The fabric of time
Key to the new project was Brian Eno, whom David Bowie had known since Roxy Music supported the Spiders From Mars in 1972. The following year they were both at Olympic Studios at the same time, working separately on their albums Diamond Dogs and Here Come The Warm Jets, and in 1975 Bowie had told the US media of his admiration for Eno’s Another Green World album and its guitarist Robert Fripp.
Bowie and Eno’s friendship deepened after a backstage meeting after Bowie’s concert on 7 May 1976 at the Empire Pool in Wembley, London. They went back to his rented home in Maida Vale, where plans were made to record an Iggy Pop album with Robert Fripp in Canada, to be followed by a separate Bowie, Eno and Fripp project.
So I went backstage and we then drove back to where he was living in Maida Vale. He said that he’d been listening to Discreet Music which was very interesting because at the time that was a very out-there record, which was universally despised by the English pop press. He said he’d been playing it non-stop on his American tour, and naturally flattery always endears you to someone. I thought, ‘God, he must be smart!’
Uncut, October 1999
Between the Isolar Tour and the sessions for The Idiot, Bowie briefly lived in Switzerland. From there he called Tony Visconti, with whom he has last worked on the Young Americans album. Brian Eno was on the call from another line. Visconti had been experimenting with an innovative audio device made by the company Eventide.
David was calling from his home in Switzerland and Brian Eno was on an extension. They told me they’d been writing songs for a couple of weeks and had ideas, one side being conventional songs and the other an instrumental side based on Brian’s ambient music compositions. I was asked, ‘What can you bring to the table?’ (This is the first time I heard this phrase not referring to bottles of red and white wine.) I said I have a new thing called the Harmonizer, the second sold in the UK. ‘What does it do?’ they asked. Hmmm. This thing was so original and difficult to explain in simple terms, so I spontaneously came up with what most people have heard of by now, ‘It fucks with the fabric of time.’ Then I heard big ‘whoops’ from both of them.
A New Career In A New Town book
Unbeknown to Bowie, the Eventide Harmonizer had actually been used by Harry Maslin on Station To Station, but Visconti’s experimentations had yielded greater results. The Harmonizer was used to great effect on Dennis Davis’s drum sound on Low, most notably on first-half songs such as ‘Breaking Glass’ and ‘Sound And Vision’.
Essentially a Harmonizer is a sort of instant recording device but it can simultaneously play back the sound at a chosen pitch. In other words a piano can play a D, but the Harmonizer can almost instantly turn it into a lower D flat or a higher D sharp. It was initially invented to correct the pitch of singers or instruments that were out of tune, but in my hands I abused its purpose and came up with wonderful space-age sounds, sometimes horror-movie sounds.
Bowie, Bolan and the Brooklyn Boy
David Bowie began planning Low in the summer of 1976. There were no firm plans to record an album; instead, the intention was to experiment in the studio and see what emerged.
After a few more exchanges it was clear I was going to be on the team. David then warned me that this album was going to be purely experimental and it might never be released if it didn’t turn out well. He asked me if I wouldn’t mind wasting a month of my life if that were the case. ‘A month in a studio with David Bowie and Brian Eno is not wasting a month of my life, regardless,’ was my response.
A New Career In A New Town book