Tony Visconti recalls “goosebumps” moment with David Bowie while recording ‘Weeping Wall’

The producer told the tale, which also involves Iggy Pop, on BBC Radio 6 Music today (January 7)

Tony Visconti has recalled a previously untold story about a “goosebumps” moment he experienced while recording David Bowie‘s song ‘Weeping Wall’.

The track featured on the late artist’s 1977 album ‘Low’, which Visconti co-produced with Bowie and was recorded in both Hérouville, France and Berlin.

Speaking to Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC Radio 6 Music today (January 7) for her special Bowie at 75 show to mark Bowie’s 75th birthday tomorrow (January 8), Visconti explained that ‘Weeping Wall’ was written “because we lived in a war-torn city” while recording.

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“Berlin was divided in four parts and the saddest part was the eastern part,” he recalled. “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.

“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.”

Visconti then explained how, when it came to mixing the track at Hansa Studios, he and Bowie were joined by Iggy Pop and the engineer Edu Meyer.

“When the mix of ‘Weeping Wall’ was finished, I think in the control room we had myself, Iggy, Edu and his wife Barbara,” he recalled. “David said: ‘I want all of you to take a 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’.

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“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 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.”

Visconti continued: “David turned his [drawing] 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. I think in that smile he found that he might have some special mental powers that instigated it – this so-called ‘coincidence’.”

Earlier today two previously unreleased versions of Bowie‘s song ‘Shadow Man’ were released to celebrate the posthumous arrival of the artist’s ‘Toy (Toy:Box)’ special edition box set.

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