I first saw Suzanne Vega 25 years ago when she was flying high on the reputation of breakthrough hits like Luka, Tom’s Diner and Marlena on the Wall. The media, expecting just another New York coffee house folkie, were stunned by her capacity for producing intelligent, emotionally charged lyrics.
As I predicted a couple of days ago reports that David Bowie has said he will never play live again seem to have been somewhat exaggerated.
Amid the Bowie fever whipped up by the surprise release of Where Are We Now?, his first new single in a decade, there have been countless interviews with long-time Bowie producer Tony Visconti.
As the technical guru behind both the single and Bowie’s forthcoming album The Next Day (another bolt from the blue), Visconti has been acting as spokesperson for the Bowie camp.
Various press reports had suggested that though Bowie had emerged from retirement to go into the recording studio, he had indicated that he would never play his new music live. Not so. Visconti has now put the record straight saying that Bowie has simply said he doesn’t want to tour any more and certainly hasn’t ruled out playing a live show. I somehow thought that might be the case.
It’s been interesting hearing Visconti’s account of working with Bowie again. His association with the Thin White Ziggy Tomdust goes right back to Space Oddity days some 44 years ago. He also produced The Man Who Sold The World, Young Americans and the Berlin trilogy Low, Heroes and Lodger as well as producing The Idiot for Bowie’s friend, collaborator and Berlin flatmate Iggy Pop. So he was perhaps the logical choice for this ‘under-wraps’ comeback project. It took a while apparently with instrumental demo tracks being laid down in the studio and then given to Bowie to mull over, often for months, before a final track was developed. Visconti talks with some glee about walking around Manhattan listening to the new material on headphones, passing people in David Bowie t-shirts and thinking that they’d be amazed to discover what was on his iPod.
It’s an interesting thought but then Tony Visconti is an interesting man. I’ve never actually met him though I did have dinner with his ex-wife once. Many people don’t realise that Mary Hopkin, the young singer from the Welsh valleys who recorded the 1968 hit Those Were The Days for The Beatles then new Apple label was the first Mrs Visconti and sang on many song’s produced by her husband including material on Bowie Low album. Tony Visconti’s second wife was John Lennon’s former girlfriend May Pang. He’s a well connected man.
So David Bowie says he’ll never perform live again. At least that’s how a casual comment from his longtime producer Tony Visconti will be played across the pages of tomorrow’s newspapers. What Visconti actually said was that the 66-year-old singer is “fairly adamant he’s never going to perform live again”.
He was talking to the NME following the release of Where Are We No? Bowie’s first single in more than a decade and the announcement that a new album The Next Day will follow in March.
Recalling an exchange during rehearsals when one of Bowie’s band had asked how they were going to play the material live, Visconti reveals that the singer simply said: “We’re not”.
None of this actually adds up to Bowie never performing live again. He already seems to have ‘retired’ at least twice and decades ago showed no compunction in killing off his band The Spiders of Mars alongside his stage persona Ziggy Stardust.
Maybe he won’t ever appear live again. Maybe he will. It could just be that the unnamed studio musician that Visconti mentioned is simply not going to be included in any live band.