Released: 14 January 1977
Brian Eno: piano, all synthetics
Carlos Alomar, Ricky Gardiner: guitar
George Murray: bass guitar
Roy Young: piano
Dennis Davis: drums, percussion
‘A New Career In A New Town’ was the second instrumental on Low, David Bowie’s 11th studio album.
The title summed up his sense of displacement and discovery after leaving Los Angeles, as well as the spirit of creative renewal that pervaded his European recordings.
I didn’t want to restrict myself with one process, so I would use straightforward narrative for maybe two lines and then go back to disorientation. “Heroes” was the most narrative, about the Wall, on that album.
On Low, ‘A New Career In A New Town’.
That didn’t have any words, though. (Intrigued.)
But did it give you the impression afterwards that it had?
Yes, it does, doesn’t it? That’s exactly what I mean, that the sum of all the parts produces an astonishing feeling, and that you really feel that you understood something from it.
Melody Maker, 18 February 1978
The title, decided by Bowie during the mixing sessions in Berlin, may have also been partly inspired by Two Weeks In Another Town, Vincente Minnelli’s 1962 film starring Kirk Douglas, to which Bowie drew a comparison with ‘Always Crashing In The Same Car’.
That night everything came to a kind of a spiritual impasse, you know? And I really was down in a hotel garage, and I started going round and round, just like a movie I’d seen. I thought, ‘Oh, this is so Kirk Douglas in that film where he lets go of the steering wheel.’ [laughs] You can tell what kind of condition I was in. Or what condition my condition was in.
BBC Radio Theatre, 27 June 2000
The harmonica in ‘A New Career In A New Town’ was the first time Bowie had recorded with the instrument since ‘The Jean Genie’. His part, possibly inspired by the 1970 hit single ‘Groovin’ With Mr Bloe’, was reprised on ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ on his final album Blackstar.
‘A New Career In A New Town’ was the b-side of the ‘Sound And Vision’ single, released in February 1977 in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, the UK, and USA. It was also issued in April 1977 in Belgium, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.
The track appeared on both the 1993 and 2001 versions of Bowie’s instrumentals compilation All Saints.
In the studio
It was originally intended that the two instrumentals on side one of Low would have vocals, but Bowie eventually decided against it.
Recording during week three and week four was at a much slower pace. Melodies, lyrics and vocals were needed. ‘Speed Of Life’ and ‘A New Career In A New Town’ were originally intended to have a vocal on them, but David decided to keep them as instrumental bookends to side one. Low became more radical as David sang just five songs. This later infuriated RCA record executives who tried to block the album’s release and one suggested he should go back to Philadelphia and make Young Americans II.
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book
Although recorded in France, ‘A New Career In A New Town’ was mixed in Berlin, giving weight to its sense of transition and relocation.
At Hansa Studios we approached the mixes in a very sober manner. We clocked in and went home for dinner at the same times every day. The mixing wasn’t that difficult because of all the recorded effects on the multi-track tapes. In a few cases we needed to do extra work, especially on ‘A New Career In A New Town’. For the floaty parts, when the only percussion is the kick drum, I muted all the drum tracks and used only the kick drum going through an electronic ‘gate’ to cut out the sounds of the other drums. (Dennis Davis was playing the full kit in those passages.) I’m always impressed by how selective mixing can change the character of a live track.
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book
David Bowie performed ‘A New Career In A New Town’ live 42 times, during the Heathen Tour and A Reality Tour.
The song’s live debut came on 11 June 2002, when Bowie performed Low in its entirety at the Roseland Ballroom in New York.
The final performance was on 23 June 2004 at the T-Mobile Arena in Prague, Czech Republic. Bowie had looked frail during the previous song, ‘Reality’, and left the stage afterwards, leaving the band to play ‘A New Career In A New Town’ without him. It was the penultimate show of the tour.