre, Portland
Wednesday April 7
Vancouver Gardens, Vancouver
Friday April 9
Paramount Theatre, Seattle
Wednesday April 13
Berkeley Community Theatre, San Francisco
Friday April 15
Dinah! television appearance
CBS Television City, Fairfax, California
Presenter: Dinah Shore
Interview • Sister Midnight • Funtime
• Broadcast May 6 (CBS)
Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica
Saturday April 16
Civic Auditorium, San Diego
Bowie and Iggy arrived in Tokyo with Coco for a two-week holiday and some interviews to promote The Idiot.
5000 Japanese fans mobbed them at the airport and Bowie had to be rescued by a large security guard, who picked him up and carried him over the heads of the crowd.
Thursday April 21
Iggy celebrates his 30th birthday, Hotel New Otani • photograph Masayoshi Sukita
Saturday April 23
Music Life interview, Hotel New Otani, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo
Although Iggy was largely unknown in Japan, Hideaki Okada was familiar with his music and history. Asked about the years since Raw Power, Iggy told him “I lived like Dorian Gray. Now I’m into German Expressionism.”
Bowie had been refusing interviews, but to Okada’s surprise, he agreed to be interviewed for the next half hour.
Monday April 25
Press conference, Hotel New Otani, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo
Bowie told the assembled media, “The album Low was the effect of Europe upon me having lived in Europe for nine months. Everything I write has a lot to do with the environment that I live in because that’s all I can write about. It’s much easier to live there. That’s why I don’t live in America or England.”
“Heroes” album cover photo session
Harajuku Studio, Tokyo
Photographer: Masayoshi Sukita
Stylist: Yasuko ‘Yacco’ Takahashi
Masayoshi Sukita (2011): The whole session was over in an hour. Afterwards, I selected about 20 photos to give to David-san, including the shot on the “Heroes” LP sleeve. When he contacted me to say he wanted to use it, I was delighted. [Sukita, Masayoshi. Speed of Life (Genesis Publications, 2011)]
The session also produced images that were used on singles and promotional material. A session with Iggy Pop provided the image for the cover of his 1981 album Party.
Iggy Pop outside Harajuku studio • Photo by Sukita
Friday May 6
China Girl3:26•Baby3:20 Iggy Pop single released in UK (PB 9093)
Sister Midnight2:54• Baby3:20 Iggy Pop single released in US (10989) and Australia (102923)
Sister Midnight4:23•Baby3:20 Iggy Pop single released in Germany (PB 0989)
Bowie and Iggy’s appearance on Dinah! broadcast in US
Later in the month during a Hong Kong stopover, Bowie, Iggy and Coco ran into John and Sean Lennon in the foyer of the Mandarin Hotel.
Iggy Pop (2005): A pair of elevator doors opened, and he stood in the hotel foyer, wearing a basketball jersey that was way too big, and he gave David a very big hug and a kind of laughing, greeting smile. I was surprised to see an English industry giant exhibit such warmth. [Ono, Yoko. Memories Of John Lennon (It Books, 2005)]
After Lennon put Sean to bed, the trio headed out to paint the town red. They took tea at a posh country club. When service was not forthcoming, Lennon rose from his place and called out, “Have you ever heard of The Beatles?” They took in a show at the topless bar The Sea Palace and went swimming in the South China Sea.
Bowie (1999): During one of our expeditions on the back streets, a kid comes running up to him and says, “Are you John Lennon?” And he said, “No, but I wish I had his money.” It's brilliant. It was such a wonderful thing to say. The kid said, “Oh, sorry. Of course you aren't,” and ran off. I thought, “This is the most effective device I've heard.” I was back in New York a couple of months later in Soho, downtown, and a voice pipes up in my ear, “Are you David Bowie?” And I said, “No, but I wish I had his money.” “You lying bastard. You wish you had my money.” It was John Lennon.
Wednesday June 8 – Sunday June 12
Tuesday June 14
Lust For Life recording
Hansa Tonstudio 2, Köthenerstrasse, West Berlin
With a new contract and a $2500 advance from RCA, Iggy moved into his own apartment, at the rear of Hauptstrasse 155.
Iggy Pop (2010): I was living on coke, hash, red wine, beer and German sausages, had my own little place and I was sleeping on a cot with cold-water showers. [Trynka, Paul. Starman (Sphere, 2010)]
Bowie (2003): When I settled there I found the claustrophobia of the Wall almost comforting. I agree that at times it was like living in a timeless zone. No English TV to speak of, except AFN, the American Forces Network. One night, Iggy and I were sitting around when the news came on. I got hooked by the little blippy intro music and picked up a ukulele and started playing along with it. This became Lust For Life. [Bowie, David. ‘Hedi Slimane interview’ (Vogue, May 2003)]
The tour band was retained for the album and encouraged to contribute ideas. Ricky Gardiner played them a chord sequence he came up with on a spring walk. Iggy liked it and came back the next day with The Passenger.
Iggy (1977): We did it quick, this record. The entire thing was done in just two weeks, including the mixing. The best of the stuff was written in about two and a half days. The music is hard, and fast, and stiff, the direct opposite of The Idiot. I am singing with my full range instead of just deep down low, like I did on that album. We worked so fast that almost everything was done in one take, with only a couple of overdubs necessary because of my unusual microphone technique, and one lead guitar thing, or whatever you call it when the guitar players start doodling around with their instruments.
During the preparation and recording of the album it would appear that I was having a stronger effect on David than him on me – I think that is valid. He wanted nothing more than to be involved in one of my ‘brash albums', as he called them, and I think that is a good description. But I don’t want to underplay his effect. He co-wrote most of the songs and had a great deal to do with the record. [Orme, John. ‘Iggy’s Lust Words’ (Melody Maker, 13 August 1977)]
Having completed Lust For Life, Bowie and Iggy flew to Paris. Bowie stayed at the Plaza Athénée Hotel on Avenue Montaigne with his PR Barbara De Witt, whose husband Michael was Iggy’s PR. Iggy stayed at the Tremoille Hotel.
Bowie visited the workshop of Hungarian-French artist Victor Vasarely at Annet-sur-Marne near Paris. One of the paintings from his Planetary Folklore series had featured on the cover of the 1969 David Bowie album.
Interviewed by Yves Mourousi for Actualités (TF1)
Interviewed by Danièle Gilbert for Midi Première (TF1)
Be My Wife promo clip
Directed by Stanley Dorfman
Released on The Video Collection (PMI 1993) and Best Of Bowie (EMI 2002)
Monday July 4
Interviewed by Marie Claire Gautier for Actualités régionales Ile de France (FR3)
Wednesday July 6
The Man Who Fell To Earth French premiere
Gaumont Champs-Elysées, Paris
Sydne Rome, an American actress based in Europe, was in Paris to discuss working with Bowie on the film Wally. Director Clive Donner was planning to make the film about expressionist artist Egon Schiele (to be played by Bowie) and his mistress Valerie “Wally” Neuzil in Vienna in September.
Wally was never made, but six months later Bowie and Sydne Rome worked together on Just A Gigolo.
Bowie socialised with Bianca Jagger who was in Paris working on the Francois Weyergans film Couleur Chair (Flesh Colour). They had a short holiday together at Costa del Sol in Spain where they were seen at the Marbella Club. She later dismissed rumours of an affair as 'ridiculous'.
Hansa Tonstudio 2, Köthenerstrasse, West Berlin
Engineers: Tony Visconti and Colin Thurston
Three weeks of sessions with Tony Visconti, Brian Eno and the band.
Mountain Studios, Montreux, Switzerland
Assistant engineers: Dave Richards, Eugene Chaplin
Wednesday September 7
Marc television appearance
Granada Studios, Quay Street, Manchester
Producer: Muriel Young
Director: Nicholas Ferguson
Bowie (vocals, guitar)
/ Herbie Flowers (bass)
/ Tony Newman (drums)
/ Dino Dines (keyboards)
/ Marc Bolan (guitar on Sleeping Next To You)
Sleeping Next To You [truncated]
In early 1977, Marc Bolan was making a comeback of sorts – a new band, a new album, a UK tour with The Damned and his own TV show.
Muriel Young, a friend and producer at Granada Television, commissioned him to host a series of six afternoon shows. Bolan would play his own songs, introduce new bands and jam with them.
Chris Welch (1977): The show was born out of Marc's dream to be a media man. Here he could invite his favourite guest artists, do a bit of chat and generally camp it up in time-honoured Bolan fashion. [Welch, Chris. Bowie And Bolan Get It On’ (Melody Maker, 17 September 1977)]
Bolan and Jeff Dexter persuaded Bowie to fly from Switzerland to perform on the final show, backed by the band which included Herbie Flowers and Tony Newman from the Diamond Dogs era.
Herbie Flowers (1985): David’s appearance on the show proved Marc was a mentor to him, but David arrived with his entourage – the limo, the secretaries, his publicist, the media. So if he was acknowledging his debt to Marc, at the same time he was demonstrating his greater success. Marc was the star of the show, but he didn’t have an entourage and he didn’t have any hit records and David did. [Hopkins, Jerry. Bowie (Elm Tree Books, 1985)]
Cliff Wright (2012): Marc gave David a Fender Strat: a Sunburst with a maple neck. We set up an amp and cabinet in the studio for him, and they recorded "Heroes" for the show. David also wanted a bottle of red and a bottle of white. By the end of the day, Marc had got so pissed off that he wound up drinking both of them himself. [Jones, Lesley-Ann. Ride A White Swan (Hodder & Stoughton, 2012)]
Bowie and Bolan then ran through some musical ideas for the show. They recorded several takes of an untitled jam based on a Bolanesque riff that Bowie played on the borrowed guitar.
Bowie performed "Heroes" for the cameras then it was time for the duet with Bolan. At this point they were running behind. The delays were mainly due to Bowie’s security barring everybody from the set, including Bolan’s team and the production crew. Jeff Dexter protested to Corinne Schwab and all hell broke loose. After a hastily convened meeting, rehearsals resumed and after a short introduction from Bolan they launched into Standing Next To You. That soon broke down when Bolan fell off the lip of the stage, to Bowie’s amusement. But there was no time for a retake – it was 7pm.
The floor manager, who had been barred from the studio earlier, was also the head of the union, and their regulations prohibited overrun on the program. They downed tools and the ending went to air as it was.
Chris Welch (1977): I thought it funny but I'm sure producer Muriel Young didn't, nor did the manager of Generation X, who turned up three hours late without any equipment, nor Barrie Masters and his famous Rods [Eddie and The Hot Rods] who never got to appear on the show after waiting around for two days. [Welch, Chris. Bowie And Bolan Get It On’ (Melody Maker, 17 September 1977)]
• Broadcast September 28 (ITV)
Afterwards Bowie took the train back from Manchester to Euston, sharing a carriage with Eddie and The Hot Rods. Tim Lott, covering their tour for Record Mirror, lucked into an exclusive interview with Bowie.
Tim Lott (2008): I took the train back to London with them and Bowie invited us all to join him in first class for the journey back. He thought I was a member of the band, and I didn't disabuse him of that notion. In the meantime, I noted down everything he said on a paper plate hidden under the table. Bingo – my first ever world exclusive. I remember thinking that Bowie had a few of his pages stuck together. He talked of meeting the astronaut John Glenn, who had told him that he had seen something on the moon that he wouldn't ever tell anyone about. And Bowie seemed convinced that NASA kept a cosmic black hole confined in a small metal box in the Midwest, which, if it escaped, would swallow the whole universe. But other than that, he was extremely engaging. [Lott, Tim. No Fun At The Ministry Of Drugs’ (The Guardian, 25 July 2008)]
• Tim Lott; The Thin White Duke Has Gone. Here's The New David Bowie, Record Mirror, September 24, 1977
Back in London, Bowie and Bolan went to dinner in Soho with Colin Thurston, then dropped in to see Visconti at his studio, where Thurston was chief engineer. Visconti had taken over the lease of Zodiac Studios, a film studio in the Fifties. He rebuilt the original 16-track studio in the basement of the building and re-equipped it as a 24-track, renamed Good Earth Studios.
Friday September 9
Lust For Life
RCA PL12488 (UK) • AFL1-2488 (US)
Chart peak UK 28 US 120
Lust For Life 5:13
Some Weird Sin 3:42
The Passenger 4:44
Side two Success 4:25 Turn Blue 6:56 Neighbourhood Threat 3:25 Fall In Love With Me 6:30
Produced by the Bewlay Brothers (Bowie, Iggy Pop and Colin Thurston)
Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio, West Berlin
Cover photograph by Andrew Kent
(taken in March after a BBC radio interview in London)
The timing of the album's release couldn’t have been worse. When Elvis Presley died on August 16, RCA pressing plants went into overdrive to meet renewed demand for his records, most of which were out of print.
The first UK pressings of Lust For Life sold well but retailers could not restock as 95 per cent of the machines at RCA’s UK plant in Hayes were turned over to Elvis, as were the US plants. Lust For Life stalled at 28 in UK and barely made an impression in America.
Sunday September 11
Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas television appearance
Elstree Studios, London
Producers: Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion
Peace on Earth - Little Drummer Boy [duet with Bing Crosby]
As the two titans of pop barely knew each other, the scriptwriter Buz Kohan prepared a segment where Bowie drops in on Bing and they talk about their Christmas customs, such as singing carols. Bowie would choose Little Drummer Boy (“my son’s favourite”) which they would sing as a duet.
However when the time came, as the show’s musical arranger Ian Fraser recalls, “David came in and said, 'I hate this song. Is there something else I could sing?'” [Farhi, Paul. Bing And Bowie: An Odd Story Of Holiday Harmony’ (Washington Post, 20 December 2006)]
Fraser, Kohan and songwriter Larry Grossman hastened down to the piano in the basement and wrote Peace On Earth for Bowie to sing as a counterpoint to Little Drummer Boy. After less than an hour of rehearsal, Crosby and Bowie performed three takes of the new arrangement. Crosby mused, “It's a pretty theme, isn't it?”
Like Bolan, Crosby never saw his Bowie duet go to air. He died in Spain on October 14 directly after a round of golf (he won).
• Broadcast November 30 in US (CBS) and December 24 in UK (ITV)
Friday September 16
Marc Bolan and Gloria Jones were heading home just after 5am after a night out at the Speakeasy and Morton’s. After going over a humpback bridge on Queens Ride in Barnes, Jones lost control of the Mini and ran off the road into a steel-reinforced concrete post. Bolan was killed instantly – two weeks short of his thirtieth birthday – and Jones was hospitalised with serious injuries. Bolan had frequently sung about cars but fearing a premature death, he had never learned to drive.
Tuesday September 20
Marc Bolan’s funeral at Golders Green Crematorium, London
Bowie flew from Switzerland to attend the service.
A four-foot high white swan sculpted in chrysanthemums was displayed as a symbol of Bolan's biggest hit Ride A White Swan.
Mourners included Rod Stewart, Elton John, Alvin Stardust, Tony Visconti, his wife Mary Hopkin, Linda Lewis, Dana Gillespie, members of The Damned (the support on his recent tour), various musicians who had played with Bolan over the years and Steve Harley. Bowie wept during the service. Tony Visconti and Cliff Wright noticed Bolan’s estranged wife June there.
Cliff Wright (2012): Outside, she was just standing there afterwards, helpless and alone among the crowd. Then David Bowie came past in his limo. June spotted him, and called out to him, “David, David!” Bowie opened the door and let her in. [Jones, Lesley-Ann. Ride A White Swan (Hodder & Stoughton, 2012)]
Bowie had Tony Mascia drive him past his childhood home at 40 Stansfield Road, Brixton, then on to Haddon Hall in Southend Road, Beckenham. As he stood outside, his old landlord Ralph Hoy emerged to give him a bill for unpaid rent.
Friday September 23
Heroes 3:35 • V-2 Schneider 3:10
single released in UK (RCA PB 1121) Chart peak 24
Héros (French version) 3:35 • V-2 Schneider 3:10
single released in France (RCA PB 9167) and Canada (RCA PB-50398)
English/French version (6:07) on French “Heroes” LP (RCA PL 42373)
•The Record Producers: Tony Visconti (EMI 2007) •2007 remaster on Heroes / Helden / Héros EP (iTunes 2009)
Helden (German version) 3:32 •V-2 Schneider 3:10
single released in Germany (RCA PB 9168) German translation on Helden by Antonia Maas
Sound + Vision (Rykodisc/EMI 1989)
2002 German/Swiss/Austrian issues of Best Of Bowie (EMI)
2009 Heroes / Helden / Héros EP (iTunes)
English/German version (6:07):
1977 German issue of “Heroes” album (RCA PL 42372)
English, French, German single versions:
1978 Australian tour EP (RCA 20629)
English/German version (6:07) and English/French version (6:07):
1982 German 12-inch EP (RCA PC 9821)
Tuesday September 27
Heroes promo video
Directors: Nicholas Ferguson, Stanley Dorfman
"Heroes" • A unique edit by Nacho's Videos
Newly-edited previously unreleased take from the official "Heroes" promo video outtakes reel. It is synched to the 2017 remastered version of "Heroes", edited back into the 1977 7" single format.
"Heroes" released on: • The Video Collection VHS/VideoDisc (PMI 1993) • Best Of Bowie DVD (EMI 2002)
Wednesday September 28
Marc broadcast (ITV) including Bowie’s appearance
Thursday September 29
Bowie set up a trust fund for Rolan Bolan after he found out that, since Bolan never married Gloria Jones, neither she nor their son had any claim on the estate.
Gloria Jones (2012): He did it so that we could live; and he did it without being asked. It was simply that he loved Marc. He wanted to look after us. He didn’t say anything and he didn’t have to. It was from the heart. [ultimateclassicrock.com – Late T. Rex Singer Marc Bolan’s Girlfriend Gloria Jones Keeps His Memory Alive (Karen Laney, September 2012)]
Friday September 30
Success 4:23 •The Passenger 4:40 Iggy Pop single released (RCA PB 9160)
Saturday October 1
L'altra Domenica ['The Other Sunday’] television appearance in Rome
Interviewer: Fiorella Gentile
Saturday October 8
Odeon (Rai Uno) television appearance
RCA Studios, Rome
Interview / Heroes / Sense Of Doubt
Piero Togni, photographer (2017): At that time I used to do, as photographer, sessions for the videos filmed for Odeon on Rai2 (...) I have photographed many international musicians but it was the first time I met David. The session was done in a RCA studio in Rome. I had thought to find an ocean of journalists and photographers. Instead it was just me and a small troupe ready for the interview, filmed in various corners of the studio, and next to the piano. Bowie had been very kind with me... the interview was cut putting together his memories about his marriage and his artistic career. [Prog Italia, 2017]
Friday October 14
TopPop (AVRO) television appearance
Presenter: Ad Visser
"Heroes" performance (live to backing track)
gold record presentation
TopPop host Ad Visser presents Bowie with a gold record for Low, then another for “Heroes”, which had gone gold in the Netherlands in two weeks.
Les Rendez-vous du Dimanche (TF1) television appearance
"Heroes" performance • Interview with Michel Drucker
Poste Restante (Radio Luxembourg, RTL)
Interview with Jean-Bernard Hebey
An hour-long show with Bowie live in the studio, answering questions phoned in from French fans. The special included selections from the album including the English/French version of "Heroes".
Wednesday October 19
Top Of The Pops television appearance
BBC Television Centre, London
Tony Visconti (bass)
Ricky Gardiner (guitar)
Sean Mayes (piano)
On his arrival in London, Bowie had asked Visconti to prepare a backing track for his return to Top Of The Pops.
Ricky Gardiner (2001): We recorded "Heroes" for Top Of The Pops at Good Earth Studios, Tony's studio in London. There was a full band and it was recorded minus vocals. I was asked to reproduce Robert Fripp's line. I did not realise at the time that he had used an E Bow. I did my best using feedback alone. [According to Visconti, Fripp had also used feedback, not an E Bow] As we went through the song, my amplifier started dying. As the song finished, so did the amp. [Dalton, Stephen and Hughes, Rob. Trans Europe Excess’ (Uncut, April 2001)]
“The only reason I've decided to do these interviews,” Bowie told Melody Maker's Allan Jones, “is to prove my belief in the album. Both Low and “Heroes” have been met with confused reactions. That was to be expected, of course. But I didn't promote Low at all, and some people thought my heart wasn't in it.”
“This time I wanted to put everything into pushing my new album. I believe in the last two albums, you see, more than anything I have done before. I mean I look back on a lot of my earlier work and, although there's much that I appreciate about it, there is not a great deal that I actually like. I don't think they are very likeable albums at all.”
“There is a lot more heart and emotion in Low and, especially the new album. And, if I can convince people of that, I'm prepared to be stuck in this room on the end of a conveyor belt of questions that I'll do my best to answer.” [Jones, Allan. Goodbye To Ziggy And All That’ (Melody Maker, 29 October 1977)]
Your Mother Wouldn’t Like It, Capital Radio
Interviewer: Nicky Horne
Interview and phone-in Q&A with listeners
Saturday October 22
Sense Of Doubt / Blackout promo shoot
Director: Nicholas Ferguson
Heathrow - Kenya
Photograph by March
Bowie flew to Africa for a safari visit with Zowie. They stayed overnight at Treetops, before travelling onto Masai Mara to visit the Masai and other tribes, accompanied by a local who translated for them.
Bowie: I went there to show my son how animals really live, that they’re not always behind bars, because he’s seen the Berlin Zoo and things like that and that’s about it. I mean, he’s only six and he’s only seen them in zoos. So we got there and he started looking at all the animals and found it was a real country, with real people, it wasn’t just one great big safari." [90 Minutes Live, November 25 (CBC Canada)]
Saturday October 29
Interview with Stuart Grundy for Rock On broadcast (BBC Radio One)
Bowie had been talking up Devo ever since Iggy Pop pushed him to listen to their demo tape. He told Zig Zag, “I like them very much indeed. I've been listening to them for a long time since they sent me their tapes, and I hope if I have the time at the end of this year to record them.”
Mark Mothersbaugh (2009): David Bowie showed up and on the second set before we came out, he introduced us, “This is the band of the future! I am producing them in Tokyo this winter!” And we’re like, “Okay, we’re sleeping in a car tonight – that sounds good to us!”
Then afterwards, he said, “Yeah, I really want to produce you guys. The only thing is, I’m up for this movie called Just A Gigolo. If I get it, I have to go to Berlin for a couple of months. So that would push it off.”
And we go, “Well, we don’t even have anywhere to go when we leave here.” We’re homeless, you know – we don’t know what we’re gonna be doing for those two months.
The next week, we played again, and Robert Fripp and Brian Eno came. And they invited us over to Robert Fripp’s house. And he fed us. And they both said, “We would want to produce you guys if you were up for it.” And we said, “Well, Brian, David Bowie last week said he was producing us in Tokyo!” And Brian Eno starts going, “He’s full of shit.”
At the time I didn’t know that Brian Eno was kinda pissed at Bowie because he felt he didn’t get credited properly on “Heroes” and Low. Brian Eno said, “Let’s just go right now. Don’t even worry about a record company. I’ll loan you the money. We’ll go over to Germany, at this studio I work at all the time – Conny Plank Studio.” It’s the place where bands like Birth Control and Guru Guru and Kraftwerk and you know—Can, Moebius, Roedelius, they all recorded at that studio. “Sure, that’s great—you’re gonna pay for us to go to this?” So he flew us over to Germany. [Collins, Dan. Devo: Gonna Be A Man From The Moon’ (LA Record, 4 November 2009)]
Bowie spent the day with journalists in his suite, discussing Low, “Heroes” and his peripatetic lifestyle. He described his recent Kenya trip to Sonny Fox for the Superstars Radio Network:
Bowie: I took a straightforward corny safari. I spent a few hours – with the Masai tribe in Masai Mara, which is western Kenya, just on the border of Tanzania. I went to look at the lifestyle of the people – especially the Masai tribe. They’ve been living their particular way, untouched for at least 800 years.
And it took a long time to get permission to get to the village. I had to find a Masai who spoke English who worked in that area, who would get me into the village. It’s very hard to get to see them, and they were very, very wary and cautious of me in the beginning. I intend going back – I haven’t finished there. I had to come here, break up my stay there.
Fox: Did you do any recording – on cassette or something?
Bowie: Not this time. I wanted to understand what I was seeing before I was presumptuous enough to start recording anything. So I wanted to make more stringent investigations. There’s a lot of other tribes there that I didn’t know much about. The Giriama are one of the most musical tribes and I saw them playing which was spectacular. [RCA promotional LP An Evening With David Bowie released 1978 in US (RCA DJL1-3016)]
In the evening he squired Monique van Vooren (who had starred in Andy Warhol’s Flesh For Frankenstein in 1973) to the gala premiere of Close Encounters Of The Third Kind at The Ziegfeld Theater, New York.
RCA Studio B, New York Prokofiev's Peter And The Wolf recording session
Bowie's narration of the traditional children's story was accompanied by the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy.
Charles M. Young interviewed him for Rolling Stone:
Bowie is sitting in an RCA recording studio between takes of a recitation of Peter And The Wolf, Prokofiev’s chestnut being made into yet another children’s album. Dressed in a grey shirt, black corduroys and green clogs, his hair its natural shade of light brown, he looks as normal and healthy as anyone with Martian features can. Bowie has mellowed enough in his pursuit of platinum that the lack of huge sales doesn’t bother him that much. “I’m incredibly happy,” he says. “I don’t care if I’m understood or not. I have less formulated ideas about thus time than ever. It’s probably why I’m enjoying it so much.” [Young, Charles. Bowie Plays Himself’ (Rolling Stone 256, 12 January 1978)]
Sunday November 20
Tony Mascia’s wedding, New York
Bowie was best man for bodyguard Tony Mascia (who also played Arthur, Bowie's driver in The Man Who Fell To Earth).
Tony Mascia (1983): David's a cool kid to work for, I got offered twice the money to work for Rod Stewart, but I turned it down. David's a brilliant guy, the painting, the writing. He's a very generous kid, very shy, but with me he can be himself. I'm like his father. [Cann, Kevin. David Bowie: A Chronology (Vermilion, 1983)]
Barbara De Witt’s brother Bruce Weber was (naturally) the photographer.
Bruce Weber (1993): David was there – tanned, for a change – and was asked to sing by the bride and bridegroom. He, of course, obliged like the gentleman that he is and this Mafia-style wedding became a royal one with the sound of his voice. [Parsons, Tony. Bowie By Bowie’ (Arena, May/June 1993)]
Friday November 25
90 Minutes Live (CBC)
Interviewed by Flo and Eddie at the Plaza Hotel, New York
restored by Nacho's Videos
Tuesday November 29
Good Morning America (ABC)
Interviewed by David Hartman
Wednesday November 30
Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas
broadcast in US (CBS)
Reviewers praised Bowie’s duet with Crosby as the highlight of the special, but criticised his performance of "Heroes" as “a jarring note” and “inappropriate”.
Saturday December 17
Melody Maker declared “Heroes” Rock Album of the Year
David Hemmings visited Bowie at Clos des Mésanges in Switzerland to persuade him to take a leading role in his new film Gigolo, to be filmed in Berlin. Bowie accepted the role, and in exchange Hemmings would document the 1978 tour. Asked later why he took the part, Bowie flippantly explained, “Marlene Dietrich was dangled in front of me.”
Dietrich returned the compliment: “The reason I did this film was that David is the only young person today who has anything to say.”
Thursday December 22
The Bowie family had planned to spend Christmas in Switzerland until David told Angela he would be staying in Berlin to prepare for the film. Enraged, Angela left Zowie with Marion Skene in Switzerland and flew to New York to spend the holiday with friends. Skene called Bowie, who asked her to bring Zowie to Berlin.
Saturday December 24
Bing Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas broadcast in UK (ITV)
Sunday December 25
Bowie spent Christmas in Berlin with Zowie at Hauptstrasse 155, where Coco cooked goose for their guests including Edu Meyer.