Low album coverWritten by: David Bowie
Recorded: October-November 1976
Producers: David Bowie, Tony Visconti

Released: 14 January 1977

Available on:
Low

Personnel

David Bowie: vocals, piano, guitar, synthetic strings, vibraphone, xylophone, ARP synthesizer

Written about West Berlin, ‘Weeping Wall’ was the only track on Low to be completely performed by David Bowie.

‘Warszawa’ is about Warsaw and the very bleak atmosphere I got from that city. ‘Art Decade’ is West Berlin – a city cut off from its world, art and culture, dying with no hope of retribution. ‘Weeping Wall’ is about the Berlin Wall – the misery of it. And ‘Subterraneans’ is about the people that got caught in East Berlin after the separation – hence the faint jazz saxophones representing the memory of what it was.
David Bowie
Record Mirror, 24 September 1977

Side Two was more an observation in musical terms: my reaction to seeing the East bloc, how West Berlin survives in the midst of it all, which was something I couldn’t express in words. Rather it required textures.
David Bowie
NME, 12 November 1977

‘Weeping Wall’ was seemingly influenced by Steve Reich, notably his 1973 piece Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ. Reich’s European premiere of Music for 18 Musicians had been attended by Bowie in 1976.

Earlier on, in 1973 or 1974, my ensemble was playing at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. At the end of the concert, this guy comes over with long hair and lipstick and he says ‘Hi how are you doing, I’m Brian Eno.’ I thought wow this is poetic justice … here’s Brian Eno listening to me, that’s great. A couple years later, we played the European premiere of Music for 18 Musicians at the Nationalgalerie in Berlin and David Bowie was there. And I think ‘Weeping Wall’ on Low is somewhat indebted to that. So that’s the beginning of my contact with popular music.
Steve Reich
The Guardian, 11 September 2014

In the studio

The track was recorded by David Bowie manually creating a click track, and introducing different musical elements at certain numbered intervals.

‘Weeping Wall’ and ‘Warszawa’ were composed and recorded to click track. ‘Weeping Wall’ was actually recorded in Hansa Studios in Berlin.
Tony Visconti, April 2017
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book

After laying down the click track, Bowie first recorded vibraphone and xylophone parts, which gave him a percussive foundation upon which to add the melodic layers – vocals, piano, guitar, and synths. The main melody is reminiscent of the English folk song ‘Scarborough Fair’.

‘Weeping Wall’ was one of the final compositions for Low, and was completed within a single day.

We arrived in Berlin being one track short for the album. David composed ‘Weeping Wall’, obviously in sympathy with the sad people on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall. It was recorded very quickly, in just one day. When he finished he asked me, our engineer Edu and someone else to listen to the piece and to draw a picture of what came to mind. We all came up with several versions of little faces peering over a jagged wall and in one case someone drew an alligator’s head with people inside its mouth, with faces peering from in between the jagged teeth.
Tony Visconti, April 2017
A New Career In A New Town (1977–1982) book

Live performances

David Bowie performed ‘Weeping Wall’ live just four times, all in 2002 during the Heathen Tour.

The first was on 11 June, when he performed Low in its entirety at New York’s Roseland Ballroom.

The second came on 29 June at the Meltdown Festival at London’s Royal Festival Hall. Bowie again performed all of Low, but not in sequence, and ‘Weeping Wall’ was Bowie’s entrance music.

It again opened Bowie’s show on 5 July in Horsens, Denmark, for a general open-air show.

Bowie’s final performance of Low, albeit again out of sequence, was on 12 July at E-Werk in Cologne, Germany. The album was played during his second encore of the night, and opened once again with ‘Weeping Wall’.

Previous song: ‘Art Decade’
Next song: ‘Subterraneans’