Friday, February 10, 2012

Mary Hopkin: A 35th Anniversary Exclusive on Bowie's Electric Blues

2012 will be the year zero for a scrolling, rolling, infinite list of anniversaries, reviews and reissues. By 1977 the fractures of new sounds and styles that had appeared a year earlier, webbing their way across pop's slick surface tension - cracked and shattered as angsty punk, clangular art rock and sci-fi disco smashed through the flares 'n' hair-flicks sound barrier.

Released 35 years ago tomorrow - an early indicator of out with Old Wave and in with the New Wave, was David Bowie's Sound and Vision. A taste test of Low's genetically modified robot rock - compressed into a three minute cube of roaring sax, hissing synths and android drums.

Guesting on backing vocals was producer Tony Visconti's then-wife - Mary Hopkin, who on the 35th anniversary of Low's release very kindly agreed to entertain a few of my questions on the single and album sessions - expressed via the medium of Twitter and its 140 character limit.............

@themaryhopkin: You and Bowie were both folk scenesters - did you cross paths on the circuit, or later, have an acoustic Jam in the studio 
@Mr_Mondo: No jamming - I only saw David while he was working with Tony (Visconti), when Tony and I were still married.

Today (interview was on 14th Jan) is the 35th anniv of Low. It still sounds like the future. What were your first impressions of the single/album's sound
David has always been ahead of his time. 'Low' is a great album and I'm delighted to have been there during the recording of it.

Low was recorded at the 'haunted' Château d'Hérouville - did you or the children experience any spooky doings 
Not a thing. I'm glad I didn't know at the time that it was reputedly haunted. It was a beautiful chateau and we had a great time.

Who wrote the S & V backing/vox parts and were you allowed any input or much movement on the melodies?
Brian (Eno) wrote the line and we sang it in unison. It was a great little riff so I didn't need to offer any alternatives :-)

Your children sang on a couple of tracks - do you remember which & did they have a fave studio uncle: Bowie, Eno, Iggy 
I can recommend an excellent book, 'The Complete David Bowie' by @NicholasPegg. No, too young for 'Low', but my musical 3 yr old son played 3 notes on piano which inspired Eno to write 'Warsawa'

How was Eno - did he get you doing Oblique Strategies? 
No, but he let me read his thesis on Cybernetics. Fascinating.

What would we be surprised to hear about from the Low sessions.
Nothing you haven't already heard, and certainly nothing I'm going to tell :-)

It was Bowie's 65th birthday this year - did you send a card
No, I'm not in touch :-)

Did you get to visit Bowie and Iggy’s Berlin flat, was it bachelor chic or crash pad clutter
Yes. David is extremely stylish and has excellent taste. I saw less of Iggy but liked him very much.

A huge thank you is due to Mary, who can be found on Twitter and at her official website


davyh said...

You're a cheeky monkey, what a coup.

I've been enjoying Philip Glass's 'Low Symphony' from my local library this week - what he does with 'Some Are' in particular is beautiful.

Furtheron said...

Those were the days my friend... we thought they'd never end...

She did backing vocals on a Lizzy track as well I think with Tony V in the producers chair...

35 years ago! Good grief I feel very old you know these days

Mondo said...

Love the Low Symphony and also his Dracula soundtrack..

Mary's got some back catalogue F/Ron from The Beatles to Bowie and beyond

Mondo said...

PS there's something quite Zen about doing a Twitter interview - I could be tempted with a few more

Jon Peake said...

Wow, I can't believe you got her. She's practically a recluse. I'm off to follow her now!

Mondo said...

I've always been a cheeky blogger Jon - saw Mary on Twitter - and thought it would be worth a tap. And hurrah, she said yes

Anonymous said...

Cool! Love this post.
24h Pfleger