Low, released the week Bowie turned thirty, marked a new beginning. After burying himself in white powder in Los Angeles, he fled to Berlin for some personal detox and began his famous “Berlin trilogy.” Side one of Low consists of seven synth-pop fragments; side two consists of four brooding electronic instrumentals. Bowie sings about spiritual death and rebirth, from the electric blue loneliness of “Sound and Vision” to the doomed erotic obsession of “Always Crashing in the Same Car.” Thanks to producer Tony Visconti, keyboardist Brian Eno, and the fuzzed-out guitars of Ricky Gardner and Carlos Alomar, it’s the music of an overstimulated mind in an exhausted body, as rock’s prettiest sex vampire sashays through some serious emotional wreckage. — The New Rolling Stone Album Guide, p. 98.
Low released forty years ago today, probably effected the biggest popular musical earthquake since Potato Head Blues almost fifty years earlier. For a close-grained commentary see the ever-fascinating Pushing Ahead of the Dame blog. The apotheosis of this electronic music being “Ashes to Ashes” some three years later but unfortunately from then on, in far less imaginative and talented hands, quickly morphed into the rot that has plagued music since then. Hence Bowie at his most scathing in 1980:
A broken nosed mogul are you
One of the New Wave boys
. . .
As ugly as a teenage millionaire
Pretending it’s a whizz kid world