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David Bowie • Subterraneans • (1977) – A Nacho Video

February 25th, 2018 | by admin

Audio • David Bowie • Subterraneans • Low • 1977
David Bowie: Vocals, Saxophone, Reversed Electric Guitar, Synthesizer, Chamberlin
Paul Buckmaster: Synthesizer
Peter Robinson: Reversed Electric Piano
Carlos Alomar: Reversed Electric Guitar
George Murray: Backwards Bass Guitar
Brian Eno: Synthesizer, Piano
Harry Maslin: Production 1975
Tony Visconti: Production 1976

Video • The Man Who Fell To Earth • 1976
Directed by Nic Roeg
Starring David Bowie & Candy Clark

Most of the material for Low was recorded in France, in the latter part of 1976. However, Subterraneans hails from an earlier time.

In late November 1975 the Station to Station sessions at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles ended. Bowie continued working at the studio on music intended for the soundtrack to the movie he was starring in: Nic Roeg’s esoteric Sci-fi, The Man Who Fell to Earth (TMWFTE). What went on to become Subterraneans was part of that soundtrack. A year later, the track was finished during the Low sessions, with overdubs by Brian Eno. Having heard nothing to the contrary, it is assumed that the vocal is from the ’75 sessions. The lyrics “Share bright failing star” certainly suggest the theme of the movie; an alien traveling to earth on a mission to save his dying planet.

The producer of Station to Station, Harry Maslin, stayed on to produce the sessions for the soundtrack. Arranger Paul Buckmaster, who had worked with Bowie in 1969 on Space Oddity, was Bowie’s principle musical collaborator. Famously, the soundtrack that they created was never used, and remains almost unheard to this day. There were many signs at the time that it would be used: on his November 4th, 1975 Soul Train appearance, Bowie mentions that he is working on the soundtrack, “…with a friend of mine; Paul Buckmaster”. Also, on the cover of the movie edition of the paperback of TMWFTE, it stated, “Album available on RCA”. And on the November 28th Russell Harty interview, when asked if the movie is finished, Bowie says, “I’ve got to record the sound; we’ve written a lot of it…”

It is not known specifically how much of the music from those ‘75 sessions ended up on Low. Nic Roeg says that when Low came out, Bowie sent him a copy with a note that said “This was the music I think I would have done for TMWFTE”. Harry Maslin: “I did record much for the film, some of which was used on Low.” Incidentally, despite Bowie’s later claim that some of the unused soundtrack also ended up on Station to Station, Harry Maslin remembers things this way: “Nothing on Station to Station was recorded for TMWFTE… it was all meant for Station to Station”.

In the famous photographs taken by Brad Elterman of Bowie and Buckmaster, leaving Cherokee Studios in November 1975, Bowie is carrying a stack of tapes. Harry Maslin: “David is indeed carrying video tapes and shooting script of TMWFTE”. The suggestion here is that he and Buckmaster had an early rough cut of the film that contained their music. Were those tapes then sent to Nic Roeg for his consideration? Do they still exist; are they in the Bowie archive in New York? Surely this early version of the movie with Bowie’s soundtrack must be considered one of the ultimate Bowie holy grails!

Bowie’s Subterraneans, with a video made from TMWFTE just had to exist! Scenes of Bowie, as the visitor Thomas Jerome Newton, and in his alien form, with his alien wife, played by Candy Clark, are the perfect match for the haunting and deeply moving otherworldly track that suggests the despair of separation and loneliness.
And so I’ve been working on this video for a year now, on and off. I can date it precisely because Mr. Bob Wilson had sent me a beautiful message on the 17th of January, 2017, suggesting that I make a Subteraneans video with TMWFTE footage. And by some kind of magic Bowie serendipity, just a couple of days prior, I had begun the very thing. Bob told me that in his student film-making days in the early 80’s, he had given himself the project: a Subteraneans video, made with TMWFTE footage. Bob used VHS machines, and he told me that he was very satisfied with the finished video. He and I discussed the project to and fro, and I got some good ideas from him, some of which are incorporated in my video. Unfortunately, 30 years later, Bob cannot find the tape of his Subteraneans video, so I feel like I’ve recreated his lost project.

I have also made a full-length film about TMWFTE: “David Bowie is The Man Who Fell To Earth”. It’s an attempt to partly explain the movie, and features scenes recut with Bowie’s music from the era. It’s a look at the way the film came together and at Roeg’s working methods, and at the creative process itself. Complete film:

Hope you dig it!

I don’t own the rights, and I’m not making any money out of this etc. Just a fan making videos for other fans.

Nacho, February 25th, 2018.

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