The mixing

By February 1974 much of the Diamond Dogs album had been recorded, and David Bowie was moving on to the mixing stage. Once again he turned to Tony Visconti, who was in the process of installing a studio in the ground floor of his home.

David called me in the middle of the night some months before the mixing of Diamond Dogs. I could tell he was on something, probably cocaine, because he was speaking quickly, rambling really. He said he was up all night calling friends he hadn’t spoken to in years. He said he realised it was really late, but could we get together soon? I mumbled ‘yes’ and never heard from him again until he called me at a more normal hour several months later, about mixing Diamond Dogs. He said he’d produced it himself and couldn’t get a decent mix anywhere. He was just asking for advice on selecting a studio, not suggesting we should work together. I suggested he try my place.
Tony Visconti
Strange Fascination, David Buckley

Visconti began work on the album, and quickly discovered a number of problems with the quality of the recordings.

I was just putting the finishing touches on my first professional home studio in Hammersmith, the first of many. It had a Trident console, Klein and Hummel monitor speakers along with the ubiquitous Auratones (we called them Horrortones) and a big selection of professional outboard gear including a very new thing, a stereo digital delay by a relatively new company called Eventide. I was already putting it through its paces and the results were stunning. My family and I didn’t yet live in the three-storey terraced house, it was empty except for the studio on the ground floor…

David arrived with a 2″ 16-track tape and I had the tracks up on the console in no time. I can’t remember exactly what song it was, but it was probably the song ‘Diamond Dogs’, a very complicated track, but David said most of them were.

The first thing I noticed was that the band wasn’t recorded well, especially the drums, which was so important in those days and still is. It’s a shame such a great album started as a salvage job – if an album is recorded well then mixing is a piece of cake. I rolled my sleeves up and did the best i could. After many hours we finished in the early hours of the morning. David asked for a copy on reel-to-reel tape and I made one from the stereo master mix, copying it onto one of my three stereo Revox recorders. Unfortunately the one I used still had the vari-speed switched on, something I didn’t notice at 4am. At 5am I got a phone call from David asking what happened, it sounded way too fast? I said I’ll make a new one right away and by 5.30am David sent a car to pick it up. A final call from him confirmed that he loved the mix and asked if we could carry on mixing the album the next day.

Tony Visconti, May 2016
Who Can I Be Now? book

Although Visconti had the recording equipment in place, the house was largely unfinished, and Visconti’s family were yet to move in. It lacked furniture and other comforts; Visconti slept on a mattress on the floor, and he and Bowie worked while sitting on sawhorses left by the carpenters.

The next morning I returned with a couple of kitchen chairs so that David and I could at least have chairs to sit on while we mixed. Late in the afternoon a huge Conran lorry arrived with a delivery; the delivery note said MainMan – Bowie’s management company – had ordered furniture. There was a light pine dining room table, with four wicker chairs, a full set of dishes, bowls and cups, flatware, glasses (for wine and water) and two office chairs for the control room. David arrived soon afterwards wearing a big smile.

‘That’s kind of my studio warming present.’

‘That’s really lovely, but why a dining room set?’

‘We are going to have our meals delivered Tony, that’s why.’

We spent a delightful few weeks mixing the album, adding a few overdubs, working the Eventide Digital Delay to the max and taking longish dinner breaks for two. The food was prepared in fine restaurants and delivered to us, and we washed it down with good claret; mixing had never been more civilized.

Tony Visconti
Bowie, Bolan And The Brooklyn Boy

Visconti’s digital delay unit, manufactured by the company Eventide, was one of the key sounds on Diamond Dogs.

The digital delay fascinated David. We were applying it to backing vocals, guitar solos, drum fills and several other elements. With David anything goes. I knew this was a future shock themed album and I worked out many ways to make things sound shocking when necessary.
Tony Visconti, May 2016
Who Can I Be Now? book

Visconti also arranged the strings for the re-recorded ‘1984’.

Hilversum

Bowie left Britain in February 1974 for tax reasons, and undertook a brief promotional tour of the Netherlands arranged by RCA. He performed the Edison Awards, the Dutch equivalent of the Grammys, and presented with an award for Most Popular Male Vocalist.

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He also performed ‘Rebel Rebel’ on the music show Top Pop, at the AVRO Studio in Hilversum. At the time Bowie was suffering from conjunctivitis, and wore an eyepatch during his public appearances.

Bowie and Visconti completed the Diamond Dogs album at Studio L Ludolf, which later became BulletSound Studios, in the town of Nederhorst den Berg near Hilversum. They worked at the studio for a single day, 14 February 1974.