There are few artist and producer combinations as intrinsically and influentially linked as David Bowie and Tony Visconti. The duo shared some of the Starman’s most successful albums and songs, creating a career that will outlive us all. They not only shared a professional relationship but a friendship full of music too. Below, the acclaimed producer has shared his favourites of the bunch and it provides one hell of a playlist.
Visconti worked with Bowie on albums Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold The World, Young Americans, Low, Heroes, Scary Monsters plus many, many more, all the way up to his grand finale, Blackstar. While the list was comprised in 2014 with NME, before the latter album was produced, we can be sure that it includes some of Visconti’s favourite songs from his time working with the Thin White Duke.
Visconti and the Bowie estate are set to release a brand new remix of the 1970 record The Man Who Sold The World with the just yesterday seeing the release of a brand new remix of the titular track. It’s a faithful remix and one which feels more akin to Bowie’s mood at the time and sees the star enact his trippy vision more clearly than ever before. It’s a testament to Visconti’s connection with the iconic singer that he could do such a thing without Bowie’s involvement. But, looking at their joint CV, it’s easy to see how the two were halves of the same whole.
It’s reflected in his choices, too. Visconti tends to pick songs that are not only some of Bowie’s best, not just some choice deep cuts from his wide collection, but most of them have a wider, more meaningful connection for Visconti—memories. Such as ‘She Shook Me Cold’ from The Man Who Sold The World, as Visconti says: “Birth of grunge. I’m proud of all involved, Ronson, Woodmansey and Bowie. No overdubs, just us.”
However, some are just clearly the songs he would happily play through the speakers of his own home, like ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ from 1975’s Young Americans which Visconti describes as “If Bowie and Ray Charles wrote a song together,” calling it, “soulful and sad. Great vocal performance.” Another similar track is ‘Sweet Thing’ from Diamond Dogs which Visconti says “goes to dark places, yet romantic. It’s almost impossible to separate it from the following song ‘Candidate.’”
Of course, he’s happy to select a legendary song like ‘Life on Mars’ too, “A classic,” he says, “always very moving to hear. Ronson wrote a wonderful string arrangement. Goosebumps galore!” As well as selecting some of the stranger moments of Bowie’s repertoire, including ‘It’s No Game (Part One) from Scary Monsters summed up by Visconti as: “Just when you thought you’ve heard everything – a Japanese woman rapping on a song Bowie wrote when he was 16.”
There’s also space on the list for a cover, Bowie’s version of Morrissey’s song ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday’ is given the nod, not for the fact it grew a grudge between them, but because “Bowie made this his own, a tearjerker. One of his best vocal performances ever.” It speaks of not only a true Bowie fan but a friend. Countless people have created their list of favourite Bowie songs, Iggy Pop has had a go, even Bowie himself. But perhaps nobody is better placed than Visconti.
The producer has created a list that works as a crash course introduction to everything that is good about David Bowie. From across his varied career, Visconti has chosen the songs that dared to adventure, that challenged the preconceptions of pop and that drove the artist and the art form along with them.
Tony Visconti’s favourite David Bowie songs:
- ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’
- ‘Sweet Thing’
- ‘Life on Mars’
- ‘African Night Flight’
- ‘She Shook Me Cold’
- ‘It’s No Game (Part One)’
- ‘I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday’
- ‘Lady Grinning Soul’