YCC Juke Box | 1977

in Hidden Tracks

[pukka_dropcap style=”” txt_color=”White” bg_color=”Black” size=””]F[/pukka_dropcap]rom sharings in my articles or seminar discussions, I have done numerous of David Bowie reviews, yet I feel I’m still hungry for more. Whenever it comes to which piece of Bowie’s work holds the “my favorite” label in my heart and has influenced me the most, I would definitely say they are the stunning and timeless albums in the year 1977 – Low and Heroes. It was only in the 1980s that I discovered these two equally fascinating albums of “Trilogy of Berlin”, the time lag didn’t stop me from being utterly inspired when I spent some good old time exploring these two forward-looking classics.

In 1977, punk movement had blown up to an intense stage while on the other hand, year 1977 (say the period around 1977) was also a significant year to electronic music.

IMG_6944At the end of 1976, Bowie moved to West Berlin, Low (original name was New Music, Night and Day) and Heroes are the two albums Bowie produced together with Brian Eno as a music partner, and were published in January and October 1977 respectively. The former was recorded mainly in France Château d’Hérouville with mixing works done in West Berlin, the later was solely recorded in West Berlin Hansa Tonstudio. Both albums carry the spirit and essence of German kraurock bands including Kraftwerk, Neu!, Harmonia and others. Bowie, the rock chameleon who was fully inspired by German electric music, opened up his ideas to the creation of a brand new round of music genre.

The creation of Low and Heroes in Bowie’s “Trilogy of Berlin” are closely connected. Both albums were produced in 1977 on vinyl, choreographed with electrified rock songs, and both of the tracks are arranged in a thought-provoking manner.

The most exceptional significance of the two albums is that Bowie went away from being a 70’s rock singer-songwriter, and wrote a number of simple art-pop / avant-pop song (with no such thing as the main song and the chorus), coming up with ambient electronic music with no vocals, a style which was influenced by Eno. It is also worth noting that back then, Bowie and Eno did not have the array of advanced electronic synthesisers as electronic pioneers like the Tangerine Dream or Kraftwerk, they only had limited electronic musical instruments and sound effects production skills to create that kind of cold futuristic atmosphere, which is the foundation of enlightenment to the late 1970s and early 1980s new wave / post-punk generation of electronic sounds.

IMG_6953Also released in 1977, Iggy Pop’s debut album The Idiot with Bowie as the producer (might as well call it an album of them both) was published after Low, but the truth is this album had already begun recording in France and Berlin way beforehand, this album was regarded as the unofficial Bowie’s “Berlin period” product. Compared with Bowie’s later album Lodger, The Idiot, Low and Heroes are more regarded as part of the proper “Trilogy of Berlin”. As Bowie brought the broken drum machine beats and rough synth riff in ‘Nightclubbing’, it led him to his electronic music. 

As the backstage mastermind of Low and Heroes, Brian Eno had more communications with the German Krautrock electronic music. Michael Rother of Neu!, Hans-Joachim Roedelius of Cluster and Dieter Möbius formed the supergroup Harmonia. Eno visited their studio Frost later in 1976 and had a 11 day- music making session, the album Track and Traces was released 21 years later in the name of Harmonia ’76 (second edition was renamed Harmonia & Eno ’76).

It was in 1977, Cluster and Eno joint forces and released Cluster and Eno (in the next year they released After the Heat in the name of Eno Moebius Roedelius). Brian Eno published Before and After Science at the end of 1977, the beautiful ambient ballad song ‘By This River’ totally reflects the collaboration of Eno and Cluster’s Roedelius and Moebius from creation to performance. ‘Backwater’ is one song with drums performed by Can’s Jaki Liebezeit that will linger in anyone’s mind.

Former Neu! Member Michael Rother’s debut solo album Flammende Herzen was also released in 1977. On the other hand, Kraftwerk’s album Trans-Europe Express released is 1977 is also a very well-known electronic music pioneer that inspires future generations. “from station to station / Back to Düsseldorf City / Meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie” from the theme song ‘Trans-Europe Express’ referenced Bowie’s 1976 album Station to Station and named Iggy Pop and David Bowie in Germany, I guess we can call this the laws of attraction or great minds think alike.