David Bowie and Tony Visconti’s relationship was an incredibly strong one. The singer and the acclaimed producer worked together on some of each of their finest pieces and shared some of life’s most vibrant experiences. It means that the Bowie was more than happy to share with him a list of records he desperately needed before the next leg of his journey. The handwritten note, likely written in 1977 during the duo’s most exciting period, showcases Bowie’s eclectic music taste.
“He was an extraordinary man,” said Tony Visconti upon the passing of the Starman, David Bowie in 2016, “full of love and life. He will always be with us. For now, it is appropriate to cry.” The pair have shared some incredible moments together and could rightly be considered best friends as well as partners in music. There is no doubt that without Visconti, Bowie would never have moved away from the small clubs in London, strumming his 12-string and creatively pursuing every new shiny thing. Instead, the producer focused the singer’s attention.
The two icons met in the late-sixties after Visconti had worked with Bowie’s friend Marc Bolan. The T.Rex singer introduced the two and their creative partnership began in earnest almost instantly with their partnership only solidifying over time and an incredible run of records. By 1977, they were laser-guided missiles of music, delivering explosive material at every turn, living and working in Berlin, the duo were at their creative peak.
Visconti, as well as being a guiding creative light for Bowie was also the singer’s connection to the record company. It meant that whenever the Starman needed something he’d pass it on to Tony with a cheeky note. Below, we’ve got a handwritten note he left for the producer with a list of interesting albums that he simply had to have before he left for “Swizzleland”.
“I would be grateful,” begins Bowie in the note, “if you could get one of you RCA ‘Go-fors’ to get me these following records from, I guess,” and after deliberately misspelling it continues, “a punk record shop.” The list included a host of punk albums and singles as well as some other hit LPs and singles to be devoured by the avid listener that Bowie was.
Bowie was more than happy to go himself if Visconti could “get me up at 12 and we’ll get them ourselves also, what time do banks close as I want to cash some trav cheques? Love B.” However, that timeframe would change by the end of the note. “P.S. Thanks for the cigs. P.P.S Definitely get me up at 11:30… I have lost my passport (oh! christ).” It’s a candid insight into the pair’s relationship.
As well as the sweet idea that Bowie referred to himself as ‘Bowie’ with his friends, the list is naturally a great assortment of some of the finer music out at the time and shows off Bowie’s unquestionable ear for a hit. Below, we’ve pulled together a playlist of the songs mentioned so we can go back in time and pretend we’re sitting in a studio writing ‘Heroes’ with our best mate.
You can also see the handwritten notes, here:
The note shows that Bowie’s 1977 was, like a lot of other people’s, filled with the sounds of punk. The singer asked Visconti to pick him up The Stranglers’ LP No More Heroes, “The entire Stiff [Records] catalogue”, The Clash’s ‘Complete Control’ and more. The list below also shows that he had his eyes on the entire musical world in ’77, also asking for LPs from Ultravox and Bob Marley, even keeping an eye on Talking Heads too.
Below you can see the full list of albums and singles that Bowie picked out but perhaps our favourite is when he asks Visconti, “Question: what is TV series called ‘So It Goes’?” The show, hosted by the legendary Anthony Wilson, was known for giving punk bands their first shots on TV—it was clear that punk was everywhere. Even in Berlin with David and Tony.
The fact that Bowie is asking for the records would suggest that they’re not just one-off purchases but essential songs of the moment for the musician. They represent a list of bands and songs that intrigued and interested him some of his favourite music from 1977.
David Bowie’s favourite albums from 1977:
No More Heroes – The Stranglers
Ultravox! – Ultravox
Oxygene – Jean Michel Jarre
Mink DeVille – Mink DeVille
The Damned – The Damned
The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome – Van Der Graaf Generator
Exodus – Bob Marley & The Wailers
David Bowie’s favourite singles from 1977:
‘Complete Control’ – The Clash
‘Uh, Oh, Love Comes to Town’ – Talking Heads
‘Terminal Stupid’ – The Snivellin’ Shits