The forthcoming Produced By Tony Visconti box set, which includes tracks from Marc Bolan, Thin Lizzy, U2, The Damned, Manic Street Preachers, Rick Wakeman, Elaine Paige, Adam Ant and more, illustrates the full range of the New York producer’s collaborative work, but for most music fans, Visconti will always be best known for his work with his close friend David Bowie.
Visconti and Bowie first worked together in 1967 on the latter’s Let Me Sleep Beside You, a song initially rejected by Bowie’s record label, which finally emerged in 1970: their friendship persisted right through to their work together on Bowie’s final album, 2016’s much-acclaimed Blackstar.
In a new interview in MOJO magazinel, Visconti shares some of his first impressions and final memories of Bowie.
“When I met him, David was an eager young guy, very enthusiastic, he’d hardly met an American, so he was all over me,” Visconti recalls. “Once we started talking, we found out that we liked the same things. Before we had any success, for about two or three years we were just friends. We furthered our friendship by living under the same roof. We’d always have visitors over, Haddon Hall was practically an open house.
“I remember once we had some guy with an amazing quiff there and David was staring at him intensely all through this visit. And as soon as he left, David ran to the bathroom and combed his hair into that quiff. He was always open to any kind of influence. His antennae were always up.”
Bowie and Visconti worked together on-and-off across six decades, with the New Yorker co-producing Bowie’s 25th and 26th studio albums, 2013’s The Next Day, and 2016’s Blackstar.
“In later years, wealth and fame introduced him to a whole circle of people who were out of my realm: very famous actors, gazillionaires and all that,” says Visconti. “He moved in the art world. He could speak eloquently on any subject and fit in anywhere. If [he was with] a bunch of Londoners he would go back to speaking like he came from Bromley.
“There was a lot of gravity about him in his final years, he was a deep thinker. But when he recorded Blackstar, when he knew that his time could be limited, it didn’t stop his sense of humour in any way. He was still very open and friendly. He told everyone, “I can’t come to the studio every day for medical reasons.” But he was still happy as anything to be in the studio.”
The full interview with Visconti is in the current issue of MOJO.