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Why I love David Bowie's ‘Low’ by Brain Case of Disappears

Why I love David Bowie's ‘Low’

Chicago band Disappears have (somehow) covered Bowie’s 1977 masterpiece in its entirety. Their guitarist Brian Case explains how he got lost in ‘Low’

By Brian Case
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I first heard ‘Low’ in 2000, when I was dating someone who listened to the B-side every night while going to sleep. It wormed its way into my head pretty good. At first it was just so curious to me: I liked David Bowie but I hadn’t really found my way into his world yet. Then in 2014, we were asked by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago to interpret an entire Bowie album as part of the opening of the ‘David Bowie Is…’ exhibition. The thought of tackling the B-side of ‘Low’ was terrifying, so we just went for it.

The A-side is relatively straightforward; it’s a more traditional rock set-up – guitar, drums and bass, keyboards and vocals. The B-side is way more experimental, with a lot of influence from Brian Eno – which I think is why Bowie called him in to collaborate on the album. It’s about textures, open structures, ambient music: things people hadn’t heard at that time, when synthesizers weren’t as omnipresent as they are now.

We wanted to immerse ourselves in Bowie’s world at that period, so I read Hugo Wilcken’s ‘33 1/3’ book and one called ‘Bowie in Berlin’ by Thomas Jerome Seabrook, and watched ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’. We wanted to really try and get into his frame of mind and figure out why this record happened.

Some songs, like ‘Warszawa’ and ‘Weeping Wall’, seemed impossible for a while, but the main problem was in our heads because the album is so revered. In the end we were like: You know what? This is just music. This record is as important to some people as the first New Kids On The Block record is to others. We said we’d do it, now we have to figure it out.

At this point we’ve only played it live twice: London will be the third time we’ve ever performed it for anyone. We’re going to do it a few more times, but there’s not too many more plans for it. But if Bowie wanted us to do it, we’d do it!

Low: Live in Chicago’ is out Friday November 20.

Previously: Why I love Phil Collins

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