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John Cale on David Bowie in Uncut

Posted on the 19 February 2015 by Hctf @hctf

John Cale discusses David Bowie's Heroes and more in Uncut:

I suppose David and I were similar in that we were coming from the European art side of things as much as rock’n’roll. What struck me about “Heroes” was that branded hammer piano. There was a lot of layering, too, a lot of orchestral stuff on it, but it’s really that two-chord special. It was that “Waiting For The Man” thing, though when we eventually met, we didn’t really talk about The Velvet Underground at all. Aside from the repetitive hammer piano, there’s a real groove in “Heroes”, but it’s very horizontal. And then it was layered with all Brian [Eno]’s stuff. If anything, I think it was their dissimilarity that drew David and Brian together. It was kind of how the VU was with Lou and I: put two people from very different backgrounds in the same room and you get a third thing. And I think that’s what happened with David and Brian. Did I see my own influence on Low and “Heroes”? If you’re talking about David’s use of drone, then yes. It’s all through that stuff. That’s why Brian was involved. But I think the tapestry idea of “Heroes” and blanketing the music to give it depth was a very good idea. I could see David’s progression to making it rhythm-oriented and then disco-oriented, which was the style of the day. Against what was happening with disco, if you had that sustained tapestry of sound behind you, it really helped. Especially if you had material like David had. It wasn’t like doing The Village People.
The imagery in “Heroes” is interesting. Hansa Studios was an interesting place to be at the time. The Berlin Wall was still up. I saw the two lovers by the Wall as two Brits adrift in Berlin, when Berlin was really something you couldn’t pin down at all. You’d have to drive through East Germany to get there. Being in West Berlin was very different from what it is now: everyone was nuts, living on the edge. It was a real circus over there. When Brian and I did that Nico concert where she insisted on singing “Deutschland Über Alles” [in October 1974 at The Nationalgalerie], they really went nuts. All the young people there were living with the Wall. And it was a fiery place to be.

(thanks: Isabel Vogt)


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