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David Bowie's Low (33 1/3) Paperback – August 19, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"David Bowie's album Low,released in 1977, is an inspired high point for the singer/actor/musician/icon,yet the record still fails to generate the attention it deserves. HugoWilcken's Low will hopefully put anend to the long neglect....his book will captivate Bowie fans and the musicallyinquisitive looking for a lost gem from a name artist. Fascinating for rockhistorian types who are drawn in to the never-ending debate of who influencedwho, and those that simply want to know the stories behind the songs. Devoteeswill be anxious to rediscover a forgotten favorite....an absorbing and appealinganalysis, thankfully sans the type of mind-numbing prose that often accompaniesthis type of scrutiny. Once Bowie's long career has concluded Low will surely stand as his creativeapex, and Hugo Wilcken's book will be its knowing and worthy companion. — Drastic Plastic Press

“David Bowie’s album Low,released in 1977, is an inspired high point for the singer/actor/musician/icon,yet the record still fails to generate the attention it deserves. HugoWilcken’s Low will hopefully put anend to the long neglect….his book will captivate Bowie fans and the musicallyinquisitive looking for a lost gem from a name artist. Fascinating for rockhistorian types who are drawn in to the never-ending debate of who influencedwho, and those that simply want to know the stories behind the songs. Devoteeswill be anxious to rediscover a forgotten favorite….an absorbing and appealinganalysis, thankfully sans the type of mind-numbing prose that often accompaniesthis type of scrutiny. Once Bowie’s long career has concluded Low will surely stand as his creativeapex, and Hugo Wilcken’s book will be its knowing and worthy companion. – Drastic Plastic Press

About the Author

Hugo Wilcken is a Paris-based, Australian-born writer and translator. His first novel, The Execution, was published by HarperCollins in 2002. ("A remarkably accomplished debut heralding the arrival of a noteworthy talent"- Publishers Weekly.) It was well reviewed, and has since been translated into Dutch and German. A second novel, Colony, was published in August 2007.

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Product Details

  • Series: 33 1/3 (Book 26)
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic (August 19, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0826416845
  • ISBN-13: 978-0826416841
  • Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.4 x 6.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #117,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Seems quite meticulously researched. (The Amazon description should make some mention of that; it seems unnecessarily vague is describing what the book is.)

I did find 1 minor factual error in the first few pages (it was Gus Dudgeon who produced the "Space Oddity" single, not Paul Buckmaster!).

But given the density of detailed information packed into this relatively small book (culled from a variety of books and music articles published over the past few years), that may be a forgivable offense.

Overall, this book is filled with interesting facts, beginning with the recording of Station to Station, then the actual recording of Low and the beginning of Bowie's Berlin period.

Among other things, the book recounts:
- how various influences (Kraftwerk, Neu!, etc.) actually worked their way onto the album
- how Eno recorded the album's signature drum sound
- some of the strange devices used in the studio to "inspire creativity"
- an insight into Bowie's working methodology at the time
- and generally does a great job of analyzing the album in the context of Bowie's career and mindset

I have found this a very enjoyable read, and I recommend it to all Bowie enthusaists and especially fans of one of Bowie's very best albums, Low.
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This is perhaps the finest, most detailed analysis of Bowie's work I've ever read, and I earnestly entreat the author to consider taking on the remainder of the Berlin trilogy albums. In spite of the minor error or three (that's Walter Tevis who wrote The Man Who Fell To Earth, not Travis), this book answers so many questions I've always wanted to ask about "Low"-- which is saying a lot, as this has remained one of the most important albums of all time to my own musical work. Great stuff!
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Having first listened to this record years ago, and understanding it is among Bowie's best, I found refreshing history bits about the record I never knew about. REcommended read for Bowie fans.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book will stir you up and get you excited about the artistic creative process. It's reads like a novel and there is not a boring moment in the book. Outstanding. Check out Brian Eno's new album Lux as a companion to reading this book. Along with Low of course. Both masterpieces.
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Hugo Wilcken does an excellent job of bringing on the ambience of Bowie's world, circa mid 70s, not only focusing on the first disc of the Berlin Trilogy, Low, but capturing the mindset of the world in which Bowie lived, one full of drugs, Iggy Pop's The Idiot, Station to Station and so much more. Informative, not quite perfect, but too good not to give the full five stars and my personal fave of this series so far.

JCS
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The author spends immense space going on explanations of autism, psychosis and schizophrenia, far beyond anything necessary to further his metaphors - or even his theories - about how those mental states relate to "Low". It's filled with classic rock-critic over-reaching, and the feeling like the writer would desperately like to be writing grand social commentary or literary criticism for a distinguished periodical. Shoot! - maybe he does.
It's all too much with the "deep" metaphors, and not enough about the interesting stuff like more about Bowie's crazy behavior, Eno, Visconti, or the session musicians, etc.
Still, he's interesting when he sticks to the facts of the album, and there's lots of great info in here. In the balance, it's worth slogging through the indulgent parts.
Recommended.
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There are a few things I'd expect from a book like this: a description of the way the album was made, detailed but not concerned with trivia; analysis of the music itself, detailed but not overblown; biography of the artist, at least enough to understand where the album came from. This book has all of that. It's difficult for an entire book about a single album to be intriguing from start to finish, but this mostly manages.

Highlights included: a solid description of just where Bowie was, mentally, when he made the album (a description which does a lot to explain the album's unique mood). Explanation of the album's influences, with focus on acts like Kraftwerk and Neu!, as well as the ways the album connects to its predecessor, Station to Station. And track-by-track analysis which actually feels justified: not drawn-out or unnecessary (although not of much interest to anyone but the committed fan), but not clipped or peremptory.

It's a book-length analysis of a brilliant album. If you're a hardcore David Bowie fan, a lot of it is already familiar to you; if you love the album but don't know anything about its history, it's a must-read. There's nothing "ambitious" about the book--it's no more or less than the story of Low--but it does its job well.
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"Low" is by far my favorite David Bowie album, and maybe my favorite album of all-time. Wilcken's book is short, but packs more of a punch than many (actually all) of the larger volumes about this specific period in the mercurial musician's development. This book is jam-packed with info about Bowie's descent into cocaine-fueled madness during his "Thin White Duke" period, on into his miraculous recovery and redefinition of himself and his sound in Berlin. There is a lot of good technical info about how Tony Visconti achieved those beautifully distorted drum sounds on songs like "Speed of Life" and "Sound and Vision," as well as some choice nuggets about minimalist maestro Brian Eno. The writing is rich without being too self-indulgent, which is always a risk with music journalism (see Lester Bangs). Highest recommendation.
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