The Duke Who Fell to Earth

Station to Station (1976)

 

Station to Station is the tenth studio album by English musician David Bowie. Commonly regarded as one of his most significant works, Station to Station was the vehicle for his last great “character”, the Thin White Duke. The album was recorded after he completed shooting Nicolas Roeg‘s The Man Who Fell to Earth, and the cover artwork featured a still from the movie.

It was on the set of his first major film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, that Bowie began writing a pseudo-autobiography called The Return of the Thin White Duke. He was also composing music on the understanding that he was to provide the picture’s soundtrack, though this would not come to fruition. (At Bowie’s recommendation, John Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas would write and produce all the original music for the film instead.) Director Nicolas Roeg warned the star that the part of Thomas Jerome Newton would likely remain with him for some time after production completed. With Roeg’s agreement, Bowie developed his own look for the film, and this carried through to his public image and onto two album covers over the next twelve months, as did Newton’s air of fragility and aloofness.

The Thin White Duke became the mouthpiece for Station to Station and, as often as not during the next six months, for Bowie himself. Impeccably dressed in white shirt, black trousers and waistcoat, the Duke was a hollow man who sang songs of romance with an agonised intensity, yet felt nothing—”ice masquerading as fire”. The persona has been described as “a mad aristocrat”, “an amoral zombie”, and “an emotionless Aryan superman”. For Bowie himself, the Duke was “a nasty character indeed”.

 

Low (1976)

 

Low is the eleventh studio album by British musician David Bowie, co-produced by Bowie and Tony Visconti. Widely regarded as one of Bowie’s most influential releases, Low was the first of the “Berlin Trilogy”, a series of collaborations with Brian Eno (though the album was mainly recorded in France and only mixed in West Berlin). The experimental, avant-garde style would be further explored on Heroes and Lodger. The album’s working title was New Music Night and Day.

The genesis of Low lies in both the foundations laid by Bowie’s previous album Station to Station, and music he intended for the soundtrack to The Man Who Fell to Earth. When Bowie presented his material for the film to Nicolas Roeg, the director decided that it would not be suitable. Roeg preferred a more folksy sound, although John Phillips described Bowie’s contributions as “haunting and beautiful”. Elements from these pieces were incorporated into Low instead. The album’s cover, like Station to Station, is a still from the movie: the photographic image, under the album’s title, formed a deliberate pun on the phrase “low profile”.

Although the music was influenced by German bands such as Kraftwerk and Neu!, Low has been acclaimed for its originality and is considered ahead of its time, not least for its cavernous treated drum sound created by producer Visconti using an Eventide Harmonizer.

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