How David Bowie, Brian Eno Revolutionized Rock on ‘Low’

Read how the city of Berlin and collaborations with Brian Eno and Tony Visconti helped shape David Bowie’s 1977 experimental masterpiece ‘Low.’

In a career marked by sharp turns, Low might be David Bowie‘s sharpest – and most impressive. The first of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy represents both a personal and aesthetic overhaul. With his coke-crazed L.A. days behind him, the artist found new life in Europe, which offered an escape from his megacelebrity status, as well as detox opportunities and a chance to harness new sounds, notably Germany’s proto-techno “kosmische musik,” also known as krautrock. From a creative and a political perspective, Bowie saw the divided city of Berlin as “the center of everything that is happening and will happen in Europe over the next few years.” His intent was to “experiment; to discover new forms of writing; to evolve, in fact, a new musical language.” That’s pretty much what he did.

Startling though it was, Low was not without precedent. Bowie had already begun experimenting with more modular, multitracked methods of song production on Station to Station. Meanwhile, The Idiot, Bowie’s first collaboration with Iggy Pop, who’d become a close friend and confidant, also led him in new directions.

But it was Brian Eno who would most help him assemble these elements into a radical new form. A fellow English art rocker also dodging stardom’s confines, Eno traded his gig as glamtastic…