Tony Visconti On David Bowie's Berlin Years -
Tony Visconti

Tony Visconti

Tony Visconti On David Bowie’s Berlin Years

by Paul Cashmere on January 9, 2022

in News

Tony Visconti recalled an untold story about making the album ‘Low’ – particularly the track Weeping Wall – with David Bowie on Mary Anne Hobbs’ ‘Bowie at 75’ special show, on BBC Radio 6 Music this morning.

“The song was written because we lived in a war-torn city. Berlin was divided in four parts and the saddest part was the eastern part. Occasionally we would venture across Checkpoint Charlie and go into East Berlin in the daytime and have a dinner and just walk around. We were allowed to do that. We were watched very carefully.

It was a little harrowing going from the west to the east and vice versa. And the most despairing thing was, when we went back into the west, lined along the roadway were East Berliners who were pleading with us, in broad daylight if we could put them in boot of the car, or if they could cling to the bottom of the car. We wouldn’t get back into the west because we were on their turf, we were on the East Berlin turf.

Seeing the faces on these desperate people I think inspired David to write Weeping Wall, because on the other side of the Berlin Wall, those people were crying. After we were finished recording in the Chateau [d’Hérouville] we moved operations to Hansa Studios in Berlin. This was where David was living, along with his mate Iggy Pop and his assistant Corinne Schwab, known as Coco. We had an engineer called Edu Meyer.

When it came time to mix Weeping Wall, David and I and Edu and probably Iggy were sitting at the controls and moving the controls – the faders – the volume controls. We were moving them, rehearsed very carefully, like choreography, because a lot of the sounds fade in and fade out.

When Weeping Wall was finished, when the mix was finished, I think in the control room we had Iggy, Edu and his wife Barbara and myself. And David said ‘I want all of you to take piece of paper and a pencil and we’re going to listen to Weeping Wall and I want you to draw a picture of what you think the song is about’. So we played Weeping Wall through and all of us got to work scribbling. I didn’t look at anyone else’s scribbles and no one looked at mine and David seemed to be very bemused by this. When it was over he said ‘Ok, turn the papers over’ and we did and we all had almost identical drawings – this was really weird. All of us had a jagged edged wall like the edges of a woodcutting saw. It wasn’t a wall with flat tops it was a wall with jagged tops – this is very important. Some of us put a moon over the jagged teeth and some of us put a sun over it like a circle – but almost unanimously we drew the same picture. And David turned his over and it was a picture of a lizard, like an alligator, with his mouth open, eating the sun – an orb – and it was all goosebumps from that moment on. I think even David was surprised but he was hoping that would happen – and I think in that smile I think he found that he might have some special mental powers that instigated it – this so called coincidence.”

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