Low album coverRecorded: December 1975; September-October 1976
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 14 January 1977

David Bowie: vocals, ARP synthesizer, Chamberlin keyboard, synthetic strings, saxophone, guitar, pump bass, harmonica, piano, pre-arranged percussion, vibraphone, xylophone, tape horn and brass, tape cellos, tape sax section
Brian Eno: vocals, Splinter Minimoog synthesiszer, Report ARP synthesizer, Rimmer EMI, EMS Synthi AKS synthesizer, piano, Chamberlin keyboard, guitar treatments
Carlos Alomar, Ricky Gardiner: guitar
George Murray: bass guitar
Roy Young: piano, Farfisa organ
Dennis Davis: drums, percussion
Iggy Pop, Mary Visconti: vocals
Eduard Meyer: cello
J Peter Robinson, Paul Buckmaster: pianos, ARP synthesizer

Tracklisting:

  • ‘Speed Of Life’
  • ‘Breaking Glass’
  • ‘What In The World’
  • ‘Sound And Vision’
  • ‘Always Crashing In The Same Car’
  • ‘Be My Wife’
  • ‘A New Career In A New Town’
  • ‘Warszawa’
  • ‘Art Decade’
  • ‘Weeping Wall’
  • ‘Subterraneans’

The first part of David Bowie’s ‘Berlin Trilogy’, Low was recorded mostly in France in 1976, and contained a number of experimental, impressionist and instrumental pieces, as well as the hit singles ‘Sound And Vision’ and ‘Be My Wife’.

Low saw Bowie reuniting with producer Tony Visconti, and was the singer’s first of several collaborations with ambient music pioneer Brian Eno.

There’s oodles of pain in the Low album. That was my first attempt to kick cocaine, so that was an awful lot of pain. And I moved to Berlin to do it. I moved out of the coke centre of the world into the smack centre of the world. Thankfully, I didn’t have a feeling for smack, so it wasn’t a threat.
David Bowie
Details magazine, September 1991

“The European canon is here,” Bowie had announced on the title track of Station To Station. Although he had been living in Los Angeles since March 1975, he was increasingly looking back across the Atlantic, and had become intrigued by the experimental, mostly instrumental music of German acts such as Kraftwerk, Can, Neu! and Tangerine Dream, as well as the recent Brian Eno albums Another Green World and Discreet Music.

Bowie had also grown to loathe Los Angeles, after months of crippling drug addiction, paranoia, relationship turmoil, and legal issues with his management.

Los Angeles, that’s where it had all happened. The fucking place should be wiped off the face of the Earth. To be anything to do with rock and roll and to go and live in Los Angeles is I think just heading for disaster. It really is. Even Brian Eno, who’s so adaptable and quite as versatile as I now am living in strange and foreign environments, he couldn’t last there more than six weeks. He had to get out. But he was very clever: he got out much earlier than I did.
David Bowie
NME, 13 September 1980

On 19 May 1978, Bowie was interviewed by the BBC’s Alan Yentob, broadcast as Arena Rock ten days later on BBC 2.

Bowie: The last time you were with me was in Los Angeles – one of the worst periods in my life, I think. I got into a lot of emotional and spiritual trouble there and so I decided to split and discover new ways of relating to the music business per se. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was in it for any more.

Yentob: Was there a clash between the materialism, the need to be a rock star, successful?

Bowie: Yes, very much so. And as I really didn’t want to be one myself, I was living more and more in the style of one of my characters who wanted terrific success – because they’re all messiah figures… I really felt the material aspect was something that had to be done in Los Angeles because it’s driven into you, it’s the food of Los Angeles – Hollywood, rather, not Los Angeles. And so I just packed up everything one day and I moved back to Europe… It was finding out what used to interest me when I was at art school and mime companies and mixed media productions when I was young. That’s the first thing I did when I got back to Europe, was to stop thinking about music and performing for a bit and think about something that I hadn’t done for a long time, which was paint. And that helped me get back into music again. And also from a different perspective about music and what I wanted to write. And it was a form of expressionistic realism [laughs] – if there’s such a thing! I’m not quite sure where to go now. The East beckons me. I’m a bit scared of moving over there really, because I fall in love so much with the life style that I get very Zen about it and won’t write anything any more. And I want to keep contributing.

David Bowie

Low was intended as a creative revival, and also an effort to break out of his cocaine and amphetamine addiction. Bowie’s drug use had deepened since 1974’s Diamond Dogs, but his darkest times were while living in Los Angeles.

Life in LA had left me with an overwhelming sense of foreboding. I had approached the brink of drug induced calamity one too many times and it was essential to take some kind of positive action.
David Bowie
Uncut, 1999